Thursday, December 31, 2015

TOP 5: 2015

Yeah!, I like the top 5 ranking. And especially when there's that many things to choose that makes almost an impossible decision to pick just 5!
Without more preable, here they go!

5- Falcons
If in the Top 5 2014 I placed "Eagles" in the number 5, this year is the turn to Falcons. With the invasion of Red-footed Falcons (Falco vespertinus) during May in Catalunya, and the "Falcon story" that you may have already heard about, this year I have actually trapped and ringed Red-footed, Peregrine, Hobby and Merlin. A very nice combo!

4- Illa de l'Aire
During May I spent some days in Illa de l'Aire, an small island south of Menorca, in the Balearic Islands. As always, I had very nice days with an incredible company. Thanks, one more time, to all Menorcan friends and see you in 2016!!

3- Morocco
In February I went to Morocco, for some days ringing in Yasmina lake and some days birding around the country. It was my second time there, but I enjoyed everything again as it was the first time. As Bald Ibis was selected in the 2013's top 5, this the picture will be about a Temminck's Lark (Eremophila bilopha), that was really tame close to Boumalne Dades.

2- 3900 ringed birds!
I just checked the total number of birds I have ringed in Catalunya this year: more than 3900. That's an actual lot, considering the places where I usually go and the fact that I am usually alone!
Anyway, big thanks to all friends that have come in one or another session for their help!! I kind of think 4000 birds will be hard to reach, but let's see...
Some birds from this year (click to enlarge!):

1- Falsterbo
Falsterbo is still on the first position, for the third year already. A part from the Falcon story, many other things happened, and with very nice friends around. I could tell that many things, that I'll just leave it remembering this Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus). A big hug to all my friends and... Vi ses!!!

All the best for 2016, another very nice year is just ready to start...
Molt bon any nou!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

December is over!

I am still without that time that I would spend writing some posts, so I am forced to write this review of the hole month of December, today is already 30th!

During the first weekend of December, and "keeping the tradition", already for 5 years, we went to the Ebre Delta. This year, probably because of the very soft temperatures and the lack of rain for many, many days, we had a curious mix of species. Indeed, we saw wintering Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) and some Yellow Wagtails (Motacilla flava), and despite we had no wind and the sea was perfect to do some seawatching (and spot the traditional flock of Scoters), we weren't able to see any.

Squacco Herons (Ardeola ralloides) are regular but scarce
wintering species in the Ebre Delta.
As actual wintering interesting stuff, we saw 2 Black-throated Divers (Gavia arctica), 1 Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla), 1 Bittern (Botaurus stellaris), 1 Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus), a minimum of 34 Jack Snipes (Lymnocryptes minimus) (which is a lot!), and the Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva) that has been around for the last three years. But as I was saying, no Melanittas at all, and along the Trabucador sandbar, we only got to see 4 Red-breasted Mergansers (Mergus serrator). As I said I previous posts, this autumn-winter feels weird, vquite good for some species but inexplicably bad for others...

No, of course not. A flock of Coots (Fuclica atra) on the sea...
This year we also spent quite a lot of time reading PVC rings, especially from Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) and Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus).

Also a Great White Heron (Casmerodius albus) with a red
PVC ring. Any idea where it comes from?
We had the very nice visit of Timmy and his Maltese friends, that were on a Spanish-Catalan trip for a few days. It was very nice to see and do some birding with them!!

The Ebre Delta is a very special place. Sunset + flamingo flock is usual scene there, and always very nice and special.

And a video:

Dunlin (Calidris alpina) and Little Stint (Calidris minuta) flocks, on the
background of the video, were in usual numebers.

The weeks after I was quite busy, and the few free mornings I had I went out ringing around my usual places. It's already 4 years since I started the constant effort ringing station at La Corbatera, where I ring 7 times in summer and 3 in winter (one in December, one in January and the last in February). In this year's December seassion I got a lot of nice old retraps. Already in October I realised it was a good year for Blue Tits (Cyanistes caeruleus), and as I was expecting, I trapped some in the constant effort station. Seemingly they like a lot that area! The case is that among the Blue Tits I got, most of them were retraps, with individuals from a lot of different sessions, both in summer and winter. Two were more special than the others: one ringed as adult on 28/12/2012 (first ringing there), and a French retrap!!

I joined GACO friends while ringing Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus) and Great Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) in two different days. Very nice to leave little passerines for one day and go for big stuff!

