Surveying

22 04 2013

“I work very fast and steadily, and I don’t hardly ever noticed that I am working.”

– Werner Herzog

The breeding season has started and together with it, the survey on breeding birds. Three days walking and already half of the peninsula prospected. If I close my eyes, I still can hear the redshanks, the lapwings and the oystercatchers singing somewhere inside of my head. However, all the day hanging around means quite a lot of birds, some of them interesting. 2 jack snipes and some ring ouzels have been probably the most interesting things for Swedish birders, but I have enjoyed much more these displaying long-tailed ducks, very close to the harbor

Long-tailed duck

The velvet scoter was still present, this time even closer, what gave me the chance to assess the age and speculate about the sex. The pattern of the outermost secondary, with this funny spot in the middle of the feather, points to a 2nd cal. year, what means the sex is not as straightforward. The hint of yellow in the bill makes me think about a male, but a quick look at the internet gave no result for a male with such a dark bill. In the other hand, I didn’t manage to find females with some yellow in the bill… My theory is that it’s a poorly-colored male, probably in not very good conditions, what also could explain its behavior.

Melanitta fusca

Melanitta fusca3

A nice (am I allowed to tell it “nice”?) fox run all the outer shore of Knösen in less than 6 minutes. So impressive, keeping in mind it took me something like 15 minutes cycling. All the birds (and 5 hares) were flushed immediately, what gives an idea of how much dangerous this beautiful creatures are.

Vulpes vulpes

Also by the shore, some raptor migration, a pair of territorial red-breasted merganser (pray for me to find a nest) and quite a lot of arctic terns completed the set.

Mergus serrator

Circus aeruginosus

Sterna paradisaea

Pandion haliaetus

Tomorrow it’s time for Vellinge Ängar. This place seems to be stunning: one of the best preserved wasteland area in southern Sweden and a sort of spot of tundra as fur south. Probably, the last bastion of breeding dunlins have not arrived yet, but, as Stephen said, if there was a jack snipe in a golf course, who knows what could be in such a good place.

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Out of the blue

18 04 2013

“It’s a strange paradise, you’ll be waiting.”

– Irene, Beach House

What a strange spring… The peak of short-distance migrants has coincide with the first wave of trans-saharians and the sum of both puts up the number of captures. It seems everyday is a good day, no matter the weather, with new arrivals in both the nets and out in the field. Actually, the weather does matter, but scattered showers combined with persistent fog in the last few days led us to the current bonanza. The day before yesterday was one of those days when you feel the more time you are birding, the more species you’d find. A huge arrival of robins, willow warblers and the firsts captures of both pied flycatcher and common redstart early in the morning was a prelude of what was going on. Just after the ringing, I went north, checking the harbor, the little woods by the sea and finally reaching the northern point of Knösen.

The female velvet scoter was still present in the harbor, together with a nice red-necked grebe that offered very good views. Some eiders, goldeneyes, red-breasted mergansers and that was it, but loads of robins and a few black redstarts were foraging around the picnic area. In the little pine forest north of the harbor, my firsts tree pipit and wryneck. Also at least 2 firecrest. I had been told that firecrest was a scarce species up there, but that day I managed to see more than 15. This nice female was in the lighthouse garden, where we’ve ringed 12 firecrest so far, just 2 below the season record.

Regulus ignicapilla

In the way to Knösen, I saw a female common stonechat, maybe the most interesting sighting of the day. This species is nowadays rare in Sweden, with only a few pairs breeding in a couple of places. A monitoring program which includes tagging with color-rings is carried here in Falsterbo and hopefully would have a positive effect in habitat management. Together with the stonechat, my firsts northern wheatears.

saxicola rubicola

Oenanthe oenanthe

After having checked some exciting forests without any news, I finally managed to see 3 ring ouzels, 2 of them together in the “moorhen’ place”, also known as Skanörs kyrka. My first common moorhen was honestly just a bonus. In the way back home, I stopped to check Flommen, were there are already hundreds of redshanks and pied avocets. Among them, a greenshank and 3 stunning nuptial spotted redshanks.

