Thursday, 30 August 2012


Posts of this blog habitually deal with the vagrants that turn up in Extremadura. On this occasion we are going to look at several at once, each one of which had its own blog post or mention in the past.

Pectoral sandpiper (Calidris melanotos). The July 2012 summary reported the sighting of one bird at Charca de Esparragalejo (Badajoz) on 13 July (Ángel Luis Sánchez and Ángel Sánchez, top photo) and 14 July 2012 (Sergio Mayordomo, Eva Palacios -bottom photo- and César Clemente). This was the ninth record for Extremadura, the previous birds turning up in 2002, 2006, 2008 (3 birds), 2010 (2 birds) and 2011. As it happens the last bird also turned up in the same pond, Charca de Esparragalejo. The eight previous records were juveniles on post-breeding passage in September and October. The 2012 bird was an exception to this rule, an adult that turned up in July; it was also one of the four birds reported in Spain that month (according to Reservoir Birds) [Posts on pectoral sandpiper in Extremadura].

The pectoral sandpiper is in fact one of the most frequently reported rarities in Spain, with over 250 records up to 2009. There has also been an upward trend of observations in recent years, with at least 50-60 birds reported each year in 2008, 2010 and 2011. Oddly enough, in 2009 not one bird was seen in Spain; the last time this happened was back in 1989 (CR-SEO, 2011).

Rüppell's Vulture (Gyps rueppellii). In an earlier post we commented on a bird photographed in San Vicente de Alcántara (Badajoz) on 10 January 2009 (José Gordillo); this bird has now been accepted by the rarities committee (CR-SEO, 2011); according to the committee it was an adult with plumage features typical of the west African population. But the nature magazine Quercus of July 2012 has surprised us with an article signed by one of the photographers of the bird in question (Gordillo, 2012) suggesting that the bird shows traits typical of both Rüppell's Vulture and Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus). It is therefore quite possible that the bird is a hybrid, an opinion backed up by raptor experts like Dick Forsman, William Clark and Javier Elorriaga. The case doesn't yet seem to be closed, therefore. Sierra de San Pedro in Extremadura was the first site in Spain to record Rüppell's Vulure back in 1990; in the Portuguese stretch of the River Tagus a bird was seen shortly afterwards sitting on a nest (incubating?) and since then to date there have been regular sightings of adults in this area, especially over the border in Portugal. [Other posts on Rüppell's Vulture]

To wind up this small compilation of rarities, we are pleased to report that two Extremadura records of the utmost interest have now been officially accepted:
- Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis), seen in November 2011 and January 2012 in Don Benito (Badajoz). First record for Spain.
- Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii), seen in January and February 2010 in Casas de Hitos, Navalvillar de Pela (Badajoz)-Madrigalejo (Cáceres). Second record for Spain.

- CR-SEO (Rarities Committee of SEO). 2011. Observaciones de aves raras en España, 2009. Ardeola 58(2). 
- Gordillo, J. 2012. Posible híbrido entre buitre leonado y buitre moteado. Quercus 217:43.