jueves, 27 de octubre de 2011

Lesser Yellowlegs...at last!

Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes)

The juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) shown in the present post was discovered at the saltpans in Fuencaliente (Las Salinas) this morning, foraging together with 2 Redshanks (Tringa totanus), 2 Curlew Sandpipers (Calidris ferruginea) and a Little Stint (Calidris minuta) - plus the usual Ringed Plovers (Charadrius hiaticula) and Turnstones (Arenaria interpres).

Identification of this species at such close quarters poses few problems, and most of the relevant points can be appreciated in the present series of images: the fine, straight, dark-coloured bill; the long primary projection beyond the tertials and tail; the short supercillium mainly in front of the eye...and, of course, the unmistakable, mustard-yellow legs.

Eduardo de Juana (Aves Raras de España, Lynx, 2006) gives the following figures for sightings of this North American breeding species up to the year 2003: GB 216, France 34, mainland Portugal 11, Azores 14...with 49 records in Spain for the same period, of which 7 were in the Canaries.

More recent information gleaned from Canary Islands Birding News mentions 9 Canary Island records accepted by the Spanish Rarities Committee from the islands of La Palma (J.M. Castro, Las Martelas, 2003), Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, with a few more pending homologation. At national level, the same source quotes a figure of 54 birds.

The Spanish observations peak in autumn, coinciding with those of mainland Portugal and North Africa, and are noticeably later than those of other European countries, suggesting that these trans-Atlantic vagrants initially make landfalls further north, and then move progressively south.

Having already seen a number of the commoner Nearctic waders on La Palma, I had been looking forward to my first Yellowlegs, and this sighting will be submitted to the Spanish Rarities Committee in due course.

The next two images are included merely to highlight a specific identification feature: the white rump, with no white V (pointed extension) running up the back, as in Greenshank (Tringa nebularia), Redshank (T. totanus) and Marsh Sandpiper (T. stagnatilis)

jueves, 20 de octubre de 2011

Spoonbills, October 2011

Eurasian Spoonbills (Platalea leucorodia)

The above image shows two Eurasian Spoonbills (Platalea leucorodia) found resting at the saltpans in Fuencaliente, presumably after a long migratory flight, on the morning of October 19. They have chosen one of the centrally-located pans, well away from the sign-posted path running round the perimeter of the complex, and strictly out of bounds to the general public. The same spot is also commonly used by Yellow-legged Gulls (Larus michahellis) as a daytime refuge.

Described in Birds of the Atlantic Islands (Tony Clarke, Helm, 2006) as being "scarce in winter and on passage in the Canary Islands", several small groups of this species have nevertheless been recorded on Tenerife in the last few years. See avescanarias.blogspot, the blog of SEO/Birdlife on the Canaries for more details.

The same two birds in flight

As regards La Palma, 3 Spoonbills were discovered at the Fuencaliente saltpans (Las Salinas) in mid-October 2008, a single individual at a freshwater irrigation basin in Las Martelas in November 2008, and another solitary bird in the Tazacorte area in September 2009, photos and details of which have appeared in this blog.

Thanks to scientific ringing, it is now known that most of the Spoonbills visiting the Canaries come from Dutch breeding colonies, and have their winter quarters in the Arguin Bank, off the coast of Mauritania. Although some of these migratory birds simply pass through the Canaries on their outbound journey, others overwinter in the archipelago. Martin and Lorenzo (2001, Aves del Archipiélago Canario) present data on thirty-odd ringed birds, many originating from the Netherlands, including cases of some birds returning to the same Canary Island locality over a number of consecutive winters. Nevertheless, some birds of different origin have also been recorded, for example from France, although in much smaller numbers.

The two birds shown leaving the saltpans to continue their journey...

jueves, 13 de octubre de 2011

Common Migrants October 2011

 Common Redshank (Tringa totanus)

Given the absence of rarer species on the island at present, here is a sample of the regular migrants which can be observed almost every year...

The solitary Redshank (Tringa totanus) shown above and below was discovered at the saltpans in Fuencaliente this morning. While at some European estuaries and marshes massive concentrations of this wader are a common sight, on the oceanic island of La Palma just one or two birds turn up occasionally.

The next species - also found at the saltpans - is migratory on the Canary Islands, where the only breeding Motacilla is the fairly widespread Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea).

 White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)

 Dunlin (Calidris alpina)

During recent visits to the saltpans, one or two Dunlins (Calidris alpina) have usually been present, such as the one shown above, photographed this morning. Also to be expected at the site at the moment are one or two Little Stint (Calidris minuta),  a couple of Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula), and the usual Turnstones (Arenaria interpres).

The following series of images shows a Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) enjoying a tasty snack on the edge of an irrigation basin in Las Martelas. The dragonfly in question appears to be a female or immature example of the very abundant Crocothemis erythraea, in which adult males are crimson red in colour.

Finally, while the bird on the right in the next image is a regular passage migrant, the species on the left is none other than the Nearctic-Holarctic Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis), first detected on September 25 at the saltpans (see previous post), and still present at the time of writing.

Left: Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis); right: Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)