Sunday 27 March 2011


Didn't take them long. The first got to Spain on 21 March and only four days later, on 25 March, we had the first report of a Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) in Extremadura. This harbinger of spring turned up in Villanueva de la Vera. As usual it was Dave Langlois who enjoyed the privilege of hearing the first one. On the next day there were five birds in the same area and Nightingale was heard in Monfragüe (M. García del Rey), in Badajoz (J. C. Paniagua) and in Mérida (S. Fletcher).

No better way of celebrating the event than sharing in this blog the masterful message sent by Dave Langlois to the Goce birdwatching forum.

"The great soloist has arrived! Not for him the Blackbird's wimpy readiness to blend in his beauty with his peers or the lesser choristers. His style is standout or nothing, grabbing centre stage by voice alone. Eye-catching plumage he looks down on as a lowly ploy like plastic surgery, clutched at by those born without his divine right to rule by vocal prowess. Every single one of his phrases demands the attention of any living being who is not brain-dead. And if this one doesn't turn you on sunshine, he seems to say, try this one for size . . . or this one . . . or this one . . . or this one . . . because every one's different and there are plenty more where those came from. Listen! Marvel at the number of notes that can be packed into one second or the length of time a single note can be drawn out to. "I will show you fear in a handful of dust," said T.S. Eliot; well I'll show you bliss in a bunch of crochets.

Truth be told, this morning's Nightingale was still a bit travel weary. But be it known, he told me, that this is just a passing thing and in no way a slackening of his indomitable will power. Just give him a bit of time to shake off the dust of the road and then - pin back your ears! Two months of daily acoustic miracles await us, my friends. Are you up for it?" [by Dave Langlois]

Monday 21 March 2011


Together with the Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni), the Black Kite (Milvus migrans) is Extremadura's commonest diurnal raptor. The only count ever conducted, back in 2005, threw up an estimate of 3000 pairs in the region, the lion's share in the province of Cáceres (1600-2.000 pairs) and the rest in Badajoz. To this figure must be added about 4700 non-breeding birds and the young that fly each year. There are therefore many Black Kite nests in Extremadura. These birds have a well-known habit of bringing the most varied range of trinkets to add to the nesting material, both natural (fish bones, eggshells) and artificial (pieces of plastic and metal). Up to now no one has come up with an explanation for this behaviour. But now a team of researchers from Doñana Biological Station (Higher Board of Scientific Research: CSIC in Spanish initials) have provided the answer in an article published in the prestigious review Science. They do so to show off their physical prowess. Birds in their physical prime (10-12 years of age) adorn their nests more than the younger, less expert birds or the older birds. This warns off their neighbours and avoids many physical conflicts, rather like the coloured belt system in martial arts. No one tackles a black belt. When more objects were experimentally added to the nests, the mature birds kept them but the younger and older birds got rid of them to avoid giving a show of more physical strength than they actually possessed. Another curiosity is their preference for white plastic as adornment, found in 90% of the nests. The study is based on fieldwork in Doñana involving over 150 nests of ringed Black Kites with known ages.

Photo. From left to right: nest of a 3-year old Black Kite, nest of an 11-year old bird and nest of a 22-year old bird. Photographs: F. Sergio, published on the CSIC website.

- Sergio, F.; J. Blas; G. Blanco; A. Tanferna; L. López; J. A. Lemus; F. Hiraldo (2011). Raptor nest decorations are a reliable threat against conspecifics. Science 331: 327-330 [abstract].
- Palomino, D. 2006. El milano negro en España. I censo nacional (2005). SEO/BirdLife. Madrid. [PDF]

Tuesday 15 March 2011


Sociable Lapwing (Vanellus gregarius), winter plumage (source: IBC-Lynx).

On 13 March 2011, Rodney Smith reported a Sociable Lapwing (Vanellus gregarius) sighting on the reservoir birds website. The bird was seen in Castuera (La Serena, Badajoz) alongside the BA-35 road between km 20 and 21.

The Sociable Lapwing is a rare vagrant in Spain. Not only that but it is also classed as "Critically Threatened" (CR) due to plummeting numbers recently, a category including the 190 species with the most critical conservation status worldwide. This makes it an even juicier tidbit for twitchers. It is estimated that only 11,000 adult birds remain in the whole world, breeding on the central Asian steppes and wintering from Sudan to India. To get a better idea of the problem besetting the bird, BirdLife is now conducting a conservation programme including satellite tracking of several individuals.

