martes, 15 de diciembre de 2020

Osprey KL9: a brief summary

Migrant Osprey KL9 perched amid banana plantations, Sep 20

As 2020 draws to a close, I thought I would include a post to briefly recap on the most interesting birding event of the year: the long stopover on La Palma of KL9, a ringed juvenile Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) from the north of Scotland.

I discovered this first-time migrant near the Dos Pinos reservoir (Los Llanos de Aridane) on Sep 20, in rather exotic surroundings for a Scottish osprey. See photo above.

The blue Darvic ring became visible when the bird took flight, and the relevant details were duly reported to The Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, who traced the ringer. 

One of the first shots of KL9 in which the alphanumeric code can be read

For the next 6 weeks, the young bird settled in the area around the reservoir, and very quickly learned to catch the introduced Tilapia fish. Initially it devoured its catch in situ, on the concrete banks, but later tended to carry its prey off to a nearby utility pole, outside the reservoir fence. KL9's fishing expertise reached the point where success often came at the first attempt.

The migrant Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) KL9 in action

I made regular visits to the reservoir from Sep 20 onwards, observing KL9 for the last time on Oct 28. A local family whose house overlooks the reservoir reported seeing the bird around Nov 4, which must be the approximate date on which KL9 decided to leave the island, after an unusually long sojourn.

Let's hope that KL9 has a successful onward flight to its probable destination in West Africa, and eventually makes it back to the north of Scotland to breed.

sábado, 12 de diciembre de 2020

Barbary Falcon


Barbary Falcon (Falco pelegrinoides)

It's not easy to get close enough to a Barbary Falcon (Falco pelegrinoides) for decent photographs, but this morning a combination of stealth and good luck got me to within 50 metres of my subject. This particular bird hunts over an inland territory that contains a large pigeon colony and provides habitat for resident passerines.

Barbary Falcon (Falco pelegrinoides)

It's a rather slim individual, only slightly larger than one of the island's abundant Common Kestrels (Falco tinnunculus canariensis), and must therefore be a male.

Barbary Falcon (Falco pelegrinoides)

First discovered back in October, I have observed this bird several times since then. Initially, identification of the dark silhouette against a bright sky was something of a challenge. The body shape looked right, but the bird seemed too small, compared to other Barbary Falcons I have seen on the island.

Barbary Falcon (Falco pelegrinoides)

According to a 2017 study, there are an estimated 30 breeding pairs of Barbary Falcon (Falco pelegrinoides) on La Palma. The species is difficult to observe since it favours high coastal or inland cliffs for breeding, and spends long periods in inaccessible terrain.  However, it often hunts closer to inhabited areas, where feral pigeons form the basis of its diet.

Barbary Falcon (Falco pelegrinoides)

Barbary Falcon (Falco pelegrinoides)

miércoles, 9 de diciembre de 2020

Meadow Pipit


Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)

On December 7th I found this inconspicuous pipit foraging among the weeds in the bottom of an irrigation pond. Thanks to recent rainfall, there is now a shallow layer of water in several of the abandoned ponds in Las Martelas (Los Llanos de Aridane), and vegetation has started to sprout in the mud.

Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)

It was difficult to get clear views of the bird as it crept in and out of the undergrowth at the foot of the inner walls of the pond, and I first assumed it was a juvenile Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus), based on previous observations in the same area. 

Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)

This was not the case, however: despite the bird's worn plumage, the photos clearly show the key field marks of a Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis). 

Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)

Meadow Pipit (A. pratensis) has been recorded a number of times on La Palma, typically by visiting observers at the Laguna de Barlovento in the northeast of the island, where more suitable habitat for this species is found.

Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)

This pipit is classed as a regular winter visitor to the Canary Islands in general, and this is my first record for La Palma.

miércoles, 28 de octubre de 2020

Osprey, Day 39

Osprey KL9 was observed fishing at the Dos Pinos reservoir this morning, Oct 28. 

The bird circled high over the water for  about 7 minutes, carefully searching for suitable fish, before it eventually dived in to make a successful catch at the first attempt. Practice makes perfect.

It then flew off to a nearby telephone post to devour its prey. 

Anyone interested in the plight of the Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) on the Canary Islands, and the conservation challenges posed here, might like to check the Youtube link below. The talk is a summary of a Canary Island Government project co-financed by the European Union. It is in Spanish, but contains plenty of graphic material and photographs.

sábado, 17 de octubre de 2020

Osprey, DAY 28

The juvenile Osprey marked KL9, first detected on Sep 20, has now been on the island of  La Palma for 4 weeks. During this time, I have been regularly checking its movements and have also received regular updates from a local family who observe the Dos Pinos reservoir from their terrace (thanks Íñigo!).

The regional delegation of SEO/Birdlife on Tenerife, and La Palma's environmental authorities have been informed of the bird's presence. It appears there has been at least one previous case of an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) overwintering on Gran Canaria, rather than continuing its migration to Senegal and Gambia. So, perhaps KL9 will be here for a while!

I found KL9 (whose sex is unknown) resting on a utility pole near the Dos Pinos reservoir this morning, Oct 17.

Osprey KL9 (Pandion haliaetus)

The above photograph was taken from a distance, and I was careful not to disturb the bird by trying to get a better shot. Instead, I headed for the reservoir to await arrival of the young Osprey. The bird soon appeared as expected, beginning its activity with an exploratory flight over the water.

Without attempting to fish it then spent a few minutes resting on the bank of the reservoir. I had my tripod set up this time, hoping to improve on my previous photographs. The Osprey took flight again, and after briefly surveying the water, dived towards its prey:

The following shots were all taken with a 400mm lens and a fairly high ISO 400, to get a fast shutter speed. The pictures are all heavily cropped, but are probably at the limit of what my gear can achieve, given the distance from the subject (c 200m).

Osprey KL9 making off with its catch

It took the bird less than 2 minutes to catch its first meal of the day, after only one dive...a 100% success rate.

sábado, 3 de octubre de 2020

Osprey KL9, DAY 14

The ringed Osprey KL9 was at the Dos Pinos reservoir this morning, where I watched it fishing. The bird dived towards prey on three occasions, with complete immersion the second two attempts. The last of the three attempts brought success in the form of a sizeable catch, the whole process having taken just over two minutes. Thus, a 1-out-of-3 success rate after a couple of minutes of strenuous activity...not bad for an inexperienced, first-time migrant!

So, contrary to my earlier comments (see previous posts), to the effect that the reservoir basically functions as a safe refuge for birds, it is now clear that the site is also providing the juvenile Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) with an abundant, easy-to-catch food supply. 

The following action photos are all heavily cropped, but are certainly an improvement on my previous ones. 

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) landing with catch

The fish themselves (Tilapia sp.) got there as a result of an unsuccessful fish-farming project. It is not clear whether they were deliberately introduced into this particular reservoir, or were accidentally transferred from other ponds involved in the aquacultural experiment.

viernes, 2 de octubre de 2020

Citrine Wagtail, part 2

The 1w Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola) was still present at the saltpans in Fuencaliente this morning, Oct 2. The bird was making short runs to snatch insects off the ground, and springing to catch flying ones.

Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola)

I particularly like the impression of movement in the middle image above, which was shot at 1/400s  ISO 400  f5.6.