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.

frikis

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

Höllviken

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.

Höllviken2bw

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.

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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.

hielo





The woodpecker’s situation

11 03 2013

“And it was cold and it rained so I felt like an actor”

– Five years, David Bowie

It was snowing when I woke up yesterday or, more precisely, there was some snow coming from somewhere.  There were not many things to do, so Stephen and I set the feeder and just wait for the birds to come. Sophie had already advised us that birds seem to prefer sunflower’s seeds, but the only seeds we had did contain only a 40% of sunflowers. Therefore, our fail in attracting birds was fur from being our fault.

seed

seed2feeder

The time went on so slowly, such slowly that, even it was still snowing, I encouraged myself to go for a walk. Ulrik had seen 2 black woodpeckers in a nearby forest and this seemed to be a good target for a boring afternoon. As soon as I got to the forest, I heard one of the woodpeckers which suddenly appeared drumming in an already drummed branch. The bird showed well, actually better than all the black woodpeckers I had seen before in the Pyrenees. It was cold and it snowed so I felt like another frozen birch upon a whole forest of them, but the woodpecker still showed well.

Dryocopus martius

Today started in an opposite way. The sky was blue and there were plenty of both blue and great tits feeding around our feeder. I went for a walk, again to the black woodpecker place, where I could increase my Swedish list with goldcrest and stock dove. After a fast plate of crappy spaghetti, I had energy enough for pedaling to the harbor, where amazing things are supposed to be. What I couldn’t expect was to find most of the water inside of the harbor totally frozen. However, I got good views of a red-breasted merganser in the only still-liquid pool.

frozen harbor2 frozen harbor Mergus serrator

Some goldeneyes (mainly males) and eiders were also around the harbor, but they seemed to be unable to rest in the same place for more than 5 minutes. If they can’t put up with frozen water, maybe they should go south… I know quite a lot of birders that would welcome them with open arms. By the way, it’s true that I am here just since last Thursday, but in my opinion these birds are impressive. I bet they would seem as impressive for me even in june…

Bucephala clangula Somateria mollissima2

Already in the way back, I stopped to check a huge flock of greenfinches, but, intead of my desired redpoll, I only managed to see 2 bramblings. What is amazing here in Falsterbo is that many birds are just migrants. While seeing the (probably) migrant bramblings, a (probably) migrant winter wren did call and a flock of (more probably) migrant European starlings landed in a nearby field. All those birds winter here but in low numbers, so (in addition to the goldcrest I had seen in the morning) they may be new arrivals.

Fringilla montifringilla

For making me even busier, 2 white-tailed eagles (an adult plus a… an immature) flew over. My last white-tailed eagles had been even before my last whooper swans, so I enjoyed them till they disappeared inland.

Haliaeetus albicilla

When I was already close to home, I heard a hawfinch calling from a tree which was almost in our garden. The bird was set just in the top of a poplar, always a nice bird to see. The trees around our house seem so good for migrants actually, I expect something really good up there sometime during the spring… At least for now, already with Stephen and Ulrik, we enjoyed a nice male lesser-spotted woodpecker feeding or building the nest or whatever, just in a couple of meters from us. I used to see this species but not in a such a short distance and of course not while hearing the black woodpecker calling from the same forest than yesterday.

Dendrocopos minor





Not yet in Sweden, I promise

24 02 2013

“I grow up in Chicago, and there was always snow. In Los Angeles there never was, so we would always import snow!”

– David Hasselhoff

I woke up yesterday morning with the sound of the snow heavily falling outdoors and for a moment I thought I was already in Sweden. My mother suddenly appeared to take me back to reality and then I realized I may be still in Barcelona. So… What to do? This badly-timed cold front is too late for an influx of northern wildfowl, so the only effect it may have may be a noticeable sedimentation of early spring migrants.

Finally, I decided to visit the Llobregat Delta, a good place for both migrants and wildfowl. The firsts views of the landscape were pretty unusual, with the plain surrounded by white mountains. It was cold, but there was no wind, so the conditions were almost perfect to do some birding.

Image

There were quite a lot crag martins flying over the Cal Tet lagoon and, among them, my first house martin. A pied wagtail had been sighted a few hours before, but I didn’t manage to find it. Moreover, it was plenty of wildfowl: more than 80 red-crested pochards, 300 shovelers, gadwalls, some shelducks, hundreds of teals, mediterranean, black-headed, yellow-legged and an Audouin’s gull… but the best was this female ferruginous duck, a bird always nice to see.

Image

A greater spotted cuckoo (also my first this year) flushed at Cal Nani marshes did demonstrate that spring is already in the air. The bird showed well, sat on a fence for a while and later moved to the top of a blackberry bush.

Image

We don’t have much time left till the arrival of the bulk of swallows, willow warblers and subalpine warblers, but let’s see where do I am when this happens.





