Tribute to Llobregat Delta

4 04 2014

“And did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?”

Wish you were here, Pink Floyd

 

2 springs of absence, justified or not, but Llobregat Delta forgives me with a very nice migration day, concluded with an Iberian chiffchaff that was so kind as to call enough times to be recorded. Iberian chiffchaff is a local rarity, but regular enough to expect to find one with a bit of effort in the typical areas. Fortunately, one of those areas used to be my local patch, and the place where I learnt most of what I know. Thanks to Joan Castelló, I grew up as a ringer and thanks to Xavi Larruy I did so as a birder. The list of people who has already appeared in my blog is starting to be long and it was not fair that these 2 were not yet mentioned. Maybe this post, that tries to be a homage to Llobregat Delta, is a good chance to say thank you. Don’t expect neither great photos nor crazy rarities; this is gonna be how it used to be some years ago: chasing warblers through the bushes and waiting for either a crake or a Temminck’s stint to appear behind the rushes.

Yeah, it’s been an emotional morning, with several re-encountered feelings and birds. After two days of strong showers coming straight from Africa (yesterday’s rain was disgustingly sandy), the tamarinds and reedbeds along the road that follows La Vidala chanel were packed with Willow warblers, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Redstarts and Robins, whereas the sky was full of Swallows, Martins and Swifts. Although the rain has increased the water level of the marshes, the number of waders was still notable, as well as the diversity of duck species.

A walk through the bushes produced some personal first for the year: Bonelli’s and Subalpine warbler, Nightingale and Common redstart. The Bonelli’s warbler is a surprisingly scarce species at Llobregat Delta, despite being extremely abundant in the nearby mountains. I decided to stay for a while to ensure the identification. Tertials looked white-edged at a glance, but GCs were just normal. The bird called (as Western) more often than migrant Bonelli’s usually do, so I carried on without looking back.

bonelli

 

Already inside La Bassa dels Pollancres observatory, two photographers argued at loud about whatever expensive camera, so most of birds were faraway. I ended up checking the swifts, since it was possible to spot some Pallid just by bare eye. There was one that glimpsed my atention. Although obviously Pallid, it got a less extensive white bib, a deeper fork in the tail and a darker background coloration, contrasting with the diagnostic pale panels in GCs.

pallidus

pallidus2

 

All in all, it reminded me to the illyricus I did see at Copenhagen museum. This subspecies is meant to breed in the Adriatic see, at least in the east coast. Maybe not so surprisingly, it stroke me as being the most distinctive subspecies among the 3 I examined at the museum, mainly due to the characters I also spotted in today’s bird. In the photo below, you can see 3 illyricus in the right and 2 brehmorum in the left. What can I say? I just don’t know…

apus pallidus

Anyway, since the two photographers carried on with their senseless argument, I decided to move to the other observatory. As usual there were more birds, and some interesting ones. The Black-tailed godwit in bright breeding plumage below attracted my atention. I’m not used to them and, honestly, for me all of them look bright enough for islandica. This one it’s not, but it’s still one of the most stunning waders of our region, isn’t it?

limosa limosa

When I first entered the hyde, one of the 2 Collared pratincoles present was sat just in front, but, after 10 minutes, it decided to fly in front of the airport tower. Everybody who’s been at Llobregat Delta knows what this is: instead of an airport surrounded by meadows and marshes, nowadays is a marshland area surrounded by an airport. Photos like the one below can be taken with several species, some of them endangered, such as Bittern or Audouin’s gull. However, birds do resist and this post wants to be an evidence of it.

glareola2

glareola

 

Time to go! My body claimed for more passerines, but first I had to take a look at the orchids, a Llobregat Delta’ must-see from February to June. Early April is time for both Dark bee Ophrys fusca and Sawfly Ophrys tenthredinifera orchids. Is a bit late for the former, so I focused on the Sawflies. It’s been already 3 years without seeing them in their climax. I wouldn’t say I’ve missed them, but yeah, it’s been nice to see them again.

