Saturday, June 29, 2013

Turning point

June is, probably, the most boring month of the year when we talk about birds. All breeders are busy with their eggs or chicks and you only can rest waiting for some non-breeders, juveniles in dispersion movements, last prenuptial or early postnuptial migrating birds. Here in Catalonia, the second week of June is probably the 'worst' one, but suddenly: the turning point.

In an absolutely normal place like my local patch, a very small wetland inland Catalonia and surrounded by dry lands, something strange occurs every year. Some 'scarce' summer visitors appear, and this means an exceptional unpredictability. It's something like a migration period, but without (or only a few) migrating birds. They are just non-breeders, young birds or sometimes first postnuptial migrating birds moving south.

This situation makes special journeys, with totally unexpected birds at the same time you can see local birds breeding. Last week, for me, I reached the turning point of the year. A Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybridus) appeared in active migration, and only 4 days ago, a non-breeder Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), a juvenile Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) and an adult Eleonora's Falcon (Falco eleonorae). Also, 8 migrating Black-winged Stilts (Himantopus himantopus), a Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus), a Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) and a male Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes) (this one the rarest sighting; it's the fist time this species is observed there!!) the following day. Two days ago, the Eleonora's Falcon was still there and I saw a male Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) too... an yesterday a non-breeder Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis), a 1cy Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) and a probably migrating Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius). All this species are very scarce here, also in migration.

However, ringing sessions continue meaning local breeders and lots of chicks. I'm quite entertained with some juvenile Goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis), trying to guess their sex.

Another nice pastime is ringing House Martins (Delichon urbicum), that come to drink some water in a fantastic place to put a mistnet.

This bird had an injured foot, with an ant's head!
This water point also attract birds like Rock Sparrows (Petronia petronia) and Crested Larks (Galerida cristata), that comes to drink something in order to resist the summer temperatures.

Typical 'in hand Alaudidae posture'.

This two species can seem a little bit boring when we talk about their plumage colours and feathers. But Crested Larks have the curious crest, and Petronias hide two secrets more.

This 2cy female White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) also came to the pond.

At the same time, a few breeders are already thinking about migration. This Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) was a female with broodpatch, but she had started her complete postnuptial moult.

Other birds prefer to breed successively until the summer ends. The most spectacular case is the Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis), the only european passerine able to breed just before fledging... This female was a first-year bird, that probably flew for first time a couple of months ago, and had a well-developped broodpatch that indicate this bird is breeding. 

Finally, the 'family photo': 
Left to right: Tree, House and Rock Sparrows.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


For more than 10 years I regularly visit Boumort, a big area declared national hunting reserve because of the big amount of Red Deers (Cervus elaphus) living there. Some years I used to go there for 10 days in summer and a couple of weekends more, one in May and another in September-October in order to heard some Red Deer's belows.
The mountain range is situated in pre-pyrenees, and its highest peak is Cap de Boumort (2077 m). The area  combines some lower areas (typical inland mediterranean) and some pyrenean habitats, usually separated only for a few metres. This high habitat diversity causes also a high species variety.

I'm in love with that place since I came there for first time and, throught the years, the place has become something like my second home. I also dare to say that, probably, my life would have been very different if I had never gone. When I'm there, I live in Refugi Cuberes. Gabi, Anna, Guillem, Jana and Nina; the family who take care of the refuge, are my family there.

This time I went there with Elena, Guillem, Santi and Vicki and three families more. I passed a great weekend with them and I'm pretty sure they enjoyed it too. You can follow some interesting reviews of  their 'in family excursions' in Santi's blog (in Catalan). A post about Cap de Boumort, where we went also two years ago, is available too. 

On Friday, I looked for a place outside the reserve where I could try to ring some interesting birds. Only 16 captures in two days, but was ok and I think all children (and also no-children) enjoyed it a lot!

For me, the most interesting bird was a Coal Tit (Periparus ater), because I had never trapped this species.

Later, It was also very good this Firecrest (Regulus ignicapillus) that was caught on the nets.

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) was the commoner bird during ringing. I was accustomed to ring them in winter and I was quite surprised because of the bright colours on males plumage. What a beautiful birds, isn't it?

Despite the Coal Tit capture, the most surprising birds were probably 3 Serins (Serinus serinus). Some years ago I heard the fisrt male singing in that area and this time I ringed a female with broodpatch.

The last bird was this beautiful Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin), a female with broodpatch too. I'm used to ring this species during migration, when they have a lot of fat accumulated in their body, but they don't need that for breeding. 

In Boumort, the star-species are not birds. They are mammals. Red Deers (Cervus elaphus) are extremely abundant (too common in my opinion...), so it's really easy to see some of them. Also Roe Deers (Caperolus capreolus) are easy to see, specially in June, when you can find some young deers walking through the forest. Wild Boars are also present, but not in spectacular densities so it's not as easy to see as another parts of Catalonia (i.e. Barcelona area). European Hares (Lepus europaeus), Foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and Beech Martens (Martes foina) are also common mammals there. But don't forget the Pyrenean Chamois (Rupicapra pyrenaica), scarce but also present.

Boumort is the place where, every year, I can 'meet again' some pyrenean species. This weekend I was so lucky and I found some Ring Ouzels (Turdus torquatus), some Citril Finches (Serinus citrinella) (not so far from Serins singing!), an Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), some Bearded Vultures (Gypaetus barbatus) and I also assisted a master class of Common Treecreper's (Certhia familiaris) field ID.
I'll miss again this magic silhouette...
... and also this magic place. I hope I can come back home very soon.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Chicks and cherries

This year I started a constant effort ringing station in La Corbatera, close to my village. Yesterday I did the third session of the season and I trapped another interesting bird that is breeding there. The most interesting birds in this season are a Wryneck (Jynx torquilla), a Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur), an European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster), an Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius) and a Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus).

I've already ringed some chicks. At 1st May I trapped the first Blackbird (Turdus merula) and two Long-tailed Tits (Aegithalos caudatus), and during two last days I also trapped a juvenile Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos), 2 European Robins (Erithacus rubecula), 2 Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla), a Great Tit (Parus major). Juvenile Winter Wrens (Trogoldytes troglodytes) are flying too, and at the same time, Reed Warblers (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) are just laying eggs and some of them are still migrating.

In previous weekends I was ringing too in l'Aiguamoll de la Bòbila and I trapped also a lot of breeders but only House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) and Starlings (Sturnus sp.) chicks. However, I caugh two very interesting birds in 18th May: a Grasshoper Warbler (Locustella naevia) and an unexpected Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus)!

It is also the season of cherries. It will be easy to see some birds eating them... I will ring close to cherry trees these days.
Yesterday afternoon I picked cherries with Elena, Guillem, Alba, Vicki, Santi & family.

In the evening I tried to ring some Nightjars, and finally I trapped this handsome europaeus male.

But the most interesting bird was a Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) chick!!!