30 03 2013

“I wish it was the sixties, I wish I could be happy
I wish, I wish, I wish that something would happen”

The Bends, Radiohead

The weather forecast is always promising. As Sophie said, there is always a smiley sun in the 5th day, but then, when this day finally arrives, new snow showers are coming sometimes from Poland, sometimes from hell. There is no migration at all and neither local birds are actively singing.

Columba oenas

In that context, the feeder in our garden seems to be the only place with some birds flying around. Actually, it’s nice for me to see even stock doves and of course caudatus long-tailed tits. A flock of them appeared yesterday or maybe I’d better say re-appeared, since we had already seen them a couple of weeks ago. They were quite active, singing and fighting, going from one tree to the other.

Aegithalos caudatus caudatus

Aegithalos caudatus caudatus2

Aegithalos caudatus caudatus4

I don’t know what’s the southernmost point where this subspecies has been sighted, but it’s quite probable that someday one of these white-headed lollipops would reach Spain. I hope there would be somebody in the field to report it…

Aegithalos caudatus caudatus3


Buntings’ snow

26 03 2013

“We live in a strange bubble”

– Brian Molko

Today we woke up early, but not as early as it could had been. The cold temperatures forces us day by day to start the ringing in the Lighthouse one hour and a half after the dawn. To be honest, at 6 o’clock is the same cold than at 5 and, actually, the same than at 10, but at least we don’t feel we are the only stupid ones waking up at 4. This morning I went out of bed without knowing where I was. The sense of time is lost after a few days working more based in the sunlight than neither in the clock nor the calendar. As expected, the ringing session ended with only one bird caught: a great tit. However, I saw a male serin, which is the first to be sighted this year in Sweden and a hint of spring in a middle of another winter-looking morning.

Later on, Helena and me went to Foteviken where a huge flock (up to 130 birds!) of snow buntings had been reported two days before. It was the same place where I had enjoyed the twites something like 10 days ago, so I had good memories of it. The birds where supposed to be in an island not fur from the northernmost point, what meant we may have to walk on the ice of the frozen sea. We did so with surprisingly not too many problems but, after walking all the little island round the birds did not appeared. Helena saw a solitary snow bunting flying over and I saw a solitary twite in the same way, but that was all.

To come back checking the eastern shore of the Foteviken Peninsula is probably the best idea I’ve had in weeks. First of all, we saw many twites, realizing how variable are they. While I was seeing a very pale bird, with only traces of black in both the underparts and the mantle, Helena said she was seeing a bird that looked almost completely black above. It seems there is not much information about twite’ phylogeny, even there are many isolated populations or, at least, more isolated than redpolls. The notable difference between the Turkish brevirostris race and the northern one is pointed out by many birders in most of trip reports and it’s actually a very distinct form which probably deserves a better look.

Carduelis flavirostris

When getting close to a second flock of twites, the huge flock of snow buntings just flew over us and landed nearby. Of course I’ve never seen a flock like that and it was really nice to heard them calling, seeing them landing and finally feeding on a well-preserved sea salt marsh. The flock was restlessly moving from one place to another. Even we enjoyed to see such an amount of white points flying over the swamp, I would had liked to have enough time to look at the age and sex of the birds. I only managed to notice they were some “bright white” males and some “male-looking” females, which is actually good enough keeping in mind that most of vagrant snow buntings in Catalonia are not aged properly.

plectros blus sky

Plectrophenax nivalis4

Plectrophenax nivalis2

In one of their flights, the flock moved a bit northwards and we decided to go there to try to get better views of them. Only 100 metres from where we were looking at the snow buntings, we flushed 2 short-eared owls. This birds are always amazing… They were flying on their stunning way, but finally landed after a while. It would be a good idea to be there at sunset en enjoy them hunting or even displaying.

Asio flammeus

After a busy moment, we spotted the buntings again, but it was a fidget flock! This time we managed to get better views, but let me post another picture of the birds flying over. It’s not only for the birds but for something even rarer up there: the blue sky.

Plectrophenax nivalis3

Plectrophenax nivalis5

Plectrophenax nivalis6

plectros blue sky

Winter is not going

23 03 2013

“In the infinite white. Snow. Lilly Sand. Saline.”

Three Portraits with shadow, Juan Ramón Jiménez

It’s already official. This is the longest and coldest winter since 1988. The promising and incipient signs of spring we detected last week have disappeared and now it’s time to see again the already ringed great tits, the already ringed blue tits, the already ringed greenfinches and the already ringed (although only a week ago) siskins. The snow has just started to melt, but it needed our help and we were forced to clean the net’ sites. Multiply 200 meters of mistnet * 2 meters wide * 0.5 meters height and you would obtain the amount of snow (in cubical meters) that we moved today morning.  Difficult times for ringing. Shovel in hand, coffee still in the throat, ready to do that dirty job.

