Saturday 30 October 2010


Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus), adult. Cornalvo Natural Park, Badajoz. 16-06-10 (José Ledo)

The Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus) is one of the most numerous of the African Anatidae. Mainly sedentary, it is native to Africa south of the Sahara and in the Nile valley. It also has thriving feral populations in some European countries, estimated to be about 2000 pairs at the end of the twentieth century. Most of these feral birds are in the UK (700 pp. in 2000) and Holland, with a growing number in Belgium and a scattering of birds in Germany and France. In 2009 it was officially declared to be a pest species in the UK.

Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus), two adults and two juvs. Talaván Reservoir, Cáceres. 22-10-10 (Sergio Mayordomo)

In Spain it was considered to be a rare vagrant until 2006; it is currently listed as an introduced species breeding sporadically without established populations (Grupo de Aves Exóticas). A check of the records up to 2003 (De Juana, 2006) shows year-round presence with winter peaks. This is explained by the arrival of birds from Europe and escapes from wildfowl collections, plus the birds born in Spain from feral birds.

Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus), pair of adults with nine chicks (only eight seen in the photo). Ibahernando Reservoir, 5-10-10 (Genaro Sánchez Peña)

As with most introduced species the number of sightings in Extremadura has shown an upward trend since the first record in 1993, becoming almost regular after 2007 when the first proved breeding occurred near Trujillo. Up to 2008 there has been a total of 19 records involving 60 individuals, 49 of them in 2007 and 2008 and with peaks in October and September. Taken together the sightings tally with the three abovementioned hypotheses about their origin. Some are obviously escapes, such as the birds seen in Sierra Brava and Casas de Hitos, where there is a large wildfowl collection nearby. Other individuals seem to come from the European population, such as the pair of adults with two juveniles seen in Talaván (middle photo). Lastly, there are the birds that breed in Extremadura, though there is as yet only one known breeding pair in Ibahernando Reservoir, Cáceres, which bred at least in 2007 (6 young), 2009 (11 young) and 2010 (9 young; bottom photo) (Julián Panadero; Genaro Sánchez Peña; Steve Fletcher). But there are other birds whose origin is harder to track down (top photo).

- De Juana, E. (2006). Las aves raras de España. Lynx Edicions. Barcelona

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.

Tuesday 19 October 2010


Buff-Breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis). The even spangling of scaly fringes on the back tells us it's a juvenile. Valdecañas Reservoir, Cáceres. 15.10.10 (Ángel Sánchez).

On 15 October 2010 a juvenile Buff-Breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis) was spotted at Valdecañas reservoir near El Gordo in the province of Cáceres. This is a first for Extremadura. The only observer was Ángel Sánchez, the bird proving impossible to find again in subsequent days.

The Buff-Breasted Sandpiper is classed as a rare vagrant in Spain. It is the third most frequent American vagrant wader after the Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos) and the Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes). Up to 2007 a total of 42 sightings had been accepted, involving 46 different birds (Díes at al. 2009). Figures have not yet published for 2008 and 2009 but the autumn passage of 2010 is turning out to be extraordinary, with no fewer than 30 different birds recorded on September and October (Gutiérrez, 2010) . One possible cause might be the series of Atlantic storms in this period. Another notable feature of this year's records is that the birds have turned up in inland areas and even steppic habitat, whereas all pre-2003 records had been coastal (de Juana, 2006).

The Buff-Breasted Sandpiper is currently considered to be the only member of the Tryngites genus, although recent studies suggest that it might be very closely related to the small waders of the Calidris genus, and even includable therein (Thomas et al. 2004). It breeds on the arctic tundra of North America and northeast Siberia, wintering on the pampas of South America after migrating inland down the American continent (see map). The regular passage through western Europe suggest there might be a minority migration route in the east Atlantic, used more in autumn than in spring, although it is not known whether these birds winter in Africa or South America. Unlike other sandpipers it prefers humid inland pastureland as its stopover and wintering sites. The estimated Buff-Breasted Sandpiper population is 16,000-84,000 birds, based on migration counts, although it was much commoner in the past (hundreds of thousands). Its conservation state is precarious and it is listed as Near Threatened (NT) on a global level due to its declining trend (BirdLife, 2010).

- De Juana, E. (2006). Las aves raras de España. Lynx Edicions. Barcelona.
- Dies, J. E. et al (2009). Observaciones de aves raras en España, 2007. Ardeola 56:309-344.
- Gutiérrez, R. (2010). Buff-breasted sandpiper in Spain, autumn 2010. Rare Bird in Spain Blog. 19-10-2010.

Saturday 16 October 2010


Common Crane (Grus grus). Oliva de Plasencia, Cáceres. 30-08-2010 (J. L. Rivero/Objetivo Verde)

Ever since the end of summer the first winter visitors have been trickling in to Extremadura. This invasion has picked up pace since early October and by now skylarks, meadow pipits, robins, lapwings and red kites are daily sightings just about everywhere. The real red-letter moment of winter arrivals, however, is always the first Common Crane (Grus grus), without doubt one of Extremadura's flagship winter visitors. The first recorded cranes were the 13 seen flying over Trujillo on 9 October (M. Kelsey). But the first real sign of a mass influx was the sudden appearance of 3000 cranes in the Aragón lake of Gallocanta on the 12th, many of which flew off southwards on the morning of the 13th with other groups moving in to replace them (J. Mañas).

They didn't take long to get to Extremadura. On the morning of this same day, the 13th, a flock of 18 was seen in Oliva de Plasencia (R. Montero) and 56 in the central zone (M. Gómez Calzado). On the following days they turned up in many places: 26 over Casas de Miravete (G. Naharro) and 21 in Navas del Madroño on the 14th (G. Schreur and J. Tarriño), 36 on passage over Plasencia (J. Prieta) and 30 in Gabriel y Galán (A. Pacheco) on the 15th, etc. The numbers are now going from strength to strength: by the 14th there were 1200 in the central zone (M. Gómez Calzado), 1000 in Santa Amalia on the 15th (Á. Sánchez) and thousands in Los Canchales on the 16th (A. Matador). In short, an appreciable arrival of birds spread throughout all their traditional wintering areas.

Manolo Gómez Calzado tells us in his blog, dealing almost exclusively with cranes, that their average arrival date in central Extremadura has moved forward about two weeks over the last 20 years. We've checked the Extremadura birdwatching yearbooks to see if the same thing has happened in the region as a whole but no arrival dates were recorded until 2000. From then on, however, the dates have changed little, with the main arrival around 15 October and a few forerunners in the last days of September. It is sad to note that until recently there was so little interest in recording and communicating such a striking event.

These checks of the yearbooks from 1998-2008 did have a serendipitous result, however. They served to confirm that there were no previous records of cranes oversummering in Extremadura, something that has in fact occurred in various sites in 2010. One example has already been mentioned on several occasions in this blog (sightings of June and August): a 2nd-year bird present in Oliva de Plasencia at least from 12 June to early October and seen by numerous birdwatchers (R. Montero, S. Mayordomo, J. Prieta, J. L. Rivero, E. Palacios, J. C. Paniagua, et al; top photo). Another was seen on 22 June in the reservoir of Los Canchales (T. Álvarez in Quercus 294:47), where it was still around on 18 September (Á. Sánchez). And apparently another two cranes oversummered around the reservoir of Orellana (M. Gómez Calzado) and three more in Gallocanta, Aragón (J. Mañas). In previous years there were records of cranes in Extremadura in spring and summer, at times until August, never in September. It was always mooted that these were sick birds unable to migrate. But we can confirm here that the first two abovementioned birds in summer 2010 seemed to be in perfect nick.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

SEPTEMBER 2010: Notable bird sightings in Extremadura

Photo: Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), River Tiétar, Cáceres, 29-09-2010 (Juan Pablo Resino).

