Friday, November 28, 2014

November species

As November is passing, many nice 'winter species' are appearing. This year was inicially good for Siskins (Spinus spinus) and Hawfinches (Coccothraustes coccothraustes), at least in my usual areas. I've also seen some Redwings (Turdus iliacus) in migration, but for the moment, not so many Bramblings (Fringilla montifringilla) neither Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris). Also, many Wallcreepers (Tichodroma muraria) have been seen in low but typical areas.
Typical Wallcreeper place, Tavertet.
This season in Falsterbo has been extremely good for Goldcrests (Regulus regulus), but for the moment they're not reaching Catalonia. Nontheless, we trapped one some days ago close to my area, where they're supposed to be scarce migrants.

Althouh I'm full of work to do during these days, I've managed to do some birding/ringing when I had a litlle bit of time.
It was really interesting the ringing morning we had in Pinedes d'Armengol, inland Catalonia. Jaume Tarín, who has been taking care of a really nice feeder on his house, explained me he has been studying 'his' Siskins for many years. We decided to go and ring some, and with one net and a half (some shelves were completely useless), we trapped 65 birds!! We'll try to keep on ringing them during this winter.

The best thing came last weekend, that I spend with some friends. The plan was really nice, go away to a house lost in the middle of the forest, without cell phone, with really nice food, great company and... some relax ringing. Well, yeah, for me is always relaxing, but tha plan was to set up just a few nets, catch some extremely usual birds and just enjoy them, Actually, last year we did the same, and we trapped this nice Jay (Garrulus glandarius). So, I was kind of feeling something good in the nets.

Adult Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), ringed last year
in the same place.
When we trapped the first Firecrest (Regulus ignicapilla) I was very happy. It's quite common here, but I'm not very used to ring one. It was something like the bird 60 of the morning, so the thing was going perfect.
Then, in the last netround, we got a pair!
Male (left) and female (right)
Ageing Firecrests is not very easy. Svensson (1992) only talks about the shape of the rectrices (the tip) as a ageing criteria. This characters should be always used with caution, beucause it can be quite difficult to assess in many birds.
Pointed tips like these should indicate first-year.
I specially use the shape, wear and colour of primary coverts and alula to age them. Also, I've seen some birds with moult limit in the greater coverts, with 3-5 GCs moulted (n=8).
This one had 5 GCs moulted, but I find quite hard to see
 the moult limit with photos.
Two more pictures; check primaty coverts shape. Photos by Bernat Ferrer.
First-year (EURING 3)
Adult (EURING 4)
At least the name is easier to understand...
The surprise came in the last net, when we spotted a really bright bird in the bottom shelf. Firstly (and from the distance...) I was convinced it was a very bright Robin (Erithacus rubecula), but then I realised... a Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)!
Two outer greater coverts unmoulted = EURING 3.
It's considered an scarce migrant, and with some very local winter places in my area. It was the first-in-hand for me, and a male... so, 'the cherry of the cake'! (I don't know if this expression exists in English or not, maybe in other words, but this is the translation from the Catalan "la cirera del pastís").
Photo by Bernat Ferrer
If the headline of the post is 'November species', and not 'November birds', is because I also found these nice amphibians. They also deserve a mention!
European Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra) 
Natterjack (Bufo calamita)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Stroke of luck

Do you know that feeling when you're extremely sure about something that you apparently don't know at all, and then it turns to be real?

This spring I met a really important person for me, and she showed me a pond 3 minutes walking from her house. We visited the place a few times and, despite being attached to her village (Navarcles), it seemed to be a nice place to do some birding. As this season has been really good for Yellow-browed Warblers (Phylloscopus inornatus) in Spain, and I would say especially good in Catalonia (with about 20 sightings or so), I started to feel a Yellow-browed in that place. So I went there, extremely sure I must see one. My veins were frozen when I heard it!

Photo by Sergi Fernández. Source: 
Some Moorhens (Gallinula chloropus) were around, and they were quite confident. Last time I wanted to ring one, it took me 21 days of fails to got it...
Maybe because of chance, maybe because of her luck, for the Yellow-browed happiness or whatever, I trapped one the following morning!

It was a first-year (EURING 3). If you check the post about the last I ringed you'll see how an adult (EURING 6) looks like in February!

Flight feathers are more rounded. 9th primary (outwards) is
narrow close to the tip, and the poorer quality of the juvenile
plumage is visible. Also I noticed some greenish tones on
wing coverts, scapulars and mantle that may be age related.
Juvenile-shaped alula
White on underparts, specially on belly, but also some
along the throat.
Tibia was less reddish than the adult bird
I remember. This should be just a secondary
Bill amb shield were adult-like coloured already. Iris
colour was quite dark, specially in the inner part. I guess
this bird born on the first clutch (or, at least, quite early),
because there were some bird with juvenile bill and plumage
still around.
This time I used a large-mesh 12 meter mist-net, that we set up crossing the river. As I said, the place is nice, and the idea is also great, so we trapped a Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) too!