Today was a complete unknown. It was raining hard at 3.30 in the morning (yeah, just 15 minutes before wake up time) but the feeling of a bad day was in the air when putting up the mistnets. Nothing further from the truth! The robins kept the number of captures at a respectable levels until a rage of willow warblers shot it up. Some common redstarts and a wood warbler colored the morning, while the firsts 2 lesser whitethroats (adults, of course) were the most interesting species from a southwestern point of view.

Sylvia curruca

Thursday means resting bird counts, so I came back to Knösen. The wind has increased and therefore it was not so pleasant to cycle along the coast. However, the migrants were also present; specially willow warblers, but also northern wheatears, the first whinchat and a nice flock of 4 ring ouzels that showed much better this time. In the way back home, a male pied flycatcher made me think about a future collared. Just in a week!

Turdus torquatus

Ficedula hypoleuca





And a happy new yeeeeeear!

13 04 2013

“Everybody’s talking ’bout the stormy weather
And what’s a man do to but work out whether it’s true?”

– Teenage riot, Sonic Youth

Here it comes! The good point (sometimes not as good) about the time is that it goes on. After a month complaining with reason about the weather, the spring has finally arrived to Falsterbo. Actually, the weather is still fur from being good, but now we have rain instead of snow and fog instead of wind. The result of this mixture is a huge arrival of migrants. Yesterday, we took over the record of chaffinches caught in a day and set the unbeatable figure in 288 birds. The total number of captures was 501, with 100 dunnocks and some new arrivals such as an adult male black redstar and 2 redwings. But the real spectacle was in the grass around the feeder, thousands of chaffinches were landing, feeding for a while and heading north afterwards. Loads of bramblings and some reed buntings complete the scene. We caught some of those as well, like this beautiful male blambling.

Fringilla montifringilla

Large flocks of thrushes were also flying over, and so did today as well. I would pay quite a lot of money to know how many birds have overflight the Lighthouse garden between yesterday and today. This morning was not exactly more of the same. The total number of captures was 385, but with “only” 98 chaffinches. The rest were mainly night migrants, specially robins and thrushes, but also goldcrests and chiffchaffs. These adorable little ones are particularly hard to be aged. The chiffchaffs we are catching these days have done a very restricted moult, quite different from that of the warmer chiffchaffs from southern Europe. I wonder if this post-juvenile can be confusingly overlapped with the pre-nuptial, what would kick up a fuss. An then we have the goldcrests, the smallest bird of Europe and probably the one among passerine species that has had a worst winter. However, they seemed to be warming up quickly, singing even from the bottom of the collecting bags while waiting for being ringed. The age is never straightforward, even when there is a moult limit in the greater coverts, in case they can be considered “greater”. An easy way of spotting the two generation of feathers seems to be the shape of the white in the tip of the GCs. Note the step-shaped white in the inner adult feathers, contrasting with the soft-edged white in the retained 2 outermost. Note also the difference in the wear, specially around the shafts.

regreg euring5 gcs

If you have paid attention to this only-for-ringers subject, you deserve a picture of the whole bird.

regreg all

Late in the afternoon, I went out for a walk heading east, following the shore while checking bushes, meadows and pine trees. There were thousands of goldcrests, thrushes, robins… the same stuff than in the lighthouse garden. Apart from a nice flock of 19 wood larks (some of them have been also passing throw both today and yesterday), the best was the first common tern of the season, followed by the first little tern. While seeing the terns, a grey wagtail flew over. 3 firsts for the season in a row! The time went on, now unfortunately, and the light was already scarce, so I came back home to pray for another bad weather good day.

wood lark

hirundo





Falsterbo Vice

7 04 2013

“In order to know virtue, we must acquaint ourselves with vice. Only then can we know the true measure of a man.”

