Jackpot

27 02 2014

“Time and again I tell myself
I’ll stay clean tonight
But the little green wheels are following me.
Oh no, not again,
I’m stuck with a valuable friend”

– Ashes to ashes, David Bowie

This is turning into an obsession… After the shearwater odissey, a pleasent cetacean survey at El Hierro. As always, beaked whales were the main target, but, to be honest, I’ve enjoyed much more the re-encounter with people. This time the crew was composed by Gala, Anya, Casandra, Néstor, Víctor and the fireproof Carol, Nerea, Agus, Crístel and Natacha. An unexpected visit by the Tonina’s team Efra and Manu was also welcomed. Especial mention goes to Cacho and his mother, who kindly supplied us with shit loads of extremely nice local food.

Is worth-saying this project is funded by the University of La Laguna and the Government of the Canary Islands. It’s not so easy to find such a long-term project with a continous and generous funding, so, from this little forum, many thanks also to them.

The survey itself was kind of strange, with several days of bad weather and the beaked whales even more elusive than usual. However, in the end we managed to take photos of a presumed immature male and a family group of Blainville’s beaked whale. The Cuvier’s were distant and elusive, with unpredictable emersions in terms of time and place.

EH_2014.02.20_GalaSerrano 783

EH_2014.02.22_NereaGarcia 992

Dolphins of several species were also present in the Mar de las Calmas bay. Rough-toothed, Short-beacked Common, Bottlenose and Atlantic spotted were all hanging around, although not always in the same number. Brief and distant views of a presumed Bryde’s whale filled out the cetacean trip list.

EH_2014.02.19_ULL_  (403)

Thanks to the bad weather, we got 2 free days to visit the north of the island. In the mythical pond in Frontera, there was a 1W female Lesser scaup and a Common teal, among the noisy coots and the worth-checking Common sandpipers. The number of nominate White wagtails (not less than 10) was also noticeable, keeping in mind this island is in the very last end of the Macaronesia. The lasts galores have brought some Kittiwakes this far south. One adult came to follow our small non-fishing boat for a while.

EH_2014.02.21_MarcelGil 539

However, the very best in terms of sightings was a stunning Red-billed tropicbird. I spotted it from the land-station, while I was meant to be looking for beaked whales, but let’s pretend I saw it by chance…

rabijunco present

The bird passed W, just by Tacorón, and started looking for a place to stop in the Montaña Roja (Red mountain)’ cliff. It hoovered for a few seconds in front of a corbel, didn’t like it and went for a short flight just before coming back to check another corbel. Seemingly, none of the putative nesting places looked suitable for the tropicbird, so it decided to fly straight to La Restinga, where I lost it. When it was gone, I realized I had been more than 1 hour enjoying the bird and taking photos, although in my head it had not lasted more than 20 minutes.

rabijunco2

To end up, one of the best night hearings of Barolo shearwater: together with all the crew, at Orchilla lighthouse and after having eaten nice grilled local fishes. We heard at least a male and a female, hope nobody who was there will ever forget it!

Advertisements




Round 1. Fight!

25 02 2014

“If you even dream of beating me, you’d better wake up and apologize”

– Muhammad Ali

Maybe one of the most important things I’ve done in my life so far is what I’m currently doing: a project for Barolo shearwater conservation in the Canary Islands. Although I don’t fear being ambitious when it comes to preserve nature, the several tasks to do in order to execute it properly make the field work hard, very hard. It is divided in three rounds of work and we’ve just finished the first one. Most of days’ work has included census from vessel between islands, from-land census with a scope and night hears in the breeding colonies. Some of this work carried in isolated islets, some of them hard to reach and of course not comfortable to live in.

However, after only a couple of days resting at home, things look much better. The experience is invaluable from a personal point of view. To hear several Barolo shearwaters entering the colony inside of the volcano in Montaña Clara islet, late at night, after a hard and cold time sleeping on the rocks can be only described as magic and goes straight to the podium of my birding memories.

The adventure started at La Gomera. Although for me it will be always one of the greenest islands of the Canaries, the fact that the areas we were interested in were all in the dry south combined with the extensive burnt area right in the heart of Garajonay National Park gave me a different taste than in my previous visits. However, we enjoyed good views of some birds typical from the Macaronesian laurel forest such as this Tenerife goldcrest. This taxa is not recognized as a species nowadays and, risking sounding like a twitcher, I don’t understand why. Note the dark grey head, the yellow-creamy wing bar and the dirty flanks. Keeping in mind this population is 4000km from the nearest breeding ground of regulus and the Madeiran firecrest has species status, I just don’t get it. I know, the genetic distance is not big enough, but neither it is in swifts and eiders.

regulus

Anyway, it was time to move to Fuerteventura to carry on with the shearwaters. Bizarrely, we got rainy weather there, so again I got a different taste from this dry island than in my previous visits. Some of the Houbara bustards were already displaying with their high-speed version of Great bustards’ foam bath. Bad views of Cream-colored courser and a good study of a couple of Fuerteventura Common buzzards were the only stuff we got time for.

hubara712

hubara

These buzzards are indeed interesting. They are meant to be insularum like in the rest of the Archipelago, but the truth is they look more like Long-legged buzzards. Structure and tail band should be enough to rule out the north African cirtensis, but it’s hard to avoid thinking those birds don’t have any influence from this species. Judge by yourself:

buteo888

buteo879

The plan for the next two days was to go to Lobos islet. Not so much to say about this small islet… Apart from an impressive landscape and a (too) big colony of Yellow-legged gull, it’s not as good as it could be for seabirds. Nowadays it’s packed of mice but it’s worth saying the last cat died there because it was really old. We are not talking about a big island but about an islet, where monitoring and management should be a priority.

After an extra night in Fuerteventura double-checking some good places for shearwaters, we faced Lanzarote, an island that I’ve always seen in a hurry. The bad point about leading the trips to La Concepción Bank with Lanzarote Pelagics is that I’ve rarely have time for birding in the island itself. This time was not that different… we were still focused on seabirds, although this time not as far away from the shore. However, we enjoyed the Houbaras and especially the Cream-colored coursers with even better views than at Fuerteventura.

cursorius1297

hubara1384

The coursers were already mating. This couple hidden behind some vegetation… not so different from humans actually.

cursorius

A visit to Janubio saltpans was quite nice to see some waders and ducks. Nothing of interest apart from Black-tailed godwits and the always stunning Ruddy shelducks. Nice to see as well the flock of Black-necked grebes that is wintering there. We counted 21 birds, but the maximum has been 23.

tferruginea988

Finally, a quick check at Tías golf course. This place has given so many rarities that is worth checking just in case. However, the only remarkable birds present were a flock of White wagtails and some Trumpeter finches. Even they are always there, for a birder from the Peninsula is always nice to see them, especially with these good views.

bucanetes1528

And that’s it… Hard but enjoyable field work somehow. Now it’s time for another cetacean survey at this paradise called El Hierro, combined with more research on Barolo shearwaters.








%d bloggers like this: