In conclusion

30 08 2012

“Rain is also very difficult to film, particularly in Ireland because it’s quite fine, so fine that the Irish don’t even acknowledge that it exists.”

– Alan Parker

 
Not an easy August in Soria from a naturalistic point of view. The drought that devastates the region since the spring is the main cause. Most of the fields have not been harvested since the cost of the gas was much more than the price of the crop. The irrigation channels were almost dry and the trees started to loose their leaves as soon as late july. Of course, neither butterflies nor dragonflies have had his best season.
The Ringing in the gardens around my house revealed an extremely low breeding success. The 60% of the captures of local species were adults and only the early influx of Pied flycatchers have offset the breeding failure in the total number of captures, keeping it at a considerable values. However, I managed to catch some interesting species such as Western orphean warbler, golden oriole, Iberian chiffchaff… most of them adults.

How can I pass my time? A good alternative to ringing could had been the Monteagudo pond. It’s not a perfect wetland, there’s an almost total lack of vegetation in the marshes and the carps have proliferated til alarming levels, but it still has some interest since it’s the only water point within a 100km radius. A couple of Pied avocets, a nice adult Curlew sandpiper and 2 Black storks have been the best in the pond.
The track that links the villages of Utrilla and Monteagudo is also interesting. Large amounts of Lesser kestrels coming from the south do concentrate in late summer, pursuing the wave of grasshoppers. This year there has been many of them, but they leave Andalucia to reach a wetter area and I guess Soria was not what they had expected. I saw 12 of them in a typical place, sat in the electric towers, but just for a week.

The landscape in that area are always impressive, and even more if you are lucky to come across a summer storm.

The only thing I could do, apart from going to most of traditional festivities that every village organize during all the weekends in august, was to go north, looking for something interesting. Juan Luis and Jesús had found some Aquatic warblers in Fuentecantos wet meadows. Sylvia and me went to see them and we managed to see at least 3 of them. The place must be a regular stopover point during post-nuptial migration and 14 birds had been already ringed this year by Victor Salvador and Jesús Ruiz. It would be interesting to develop a ringing campaign in that place to quantify its true importance.





Canary Islands, Pelagics

29 08 2012

I am the lizzard king, I can do whatever I want”

– Jim Morrison

The weekend of August 18th and 19th was the first time for me for many things. It was the first time I had entered Lanzarote, since the others I was not able to spend more than a night at this wonderful island. Moreover, it was the first time I’ve leaded a trip for a birding enterprise: the already famous Lanzarote Pelagics. Finally, it was the first time I had seen a Black-bellied stormpetrel, only the 3rd sighting for the Western Palearctic.

The weekend started on friday morning, when I was told to go birding with some nice guys from Switzerland. Our main purpose was to find something rare, but there was not migration and then we decided to see the local species, which are even more impressive than a rarity. We saw plenty of Cream-colored courser and Houbara bustard at Llanos de Famara, an excellent place to look for them. Later on, in a water point together with a farm, hundreds of Berthelot’s pipit, Lesser short-toed larks and Trumpeter finches were drinking and bathing. Also 5 Houbaras inside of the farm! You can see almost all the birds of the island in 5 minutes in that place… it would be good for a Big Day.

The pelagic trip started on saturday. We take off from Orzola harbour and went to Banco de la Concepción, where many tubenoses are suposed to be foraging. During the way to the Banco, we already saw lots of Bulwer’s petrels and Cory’s shearwater. Cetaceans were also present: a Bryde’s whale early in the morning and some groups of both Atlantic spotted and Stripped dolphins did suddenly appear.

Already in the Banco, we stopped our boat and put the chum on the water. Just a minute after, a Wilson’s storm-petrel was feeding on it and both Madeiran and white-faced storm-petrels did come soon. Bulwer’s petrels seemed to be shyer and just flew over the chum. Everyone was able to take beautyful pictures of that 4 pelagic species and then we moved to another point: the exact place where 2 south polar skuas were seen last year.

When we arrived to the waypoint, we saw a skua but it was a Long-tailed skua in an interesting 1st summer plumage. When we were taking pictures of the skua, something magic happened. A Black-bellied storm-petrel suddenly appeared and, instead of flying away, it foraged close to the boat for 20 minutes. Nice to see Richard Bonser making a lifer for his WP list, an image maybe even rarer than the storm-petrel!

