Yank session

23 10 2012

Perhaps, after all, America never has been discovered. I myself would say that it had merely been detected.

– Oscar Wilde

El Hierro, once again. I am enjoying this island that has something magic. I need more time there to know exactly what’s the cause, but here things simply work. I spent most of my time working on cetaceans, as last May. The Canary Islands Government and the Universidad de la Laguna set a campaign focused in photo identification of the beaked whales (both Cuvier’s and Blainville’s) to study their biology and ecology. We have seen many Cuvier’s beaked whales those days, while Blainville’s seemed to had disappeared after the first 2 days of field work.

For me (and I guess for most of us), the best sighting was a female Cuvier’s beaked whale called ZcH15 (so-called Guapaaa onwards), accompanied by a calf. It’s interesting to say there is a few data on the biology of beaked whales around the world, so each observation revealing a social behavior is of special interest. Beaked whales are usually fur from the coast and moreover the calf seems to be surprisingly similar in size to adult female, maybe to start doing deep immersions the sooner the better. Those facts make hard to study them during enough time to put light on their breeding biology, but el Hierro, with its set of special things, can help to do so. Here the beaked whales are close to the shore and show a surprisingly high fidelity to this grounds, so animals can be followed in time by using the Photo ID methods.

Birds. Although I came here to study cetaceans (I promise!), it’s not possible for me to ignore birds, and even more if I am in the westernmost part of Spain during late October. The first days were quite discouraging in that aspect. I was able to move only around La Restinga point, the southern point of the island. It’s not well-oriented to house American species, but then I must remind you the first sentence of this post: here things work. The first interesting sighting was a laughing dove on 17th. It’s common in Fuerteventura, but rare at el Hierro. However, the it’s nothing compared to what happen on October 19th. I saw a cormorant entering from the sea, faraway from where I was. All the species of cormorant are a rarity here, so the sighting was already good just by knowing the genus.

On 21th, prospecting the sea from the same place, I saw a cormorant landing in a cliff. I didn’t see the cliff, but I saw the cormorant entering from the sea again in that direction. This time, I was able to appreciate the white breast, but nothing else.

The last episode of that romance was on yesterday. I was in the boat of La Laguna University with Sara and Agus going out of the harbor to start another day pursuing the beaked whales, when I saw a slim cormorant swimming inside of the harbor. When I saw its orange face, my restlessly started. Of course it was the same cormorant of the 2 days before and of course it was a Double-crested cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus, the first sighting for Spain and a longly awaited species.

The bird went out of the water to take a sunbath in a rock. I managed to take some better pictures from our boat, confirming it was a 1st winter Double-crested. Both Sara and Agus are cetologist and they were not aware of what they had seen until they saw my smile of craziness.

It was the last day of work and today I’ve been able to bird the northern part of the island. After having checked the only pond (where 2 white-rumped sandpipers have been seen already this autumn), some little forest placed excitingly close to the shore (where I flushed 3 woodcocks) and the dry fields where I am sure some American birds may had landed sometime (although today there was nothing but canary serins and kestrels), I drove to the Verodal Beach, west of Frontera, where I found a nice 1st winter spotted sandpiper Actitis macularia. The bird was very approachable, if “approachable” means that it likes to come where you are sited.

I’m not used to be in a place with such a potential for American vagrants and I have a lot of species in mind, so I will try to profit the following days. Keep on reading me!

Finally, I want to thank Manolo García (a good friend and better birder) who kindly help me to make this post possible!




2 responses

23 10 2012

Impresionantes observaciones y gran crónica. Enhorabuena Marcel

9 11 2012
Marcel Gil Velasco

Gracias Pablo!

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