domingo, 25 de septiembre de 2011

Buff-breasted Sandpiper September 2011

Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis)

Discovered at the Fuencaliente saltpans (Las Salinas) this morning, this is my second Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis) on La Palma, following my first sighting on Sep 29 2010 at the same location (see corresponding blog post).

The bird shown here was foraging restlessly around the edges of two adjacent pans, together with 4 Sanderlings (Calidris alba), a couple of Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula), and the usual small numbers of Turnstones (Arenaria interpres).

The characteristic buff tones are clearly visible in the above image

This species is held to be the second most frequent Nearctic wader recorded in Europe, after the Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos). Since 1960, it has been considered an annual visitor to Great Britain, where it ceased to be classified as a rarity from 1983 onwards. By the year 2003, 620 birds had been recorded there.

In Spain, the Rarities Committee had accepted 28 records of this species by 2003, making it the third most common American wader at national level, after the previously cited Pectoral Sandpiper and the Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes). The Spanish sightings came mainly from Galicia (11), Catalonia (5) and the Canaries (6), with another 6 from Portugal.

Since 2003, the number of observers has increased considerably, with the result that fewer migrant birds escape detection: as a matter of fact, in recent weeks, unusually high numbers of Buff-breasted Sandpipers have been reported from various locations around the country, including 2 on Lanzarote, 11 in the Ebro Delta, and 4 in Galicia.

Observations of Buff-breasted Sandpiper in Spain mainly correspond to the post-breeding migratory period, with almost all records occurring between the end of August and mid-October, and hardly any in spring. As is the case with other Nearctic waders, the Canary Island sightings tend to be somewhat later, suggesting that birds make a stopover in mainland Europe before reaching the islands.

Most of the information in this post comes from Aves Raras de España, E. de Juana, Lynx Edicions 2006.

The present sighting will be submitted to the Spanish Rarities Committee in due course.

martes, 20 de septiembre de 2011

Two Pectoral Sandpipers!

Two juvenile Pectoral Sandpipers (Calidris melanotos)

Late on Monday evening (Sep 19), a second Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos) was discovered in Las Martelas, having joined the individual featured in the previous post, and both were photographed this morning (Sep 20) in two neighbouring irrigation tanks.

The birds started foraging in close proximity to each other, in the rather grim, man-made habitat shown below:

The far from idyllic surroundings can be appreciated in the next image: food items gathered on the sheer concrete slopes of the basin were mostly insects, including dragonfly and their larvae. A couple of Common Sandpipers were also searching for food in the same manner:

Eventually, the two Pectorals moved across to the sunny side of the pond, where I managed to photograph one of them, before both flew off to another basin:

The two birds were soon re-located and the two remaining pictures, plus the one at the top of this post, were taken in much better light conditions:

Pectoral Sandpipers foraging on a floating layer of pondweed

domingo, 18 de septiembre de 2011

Pectoral Sandpiper Sep 2011

Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos)

"Of all waders considered vagrants in Europe, this is by far the most frequent" - so begins the Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos) entry in Aves Raras de España, E. de Juana 2006. Amongst other interesting data, the author informs us that almost 2,000 birds of this species were registered in Great Britain between 1968-2002, and in Spain, 163 individuals were recorded between the founding of the Spanish Rarities Committee in 1984, and the year 2003. Distribution of the Spanish records during this period were mainly from Galicia (50), Catalonia (28), and the Canaries (23), with the overwhelming majority in September, involving mostly juveniles.

The species breeds in northern tundra, between west Siberia and Hudson Bay, and may have extended westwards in the former region. This possibly accounts for the extremely high number of individuals detected in Europe, compared to other nearctic vagrants. In support of this hypothesis, Pectoral Sandpipers were recently observed in the Taimyr peninsula migrating in a south-westerly direction (Hjort, 2005).

The bird shown in this post was first detected on September 15 in Las Martelas (Los Llanos de Aridane), where at least two irrigation basins presently allow migrant waders to feed, either by walking across the floating pond weed as in the top photograph, or by foraging around the edges, as above. This is, incidentally, my fifth melanotos in recent years on La Palma: I saw two birds in September 2009, one in March 2010, and also one in September 2010 - all in the Las Martelas area, except the second of September 2009, which was found at Las Salinas, the saltpans on the southern tip of the island.

Front view, showing the abrupt junction between breast streaks and white belly

The Pectoral Sandpiper featured in this post was still in Las Martelas at the time of writing (Sep 18); details of this sighting will be submitted to the Spanish Rarities Committee in due course.

lunes, 12 de septiembre de 2011

Early September 2011

Gull-billed Tern (Sterna nilotica)

As September progresses, small numbers of post-breeding migratory species are steadily turning up on the island. In addition to the usual waders, I photographed this solitary Gull-billed Tern (Sterna nilotica) in Las Martelas on Sept 11. The species is described in Birds of the Atlantic Islands (T. Clarke, Helm 2006) as an "...accidental visitor or rare and irregular passage migrant, recorded from all main islands except La Palma", so this could be a "first" for the Isla Bonita. The next two images allow various other identification features to be appreciated, including the characteristic bill shape.

The Knot (Calidris canutus) appears to be one of the less frequent migrants on La Palma: a few years ago there was a group of 4-5 at the saltpans in Fuencaliente, the same location where this individual was seen at the beginning of September.

Knot (Calidris canutus)

The remaining species in this post can be described as regular visitors:

Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
Two at the saltpans at the beginning of the month, one in a freshwater irrigation basin in Las Martelas at the time of writing.

Sanderling (Calidris alba)
Up to 5 individuals at the saltpans so far this month.

Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)
The two birds shown here, above and below, were both present in Las Martelas at the beginning of the month.

Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)
Two birds in Las Martelas, still present at the time of writing.

To sum up, in addition to the above species, a solitary Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) has been seen in Las Martelas, together with the usual Greenshank (Tringa nebularia), Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos), and Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus).

At least one Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis), and one or two Black-headed Gulls (Larus ridibundus) have been seen around the various irrigation basins on the west side of the island, together with the usual Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea) and Little Egrets (Egretta garzetta).

At the saltwater pools near the airport, the typical species are already present, and will probably over-winter at the site: Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola), Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula), Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos), Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica), and Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus).