miércoles, 20 de abril de 2011

Herons, spring 2011

Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea)

First glimpsed at a distance on April 16, identification remained uncertain until better views a day later settled the doubt. This is my first sighting of Purple Heron ( Ardea purpurea) on La Palma, although the species is a "regular but scarce passage migrant, especially in spring, recorded from all main islands except El Hierro" (Birds of the Atlantic Islands, T. Clarke 2006).

There are presently at least two birds around the irrigation basins in Las Martelas and adjacent areas, while on the island of Tenerife, two groups of 7 and 4 individuals have been sighted this month - exceptional for a species which normally appears in ones and twos. See the SEO blog avescanarias.blogspot.com for more details.

The photo above was taken early in the morning, after waiting under a camouflage net for first light. At about 7:20, the bird glided in from out of nowhere and landed on the shady side of the pond, remaining almost motionless and partly hidden for about one hour, making no attempt to forage.

Getting the first images meant setting the ISO speed at 1600, shutter 1/6 second, f.5.6. After its initial inactivity, the heron finally flew over to the sunnier side of the basin, and, had it not been for the untimely appearance of a man who flushed the bird when he came to measure the water level, I might have got some more satisfactory, better-lit shots...

Purple Heron in early morning sun

The Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides) is a fairly regular visitor to the island, and is tolerant of stealthy approach. It seems to feed well while here, taking frogs, tadpoles, dragonfly larvae, and possibly the occasional small fish, hunting either by wading or from a perch. Two individuals are present at the time of writing, in various irrigation basins in Tazacorte.

Squacco Heron hunting in water

Squacco Heron: on the left, slightly out of focus, one of the 3 surviving Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) chicks from an early February brood

Finally, the Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) mentioned in my last post, has been seen on a number of occasions in Tazacorte and Las Martelas, both on the ground, and in flight.

Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)

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