This is not a goodbye

20 02 2013
“When you are old and gray and full of sleep, and nodding by the fire, take down this book and slowly read, and dream of the soft look your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep.”
 – William Butler Yeats
El Hierro must be one of the best places to feel the sea as a part of you. Hence, these 2 weeks has been the best way to say goodbye to the sea, since I will be working with ground birds at Falsterbo for the next 3 months. We have had a taste of all: African heat haze, northern cold winds, rain, burning sun, fogg and of course the Canary Island’s typical trade winds. Fortunately, we managed to take profit of almost all the conditions we were coming across.
The first days were quite normal. The beaked whales (once again the target of the survey) seemed to be scarce, but the Mar de las Calmas bay was plenty of Spotted, Bottlenose, Common and Rough-toothed dolphins. Birds were also present since there is a Barbary falcon nest close to the land-based observation point and the local ospreys were also prospecting the area. The sea was infected of both pyrosomids and Portuguese Man o’war, as seems usual in the Canaries during early spring. We took the first underwater images.Image
After 3 days of normal work, a northern front was near to force us to suspend the campaign. We already had made our package when a last look at the forecast encouraged us to rest in el Hierro. Even it was impossible to go out the sea during the 2 following days, we profited to see the island once again. The idea was to show to the volunteers working on the survey almost all the local bird species and this would represent for me the chance to check if there was something new in the pond at Frontera. We first saw some Bolle’s pigeon in the high part of the forest, together with Tenerife goldcrest, Tenerife blue tit and the rest of common endemics. In the end, we reach the pond. A lesser scaup had been sighted there in late December but I didn’t expect to see it. The first bird I saw apart from some yellow-legged gulls was a new female ring-necked duck, but the female lesser scaup suddenly appeared. A quite typical image in the Macaronesia: two nearctic ducks together in the same pond.
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Later on, already in the east coast of the island, we found a dead deep water fish of a still unknown species. Any comments on the identification will be welcome! Anyway, the landscapes from both here and El Verodal beach were stunning. I won’t never forget that dusk with Borja, Efrain, Manu, Nino, Crístel and Agus (even she had a cold) at the Orchilla lighthouse.
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The following days were more normal. The bay was still plenty of dolphins, specially Rough-toothed Steno bredanensis. These smart animals were swimming simultaneously, in its unmistakable way. Most of the groups contained calves that were particularly actives, jumping and flapping the surface with the tail. In one of the groups, we notice there was a dead calf that appeared and disappeared intermittently. Finally, we saw what was presumably the mother of the calf taking the lifeless body an putting it downwards in an attempt to avoid gull’s attacks. The calf seemed to be dead since more or less 1 day ago, so the tenacity of the mother was remarkable.
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Most of days, the Atlantic spotted dolphins overfill the bay. These animals are extremely social. They either come and jump below the prow or play with the bubbles of the engine. Together with them, a huge group of Short-finned pilot whales appeared just for one day but enough to get very good views. Perfect to try some aquatic pictures!
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In the time being, the land-based station was surrounded by Boettger’s lizards Gallotia caesaris and Canary Island’ ravens, both doing some display. This stunning panoramic landscape (thank you Efrain) shows the place we were working at. Wonderful when weather conditions do respect.
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And what about beaked whales? They insisted in their scarcity, but finally we managed to take good pictures of a group of 3 Cuvier’s beaked whales. It’s the first time I am able to notice its red eye in the middle of its friendly face. One of the animals passed diving just below the prow and both Borja and me enjoyed an unforgettable image of the whale wagging its tail impulsing the huge body into the depth. The same day we saw an impressive Bryde’s whale that was near to wet us with its blow.
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Now it’s time to face Falsterbo. Probably I will miss the Canary Islands sometime, but I am sure I will come back sooner than expected. Meanwhile, I will remember them by reading my book.




I missed the Fall

11 11 2012

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower”

– Albert Camus

One of the few things absent in the Canaries is the deciduous forest. There is a total lack of deciduous trees and the color of the forest is always green when seen from above. As I already told in the post Leaf’s life, there is a huge variation in the yellow-red gamma present in leafs already fallen to the ground and it’s in that stage when you can notice the changes in coloration.

Last Wednesday, as soon as I landed at el Prat airport, I already thought about visiting the Montseny mountains, where the only Atlantic forest close to Barcelona grow in the high north face. The beech trees must be red and the rosebushes plenty of thrushes. After too many months missing them, it would be also nice to see bullfinches, nuthatches, marsh tits and all these northern species. Moreover, Andrea and Helena encouraged me to go out on yesterday. They wanted to see passerines and I wanted to see a beautiful place (for the first time it wasn’t the opposite!) so El Montseny was a good option.

The first views we got when we arrived early in the morning where nice, but not the bests of the day. The first redwings and siskins were feeding on rosebushes fruits but there was not much activity since it was a bit windy. The next stop was entering the Santa Fe beech forest. Here the landscape was what I was looking for. The opened areas with thistles were plenty of chaffinches, greenfinches, goldfinches an among them at least 3 marsh tits.

Then, it was the time to go up the high mountain. El Turó de l’Home is the top of the Montseny and the closest place from Barcelona to find some species from the highs. A few minutes after parking the car, we saw a bird foraging on the road side which was a nice citril finch. There was a constant flux of cyclists that flushed it, but the bird came back each time. A female alpestris ring ouzel was sat in a rock, but only for a while.

The landscape from there allowed us to compare the different chorology between the north (beech forest) and the south face (oaks mixed with some conifers). In both cases simply stunning.

Almost in the top, we saw a flock of up to 6 alpine accentors. It’s nice to see such an approachable and localized species, always grateful and cooperative! 4 more citril finches also flew over.

In that moment, we had already been in a beech wood and in a high mountain opened area, so we didn’t know what to do. Fortunately, Robert Manzano was checking the beach at Malgrat de Mar and he found a nice 1st winter male snow bunting. I turned around and set off for Malgrat. When we arrived, Robert had not seen the bird for 10 minutes, but we managed to find it in the same area. It’s a local rarity but, above all, is a beautiful bird. Many thanks Robert!





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.








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