Some nice photos

12 03 2015

“This is how the entire course of a life can be changed: by doing nothing.”

Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan

It’s been a busy winter. It’s not that I’ve not had the time to post something on the blog, the problem is that there has been so much stuff going on that I’ve not been able to sum it up. It’s quite easy actually: Borolo’s sheawater things in the Canary Islands and twitching in Catalonia.

The project with the shearwaters is going well and the first two birds have been successfully tagged, both reporting data about their unknown foraging range. Since all the information about this is already in the project’ blog post, I’ll focus on some other experiences. First of all, while trying to mistnet shearwaters, we caught several Grant’s storm-petrels. This species is not formally described yet and… oh wait, Stephen already spoke about that too!

Lanzarote 104

Canarias 360

Should I write about the twitching then? Much ink has been already spilled about the Brown shrike at Ebro Delta, the Isabelline shrike at Marjal d’Almenara, the Pygmy cormorant and the Ring-necked duck at exactly the same locality in Aiguamolls de l’Empordà and the local megas (almost first twitchable ever) Rock pipit and Purple sandpiper (both at Ebro Delta and surrounding areas).

cristatus1

Delta de l'Ebre 147

Catalunya gener 2015 382

So, what’s left? 3 months without posting and you end up showing some lichen photos to add some freshness. Here they go, Lepraria sp. and Xanthoria sp.:

Canarias 099

Canarias 109

Both photos were taken at Fuerteventura. The Eastern Islands are bright like I had never seen them before, both full of flowers that create a stunning carpet. Keeping in mind most of these plants are endemic, the ecological benefits of this year’s rain are invaluable. The photo shows the currently violet surroundings of El Golfo village, due to the flowered Echium lancerottense.

Echium lancerottense4

Echium lancerottense B

Echium lancerottense3

Fuerteventura shows a similar aspect, but what always impresses me the most are the sharp colors of the spurges Euphorbia canariensis. While Stephen was chasing some stonechats, I was taking photos of the scene.

Canarias 042

Canarias 138

So this has ended up being a crappy post with no information and just some nice photos. Trust me, it’s not been that bad…

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Black and white feelings

18 09 2013

“Nothing is black-and-white, except for winning and losing, and maybe that’s why people gravitate to that so much.”

– Steve Nash

Back in Sweden after a week in Lanzarote, it’s time to evaluate the trip and see how to improve it in the next years. Even we have not seen any megas, the pelagic has been a success: very nice views of a Fea’s petrel Pterodroma feae and loads of the commoner stuff: the 3 species of storm-petrel which are always the main target of the trip (White-faced Pelagodroma marina, Band-rumped Ocenaodroma castro and Wilson’s Oceanites oceanicus), some nice migrants (Long-tailed skua Stercorarius longicadus, Sabine’s gull Xema sabini, Red phalarope Phalaropus fulicarius, etc…), some cetaceans (Bryde’s whale, Sperm whale, and 3 species of dolphin: Stripped, Atlantic spotted and Common) and some unexpected sightings such as several quails, 1 nightingale, 1 reed warbler and 1 Common Kestrel migrating 70mn offshore.

Coturnix coturnix

The 2 sailing boats departed from La Graciosa on Friday night and arrived to La Concepción Bank at 10 in the morning. After some Cory’s shearwaters, Bulwer’s petrels and an adult Sabine’s gull, the first bird we saw was a stunning Fea’s petrel. The bird came together with a Band-rumped storm-petrel, flew over the chum for a couple of times (beating the wings just once!) and went away as it had come: nobody had seen it coming, it just suddenly appeared.

Pterodroma feae3

The shape of the bill was perfect for a Fea’s/Desertas, with the nail starting in the bases of the narines and an overall deep impression. Even it doesn’t look so pot-bellied in the photos, in the field the bird didn’t look like a Zino’s. Aggg Zino’s… one of the most longly-awaited species in Spanish waters!

Pterodroma feae2

The challenge was, once again, between Fea’s and Desertas. Moult timing should be diagnostic if we know the age of the bird, but this was not the case. However, some body feathers where retained, what may rule out a juvenile bird. Keeping in mind Fea’s is a winter breeder and Desertas a summer breeder, the fresh primaries should point to Fea’s. This species should be coming back from the other side of the Atlantic together with Grant’s storm-petrel and both should show a similar state of primary’ wear.

