Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Tales from a (too) busy summer

It has been a very busy summer, indeed. So busy that I have ended up writing this blogpost in December...

CES ringing (SYLVIA project) has revealed a quite good breeding season for many species. Early and abundant spring rainfall provided a food for many passerine species and no strong rain episodes occurred during the main incubation period, which is usually a potential cause for breeding failure. By mid-May some of the early species had already chicks in regular numbers, and June is the best time for all the species, with fledgings from the latest breeding species and, usually, second broods of the sedentary fellows.

Juvenile (EURING 3) Melodious Warbler (Hippolais
. They arrive quite late, mostly during May, chicks
are mostly flying by mid-July, and they migrate very fast,
leaving the breeding grounds mostly during August.
Juvenile (EURING 3) Western Bonelli's Warbler (Phylloscopus
. They arrive slightly earlier, mostly during April, and
chicks are flying between late June and early July. They also leave
the breeding grounds between August and September.
Breeding Common Nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos) start
the postnuptial complete moult shortly after chicks fledge.
The moult is also quite quick, with several primaries
dropped at the same time. They will leave the breeding grounds
also during August and early September and they have to be
 ready for that!
Some especial species caught during the CES ringing sessions were this juvenile Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor) and this adult Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) at La Corbatera, a riparian forest station, and two juvenile Rock Buntings (Emberiza cia) caught at Montserrat, a Mediterranean pine tree succession community.
Juvenile Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocpos minor).
I had never seen one with this greenish tinge on the face and
Adult (EURING 4) Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur).

Juvenile (EURING 3) Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia).

At my main ringing station, L'Aiguamoll de la Bòbila, it was very nice to recover the breeding of Great Reed Warblers (Acrocephalus arundinaceus). Last year, since the wetland was dry during the whole spring and summer, there was only a brief sighting of a singing male after some little rain in June; but they never bred. This year, interestingly, two breeding pairs succeeded! Thanks to the ringing activities, both males and one of the females were already ringed from 2014 and 2015, which is quite interesting, since only one of these birds came last year, but they have all returned and succeeded this season!
A returning breeding female Great Reed Warbler from 2015!
Some interesting birds were caught in my main ringing station, L'Aiguamoll de la Bòbila, where I have already ringed more than 1000 birds this year.

Male Bee-eater (Merops apiaster).
Juvenile (EURING 3) Hoopoe (Upupa epops).
Juvenile (EURING 3) Wryneck (Jynx torquilla). Interestingly,
this species is not breeding in the area, so this juvenile in mostly
juvenile plumage caught in mid-July was clearly on juvenile
dispersion. As you can see, it's in the middle of the typical
woodpecker postjuvenile moult involving primaries.
To compare with the previous one, this breeding individual
from the SYLVIA station in La Corbatera was also on primary
moult in mid-July. It was aged as a 2cy (EURING 5) on the
pattern of the unmoulted primary coverts in the previous moult.
Talking about woodpeckers, this year we also had a breeding
pair of Green Woodpeckers (Picus viridis) at La Bòbila,
and this was the female. Aged as an adult (EURING 6) due to
the all moulted wing except some central primary coverts,
which seemingly happens regularly in adults of this species.
Working on the mountains with alpine species is always a delight, especially during the hot summer, when it's always very refreshing to be up there. One more year, we worked with breeding Northern Wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe) in the same two areas we have been surveying in the past. Finally, we have started using colour rings with this birds, which will allow us to keep a better track of the returning individuals - which so far have been very few! Seemingly they do not return to the exact same breeding spots every season, so it's quite hard to detect them again when the habitat is so extensive.

Surprises are always welcome, as this cracking male Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis)!

It was also about wheatears when we went to some areas in the central part of Catalunya to target Black-eared Wheatears (Oenanthe hispanica), in collaboration with Reto Burri and José Luis Copete. The wheatears themselves are very nice birds!

Black-eared Wheatear in its typical open habitat.
Adult (EURING 6) male, black-throated morph.
Adult (EURING 6) male, white-throated morph.
But it was also a good opportunity to get experience with other typical species on this open habitats.
Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris).
Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator).
Western Orphean Warbler (Sylvia hortensis).
Ortolan Bunting (Emberiza hortulana).
An intense summer, with a lot of ringing, a lot of interesting data gathered and picture documentation... but too few time to put everything in order!!

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