Friday 29 October 2010


The above picture has been borrowed from the Birdingextremadura blog of our colleague Martin Kelsey. The photographers were Tom and Greg Marbett, who were lucky enough to spot a Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria) in the carpark of Salto del Gitano in Monfragüe on 11 October 2010. A subsequent check of the records showed, surprisingly, that there is only one other published Wallcreeper sighting in Monfragüe, dating from 11 years ago in 1999 (J.A. Ojalvo, although we know of other records that were never published, including a much earlier observation by Alan Parker dating from 11 January 1989). The three Extremadura Ornithological Yearbooks published up to now record only two other sightings in the whole region up to 2003, one in 1989 and the other in 1991, both from the same observer (Godfried Schreur). Between 2004 and 2008 (unpublished) the picture changes, with ten more records. These include a bird on Trujillo castle, four birds together in Valencia de Alcántara, a bird originally ringed in Picos de Europa that was found dead in the town of Cañamero on New Year's Day 2005 and one or two birds that that stayed on the height called Pico Villuercas for three months (January-March 2008). These fourteen records, running from October to March, involve birds on rockfaces throughout much of Extremadura, though especially the quartzite sierras of Las Villuercas (half of the records).

The Wallcreeper is the only member of the Tichodromidae family. It is a rock breeder on mountains of the southern Palearctic, from Asturias to China, taking in the Alps, the Caucasus and Himalayas on the way. In Spain its range is limited to the uplands of the Cantabrian cordillera, especially the Picos de Europa, and the Pyrenees, preferring limestone rocks. Its total breeding population is reckoned to be a few thousand pairs, most in the Pyrenees of Huesca. In autumn and winter part of the population remains in the breeding areas, even at high altitude. But others drop down to lower rockfaces, even at sea level, especially the limestone cliffs in eastern Spain. Despite the dearth of observations it probably winters fairly regularly in Extremadura, tucked away in inaccessible habitat that makes any sighting a real lottery.