ophrys tenthredinifera

What I’ve really missed during these years is Iberian chiffchaffs. Maybe because it was one of the first identification challenges I dove into or maybe just because I like chiffchaffs, but the truth is that every march and april I’m looking for one of them, no matter where I am. Today I was in the right place, but it was not until one of the last trees I checked that I found what’s been the bird of the day. Among hundreds of phyllos, I spotted a bright green-yellow chiffchaff, with brownish legs, difused cheeks and half-green/half-pale supercilium.

ibericus2

That’s usually it for finding a putative Iberian, but then you need it to call because you need to record it. Today’s bird was cooperative and I managed to record the call. I’ve not edited it since I know my Swedish readers (if they are keen enough to reach this far down) would love to hear the Serin as well.

Click here

20140404_ibericus_llobregat

In the end, 81 species in 5 hours of birding in a really small area close to Barcelona. Although I am going to Israel next friday, back to the Canaries in a month and back to Sweden in July, Llobregat Delta will always be the first place to check the sightings from.

 

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Little things

2 04 2014

“You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.”

– Andy Warhol

In my last lonely day of the second round of the Barolo shearwater survey, tired and already waiting for Genís to join me, I decided to spend the day enjoying Fuerteventura, its landscape and especially its little endemic: the Fuerteventura stonechat.

I reached Cofete, the wonderful tiny village in the north of the Jandía peninsula, and saw the same restaurant I had been 7 years ago. Although it’s a bit expensive (due to the place, don’t expect iranian caviar), after several days eating tins of tuna I thought I deserved some relax. I guess all trip guides/webs already say that, but, just in case, you should go there! Either with friends, with the couple or alone, but to be sit in the terrace looking at the landscape and enjoying the classical potatoes with spicy sauce (papas con mojo) is a good way to chase problems away, at least for a couple of hours.

photo (2)

After an abundant meal, Southern people usually sleaps but, since I got no sofa nor bed, the car was a complete mess and it was raining hard, I decided to immediately go and look for the stonechats. 7 years ago I saw quite a lot of them almost everywhere, but this spring they seem to be restricted to the south of the island, or at least much more abundant there. A long-term evlutionary ecology survey such as that of Galapago’s ground finches would probably show strong fluctuations depending on rain and who knows what other variables. In the current year, I found 3 nests in 3 hours, all of them in the Canary Islands spurge Euphorbia canariensis area of the Jandía peninsula. It’s nice to see an endemic bird breeding under an endemic plant surrounded by such an unaltered area.

dacotiae2

Already focused on one of the couples, I started looking at the moult to age them. Illera & Atienza 2002 described the moult of this species as almost exactly the same than in European stonechat rubicola, that is, a partial post-juvenile that includes LCs, MCs and some to all GCs and a lack of pre-nuptial moult that leads to a worn body plumage in spring (in contrast with Siberian stonechat). However, both members of the couple I was looking at had moulted much more, and some feathers not even mentioned in the article, such as all 3 tertials in the case of the male and medium alula in the female. Although the article does say males moult much more than females in their PJ (to reach a bright adult-like appearence), it looks like this moult can be more extensive than previously expected.

dacotiae

To determine the extension of the moult in the female (e.g. number of GCs moulted) is a bit trickier, although A2 looked obviously moulted in the field. I was not able to see the other wing in detail, so it could be just a replacement, but A2 is not a feather usually lost and replaced. All in all, among lots of questions, it would be interesting to assess how many males do moult tertials. Since PJ moult (especially in males) has an ecologycal/behavioral reason, it would be nice to see if 1stS males with moulted tertials have a higher breeding success.

dacotiae3

Finally, just a photo of another Fuerteventura specialty for those visiting the Canaries: Black-bellied sandgrouse. They were already in couples, flying over the steppes emitting their magic call that brings me to my childhood summers in the steppes of Soria…

alchata








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