This rare plover seems to winter regularly on the Iberian Peninsula. There are sightings ranging in time from 21 September to 18 April. Up to 2008 41 records had been accepted from Spain and 8 in Portugal. They are always one-offs, normally a fellow traveller in flocks of the abundant Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus). The last rarities report (2008) mentioned four birds in Spain. In the winter 2008-2009 there were at least four sightings. In winter 2009-2010 five more turned up. These sightings are widely scattered (Gerona, Le¾n, Valladolid, Soria, Zaragoza, Toledo, Ciudad Real, Badajoz and Seville in 2008-2010), the birds sometimes staying for a long time, up to four months, in the same spot. Curiously enough, this Badajoz sighting seems to be the only one in winter 2010-2011. According to the study of De Juana (2006), in France it turns up above all on spring and autumn passage, in northwest Iberia in both winter and on passage and in southwest Iberia mainly in winter. It therefore seems to be a true winter visitor in Spain, turning up after its arduous journey in very small numbers due to its low population worldwide.

This is the third sighting for Extremadura. The first was a bird seen from 19/02/04 to 4/03/04 in Mirandilla (Badajoz), initially in winter plumage and then moulting into its spring plumage during its stay (F. Prieto, J. Ledo and J. M. Benítez; accepted record). The second was a bird present on 03/11/09 in Los Canchales reservoir (Badajoz, J. M. Salazar); pending acceptance by the rarities committee (if a description was even sent in).

- De Juana, E. 2006. Aves raras de España. Lynx Edicions. Barcelona.

- Catry, P., Costa, H., Elias, G. and Matias, R. 2010. Aves de Portugal. Ornitologia do territorio continental. Assirio & Alvim. Lisbon.
- CR-SEO (Rarities Committee of the SEO). 2010. Observaciones de aves raras en España, 2008. Ardeola 57(2).

Tuesday 8 March 2011

FEBRUARY 2011: Notable Bird Sightings in Extremadura

Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata). Male. Óscar J. González.

A list of the most notable records sent to the GOCE forum in February 2011 (compiled by Sergio Mayordomo). (Click here for backdated months).

