lunes, 26 de febrero de 2024

Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta)


Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta)

This solitary Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta) was first observed yesterday (25 Feb) as it foraged around the surrounding wall of the main irrigation pond in Las Martelas (Los Llanos de Aridane), but earlier sightings by other birders cannot be entirely ruled out. A second visit to the site this morning (26/02) yielded better photo opportunities, when the bird briefly came out into a more exposed position.

Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta)

My last encounter with this species on La Palma was way back in March 2009, in the same general area, but at a different pond. The record was published in "Rare Birds of the Canary Islands" (Lynx Edicions) in 2013, where the species is decribed as a short-distance migrant which breeds in C and S Europe, and winters along coasts in W Europe and NW Africa (i.e. Morocco). At the time of publication 11 years ago, only 3 other records had been acknowledged on the Canary Islands, 2 from Fuerteventura and 1 from Lanzarote. 

Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta)

The species is classed as a vagrant in fieldguides to the region and as a "Regional Rarity" in the SOC (Sociedad Ornitológica Canaria) checklist 2018.

Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta)

This example was feeding on the abundant dragonflies found around the edges of the pond, and was accompanied by a migratory White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) and a pair of resident Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea):

Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta)

Below is a shot of the White Wagtail (Motacilla alba), also seen feasting on dragonflies.

domingo, 10 de septiembre de 2023

Early September


Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea)

Since observing 4 Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea) at the saltpans in Fuencaliente on Aug 29, I have twice seen a single individual at the site, on Sep 3 and today, Sep 10. This Shelduck could be one of the initial four, or a different bird altogether.

Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea)

Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea)

Also present this morning was a solitary Ruff (Philomachus pugnax), plus the usual Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos), Sanderling (Calidris alba) and Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) in ones and twos. On Aug 24, two Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) were present.

Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) at Las Salinas (Fuencaliente)

Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) at the saltpans in Fuencaliente

Elsewhere on the island, neither the irrigation ponds in Las Martelas (Los Llanos de Aridane), nor the airport pools (Mazo) have yielded any interesting migrants so far, although an Oystercatcher (Haemotopus ostralegus) was recently found and photographed by a local observer at the latter location (pers. comm).

martes, 29 de agosto de 2023

Ruddy Shelduck at the saltpans


4 x Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea)

A trip to Las Salinas in Fuencaliente this morning (Aug 29) led to the discovery of four Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea) in one of the main ponds. As can be appreciated in the images shown here, a strong wind was blowing on the day, producing rough seas. The adverse weather conditions, plus the fact I was only equipped with a compact camera, explains the poor quality of the photos.

3 of the group of 4 Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea)

Back in April this year, the first two Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea) to be recorded on La Palma appeared in an irrigation pond in Las Martelas (Los Llanos de Aridane), spending several days at the site. It was hoped the pair might attempt to breed on the island, but the birds eventually moved on. Similar sporadic visits have been recorded on most of the Canary Islands.

All four birds in flight

This species is a relatively recent coloniser of the island of Fuerteventura, where breeding was first recorded in spring 1994 at the Catalina García wetland.  It now occupies other wetlands on the island and can be observed in a variety of habitats including farmland, golf courses and parks. The natural colonisation process is believed to have originated from North Africa, and movements between the islands and the nearby continent continue. A recent census carried out by SEO/Birdlife put the Canary Island population at 515 individuals.

The same group of Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea) seen from an upwind position, with the sun behind me

Prone to drought-driven, seasonal movements, the Fuerteventura population abandons the island in summer in search of suitable habitat in Africa, and the first birds start to return from September onwards, coinciding with the wetter autumn and winter months.

Group of four Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea)

The presence of these four individuals on La Palma at the end of August could indicate the early arrival of a small contingent from Africa, but since disturbance-free breeding sites are lacking on La Palma, these birds will probably fly on.

domingo, 7 de mayo de 2023

Black-crowned Night Heron


Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)

The Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) used to be a fairly regular passage migrant to La Palma, but seems to have become less frequent in recent years. Moreover, the 2021 volcanic eruption destroyed several of the irrigation ponds formerly frequented by this species.

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), adult in breeding plumage

The present bird was first spotted near the Dos Pinos reservoir (Los Llanos de Aridane) as it briefly flew overhead, and then landed out of sight behind a group of houses. I located it on the rim of a tiny irrigation pond, in semi-urban surroundings, amid a cluster of buildings and greenhouses. The present photos were all taken over a wall, shooting through mesh fencing towards the private pond.

