sábado, 22 de septiembre de 2018

Common or Spotted Sandpiper?

 1. Actitis sp., Las Salinas Sep 19

The bird shown in the present post has been observed at the saltpans in Fuencaliente over the last few days, and poses identification challenges.

The dilemma is obviously whether this Actitis species is a Common (hypoleucos), or a Spotted (macularius) Sandpiper.


The first feature which drew my attention to this visiting wader was the very short projection of the tail beyond the primaries: it looks too short for the typical Common Sandpiper (A. hypoleucos).


On the other hand, there do seem to be dark notches along the edges of the tertials, just discernible in some of the photos, which would indicate Common (hypoleucos), rather than Spotted (macularius).

Although the notches are faint, they seem to extend along the feather edges, rather than being confined to their tips.


The strikingly short tail projection beyond the folded wings can be appreciated in photo nº 4 above.


In the poor quality image nº 5 above, the wing stretching seems to reveal a white wing bar that does not reach the bird's body, diagnostic of Spotted Sandpiper (A. macularius).

 6. Actitis sp. Las Salinas, Sep 22

The overall plumage tones and compact build also seem to fit macularius, but the legs would perhaps need to be a darker shade of yellow (?).


Regarding the bill, I can see no sign of a pinkish lower mandible, as would be the case in macularius.

The pure white underparts lack spots, of course, but what about those tiny dark flecks towards the bird's rear end, just discernible in photo nº 7?


So far, I have not heard any vocalisations: one way of separating the two Actitis species is by their distinct calls.

It would also be useful to have some clear pictures of the bird in flight, for closer assessment of the upper wing bar. However, photographing this speedy sandpiper on the wing is tricky in its present surroundings.


For the moment, I am inclined to opt for Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos), mainly because of the dark (albeit faint) notching on the tertial edges, the pale legs, and the lack of pink on the lower mandible.

But the short tail projection, the stocky body shape, and the upper wing bar (visible in the blurred nº 5 above) have left me with certain doubts.

Any comments or second opinions would be most welcome.

jueves, 13 de septiembre de 2018

Yellow Wagtail

 Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava)

A visit to the saltpans in Fuencaliente yesterday evening yielded this solitary Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava). The bird was foraging for small insects along the dirt access track, where all of the present images were captured.

 Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava)

Photography was made difficult by the fading light, and the gusty wind...plus the fact that the bird was hyper-active and easily scared by passing vehicles and pedestrians.

 Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava)

From the plumage tones, I am assuming that this is a male flavissima, or "British Yellow Wagtail", with yellow-green ear-coverts, crown and nape, and no hint of white in the supercilium.

Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava flavissima)

The species is a passage migrant to the Canary Islands, with some races considered vagrants (eg. ssp. feldeggi).

Elsewhere on the island, there has been little to report so far this migration season. The usual Ringed Plovers (Charadrius hiaticula), Common Sandpipers (Actitis hypoleucos), Greenshank (Tringa nebularia), Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus), Sanderling (Calidris alba) and Turnstones (Arenaria interpres) have already arrived in small numbers.

Unfortunately, the irrigation ponds in Las Martelas (Los Llanos de Aridane) are mostly dried-out and abandoned,  providing very little suitable habitat for stopover waders. Birding at the ponds has seen a downward trend in recent years, as more modern irrigation methods have led to the gradual abandonment of these small, freshwater reservoirs.