miércoles, 22 de marzo de 2017

Spring migrants 2017

 Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)

Early spring has witnessed the arrival of a number of interesting migrants. None of the species in the present post are "rarities", in fact some are almost annual visitors to the island, but finding them in your home patch is always gratifying.

In addition to the birds shown here, this morning I also discovered a solitary juvenile Garganey (Anas querquedula), at an irrigation pond in Las Martelas (Los Llanos de Aridane), and there were small numbers of Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) and House Martins (Delichon urbica) in the same area.

 Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)

The Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) featured here is the same bird detected on March 15.
Note the interesting breeding plumage of this male.

 Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)

 Part of a flock of circa 20 x Red-rumped Swallow (Hirundo daurica)

 Black-crowned Night Heron (Nyticorax nycticorax)

Most migrant Ardeidae records on La Palma are also spring sightings. The Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) is one of the more regular visitors. I found two birds at an irrigation pond in Tazacorte this evening, March 22, but it was only possible to photograph one of them from the access point.

Below, the same bird in a more heavily-cropped image.

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)

miércoles, 15 de marzo de 2017

Mid-March observations

 A selection of waders in an irrigation pond in Las Martelas, 15/03/2017. From left to right: Ruff (Philomachus pugnax), Redshank (Tringa totanus), Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta), Greenshank (Tringa nebularia).

After a relatively slack period on the island, this morning's session at the irrigation ponds in Las Martelas turned out to be very productive. I was joined on this occasion by a visiting British observer (A. S. Moore), who may have brought me luck with the Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)! We enjoyed good views of the bird for several minutes, and saw it foraging, in flight, perched on concrete walls, and even swimming in one of the deeper ponds.

 Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)

During the ensuing couple of hours we also recorded, in addition to the Avocet: 3 x Snipe (Gallinago gallinago), 1 x Redshank (Tringa totanus), 1 x Ruff (Philomachus pugnax), 4 x Sand Martin (Riparia riparia), 2 x Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius)...plus the usual small numbers of Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) and Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos).

Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)

The Avocet was undoubtedly the highlight of the morning. This species is a passage migrant to the Canaries, with records from all the main islands except La Gomera. However, today's sighting was my first on La Palma, despite several years of regular birding in the appropriate areas.

I got some accepable photos this morning with my Fuji bridge camera, but returned to Las Martelas in the afternoon, fully-equipped, to capture the images shown in the present post.

Other recent sightings of interest on La Palma include:

1 x Common Stonechat (Saxicola torquata) seen and photographed at Juan Adalid (Garafía) on February 27. This was not posted in "La Palma Birds" due to the very poor quality of the only image I managed to capture.

1 x Booted Eagle (Haliaetus pennatus), pale morph, flying above Breña Alta and Breña Baja, seen from near the Parador on March 14. No camera with me on the day.

1 x Iceland Gull (Larus glaucoides) first reported by visiting birder Jon Bellamy who saw the bird on the breakwaters in Los Cancajos (Breña Baja) on January 10. The bird was later spotted by various other observers in the same part of the island, including A. S. Moore a few days ago. So this gull has now been on La Palma for over one month.

There are various species of Hirundines around at present, in the usual small numbers.

miércoles, 1 de marzo de 2017

Adios SEO/Birdlife!

For several years I have been a member of SEO/Birdlife, regarded as the largest and oldest conservation organisation in Spain, and the country's nearest equivalent to the RSPB. The Spanish Rarities Committee, which deals with rare bird sightings throughout the country, is part of this veteran NGO.

Over the years, I have been dutifully paying my subscription fees, sending in my rare bird sightings and other records of interest, contributing photos for publication, and generally acting as "whistle-blower" on the island of La Palma, alerting the Canary Island Delegation on Tenerife of any significant environmental concerns on the island. Just doing the kind of stuff you would consider normal for an active member of any birding and conservation society. Others, like myself, have been gathering valuable census data, and doing various kinds of voluntary work for the organisation.

However, back in Madrid, the Board of Directors (Junta Directiva) has been up to some rather nasty tricks. To start with, in 2015 they allowed a self-confessed, passionate hunter to get himself elected vice--President of the organisation (Sr. Javier Hidalgo). It was only after the Board received letters of protest from outraged members that the person concerned agreed to resign his post. A short explanatory note was published on the SEO website, but was couched in such vague terms that no-one unfamiliar with the background details could possibly understand what the issue was. The whole matter was characterised by a total lack of transparency.

Another similar case involves a member of the SEO Committee who happens to be the owner of a large hunting estate in which hundreds of wild boar and thousands of partridges are systematically massacred every year. All within the cosy confines of a fenced-off, private estate. (Patricia Maldonado, Las Ensanchas).

Yet the organisation claims it sees no incompatibility between the practice of these deplorable economic activities and the right to be on the Committee of a conservation organisation. Just as, presumably, they saw no incompatibility in having their former king and keen elephant shooter, Juan Carlos, as president of the WWF; that is, until he too was forced to resign under public protest.

As SEO has explained in writing (but only after coming under pressure from many of its members), the organisation has never declared itself to be anti-hunting in principle. Fair enough. However, they are well aware of a substantial anti-hunting contingent among their present-day membership. So, why not use a bit of common sense, and avoid deliberately provoking a large percentage of your members by allowing the wrong people to represent the organisation? And what's wrong with restricting the eligible candidates for Committee posts to the kind of people best suited to the job...and then holding elections?

Unfortunately, this Old Boys' Club got my 2017 subscription before I had time to cancel my membership. They won't get next year's.

Adios SEO/Birdlife!