Unusual challenge

14 12 2013

“Between the wish and the thing the world lies waiting.”

– Cormac McCarthy

Living in the Mediterranean coast, one of my most-envied identification debates is the geese debate, and especially the Bean goose issue. Greylag goose is a scarce winter visitor, restricted to Aiguamolls de l’Empordà and Ebro Delta (where you only get poor views due to big distances), and the rest of the species are a local or even a national rarity. At the moment, there are 2 Greater white-fronted and a Bean goose at Aiguamolls de l’Empordà (NE Catalonia), so it’s a good chance to see more than the usual Greylag (or even worse: Domestic!) geese.

After a look at the diver show at Sant Pere Pescador beach (very good views of both Red-throated an Black-throated divers plus a nice couple Velvet scoters), we went straight to El Cortalet, where the geese spend the time feeding on young reed or aquatic megaphytes. The White-fronted attracted our attention first, but, since they’re just 2 nominal first winters, we focused on the Bean goose for the rest of the day.

gwfg

The previous pictures showed a probable Tundra Bean goose, what would be the first for Catalonia, with a short and stout bill and much smaller (including shorter but stronger neck) than the accompanying Greylag. However, the impression we got in the field was quite different. The bill looked longer, concave and not bulbous at all. The head profile was more swan-like, without any obvious bulge in the front. The orange, despite being quite restricted, looked more extensive than in the previous photos. Even I’m not very experienced with this taxa, I had never seen a rossicus like that.

head

The structure, however, was not still that of a Taiga. The neck looked short and blunt and it was a small goose in overall. When I looked at this second photo, I saw just a Tundra, maybe with a slightly longer bill than usual. Even the head shape looks right!

foto 2

A proper documentation work was needed and I ended up reading the Birding Frontiers discussion about a bird that did appear in California a few years ago. You can find one of the 3 parts (follow the links under the post to find the others) here. The bird is worryingly similar to the bird at Aiguamolls, despite the American bird has a paler head and a broader bill, maybe more bulbous than our goose. The neck looks thinner, but I would like to see the Aiguamolls bird in flight or in warning position to judge this feature.

foto1

Anyway, the debate of the BF post was (even more worryingly) between Eastern taxa serirrostris/middendorffii. What are the chances of one of those occurring in NE Iberia? I guess less than a strange rossicus/fabalis. Or maybe not.

Comments on this bird are more than welcome.

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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





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








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