lunes, 27 de septiembre de 2010

September Roundup

Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius)

It has been a busy month bird-wise, with several interesting sightings. The juvenile Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius) of the first two photos was observed in Las Martelas from September 16-20. Not exactly a rarity, but by no means a common visitor to La Palma, this species actually breeds on Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and possibly Lanzarote.

As almost to be expected, given the numerous records from mainland Spain this autumn, a juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos) also turned up in Las Martelas - my third sighting to date of this North American rarity. Detected on Sept. 16th, and featured in the Canary Islands Bird News blog (, the bird was still present on Sept. 26th.
Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos)
The same bird in differnt surroundings

I can recall at least two sightings of Dotterel (Charadrius morinellus) on La Palma in recent years: one by I. Brito near the Roque de los Muchachos, the island's highest peak, and another juvenile seen by D. Martín on 30th Sept. 2009 at an altitude of 1,800metres along Cumbre Vieja, in the southern half of the island. This present record also comes from the Roque de los Muchachos area, at about 2,200 metres above sea-level, and the following photos were taken through my car window on Sept. 26th.

Above, two images of Eurasian Dotterel (Charadrius morinellus)

Not shown in this entry, but worthy of mention: 1 Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola) in Las Martelas on Sep 24-25; 1 Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus) in a basin near La Laguna on Sept 25; 1 Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) in Las Martelas on Sept 24; 2 Yellow Wagtails (Motacilla flava) and 1 White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) at the Fuencaliente saltpans on Sept 24, together with 8 Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea), 2 Dunlin (C. alpina), 2 Sanderling (C. alba) and a rare Semipalmated Sandpiper (C. pusilla), to be treated in a forthcoming post...

domingo, 26 de septiembre de 2010

Glossy Ibis

The Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) shown above was first detected on Sept. 12th in a basin in Tazacorte. Since then, the bird seems to have made itself at home in the same pond, even allowing itself the luxury of an occasional nap.

To this Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), the apparently headless, snoozing Ibis is a mystery...
...demanding closer scrutiny.
After its initial surprise, the Egret opts for giving the avian alien a wide berth...
... and with a display of feather-fluffing, it cautiously withdraws to a safe distance.
Unimpressed, the migratory bird adopts its characteristically tranquil pose...
... and then resumes feeding.

martes, 21 de septiembre de 2010

American Golden Plover, Sept. 2010

American Golden Plover (Pluvialis dominica)

As reported in the blog of the Canary Island SEO Delegation (see:, an American Golden Plover (Pluvialis dominica) was discovered in Las Martelas on September 10th, in a basin very close to where a juvenile of the same species appeared in October 2009. The present specimen, however, is clearly an adult in the process of moulting from breeding to winter plumage.

In the image above, the long primary projection beyond the tertials can be appreciated, typical of the American (dominica), rather than the Pacific (fulva) Golden Plover.

The buff-greyish axillaries shown below allow both the European Golden Plover (P. apricaria) and the Grey Plover (P. squatarola) to be discounted:

Despite persistent attempts to get as close as possible in good light conditions, the following images are the best I have obtained of the bird's critical tail area: according to the literature there should be at least 4 primaries projecting beyond the tertials, two of which should also project beyond the tail. Unfortunately, none of the photographs allow this characteristic arrangement to be distinguished.

Depending on the state of the bird's moult, such fine details may, apparently, be partially concealed or difficult to appreciate, but, judging from the raised-wing shot above, none of the primary feathers seem to be missing.

Still on the island at the time of writing, this rare North American migrant may well resume its journey in the next few days.

All in all, an interesting sighting which will eventually be submitted to the Spanish Rarities Committee for expert appraisal.

lunes, 13 de septiembre de 2010

First half of September 2010

Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis) are fairly regular on all main islands in small numbers, on passage and in winter, and have been featured in previous posts. On Sept. 13th I saw 2 birds in Las Martelas, and photographed the one above in rather unflattering surroundings.

Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)

The above species is no stranger to these pages either: a Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) also appeared in a couple of entries last autumn, first in Las Martelas and then at the Fuencaliente saltpans. A fairly regular, if uncommon passage migrant, this particular specimen was found feeding in an almost empty basin in Las Martelas on Sept. 11th.

The next bird is certainly the highlight of the present post! I could hardly believe my eyes when I came across this solitary Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) foraging ravenously in a weed-choked irrigation tank in Tazacorte, late in the evening on Sept. 12th.

The species has a fragmented breeding range across Southern Europe and parts of Asia, and winters in Africa , India and around the Mediterranean. There are now resident breeding populations in certain parts of southern Spain, and the Glossy Ibis has become a familiar sight, often in large flocks, in swampy habitats such as those of Doñana.

To quote from "Birds of the Atlantic Islands", Tony Clarke, Helm 2006:

"Martín and Lorenzo (2001) consider it a scarce and irregular passage migrant and winter visitor. However, only on Lanzarote is this species recorded regularly, and it is certainly a vagrant to other islands on which it has been recorded. Records from La Graciosa, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria and Tenerife."

Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus)

martes, 7 de septiembre de 2010

Early September 2010

Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)

The post-breeding migration season is now underway, and my first visit to the Fuencaliente saltpans on Sept. 4th revealed small numbers of common waders typical for the site: 2 Curlew Sandpipers (Calidris ferruginea), 2 Little Stints (Calidris minuta), 1 Sanderling (Calidris alba) and 1 Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula).

There were also about 10 Turnstones (Arenaria interpres), a species found all year round.

By Sept. 7th, water-levels had changed in the basins and only the Turnstones and Plover were still present.
Little Stint (Calidris minuta)

Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)

At the seawater pools near the airport, there were 2 juvenile Ringed Plovers (Charadrius hiaticula), one of which is shown above, 1 Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola), 1 Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus ) and 1 immature Dunlin (Calidris alpina), together with about 25 Turnstones (Arenaria interpres).

Again, the typical species array present throughout the autumn-spring period.

In the irrigation basins in and around Las Martelas, there are already small contingents of Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos), Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) and Greenshank (Tringa nebularia).

Coots (Fulica atra) should start arriving this month and, hopefully, an occasional rarity...

For descriptions of the above-mentioned birding locations, return to the Nov 2nd 2009 post entitled "Observing Sites" by clicking on "entradas antiguas" below.

domingo, 5 de septiembre de 2010

Recent Developments at the Fuencaliente Saltpans

One of the island's key birding sites - the saltpans at Fuencaliente - has recently been equipped with lectern-style interpretation panels to create a self-guided, 30-minute walking tour of the complex.

Birders need not worry about possible access restrictions however, as entrance to the protected area is possible at all hours, no admittance-fee is charged, and the sign-posted route skirts all the pools of ornithological interest.
The official conservation status of the complex, as displayed at the entrance.
Above, the first lectern, dealing with general norms and advice, provides an overview of the self-guided route. The standard of the information found throughout the itinerary is generally high, with succinct accounts in three languages (Spanish, English and German) covering biological aspects of the saltpans, details of their construction and design, and an explanation of the salt-making process itself, etc.

Only one of the seven panels refers specifically to the significance of the saltpans for migratory birds. The English text is shown below:
Puzzled by that reference to the Snowy Plover? So was I. Apparently, it is the North American nivosus race of the nominate, European Charadrius alexandrinus or Kentish Plover. So, wrong side of the Atlantic, I'm afraid.

As to what a "strider" is, the translator was obviously looking for an equivalent English term for the Spanish andarríos, applicable to some of the Actitis and Tringa species. Unfortunately, I don't think there is one...other than "sandpiper".

And, of course, the small birds do not "remove mud from the bottom of the ponds": that is a classic mistranslation of the Spanish verb remover, which simply means to move, turn over, or "stir up" something -mud in this case - but not to take it away or clean it off!

These inaccuracies apart, the self-guided route makes an interesting addition to the island's tourist infrastructure and will prove highly instructive to most visitors.

The position of the birding panel, together with its contents, can be appreciated in the remaining images.