The previous days had not been better. Some more ringing at P-G’s garden, what produced some more fieldfares and 2 waxwings. To make things more confusing, the first individual of a species that you handle uses to be an adult. Waxwing was not an exception, but fortunately the aging seems to be easy. Note the white trailing edge in the primaries, typical of an adult. The not long enough fantasy red drop in the tip of the secondaries points to a female, together with the short crest and white instead of yellow in the white of the primary tips. However, sexing them seems not to be as easy. The 2nd cal. year we caught had a long crest, but the other features matched more with a female. The crest is indicative but not diagnostic, so we sexed it as a female. Still quite a lot of things to learn…

Falsterbo 070

ala bomby

In the way back home, a nice walk across the snowed forest. I took this picture that reminds me the front cover of The Best of Joy Division. You can judge for yourselves.

back home


Extra ringing

19 03 2013

“Will not rush it, will enjoy it
Will not touch it, will rejoice it”

– Early Bird, The Frames

After two boring days doing almost nothing, today it was ringing time! Our fingers missed the touch of the feathers and, even the snow covered the whole peninsula, we went to P-G’s garden, set a couple of nets and wait for not more than two minutes till the firsts tits started to fall into the bags. There were many thrushes, tits and finches around, but no sign of the waxwings present the day before yesterday. We finally ringed up to twenty birds, including 3 fieldfares, a nuthatch and a nice hawfinch.

Turdus pilaris

The nuthatch was not a pure white individual, but still pale enough to be considered a northern one.


The hawfinch was a nice adult male, although its iris color pointed more to a 2nd cal. year. The shape of the white in primary basis seems the most reliable character. We hope to catch more of them since now we know where to look at.

Coccothraustes coccothraustes

Moreover, today I’ve learned that fieldfares have the same moult strategy than the rest of the thrushes. Not so interesting in terms of science, but impressive birds anyway. It was good to catch and adult as well to check the differences. The picture below shows one of the 2nd cal. years with 5 retained juvenile GCs.


Getting fit

16 03 2013

“I like cycling, the idea of getting fit while moving around”

– Lennart Karlsson

It was cold when we woke up on yesterday, so we decided to cancel the ringing. Even it was unkindly early, we enjoyed our breakfast and our daily look at some birding blogs just as if we didn’t want to go back to bed again. For a while, it coincided that both Stephen and Ulrik were reading my blog at the same time. This historical moment deserved a picture.


I wake up (Round 2) completely disoriented, I just didn’t know if it was still Thursday, but I had been repeating that I would visit the Canal for the last 5 days and it was the moment to keep my promise. After a quite long cycling to the southern end of the canal, I was finally able to sit and relax enjoying a good combo of northern ducks. A large flock of tufted ducks were feeding around the breakwater, with some (at least 5) scaups among them. Probably, some of that tufted ducks would had been in the pools if they had not been frozen for the last week. Anyway, it’s always nice to scan a flock of whatever in order to find something different. To share this feeling, you can look for 3 of the scaups in the picture below.

Aythya fuligula

Aythya marila

Of course, the canal was also almost completely frozen, but the small parts that were not, were plenty of life. Goosander, smew, goldeneye, red-breasted merganser, great-crested grebe… I enjoyed specially the smews. I had previously seen only a female at Llobregat Delta, 2 years ago, but this sighting has nothing to do with seeing a flock of them (including 2 drakes) set in the ice.

Mergus merganser

mergellus albellus

A drake red-breasted merganser was coupled with a female goosander, kicking out the other goosanders and following her till the end of the world. I wouldn’t imagine their progeny…

Mergus serrator

The northern part of the canal was quieter, but even though I was able to add some stupid things to my Swedish list. This point seems the only within the whole Peninsula were there are coots and little grebes, at least in this season. A grey heron also flew over when I was trying to take pictures of a color-ringed black-headed gull. It was a bird from Copenhagen, not too much interesting.

Larus ridibundus YWF

Now that I was already in the canal, I could cycle for a few more kilometers and reach the bay north of Höllviken. Ulrik had seen some twites and the northern shore of the inner part of the Peninsula seemed interesting when we had passed throw the day before. Indeed, it was plenty of wigeons, teals and swans. I managed to spot my first 15 Bewick’s swans among a flock of both mute and whooper. The landscape was stunning as always… I think I will miss the ice when the spring had already come. Or maybe not. I don’t know.

Cygnus cygnus


I had not reached the northernmost point yet when 4 twites overflight me. They landed in a vast wasteland, where there was nothing but snow and some old-fashioned machinery. Well, actually they were not as old-fashioned, but it seems so if I put the picture in b&w.


I walk to the point where the twites had landed and suddenly I realized it was plenty of them. I just sited down in the hope that the restless flock would move in my direction. After some flights, they landed only 10 meters from where I was and I could finally enjoy them properly. The flock was composed by around 100 birds. Some of them still showed a bright yellow bill, but some others had already some grey tones.

