Monday 25 April 2011


Great Snipe (Gallinago media)

Another new bird for the Extremadura list, making four since this blog came on line in May 2010. This time it's the turn of the Great Snipe (Gallinago media), which now joins Goosander, Pied-Billed Grebe and Buff-Breasted Sandpiper as previous firsts published in this blog. In all four cases, however, the birds are national rarities, so the records are still pending acceptance by the SEO's Rarities Committee.

The three birds in question were seen by a group of German birdwatchers being led by Roberto Cabo. Roberto described the observation as follows:
"On 1 April 2011 I was guiding a group of German birdwatchers in Madrigalejo (Cáceres), 1.5 km from the village in the Casas de Hitos direction. It was one of those completely unexpected, unrepeatable and one-off events. Uwe George and I were watching a Marsh Harrier quartering low over a puddled area when three waders flew up. The three of them flew only a few metres before dropping back to the ground. We looked at each other speechlessly because it was obvious that the birds we had just seen were no "ordinary, run-of-the-mill" waders. Both of us independently swung round to the group exclaiming that we had just seen three Great Snipes. That few-second glimpse had been enough to show us a small-scale woodcock-like bird, ruling out any other species of European wader. I know the species from Poland and Greece and Uwe George knows it well from Scandinavia. Without the unwitting aid of the harrier, we would never have known they were there, showing once again that what we see out in the field is only a small part of what's there."

The Great Snipe is a migratory bird that breeds in the north of Europe and west Siberia, wintering in subsaharan Africa. Its normal migration route passes through the east of Europe, with regular sightings in Italy but only very rare observations further west. In Spain, up to 2008, 20 records involving 23 birds have been accepted; most in the northeast and in spring (especially April and May). In spring 2011 an unprecedented invasion is occurring, with at least 24 birds being recorded (22 in Catalunya, including a flock of 8, and 2 in the Balearic Isles) between 27 March and 24 April, to which we now have to add the 3 Extremadura birds. These records outnumber the whole past history of this species in Spain.

Sources: Rare birds in Spain [web] De Juana, E. 2006. Aves raras en España. Lynx Edicions. Comité de Rarezas de SEO. 2010. Observaciones de aves raras en España, 2008. Ardeola 57: 481-516.