- White-Fronted Goose: the young bird seen in January at Portaje Reservoir (Cáceres) was still there on 1/02 and 12/02 (Sergio Mayordomo). One bird at Moheda Alta, Navalvillar de Pela (Badajoz) on 7/02 (Martin Kelsey) and 2 adults and 2 juveniles on 11/02 (Godfried Schreur, M. Kelsey, Tim Appleton).
- Egyptian Goose: 2 birds at Casas de Hitos, Navalvillar de Pela (Badajoz) on 4/02 (Steve Fletcher), 9 on 6/02 (Colin Jewitt and Merilyn Jewitt) and 8 on 12/02 (Alicia Ortega, Andrés Maestre, Jesús Solana and Raúl Urquiaga). Two at Dehesa Boyal de Navalmoral de la Mata (Cáceres) on 8/02 (Pedro Gómez). One at Huélaga (Cáceres) on 19/02 (César Clemente).
- Shelduck: 22 at Moheda Alta, Navalvillar de Pela (Badajoz on 11/02 (G. Schreur, M. Kelsey et al) and 23 on 12/02 (J. Solana). Eight at Sierra Brava Reservoir (Cáceres) on 12/02 (J. Solana) and 6 on 26/02 (Rafael Porrino).
- Red-Crested Pochard: one drake seen on 6/02 at Charca de Brozas (Cáceres) (Florencio Carrero, Paco Be Water and Rafael Parra) and one pair at Cubilar Reservoir (Cáceres) (C. Jewitt and M. Jewitt). One pair at Sierra Brava Reservoir (Cáceres) on 11/02 (G. Schreur, M. Kelsey et al).
- Tufted Duck: 65 at Charca de Brozas (Cáceres) on 6/02 (F. Carrero, P. Be Water and R. Parra).
- Goosander: the two young females seen in January were still around in February: at La Torrecilla, Plasencia (Cáceres) it was seen for the last time on 5/02 (Jus Pérez) and at Torrejón-Tiétar Reservoir, Monfragüe (Cáceres) it was seen on 10/02 (S. Mayordomo), 13/02 (Dave Langlois and Sammy Langlois), 24/02 (Natalia Moral), 25/02 (Ángel González, Cristina Sánchez and Unai Fuentes) and 26/02 (John Muddeman and Raúl Guzmán).
- Greater Flamingo: 11 at La Albuera (Badajoz) on 9/02 (José Mª Álvarez) and 4 on 11/02 (Antonio Núñez and Luis Sanabria).
- Bittern: one at Arrocampo Reservoir(Cáceres) on 27/02 (G. Schreur and M. Kelsey).
- Night Heron: 18 at River Guadiana, Badajoz, on 6/02 (G. Schreur and Juan Carlos Salgado).
- Squacco Heron: 2 at Arrocampo Reservoir(Cáceres) on 3/02 (J. Muddeman) and 1 on 27/02 (G. Schreur and M. Kelsey). One at Casas de Hitos (Cáceres/Badajoz) on 4/02 (S. Fletcher).
- Osprey: one at Gabriel and Galán Reservoir(Cáceres) on 8, 9, 11, 12, 14 and 15/02 (Alberto Pacheco).
- Goshawk: one at Puebla del Maestre (Badajoz) on 18/02 (A. Pacheco).
- Purple Swamphen: new site: one at Morantes Reservoir, La Roca de la Sierra (Badajoz), on 7/02 (Ángel Luis Sánchez).
- Avocet: 14 at Casas de Hitos, Navalvillar de Pela (Badajoz) on 4/02 (S. Fletcher) and 1 on 13/02 (E. Palacios and S. Mayordomo). One at Laguna de Galisteo (Cáceres)on 12/02 and 15/02 and two on 24, 25 and 26/02 (Javier Gayo, Javier Prieta and S. Mayordomo).
- Kentish Plover: 15 at Casas de Hitos (Cáceres/Badajoz) on 4/02 (S. Fletcher) and 2 on 13/02 (E. Palacios and S. Mayordomo). Two at Puebla de Alcollarín (Cáceres) on 13/02 (Juan Pablo Prieto).
- Curlew: 34 observed at Laguna de Galisteo (Cáceres) on 4/02 and 1 on 20/02 (S. Mayordomo). Seven at Casas de Hitos (Cáceres/Badajoz) on 4/02 (S. Fletcher). Twenty one on Riolobos ricefields on 12/02 and 3 on 22/02 (S. Mayordomo).
- Yellow-Legged Gull: one at Mirabel landfill site on 2/02 (S. Mayordomo) and 16 at Mérida landfill site on 5/02 (Á. Sánchez).
- Whiskered Tern: one winter-plumage bird at Los Canchales Reservoir (Badajoz) on 5/02 (Juan Carlos Paniagua, S. Mayordomo and Toribio Álvarez).
- Spotted Redshank: one at Laguna de Galisteo (Cáceres) on 20/02 (S. Mayordomo).
- Stock Dove: 100 at Galisteo (Cáceres) on 20/02 (S. Mayordomo).
- Wryneck: 2 at Casas de Hitos (Cáceres/Badajoz) on 4/02 (S. Fletcher). One at Monfragüe (Cáceres) on 10/02 (S. Mayordomo). One at Saucedilla (Cáceres) on 13/02 (Javier Briz).
- Alpine Accentor: 15 at Puerto de Esperabán, Pinofranqueado (Cáceres) on 12/02 (A. Pacheco).
- Brambling: several at Monfragüe (Cáceres) on 3/02 (Jaime Collado) and 8 at Riolobos (Cáceres) on 15/02 (J. Prieta). Two to four birds seen in a pinewood at Piornal on 4, 11 and 18/02 (J. Prieta).

- Garganey: 2 drakes and 1 female at Moheda Alta, Navalvillar de Pela (Badajoz), on 11/02 (G. Schreur, M. Kelsey et al).
- Quail: one bird heard at La Serena on 27/02 and several on 28/02 (R. Porrino).
- Black Stork: one bird in breeding territory at Salto del Gitano, Monfragüe (Cáceres), on 6/02 (Eva Palacios and Miguel Ángel Muñoz).
- Short-Toed Eagle: one at Cabañas del Castillo (Cáceres) on 26/02 (G. Schreur and M. Kelsey). On 27/02 two at Monfragüe (C. Clemente, F. Carrero, Javier Caballero, J. Caballero). On 28/02 two at La Serena (Badajoz) (R. Porrino), one at Mérida (Badajoz) (Ángel Sánchez) and another between Trujillo and Cáceres (J. Caballero).
- Black Kite: one at Plasencia (Cáceres) on 10/02 (M. Á. Muñoz). One at Cáceres on 16/02 (F. Carrero). One at Santa Marta de Magasca (Cáceres) on 23/02 (M. Kelsey). One at Galisteo on 24/02 (S. Mayordomo).
- Egyptian Vulture: one at Casas de Hitos (Cáceres/Badajoz) on 4/02 (S. Fletcher). One at Canchos de Ramiro (Cáceres) on 20/02 (Fernando Yuste). Two at Monfragüe (Cáceres) on 21/02 (C. Jewitt and Ricardo Montero).
- Booted Eagle: one at Mérida (Badajoz) on 6/02 (Á. Sánchez). One at Casas de Hitos (Cáceres/Badajoz) on 12/02 (A. Ortega and R. Urquiaga). One at Monfragüe (Cáceres) on 25/02 (G. Schreur and M. Kelsey). A few birds do overwinter so it is hard to ascertain whether or not these records represent the first summer arrivals.
- Redshank: one at Laguna de Galisteo (Cáceres) on 24/02 (S. Mayordomo).
- Scops Owl: one singing at Trujillo (Cáceres) on 26/02 (J. Muddeman) and another at Plasencia (Cáceres) on 27/02 (J. Prieta).
- Pallid Swift: 8 at Cáceres on 14/02 (F. Carrero). 2 at Alburquerque (Badajoz) on 22/02 (G. Schreur). 3 at Plasencia (Cáceres) on 24/02 (J. Prieta). 4 at Montehermoso (Cáceres) on 28/02 (C. Clemente).
- Alpine Swift: 20 at Alange dam (Badajoz) on 26/02 (R. Porrino).
- Red-Rumped Swallow: 2 at Trujillo (Cáceres) on 4/02 (Roberto Cabo). One at Monfragüe (Cáceres) on 7/02 (G. Schreur and R. Montero).
- Sand Martin: 3 at Los Canchales Reservoir (Badajoz) on 6/02 (S. Mayordomo and T. Álvarez).
- Subalpine Warbler: one male at Monfragüe (Cáceres) on 26/02 (Rafael Vicente).
- Wheatear: One male at La Serena (Badajoz) on 28/02 (R. Porrino).