Carduelis flavirostris5

Carduelis flavirostris2

Carduelis flavirostris7

In the way back home, I heard a flock of hawfinches, some of them singing from the top of a birch. This species is always obliging, so I stopped pedaling and look at them throw my bins. Among them, there was a brambling and 3 mealy readpolls, another longly-awaited species. I feel I am learning each day, getting used to see these species and hear them calling. This is probably the best engine I could have to keep pedaling.

Big words

14 03 2013

“People must feel that the natural world is important and valuable and beautiful and wonderful and an amazement and a pleasure.”

– David Attenborough

Surnia ulula blog

I don’t use to put a picture in the beginning of my posts, but that’s a special one. Today was the hawk owl day. All the other things were just to fill the rest of the time, what would ordinarily be big events, keeping in mind we were supposed to look also for bean goose, rough-legged buzzard and the beautiful landscape typical from the Swedish countryside. The day started with some ringing at the lighthouse. A flock of siskins, a blue tit and a treecreeper kept us entertained until the H hour of the D day, when Sophie finally took us to go to the hawk owl place. A bird had been seen for several weeks at Skrylle, a lovely (but crowded) place in central Skåne, and we got plenty of information from Ulrik, who had already seen that bird for 4 times. However, even we did a great effort, the bird did not appear. A marsh tit and some nuthatch were the best, apart from this ill-looking common buzzard.

Buteo buteo

We left the area having seen almost nothing and we must admit we were a bit disappointed. Anyway, we headed for Vombs Ängar, where many geese of different species were supposed to be. The first we saw as soon as we arrived was a trio of resident white storks, too lazy to migrate. Suddenly, a flock of bean geese appeared, but too faraway to enjoy them.  Some white-fronted geese did almost the same and, although the place looked nice for quite a lot of things, there was nothing but red kites. The day was being a crappy day since we had got poor views of the only interesting birds we had seen. After a quick recheck of the Swedish rare bird alert system, we headed towards Häckebergasjön, where another hawk owl had been reported 2 days ago. This bird had been seen only once and there was not pretty much information about it. However, it was our last chance to see this species so it was worth to try. Our luck changed in our way to this new place: we first spotted a rough-legged buzzard set in stick, and then there was a nice flock of geese just by the road. There were (of course) mainly greylag, but also at least 20 greater white-fronted and 5 bean geese. An adult red kite showing its broad black primary coverts was also welcomed.

Vombs Angar

Buteo lagopus

Anser albifrons

Milvus milvus

Finally, we reached Häckebergasjön (yeah, I’ve just copy/paste the name of the place…). The place looked just like a countryside may look, open areas surrounded by old forest: endangered high-quality landscapes. The hawk owl had been reported 900m from the road, so we started walking in that direction. Then, the track was divided into 2, so Stephen took the left one and Sophie and me took the right one. 10 minutes later, Stephen called us saying he had the owl. After some disorganized search, we finally spotted it again, sat on a stump, in the middle of a clearing, under the cloudy sky: I felt I had already dreamed about this image. We took our time to enjoy such a nice bird, aging it as a 2nd cal. year based upon its sharp tail feathers, with a white triangle in the tip. Each time the bird look at us, I got goosebumps.

place surnia ulula

Surnia ulula2

Surnia ulula3

To finish what suddenly turned into a very good day, we got this nice sunset from a still frozen North Sea.


Silky birds

13 03 2013

“My mother was right: when you’ve got nothing left, all you can do is get into silk underwear and start reading Proust.”

– Jane Birkin

To see a flock of Bohemian waxwings for the first time is something that happens only once a life and I’m sure most of birders, even from the north, would remind it. Yesterday afternoon, Ulrik and me went for a ride to the north of the Peninsula, a place I had not visited yet. While riding throw the main road that links Falsterbo and Skanör, we heard that magic high-pitched call coming from a garden just by the road. There were 6 restless birds going incessantly from a tree to the ground, where the owners of the garden had kindly let some apples. The Catalan name for waxwing is “silky bird” and I am in doubt about which material describes better its plumage, since it looks shining as wax but soft as silk. If they are still around this afternoon, we will try to ring them, so I will be able to judge the touch and probably choose one of the names as my favorite.

Bombycilla garrulus

Bombycilla garrulus2

The fields in the northern half of the Peninsula looked so exciting, but actually there was nothing but linnets, skylarks, jackdaws and crows, with some rooks among them. The pools and the bays are still frozen, so most of the wildfowl is sat on the ice or just flying from one place to another, looking for a better place to stay. The views of flocks of ducks flying over the frozen water are stunning, but I would had preferred some twites feeding on the thistles. Those fields looked also good for geese, but the only species we got (apart from greylag) was Canada goose, which, as Ulrik said, “it’s not interesting for anybody”. Promisingly, the weather is supposed to get better during the following days, so I hope not to stay too much at home.

Cygnus olor

Tadorna tadorna

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