 It was an adult (EURING 6). HERE you can see some notes about a 2nd-year I trapped in spring, and some things about the moult strategy.
As you could see even in the field, white dots in upperparts and wing coverts are more difuse in this bird rather than in a juvenile. Tertials, for instance, have very small dots that contrasts heavily with the juvenile pattern.
Primary coverts are also very rounded, easy to see at first sight.
Following Cramp et. al. (1983), adults start the moult close to the breeding areas, during migration, or in the winter areas; a lot of possible combinations involving moult suspension. This bird was still moulting the 2nd and the 3rd primaries (inwards), with the outermost one retained. So, the outermost primary was retained, surprisingly not so worn. Also, secondaries 3 and 5 (inwards) were retained, not very worn and adult-shaped (that's why I aged it as a 6 instead of a 4). It was also interesting to see some feathers fresher than others, like the bird is doing a sort of partial moult when is still finishing the postnuptial. Theoretically they start the partial prebreeding in late December.

First postnuptial Green Sandpipers are seen in Catalonia in June, while last spring migrants are seen usually in early May (maybe there're some later ones...). I wonder if this bird is of the 'long-stayers' in Catalonia that starts the moult here (moulted primaries were all of the same generation, with no trace of suspension). I wonder if this 'long-stayers' are the firsts to leave in spring, and thus they start the prebreeding moult earlier.

You will see in the photo below the retained secondaries pointed with green arrows, and a 'new' feather with a red arrow:

A Mantis called Empusa pennata was also nice to see (and photograph). This is the nymph form, imago are green, with large wings, bigger and some other characters.

And, related to last post, I trapped another Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) with a foreing ring in the roosting I'm studing. This one was from Sweden, unfortunately not from Falsterbo...!

Many thanks to everybody (Bernat, Lídia, Laia, Biel, Ferran, Gemma and Joan) helping with the Reed Bunting's project. We've already ringed more than 370 schoeniclus this year!!, plus 3 foreign recoveries and 6 birds from last winter.

Friday, October 31, 2014


It's almost a month since I wrote the last post... But I haven't been doing nothing, precisely.
I guess I've ringed about 500 birds this month! Maybe for you is not that much, but keeping in mind that I've done it in my area, it is!!

As always we have a 'mainly sp.'. In my case, I've trapped basically Chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus collybita) and Reed Buntings (Emberiza schoeniclus), both species that I was targeting.
The third place of the ranking would be for Robins (Erithacus
This adult (EURING 4), carrying a ring from 2013's
autumn, is quite interesting for the big dots in GCs, simulating a
moult limit.
During the first days I was trapping about 40 Chiffchaffs/day, and I did my best to try to record the extent of the postjuvenile moult on, almost, all of them. I'm not gonna talk about this today, but maybe soon... (first I should take a look to all the data I've recorded!).

In my place it turned to be a good year for Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala). i've ringed some more birds, mainly first-years, thing that suggests me it has been a good breeding season for them.

First-year males are usually easy to age, even with binoculars
They usually moult all GCs in the partial postjuvenile, but
sometimes they also replace some secondaries and primaries,
and rarely they can do a complete or almost complete moult.
Females are a little bit harder, but if the moult is not so
extensive, is still quite easy!
(1st-year female)
Adult (EURING 4) male
It has been the time to catch some 'first for the season', as the first Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) and the first Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) this autumn.

It was also funny the combination of the last Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) (left) and the first Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) (right and below) in my place. I trapped them, unfortunately not in the same netround!

As the month was passing, more interesting species were coming. I was just laying on the grass, having lunch and talking with my classmates in University, when a familiar two-syllabled call attracted my attention. In fact, I shouted to my friends to shut up and I run away to find the bird, that obviously, turned to be a Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus)!
I managed to record it with the phone, here you have the best I got:

The bird finally stayed for a week, really nice to have it just in front of my class!

While ringing I also trapped nice birds. This juvenile male Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus), a Magpie (Pica pica), a Wryneck (Jynx torquilla)...
Photo by Bernat Ferrer

But the best came to the end. I went to my usual place for Reed Buntings (Emberiza schoeniclus) last winter, and I got an unexpected day with 159 birds ringed! That was really crazy, and obviously, I trapped to foreign recoveries: one from French and another from Germany.

The whole day was indeed really nice. In total I got 193 birds, including another nice recovery: a Penduline Tit (Remiz pendulinus) from the Czech Republic!!

This one was not a foreig recovery, but still very nice bird!
Just a few days ago I went for the 'second round' in the Reed Bunting's roost, with 126 birds ringed, and 6 more controlled from the last day. No more recoveries for the moment, but the place and the numbers are promising! (Will any Little Bunting turn around?)

It has been a nice and exciting month for me, but maybe the best was concentrated in one morning. We tried to ring Skylarks (Alauda arvensis) during the night, using six 12-meter nets around a tape. I only saw one bird close to the tape around 3 o'clock in the morning, and it was a little bit dissapointing... But during the first netround after the sunrise, we trapped a really unexpected bird.

Yes!, this Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis) was trying to eat my phone when it flew to the nets!
First-year. All GCs and T1 and T2 moulted. Seemingly, males
can be sexed if they have pitch-dark lores.
With a little bit of patience, we also got what we wanted: a Skylark was trapped in the nets as well!!

And also this nice male Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola), a good bird to end with this great month!
First-year male