Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Wheatears' neighbourhood

Lasts weeks of June and July I've been involved in a project, ringing and counting Northern Wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe) in the Catalan Pyrenees, which was great to escape from the very hot days we had, reaching and overpassing 40 ºC in many places.

Trapping them has been quite easy, using clap nets. It's quite important to use visible and active bait to attract them, and playing tape close to the traps is usually very useful too.

In Catalonia, Northern Wheatears breed mainly in mountain areas, usually oveer 1000 metres, and a few pair are found in lower areas, sometimes very close to Black-eared Wheatears (Oenanthe hispanica). Breeding birds are meant to be from libanotica subspecies, that is found South of Pyrenees, SE Europe, and W Asia.

They are specially easy to find in roads to ski stations or similar places, and in open fields with some spread rocks to rocky places.
Typical habitat, this place is in Coll de la Creueta,
close to Castellar de n'Hug
Alpine Marmots (Marmota marmota) is usually found in this
habitat too. One of the targets of our project is to see how both
Marmots and Wheatears can interact.
Together with Juancho Calleja, we started a project. We have been catching them, and we've been taking some biometrics data. We'll try to keep the work during next years, to see recovery rates and stuff, productivity, and some other stuff. Gemma Agramunt has also helped with field work in many occasions.
I wanted to post some lines about ageing them in summer, that's like the extreme version of ageing them in spring.
Adult (EURING 6) male. All wing is dark, even when closed.
Some quite worn males can look a bit brown, but still is
really dark compared to a second-year.
Second-year (EURING 5) male. The innermost GC is moulted
in winter. Both postjuvenile and prenuptial moults are quite
restricted, to body feathers, some marginal and median coverts
(specially the postjuvenile moult), and from 0 to 2 inner greater
The differences in wear and, specially, the colour of wing
feathers between a second-year and an adult is also useful
in females. Above, an EURING 5, and below,
an EURING 6.
First-year (EURING 3)
Second-year (EURING 5) male, that has already started the
postbreeding moult. Many second-year male birds in one of
the areas of the study had already started the moult, and
any of them were not taking care of any fledgings.
Probably they didn't breed this season.
I've also trapped a new species for me, that deserve a mention here:

I always had imagined that Rock Thrushes (Monticola saxatilis) should be a very nice bird in the hand. It actually is. Above, one male and one female, and below, a first-year (EURING 3).

That, following Svensson (1992), it can be sexed as a male,
as the basis of back feathers is pure white.

Some other nice species are around, like this juvenile Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax).
It's also worth to keep an eye to the sky, especially if there are some cows around. They may attract a Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus), and maybe some Egyptian Vultures (Neophron percnopterus), that you can see at close range.

The butterfly diversity is quite high in the mountains, and thus, really attractive. I personally like quite a lot the Apolo (Parnassius apollo):

Never forget to check the rocks often. Maybe there's one walking...  

... and you realise it was a Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus)!

No comments:

Post a Comment