– Marquis de Sade

We woke up today with the smell of Danish butter cookies. The western winds were quite strong, but the main advantage of this was the huge migration of ducks, swans and geese. After some quiet days, the migration showed its teeth today again with thousands of birds heading north in a stunning way. It was the turn for the swans, the scoters and the barnacle geese. These species seem to have replaced the eiders and the long-tailed ducks in the top positions of the migration counts… they are welcome! A special mention goes to a flock of 62 Bewick’s swan. I spotted the flock faraway from the shore and they seemed to be in a hurry. However, when they reached more or less my position, they turned right, getting closer to the coast, flying over me and finally heading NE. In these good days, it’s hard to stop seawatching in the end of the morning. I am totally addicted to migration but I don’t want to give up.

Cygnus bewickii3

Cygnus bewickii

Cygnus bewickii2

Each day, new species are arriving, little by little, as everything this spring. Yesterday I saw my first red-throated diver, today my firsts spotted redshank and marsh harrier. And what about passerines? Apart from the daylight migrants such as skylark, meadow pipit, reed bunting and white wagtail, there’s almost nothing. A single robin caught this morning after 5h of ringing and this is it. The first willow warbler is supposed to be here in 10 days, but we have not yet caught the first chiffchaff. Do you fancy betting?

Yesterday the sea was quiet, but encouraged by the interesting bewickii/columbianus intergrade that Stephen found the day before yesterday at Knosen (see a picture and a discussion on his blog), we cycled again to the northernmost point just to check that the swans were too faraway and the haze made the identification impossible. Nonetheless, loads of cranes were flying over, with a total account of 524 individuals. A single tundra bean goose also followed their steps.

Grus grus

Anser fabalis rossicus

The day before had not been such a good day for migration but for sedimentation. This female velvet scoter showed well near the harbor. It seemed it liked to swim against the waves. Its body seems to be designed for such purpose! Velvet scoters have always been one of my totemic species and now I can enjoy them everyday. This time there was a female in the harbor, but who knows if tomorrow there would be a male…

wave velvet scoter blog





Spring ins Licht

4 04 2013

“We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.”

– Carl Sagan

It has finally arrived! I have to admit I had already lost my hope and thought this winter would last forever. Admittedly, the forecast showed more snow showers coming from Poland but, even though, it’s sunny outside while I am writing these lines. Not only the weather is better; in the last days we’ve enjoyed some new arrivals, with a huge swan, geese and seaduck migration on the day before yesterday and flocks of tits entering from the sea both yesterday and today. Precisely, the spring in the lighthouse garden took off yesterday at 8.30 AM, when 25 unringed great tits were hanging in the same mistnet. We only had ringed 3 birds in the previous 4 hours, so that may be a new arrival.

Somateria mollissima2

But let’s start from the beginning. The day before yesterday was a really nice day. Thousands of birds were heading north, including eiders, long-tailed ducks, velvet and common scoters, goosanders, red-breasted mergansers, greylag, barnacle and bean geese, mute and whooper swans. The mistnets were quite, so we enjoyed just to be sit by the lighthouse garden, with our scopes aiming to Denmark.

Branta leucopsis

Anser anser

Cygnus cygnus2

Cygnus cygnus

Somateria mollissima

Yesterday, encouraged by the noticeable migration of great tits, Helena and me checked the northern point of Knosen. More than 300 whooper swans were congregated, with at least 5 Bewick’s among them. A flock of around 80 pied avocets suddenly appeared and my first curlew of the season was also patrolling the marsh. The last northerly spot of forest was plenty of great tits and a siskin, but nothing else for the moment. However, it was nice to see the first butterflies: quite a lot of small tortoiseshell Aglais urticae were flying over the same meadows in which meadow pipits were already displaying.

Aglais urticae

The first arrival of meadow pipits was only 3 or 4 days ago and now they are already displaying. I hope this would be a symptom of how fast things change.





Candy

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








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