18 09 2012

“To step out into the dark
Now I’m ready”

– Ready to start, The Arcade Fire

Tomorrow is the day! I take off at 18:45, landing at Vigo airport at 9:30. The whole day feeling nervous, anxious… The Cornide de Saavedra, an old but warm research vessel, will be my home in the next 17 days. Wake up early in the morning, take a coffee and go out to the deck. The first image of each day being a flock of great shearwaters, some pomarine skuas, terns, gulls, gannets, storm-petrels. I couldn’t be happier.

I would like to share some of the highlights of last year’ campaigns since I didn’t have the blog yet. I prospected the Mediterranean coast, the Atlantic coast, the Cantabric coast, the Gulf of Cádiz, Moroccan coast and of course the Canaries, seeing most of Iberian seabirds and meeting unforgettable people. I will be out in the sea for a few time this year, so I will try to take profit of each minute.

The history started in July 2011, at Castelló harbour. That campaign finished in Málaga, so I saw the Mediterranean species. Audouin’s gull was one of the commonest gull species. It was interesting to see some juveniles in Cabo de Gata area… maybe a breeding evidence? The Scopoli’s shearwaters were brightful, with some unexpected Cory’s in between.
Other highlights included an adult Long-tailed skua, an Eleonora’s falcon and lots of Mediterranean storm-petrels.

The next campaign was in september at Banco de Galicia, a mountain placed 120 miles off Galicia. This is a well-known good area for Band-rumped storm-petrels and I saw more than two hundreds of them among some Leach’s and Wilson’s. The fresh plumage shown by all the individuals pointed to the winter population, foraging in the area in their way back to breeding grounds. There I saw as well my first Fea’s/Desertas petrel, some White-faced storm-petrels, Long-tailed skuas, Sabine’s gull, an offshore Short-eared owl and the rest of commoner migrants. The last day, 3 hours before entering Celeiro harbour, a nice adult Roseate tern did culminate my work.

Without time to digest that sightings, I found myself again aboard, this time off Vigo and surrounding the Galician coast, heading north. The first days were promising: another roseate tern, Wilson’s storm-petrel… but when we passed Finisterre, it got even better! 2 South polar skuas and a Barolo’s shearwater… what else?

My next step was the Gulf of Cádiz. I didn’t know what to expect there… Mediterranean species, Atlantic species? The result was a nice mixture of both. I saw a Wilson’s storm-petrel and some Leach’s, but also 3 Yelkouan shearwaters and many Scopoli’s. My last 2 Sabine’s gull of the year and at least 5 great shearwaters, noting compared with the large amounts of them I had seen in the Bay of Biscay but good numbers keeping in mind they are still rarities in Andalucia.

An then… going south to the Canaries. The voyage was quite boring. Leach’s, band-rumped and white-faced storm-petrels near Banco de Dacia and la Concepción and a Green turtle off Casablanca were the best. In the Canaries, the story did not change too much, but cetaceans are always present in that waters and the sighting of 3 Killer whales in the Bocayna strait did compensate my efforts. A week after, in 2 consecutive days, a Fea’s/Desertas petrel each day were the only bird in 18 hours of census. I was lucky to take some pictures, maybe the first ones good enough for species identification in Spanish waters.

I don’t have target birds for this year, I just will be patient.


Some gulls from Barcelona harbour

14 02 2012

There is a 1st winter Herring gull wintering in Barcelona harbour, close to Maremagnum shopping centre. Image

Moreover, a caspian-like gull which definetely it’s not.

All of them, just before moving south, heading for some Macaronesian stuff…

The shearwater problem in the Mediterranean (II)

8 01 2012

The other species of shearwater breeding in the Mediterranean is the Scopoli’s shearwater (Calonectris diomedea diomedea), formerly known as Cory’s shearwater. The split between Cory’s (nowadays the name of the atlantic subspecies borealis) and Scopoli’s is close to be admited by all the taxonomic comitees. The morphologycal differences are quite visible in the field and some catalan observers are already waiting for the first Cory’s for Catalonia.

However, Martínez-Abrain et al 2002 suggested that there are some Cory’s shearwater breeding in the Columbretes islands, in the Mediterranean sea, although there is not data enough to evaluate the genetic flow between both subspecies. As in the case of the Mediterranean shearwaters of Menorca, that rebel birds can explain the intergrades easyly observed when looking for a pure Cory’s in the Mediterranean or a pure Scopoli’s in the Atlantic. The first 4 pictures have been taken in the Mediterranean, in front of Valencia and show the diversity among mediterranean birds. The other pictures are from the Atlantic

Picture 1: This bird must be a pure Cory’s in my opinion. All the primaries are black in the underwing and the bill looks so thick, despite that character is difficult to judge in the field.Picture 2: Another pure bird in my opinion. The dark in the underwing coverts points to Cory’s. The primaries are completely dark again.Picture 3: Unidetified shearwater. The is a long white tongue in p4 and a short one in p5.Picture 4: Another individual with mixed characters. It has a long tongue in p4 again, and 3 short tongues in p3 and p5. Note the dark marking in underwing coverts, good for Cory’s.Picture 5: A pure Scopoli’s outside the Mediterranean. Some of them were leaving it during november and the Gulf of Cádiz is a good stopover to take profit of the fishery.Picture 6: Another pure Scopoli’s in the Gulf od Cádiz. Note that, apart from the white tongues of the primaries, there is no dark marking in the underwing (also in picture 5).Picture 7: The opposite from pictures 5 and 6. A pure Cory’s in the Galicia Bank (120 mn off Galicia) with extremely dark marking in the axillaries. Of course primaries are all black.

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