jueves, 30 de octubre de 2014

Northern Wheatear

 Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)

The Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) is a fairly regular passage migrant to the Canaries, with records from all islands, including La Graciosa, Alegranza and Lobos.

Several individuals have been detected on La Palma in recent years, my own sightings of solitary birds dating from September 2009, October 2010, June 2012, and September 2013... plus a group of three back in 2007.

Sites where I have observed the species include the irrigation ponds in Las Martelas (Los Llanos de Aridane), stony areas on the summit of the island, and, above all, in the ideal habitat found in Llano de las Cuevas (El Paso), where the present bird was photographed this morning (30/10/2014).

Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) - adult male

jueves, 23 de octubre de 2014

Flycatcher at the Laguna de Barlovento

 Present state of the Laguna de Barlovento reservoir, 23/10/2014

The leaky ol' Laguna de Barlovento has featured in this blog a number of times, receiving fairly unenthusiastic treatment every time. Not only is the weather often atrocious up in the far NE corner of the island (by Canary Island standards), but this concrete reservoir is also completely fenced-off and lacks convenient vantage points from which to scan the water... which at the moment amounts to little more than a puddle.

Nevertheless, a number of vagrants have been recorded at this peculiar location, including a Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris) a couple of years ago.

Away from the reservoir itself, the surrounding area offers various kinds of promising habitat, being a mosaic of abandoned crops, overgrown hedgerows, cultivated fields, and myrtle-heather woods...plus a leisure area with a duckpond! A good place for butterflies, Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), and the usual resident passerines...

But today, in addition to the Canaries (Serinus canaria), Blackbirds (Turdus merula), Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs ssp. palmae), Chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus canariensis), Bluetits (Cyanistes tenriffae ssp. palmensis) and Goldcrests (Regulus regulus ssp. ellenthalerae), I had a brief sighting of a solitary Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata).

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) with Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs ssp. palmae)

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata), with Canary (Serinus canaria) and Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs ssp. palmae)

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) adult

According to the Field Guide to the Birds of Macaronesia (Eduardo García-del-Rey, Lynx Edicions May 2011), "this species is a passage migrant to the Canary Islands (all islands and La Graciosa, Alegranza, but not El Hierro or La Palma). In Macaronesia it can be found anywhere with trees, for example in parks and gardens".

So, to the best of my knowledge, the present bird is a first record for La Palma.

miércoles, 22 de octubre de 2014

A third White-rumped Sandpiper

White-rumped Sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis), Las Martelas, 22/10

The two White-rumped Sandpipers (Calidris fuscicollis) featured in the previous post were still present at the saltpans in Fuencaliente this evening (22/10), and there was a third bird in one of the irrigation ponds in Las Martelas (Los Llanos de Aridane).

As of 25/10, three more individuals have also been recorded on Gran Canaria. Click here for details.

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

martes, 21 de octubre de 2014

White-rumped Sandpiper

 White-rumped Sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis)

Discovered this afternoon at the saltpans in Fuencaliente, the White-rumped Sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis) is a long-distance migrant which breeds in NE Alaska and N Canada east to S Baffin Island. It winters in SE South America from CE Brazil to Tierra del Fuego. With a total of 39 records, this species is the second most-detected Nearctic vagrant to the Canary Islands (after the Pectoral Sandpiper, Calidris melanotos).

The bulk of records have been between September and November, peaking in October. A spectacular influx was recorded in October 2005, when more than 50 birds were found on almost all of the islands (nine birds together on La Palma). [Rare Birds of the Canary Islands, Eduardo García-del-Rey and Francisco Javier García Vargas, Lynx Edicions, June 2013].

After a while observing at the saltpans, a second bird appeared. Relations between the two were not exactly cordial, so it was difficult to photograph them together...

This is my fifth record of the species, and seventh individual on La Palma:

Oct 2010 (n=1), Aug 2011 (n=1), Oct 2012 (n=1), Oct 2012 (n=2), Oct 2014 (n=2)

The present photos show most of the key identification features: attenuated overall shape with wing-tips projecting beyond tail; blackish, medium length legs; slightly decurved bill with brownish base to lower mandible; white upper tail coverts (= white rump), etc.

A couple of Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) were also present at the same location this afternoon.

This sighting of Calidris fuscicollis will be forwarded to the Spanish Rarities Committee in due course.

martes, 14 de octubre de 2014

Peregrine, or Barbary Falcon?

 Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) ?

From a distance, through my car window, the first thing which attracted my attention was the large size of this bird: roughly as big as a Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo), the only other raptor of similar proportions found on La Palma. The location was also appropriate for the Buzzard, close to a main road in an area where the species is regularly seen. On closer approach, however, the perched bird of prey revealed itself to be a Falcon: but surely too big to be the resident Barbary Falcon (Falco pelegrinoides)? I parked, and managed to get the first photos from inside my car...

These shots are almost against the light: even so, the plumage looks much darker than in typical Barbary Falcons; the moustachial stripe is also wider, and there appears to be no hint of rufous or pale patches on the nape.

The fine barring continues all the way up the breast as far as the neck, where some scattered streaks can be appreciated. There could be a slight off-white tinge to the underparts, but it is difficult to assess the precise shade in these photos. The powerful, broad wings, and the robust body and head would seem to indicate Peregrine, rather than Barbary...

According to the Field Guide to the Birds of Macaronesia (Eduardo García-del-Rey, Lynx Edicions, May 2011), the Peregrine Falcon is a vagrant to the Canary Islands (Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, and Lanzarote).

Rare Birds of the Canary Islands (Eduardo García-del-Rey and Francisco Javier García Vargas, Lynx Edicions, June 2013), states that the subspecies of Peregrine so far recorded on the Canary Islands is suspected to be calidus. However, the only records cited are from Tenerife (n=7) and Lanzarote (n=1).

Any comments as to this  bird's precise identity would be appreciated.

Thanks to the help of a number of Canary Island birders with experience of the Tagarote, or 
Barbary Falcon (Domingo Trujillo, Beneharo Rodríguez, Francisco Javier García Vargas and Juan Sagardía), the identitiy of my bird has been settled: it is in fact a female Barbary Falcon, and not a migrant Peregrine.

For future reference, it is worth bearing in mind that pelegrinoides shows considerable variation in plumage tones, size of rufous patches on nape (if any), and width of moustachial stripe - amongst other features - as well as differences relating to age and sex of individual birds. So...quite a complex species, which doesn't always match descriptions and illustrations found in standard field guides.

Of course, being the only resident falcon on the Canary Islands this species can usually be safely identified "by default": however, large, dark individuals during autumn or spring migration periods merit close attention.

martes, 7 de octubre de 2014

Glossy Ibis

 Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) - juvenile

On the evening of Sep 27, I happened to coincide with Domingo Trujillo at an irrigation pond in Las Martelas. Meeting other birders is an extremely rare occurrence on La Palma, so it's hard to say which of us was more surprised at seeing someone else with binoculars. As we were chatting, a Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) was seen in flight to the north, among a small flock of Little Egret (Egretta garzetta).

The Glossy Ibis is not classified as a "rarity" on the Canary Islands, but is certainly an irregular winter visitor, with only 17 previous records corresponding to 22 individuals listed in Rare Birds of the Canary Islands (Eduardo García-del-Rey and Francisco Javier García Vargas, Lynx Edicions, 2013):

La Palma (n=1), El Hierro (n=1), Tenerife (n=6, 7 ind.), Gran Canaria (n=5, 6 ind.), Fuerteventura (n=3, 6 ind.), Lanzarote (n=1)

Since Sep 27, I have been searching for this elusive bird, finally locating it this evening, Oct 7. There could actually be two individuals on the island at present, as one bird was initially flushed and might not be the one shown here, which could have been hidden from view by the walls of the pond when I first arrived.

My first record of this species on La Palma dates from Sep 2010.

Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)

Above is a bird's-eye view of a Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago), recently observed in one of the many irrigation ponds in Las Martelas. After last year's Wilson's (G. delicata) on Tenerife, all visiting snipes demand close examination...

Other species present in the same area include Greenshank (Tringa nebularia), Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus), and Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos ). At the saltpans in Fuencaliente, I have seen Little Stint (Calidris minuta) and Redshank (Tringa totanus).

The airport pools have so far yielded only Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola) and Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)

Other recent sightings on the island include a Black Kite (Milvus migrans) observed in Tazacorte by Tom Brereton of Naturetrek on Sep 30, and a Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) in Las Martelas on Oct 2. Offshore, the party also had Macaronesian Shearwater (Puffinus baroli), Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus), and Arctic Skua (Stercorarius parasiticus).