Since the water level was low, the upper rim of the pond was unsuitable as a perch for catching prey. The heron therefore crept around to the other side and descended a few rungs of the metal access ladder.

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) tiptoeing around the pond.

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) perched on the access ladder, close to the water surface.

I watched the heron for about an hour, as it switched positions on the lowest rung and made a few tentative probes towards the water, but no prey items were caught during my presence. Remarkable in fact, that the bird remained undisturbed for so long at such a location.

viernes, 14 de abril de 2023

Ruddy Shelduck

Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea)

I photographed two Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea) in an irrigation pond in Las Martelas (Los Llanos de Aridane) yesterday evening, April 13. This was my first visit to the area for about one month, so I have no idea how long these two birds have been present, but it seems they have already been reported to SEO/Birdlife on Tenerife. 

Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea) + domestic Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata) with chick 

The Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea) is a "recent coloniser" of the island of Fuerteventura, where it continues to breed since first reported in spring 1994. Given the absence of older records, the appearance of this species on Fuerteventura was originally suspected to be the result of accidental escapes, but evidence now points to a natural Western Saharan origin for the island's resident breeding population (Atlas de las Aves Nidificantes en el Archipiélago Canario, SEO/Birdlife).

In addition to the island of Fuerteventura, there have been isolated sightings on Lanzarote, Gran Canaria and Tenerife, but none, to the best of my knowledge on La Palma, La Gomera or El Hierro. The two birds presently on La Palma might originate from Fuerteventura, or equally well, from the not-so-distant African continent. The strong easterly winds experienced recently on La Palma could have affected the flight paths of these, and other migratory birds currently present on the island.

Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea) + domestic Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata), and following images below:

While accidental escape from a private collection or local zoo theoretically cannot be entirely discounted, the birds' cautious behaviour argues against previous domestication or captivity. 

One of the two birds has a faint dark neck band, so is obviously a male. The other bird is considerably smaller, lacks the neck band, and has much more white on the neck and throat, indicative of a female. As this appears to be a pair, a late attempt at breeding could possibly ensue.

lunes, 7 de noviembre de 2022

Great Cormorant


Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)

The immature Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) first spotted on Oct 15 was still present on Nov 6. The bird can now be seen both at the irrigation ponds in Las Martelas, and at the Dos Pinos reservoir, both in the Los Llanos de Aridane municipality.

Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) and avian spectators

On Oct 18 I was able to photograph the Cormorant taking off, a fairly strenuous process in which the bird splashes across the surface in a series of jumps before finally getting airborne. 

Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) almost airborne

This interesting migrant has no difficulty feeding on the island as several irrigation ponds and reservoirs contain fish. However, despite having seen the bird dive and swim underwater, I have yet to observe it surfacing with prey. This could be due to the prey items being small enough to be swallowed underwater, or to a lack of fishing expertise. Further observation is required.

Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) in flight

Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) taking off

Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) taking off

sábado, 15 de octubre de 2022

First half of October

 The first two weeks of October have seen the arrival of a number of interesting migrants, including the two species shown in the present post:

Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe ), 1w

Sightings of Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) are almost annual on the island. Both adult and juvenile birds have turned up at several unpredicatable locations in recent years, sometimes in small groups. 

Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) 1w

The present individual was discovered by chance as I walked around the Dos Pinos (Los Llanos de Aridane) reservoir on Oct 9. It was perched 5 or 6 metres above me, offering an unusual perspective of a species typically observed close to the ground.

A noteworthy find on Oct 15 was the bird shown here:

Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) imm.

The Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) is described as an irregular winter visitor to the Canary Islands in the "Fieldguide to the Birds of Macaronesia" (Lynx Edicions, 2011).

Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorx carbo) exploring the pond

There have been several records on La Palma, from both coastal locations and freshwater habitats. Since some of the irrigation ponds in Las Martelas (Los Llanos de Aridane) are stocked with carp or tilapia, piscivores are able to find easy prey.

Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) leaving the water

Initially seen standing on the concrete ramp visible in the first photo above, the bird eventually swam underwater and reemerged on the far side of the pond without making a catch. It then settled to dry off, apparently in no hurry for a second attempt.

Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) drying off

Also seen in the same area in the last couple of weeks:
9 x Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis), a sizeable group for the island, plus small numbers of common waders such as Redshank (Tringa totanus), Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea), Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) and Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos). 
1-2 Spoonbills (Platalea leucorodia) have been roosting by day at the Dos Pinos reservoir, but probably feed elsewhere.

Elsewhere on the island, at the saltpans in Fuencaliente, the number of Yellow Wagtails (Motacilla flava) was up from one, to two birds on Oct 7.