domingo, 25 de julio de 2010

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides) - Late July 2010

This is my second encounter with the Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides) on La Palma. From May to August 2009, one - occasionally two - birds were regularly seen at the same irrigation basins in Tazacorte where the present bird was photographed.

The species is described as a "rare and irregular passage migrant, recorded from all main islands except El Hierro", in Birds of the Atlantic Islands (Tony Clarke, Helm).

Regarding other Ardeidae on the Canaries, the Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) bred on Tenerife in 1997, and possibly sparodically since then; the Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) bred on Gran Canaria in 2008 and is a regular breeder on Tenerife; the Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) has a nesting colony on Lanzarote, and the Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) also breeds there, as well as on Tenerife.

In the case of La Palma, only the Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) and the Little Egret are seen all year round, although no evidence of either species breeding has come to light (Atlas de las Aves Nidificantes en el Archipiélago Canario, Ed. J. A. Lorenzo).
Above, the Squacco Heron uses its long, flexible neck and dagger-like bill to seize prey from a perch located some distance above the surface.
This particular basin is full of frogs: here the bird relishes a large tadpole.
When not foraging from overhanging branches, the heron stalks its prey in the water...

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