The rest of the day was not so profitable. We managed to see some interesting cetaceans such as sperm whale, Cuvier’s beaked whale and quite a lot Bryde’s whale. Of course also some dolphins: a group of lovely Bottlenosed dolphins showing their acrobatic skills and another group of Bottlenosed and Risso’s dolphins feeding together with hundreds of Cory’s shearwaters in a classic sea-ecology image.

Sunday was a hard day. Everyone was more tired and all of us had seen the Black-bellied storm-petrel the day before, so people’s birding activity experienced a strong decrease. However, some of us kept on searching and managed to see an adult Roseate tern, unfortunately too distant to enjoy it. Adults of both Sabine’s gull and Long-tailed skua came to hello us for a while and then kept on his way south.

The trip finished with a nice dinner at a traditional place in Orzola. Couldn’t avoid to feel sad.





We are the Hoopoes

4 08 2012

“I think it’s really important for me not to forget where I came from”

Anna Kournikova

Most of people in Spain has a village. It’s not the village where you live but where you, your parents or even your granparents were born. In any of those cases, you feel that village yours and it’s always a pleasure to come back, see your old friends and enjoy the fact nature is closer there.

Aguaviva de la Vega is my village. It is placed in southern Soria, central Spain, 200km north of Madrid and just in the edge of the Spanish central plateaux. People from here are so-called “The Hoopoes” and even I like that surname, I’ve never understood where does it come from.

There is not a predominant landscape, what means the biodiversity is high. There are stony calcarium slopes with disperse bushes or encinas, dense oak tree forests, extensive mill fields with some plain scrubland areas in between and a nice Populus river forest together with the village.

Talking about birds, more than 90 species do breed. To make you aware of the diversity it’s worth to say a Golden eagle nest can be found close to the village in one of the pintoresque cliffs, while is also possible to hear the Dupont’s lark singing in the scrublands south of the village during the quiet March nights. Both species can be detected from the same point. Walking across the steppeland, is always nice to notice the presence of some Black-bellied sandgrouse, even this species is getting alarmly scarcer. The same is occuring to the Little bustard, which inhabits the mill fields taking profit also of the surrounding steppes. Greater short-toed lark, Tawny pipit and Spectacled warbler are commoner. It must be also said that all of these places are good to look for the mythic Eurasian dotterel from the end of August to the end of September.

The cliffs where the Golden eagle breeds have also good densities of Rufous-tailed rock thrush. They are so close to the village that it’s not difficult to see some individuals foraging in the roofs of the houses. Eagle owl, Rock martin, Rock Sparrow and Red-billed chough are also present, while Peregrine falcon and Egyptian vulture are extinct as breedind species, even it’s posible to see some migrating individuals of the last.

Below the cliffs, there are quite a lot stony slopes with disperse bushes that house Western orphean warbler and both Rock and Ortolan bunting. That’s maybe the most valuous habitat of the village.

The oak trees are not so diverse, but, apart from the high densities of Western Bonelli’s warbler, there are some interesting raptors such as Short-toed and Booted eagles. There are at least 1 pair of the first and 3 pairs of the last inside the limits of the village. The sources of water inside of the oak forest are good for migrants, specially in the post-nuptial migration. Lots of Common redstars, Iberian Chiffchaffs and Pied flycatchers can be found there.

Finally, the river forest just by the village houses an impressive density of Golden oriole, Scops owl, Turtle dove and a huge etcetera.

Mammals are always present in the walks. The most conspicous is the Roe deer, while Pine marten and Iberian hare are commoner at night than expected during the day. The most interesting species is the Mediterranean water shrew, present in the channels surrounding the wet limit of the village.

Just to say something about butterflies, Agrodiaetus fabressei and Plebicula nivescens are both extremely localized species, restricted to the dry and calcarium slopes of central Spain. Both can be found coming to drink close to the village during the central hours of the hot august days.

I will be there for the next month (except for a weekend in Lanzarote). I will try to keep my naturalistic activity and try to look to these ecosystems with the same eyes than in the Canaries.








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