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


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.


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


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.


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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