Back to passerines, I started ringing in a new place with small fields surrounded by Mediterranean Hackberries (Celtis australis), one of the favourite trees for many thruses and Hawfinches (Coccothraustes coccothraustes) here during winter. Indeed, we mainly trapped thrushes: Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos), Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) and Blackbird (Turdus merula), and two very nice Hawfinches as well!!

Adult (EURING 4) female.
The second, also adult female.
First-year (EURING 3) Mistle Thrush
For the ones with ID difficulties between Mistle and Song Thrushes, three pictures of both species together, hope it helps! viscivorus to the left and the one in the bottom in the belly picture, philomelos to the right.

We also went for another ringing session of Alpine Accentors (Prunella collaris). 4 more birds ringed!
Very tame species...!
To end with good purposes, the start of a new project: colour-ringing Rock Sparrows (Petronia petronia). On the drylands around my village it is usual to find flocks oh hundreds of Rock Sparrows, that is meant to be a regular but not very anundant breeder in the area. Many questions related to local movements are in my mind, and that's why I have decided to start ringing them with colour depending on the location. Let's see if it works!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Diverse ringing weekend

I am still quite busy with many things, which gives me almost no time to write. Last weekend I had a very nice and diverse captures.

Friday evening (yeah, let's consider it the start of the weekend already!), I did another session in the Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoenilcus) roosting. This year is clearly not as good as last season was in the whole area. Also, the proportion of adults seems to be unusually higher than previous seasons in this place and than I would expect. That might be consequence of the very bad breeding season, fact that we already noticed this summer in Falsterbo.

An interesting adult (EURING 6) male with white feathers on
crown. Maybe leucistic, maybe a result of the 'progressivegreying'!
Adult (EURING 6) Reed Bunting

During Saturday morning we did a new session in the Siskin (Spinus spinus) feeder. Results were, as it is becoming usual, more than great. This year, with two sessions done, we have already ringed more than 100 Siskins and retrapped about 20 individuals from last year. It was also remarkable the recovery of this first-year male from Lithuania!

Again, as I said about the Reed Buntings, the proportion of adults is unusually high! Probably for the same reason. Nonetheless, it is a very good year for Siskins in Catalunya!

I spent the afternoon in Montserrat mountain, for sure one of the most beautiful places in our country. In this singular mountain in the pre-litoral mountain chain, Alpine Accentors (Prunella collaris) are common wintering species, as well as Wallcreepers (Tichodroma muraria). Last year I started trapping Alpine Accentors in the highest tip, Sant Jeroni, where a tame flock is easy to spot during the whole winter.

Views from Sant Jeroni. Rocky slopes with mediterranean vegetation are the
wintering habitat of some Alpine Accentors.
On Sunday, and together with some of my very best friends, we went to La Fumera and we put some nets around the house, as we have been doing for 3 years. As always, some nice birds were trapped:

As I said, Siskins are pretty common this year. We got 20,
feeding on rural plant seeds. Adults male and female above.
It is also a quite good year for Goldcrests (Regulus regulus)!
Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius) is always a nice species
to catch. In this case, an adult (EURING 4).
In three years of ringing in this place we already start to have some nice retraps. This Robin (Erithacus rubecula) was trapped two years ago, last year, and last weekend again.

Controls might be quite interesting in terms of ageing and sexing, cause then is when you can actually check things, as you have "age-proven" birds. We got 3 control Long-tailed Tits (Aegithalos caudatus), two from 2013 and one from 2014.
Head details of the three control Long-tailed Tits. The two
above were ringed in 2013, and the one in the bottom in 2013.
Note that the eye-lid colour is yellow in the three birds, a bit
more orangish in the one in th bottom.
I have heard many times that this might be reliable on ageing,
but other factors (related to the internal status of the bird) can
also be influent on the colouration of the eye-lid
(see Greig-Smith, P.W. (1984). Changes in the eye-lid of Long-tailed Tits);
so I am not 100% confortable ageing birds with yellow eye-lids as adults.
For me, it only would be useful during the breeding season (juveniles
seem to always have very dark-red eye-lids), but then, ageing on plumage
traits is even easier and reliable.
The "entire family". Long-tailed Tits are well known for the cooperative
breeding strategy. Summarizing, chicks from the first clutch help to raise their
brothers from the second clutch. After fledging, it's very easy to see them in
big family flocks. We can't be sure that the flock above was an entire family,
but they look like, don't they? ;)