Two seawatching points

28 02 2012

Everytime I’ve been living in the same place for more than a month, I’ve needed a place to seawatch. When I choose the Canary Islands, I thought this would not be a problem, since this is an island and the sea is everywhere. However, not all the capes or breakwaters are the same. 

Looking at the shape of Tenerife island and bearing in mind birds are going northwards in this season, the southern coast must be better than the northern one, but the Kittiwakes I saw the first day at Punta del Hidalgo made me think that maybe birds are passing all around. I was not convinced at all, so I went to Playa de las Teresitas on saturday and did an hour of seawatching that produced what follows:

  • Gannet: 28
  • Cory’s shearwater: 12
  • Manx shearwater: 2
  • Leach’s storm petrel: 1
  • Sandwich tern: 2
  • Bar-tailed godwit: 23 (in one flock)

In comparison, one hour at Punta del Hidalgo on yesterday morning:

  • Cory’s shearwater: 79
  • Manx shearwater: 1

So it seems Punta del Hidalgo is a good place for birds breeding here, but not to see spring  migration. Having checked that, I still don’t know which of them would be better for a Barolo’s shearwater…


Spring migration takes off

26 02 2012

It seemed it would be just another unsuccessful day checking Tejina ponds, looking for a duck coming from the other side of the pond. In the first one, there was a greenshank, the typical coot, some common sandpipers and a little egret. Looking carefully at the chiffchaffs, I found a single common chiffchaff disguised between the hundreds of canariensis. Till now, everything was the expected for a typical winter day in that area, but then a flock of 6 purple heron flew over, clearly in a migratory way. They attempted to land in a nearby reedbed but either the place was too small or there were too many people walking their dogs. Later on, a common snipe flushed from the grass. It’s a scarce bird here, so maybe I should be happier than I actually was.

In the remaining pond, the only Night herons of the island were cutely sleeping. There were at least 7 of them, but only 2 adults were noted.

Birds at the airport

17 02 2012

The airport of Tenerife Norte – Los Rodeos is a unique habitat in the context of Tenerife island. The cropps and open areas are endangered here and the airport can help to protect that area from the advance of both the forest and the cities. Of course, there is an impact caused by an airport. Noises and habitat degradation had caused almost the destruction of the Llobregat Delta, but here it can reinforce this interesting birding place.

There are 2 Short-eared owls wintering in the area and it also houses an important population of Corn Bunting, an extremely localized bird in the island. It was nice to see both of them together on yesterday afternoon, among the first migrating Plain and Common swifts.

Canary Islands Big Half Year

16 02 2012

I confess, I am a fan of competitions such as the Big Day, races consisting in seeing as many species as possible in one day. However, I’ve never done a Year list (and I’m proud of this).

The Canary Islands are plenty of endemics but, as the rest of the islands, biodiversity is not one of its strong points. Not happy with that, I will try to draw up a big local list from now till july. Challenge accepted!

You can follow this loss of time in a special page of the blog.

Already at home – First impressions

15 02 2012

I will be in Tenerife for 5 months. I landed on sunday and yesterday was the day to find my new local patches. The ponds around Tejina and Punta del Hidalgo are my elections. The first is a historycal place to find nearctic wildfolw and the other is a cape placed in the north of the island, good for a bit of seawatch. Both places are easyly reached by bus (here guagua), just 20 minutes from my new home at San Cristóbal de la Laguna.

My first visit was encouraging! There was nothing of interest in the ponds (only a spoonbill and some common sandpipers)  but the area was plenty of Canary islands chiffchaff, Spanish sparrows, Berthelot’s pipit and Canary serin. However, the best was a little swift above the village of Tejina, a rarity in the islands and also in mainland Spain.Moreover, 1 hour seawatching from Punta del Hidalgo produced 2 kittiwakes, 1 manx shearwater and 5 Cory’s. There were also some whimbrels and turnstones feeding in the rocks. If you are interested in marine invertebrates, it’s worth to visit that place in low tide, when it’s east to find gellyfishes, sea stars and things like that trapped in the rocks, waiting for the high tide. Yesterday, there were quite a lot stunning Portuguese man o’War (Physalia physalis).It was a good start, the spring promises to be amazing


Some gulls from Barcelona harbour

14 02 2012

There is a 1st winter Herring gull wintering in Barcelona harbour, close to Maremagnum shopping centre. Image

Moreover, a caspian-like gull which definetely it’s not.

All of them, just before moving south, heading for some Macaronesian stuff…

Pied characters in White wagtails or just Pied?

3 02 2012

Even during that boring winter days, while waiting for something coming from the cold, it’s not worth to stay at home.

Today morning, Manolo and me have decided to evaluate the effects of the cold front in Montjuic area. There were several common chiffchaffs, black redstars and song thrushes, but maybe the most intriguing bird was that White wagtail showing an odd facial pattern. It seemed the only strange character at a glance, but, giving atention to details, we have noticed the soft contrast between nape and mantle and, depending on the position, the dark flanks. Note that there is a quite obvious dark marking in the back in pictures 1 and 2, but not in picture 3. In the other hand, the flanks in picture 3 are completely dark, while in pictures 1 and 2 are not dark enough. If we join the facial pattern of pictures 1 and 2 and the flanks of picture 3, we obtain a good candidate for Pied, but that characters were not seen together.Unfortunately, we were not able to judge the rump.

Later on, I’ve seen another White wagtail showing extremely dark flanks. That character is usually underrated in some field guides, and that bird is a good example of that.The rest of the plumage was the typical awaited for a 1st winter White wagtail.

Pied wagtail Motacilla alba yarrellii is a rarity in Catalonia, with less than 10 sightings accepted by the regional Comitee, so it’s worth to be cautious when identifying a wagtail as a Pied. However, probably most of the Pied wagtails reaching Catalonia are 1st winters, which can present more identification difficulties. It’s interesting to examine carefully 1st winters such as the one above to determine the true status of that taxon in Catalonia.

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