-Avocet: 28 at Portaje reservoir (Cáceres) on 26/09 (Sergio Mayordomo).
-Savi's Warbler: 1 at Valdefuentes gravel pit, Galisteo (Cáceres) on 03/09 (S.Mayordomo).
-Garganey: One eclipse drake at Moheda Alta reservoir, Navalvillar de Pela (Badajoz) on 05/09 (Eva Palacios and S.Mayordomo).
-Kentish Plover: Navalvillar de Pela (Badajoz): 1 at Moheda Alta on 05/09 (E.Palacios and S.Mayordomo); at Casas de Hitos 2 on 05/09 (E.Palacios, Steve Fletcher and S.Mayordomo) and 3 on 11/09 (Martin Kelsey). At Valdesalor reservoir (Cáceres) 1 on 22/09 and 27/09 (S.Mayordomo).
-White Stork: 2850 at Mérida landfill site (Badajoz) on 28/09 (Ángel Sánchez).
-Black Stork: a 40-bird flock flying over the A-5 road in Trujillo (Cáceres) on 09/09 (M.Kelsey) and 35 birds in several flocks at Gabriel and Galán reservoir (Cáceres) on 15/09 (Alberto Pacheco).
- Temminck's Stint: At Casas de Hitos, Navalvillar de Pela (Badajoz), 1 on 05/09 (E.Palacios, S.Fletcher and S.Mayordomo) and 11/09 (M.Kelsey).
-Pectoral Sandpiper: 2 at Galisteo lake (Cáceres) from 17 to 19/09 (Javier Prieta, Ricardo Montero, S.Mayordomo, César Clemente, E.Palacios, Memole, José Ramón Martín).
-Curlew Sandpiper: 2 adults and 1 juvenile at Valdesalor reservoir (Cáceres) on 04/09 (Carlos Fernández and Jerónimo Jaén). At Casas de Hitos (Badajoz) 2 juveniles on 05/09 (E.Palacios, S.Fletcher and S.Mayordomo) and 1 bird on 11/09 (M.Kelsey). One juvenile at Portaje reservoir (Cáceres) on 26/09 (S.Mayordomo)
-Spoonbill: 38 at Valdesalor reservoir (Cáceres) on 04/09 (J.Jaén), 44 at Charco Salado, Casatejada (Cáceres) on 06/09 (E.Palacios and S.Mayordomo); at Los Canchales reservoir (Badajoz) 60 on 08/09 (Fernando Yuste) and over 100 on 26/09 (Á.Sánchez)
-Pheasant: One male at Galisteo (Cáceres) on 19/09 (C.Clemente and Javier Mahillo)
-Red-Necked Phalarope: One at Los Canchales reservoir (Cáceres) on 08/09 (F.Yuste).
-Yellow Wagtail: One bird of the flavissima subspecies at Guijo de Coria (Cáceres) on 14/09 (J.Prieta) and another at Torreorgaz (Cáceres) on 26/09 (S.Mayordomo).
-Red-Crested Pochard: One female at Portaje reservoir (Cáceres) on 26/09 (S.Mayordomo).
-Black-Necked Grebe: 2 adults at Sierra Brava reservoir (Cáceres) on 05/09 (E.Palacios, S.Fletcher and S.Mayordomo).

Last sightings of summer visitors
-Bee-eater: Several birds on 06/09 in Plasencia, Cáceres (J.Prieta).
-Honey Buzzard: One at Gata (Cáceres) on 12/09 (Paco Buénaga and Javier Prieta).
-Woodchat Shrike: One juvenile at Toril (Cáceres) on 12/09 (E.Palacios).
-Purple Heron: One at Valdefuentes gravel pit, Galisteo (Cáceres) on 19/09 (C.Clemente, Javier Briz, J.Mahillo and Vicente Risco).
-Black Kite: One on 09/09 in Trujillo (Cáceres) (M.Kelsey) and another on 21/09 at Torreorgaz (S.Mayordomo).
-Golden Oriole: one male at Casas del Castañar (Cáceres) on 03/09 (J.Prieta).

First post-breeding records
-Skylark: One at Galisteo lake (Cáceres) on 28/09 (J.Prieta).
-Tree Pipit: Over 20 at Jerte reservoir (Cáceres) on 16/09 (J.Prieta) and 1 at Villanueva de la Vera on 17/09 (Dave Langlois).
-Tawny Pipit: Several birds at Acedera, Orellana, Mérida, Los Canchales and La Serena (Badajoz) between 21/09 and 27/09 (Á.Sánchez).
-Meadow Pipit: 4 at Galisteo (Cáceres) on 26/09 (S.Mayordomo) and scores of birds at Jerte reservoir (Cáceres) on 29/09 (J.Prieta).
-Iberian Chiffchaff: One bird singing at Galisteo (Cáceres) on 03/09 (S.Mayordomo).
-Bluethroat: 1 at Valdefuentes gravel pit, Galisteo (Cáceres) on 19/09 (C.Clemente, J.Briz, J.Mahillo and V.Risco).
-Wigeon: One pair at Casas de Hitos, Navalvillar de Pela (Badajoz) on 05/09 (E.Palacios, S.Fletcher and S.Mayordomo).
-Wryneck: 2 in Plasencia (Cáceres) on 06/09 (R.Montero) and 1 at Piornal (Cáceres) on 11/09 (E.Palacios).