sábado, 2 de octubre de 2010

2 North American vagrants at the saltpans

View of the saltpans on the windswept southern tip of the island

The saltpans at Fuencaliente attracted two rare North American vagrants in September: a Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla) on 24/09, and a Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis), first detected on 29/09 but still present at the same location on 03/10.

The Semipalmated Sandpiper "breeds in the arctic and subartic tundra from far-eastern Siberia, Alaska to Baffin Island and Labrador, and winters in Pacific Central America, West Indies and northern and central South America. It is a vagrant to Galápagos, the Azores, and Europe east to Hungary" (Shorebirds of the Northern Hemisphere, R. Chandler, 2009).

Curlew Sandpiper and Semipalmated Sandpiper (C. ferruginea and C. pusilla)

Dunlin and Semipalmated Sandpiper (C. alpina and C. Pusilla)

Apart from the short, straight, blunt-tipped bill, and the very short primary projection beyond the tertials, the critical identification feature, which gives the species its name, can be seen in the next two images - the partially-webbed toes:

Further images of the same bird, found feeding in a small mixed flock of Curlew Sandpiper (C. ferruginea), Dunlin (C. alpina) and Sanderling (C. alba):

There have been 14 officially-accepted records of this species in Spain to date, mostly in the autumn, including 3 from the Canary Islands. Two of the Canary Island sightings are from Tenerife (Oct 1996 and May 1997) and the third is from Lanzarote (Nov 1998). The present bird could therefore be the first for La Palma, the 4th at regional level and the 15th for Spain as a whole, pending homologation by the Spanish Rarities Committee.

The second nearctic vagrant discovered at the saltpans is shown below. This juvenile Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis) is also a long way from home! The species breeds "on well-drained grassy tundra, locally in north-east Siberia, northern Alaska and northern Canada east to King William Island" and spends the non-breeding season "on sparsely vegetated wet grasslands primarily in Argentina" (Shorebirds of the Northern Hemisphere, R. Chandler, 2009).

It is a much commoner visitor on this side of the Atlantic than the previous species, with 40 records from Spain, including 7 from the Canaries. This sighting is also the first for La Palma and will be submitted to the Spanish Rarities Committee in due course.

Above and below, Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis)

Further information regarding the status of the above species can be found on avescanarias.blogspot.com, the Canary Islands Bird News blog.

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