Pterodroma feae

Talking about Grant’s, we saw all sort of birds: extremely fresh (summer breeder juveniles?), quite fresh (winter breeder adults?), worn and actively moulting (summer breeder adults?) and a bird with intermediate primary wear and growing secondaries (f*** knows).

moulting secondaries

juvenile castro

White-faced storm-petrels were more straightforward. All the birds we saw were adults except for one recently fledged juvenile. It still showed the white edges in the primaries and secondaries and an ever more naive expression. Is impossible to get tired of seeing them. Both Fea’s petrel and White-faced storm-petrel were a lifer for all the crew in the boat I was leading, but the reaction was much more exaggerated after the White-faced tick. Definitely, one of the most impressive birds in the world.

juvenile pelagodroma

Pelagodroma + madeira

Pelagodroma

In land, very good views of Houbara bustard, Stone-curlew, Laughing dove, Plain swift and of course Lanzarote landscape.

hubara

Stone curlew

Even there’s been no megas this year in Lanzarote Pelagics, the species list is still impressive and Fea’s petrel has been seen in 2 out of 3 pelagics trips this year. Gadfly petrels were one of our main challenges and it seems we are starting to get the way of attracting them. Let’s see what happens in 2014, but I think this has only started.





Land ho!

7 10 2012

“When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.”

– Eric Cantona

Not an easy work those days in Galicia waters. The galore that came from actually I don’t know were and the strong swell rocked the ship all night long, making sleeping almost impossible. The rain and the cold winds kept me awake during the day, but after dinner time, at nightfall, I dropped down dead. However, the sea was plenty of birds and I specially enjoyed the large numbers of Sabine’s gull. I’ve seen more than 3000, being a flock of up to 800 the maximum together. Most of the flocks were composed by around 100 birds, with a Long-tailed skua embedded in. The skua landed in the sea or took off when the gulls did so. When the gulls came to eat the fishes we were throwing away, the skua also came to steal it.
The great skuas were also abundant, but their targets were the lesser black-backed gulls and the gannets. In the first days, Arctic skua was the 2nd commonest skua species, but this tendency changed in the middle of the campaign: Pomarines got more and more abundant until finally reaching last year’ levels.
Long-tailed skua would always be the smartest species of the seas. Apart from the birds within the Sabine’s, there were many long-tailed skuas migrating. The 80% of them were already juveniles, I guess adults must be in Senegal nowadays. The birds in the extremes of plumage variation were my favorites, both all-dark and white-headed.
Tubenoses were scarcer than last year. Great shearwaters may be in the rear-end of the Bay of Biscay, were people is reporting thousands of them. My maximum was 122 following the ship, but most of days I saw no more than 30. In the other hand, I saw 2 strong migration days of Sooty shearwaters, with some Manx in between. Cory’s were present in the area, but it’s hard to say what were they doing… maybe that’s why I like the English word “foraging”. I managed to see a presumed Scopoli’s in a flock of up to 40 birds.
European storm-petrel was a common species this year. They were present in all the edge of the continental shelf, specially abundant in front of Finisterre headland, where I saw a flock of more than 400 birds. In the Rías Baixas area, there were lots of Wilson’s storm-petrels and a Band-rumped, one of the few sightings in the coast. Leach’s soon appeared, but in low numbers and scattering around, just as always.
The terns were more abundant than last year, but I had no success in my search for the roseate. Arctic was quite common some days, and there were still some unexpected adults. I caught an injured juvenile with a hole on its breast, caused probably by a skua or a large gull. I healed it and it finally flew southwards. Good luck for him!
In the afternoons, if it was not too windy, the common terns were sat in the cables of the ship. A nice image, but better with a roseate whithin… Anyway, that brought me the chance to read a PVC ring and to study 1st summer plumages, the commonest those days.
And of course the cetaceans… We had bad weather conditions and that always makes hard to find a fin in the middle of the scummy sea. The first days we were happy with the short-beaked common dolphins and their impressive jumps, but the only morning we had a respite, we saw 5 unidentified whales, 1 Minke whale, a group of Long-finned pilot whales and the always present common dolphins. That was our best whale-watching moment.
In a week, I will be working in the sea again, this time in the Canaries and this time with cetaceans. I’ve never got sick, I never get tired, I would never have enough.




Start!

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.








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