Tuesday 1 March 2011


The Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) was a very scarce bird in Extremadura until a couple of decades ago. Nowadays it breeds and regularly winters and turns up everywhere on migration, with records from over one hundred different sites. Its breeding in Extremadura has been monitored quite closely from the word go but few studies have been made of wintering Spoonbills; this is quite possibly the first article published.

Spoonbills began to winter in Extremadura fairly recently. Little is known about it because the peak of wintering birds in December falls outside the normal wildfowl count season in January. For this reason the Spanish Spoonbill Monitoring Group (GRUSEC) organise a December Spoonbill count every year. The following graph has been drawn up from these counts plus records from the Ornithological Yearbooks of Extremadura.

The apparent fluctuation is due mainly to varying observer effort from one count to another. Even so the graphs do show a clear upward trend. In fact a complete regional count has never been carried out. The normal procedure is to visit certain areas they are known to be fond of and then feed in other one-off observations. Spoonbills tend to move about widely during the day to feed and then come together in flocks to rest, normally at dusk. Different figures may therefore be obtained for the same site at different times of day. For this reason some counts almost certainly fall well short of the real number.

The most regular wintering site is Los Arenales (Cáceres), with records every winter from 2005 to 2010 and flocks of 5 to 21 birds. These birds also roam over nearby wetlands such as El Ancho (Arroyo de la Luz). The second most important site is Los Canchales reservoir, with records in five winters from 1998 to 2010 and a peak of 10 birds. There are also December records in another six sites: two in the River Alagón catchment area(Portaje reservoir and Guijo de Coria), two from Campo Arañuelo (Lugar Nuevo in Peraleda de la Mata and Arrocampo reservoir), two in Vegas Altas (Sierra Brava and Cubilar reservoirs) and one in Badajoz (Valdesequera). In the six first sites mentioned Spoonbill presence in December is patchy, with records of 1 to 6 birds on some days. December flocks of 18 have been recorded in Valdesequera, where the presence is more continuous and the birds tend to spread out in nearby wetlands during the day, as in Los Arenales. There is no information on previous years from Valdesequera, so wintering birds there might have gone unnoticed beforehand.
Extremadura's importance on a national scale is very low: 1% in 2009 and 4% in 2010; it is notable, however, as the only inland wintering site. In December 2009 and 2010 856 and 861 Spoonbills were counted in Spain, Andalucía weighing in with 71% and Galicia with 18%. Wintering birds are also regular on the Cantabrian coast, Rías Baixas and Cádiz Bay, with occasional records from the Mediterranean coast. The most important sites are Doñana (peak of 595 birds), El Grove (A Coruña, peak of 157) and Santoña (Cantabria, peak of 62).
Results of Extremadura's December Spoonbill counts *:
- 2007: 22 birds. Los Arenales (15), Peraleda de la Mata (6), Arrocampo (1).
- 2008: 26 birds. Los Arenales (21), Portaje reservoir(3), Guijo de Coria (1), Galisteo (1).
- 2009: 8 birds. Los Arenales (6), Los Canchales (2).
- 2010: 32 birds. Valdesequera (18), Los Arenales (13), Portaje (1).
* Collaborators: Carlos Fernández, Javier Caballero, Flore Carrero, Rafael Parra, Ángel Sánchez, Ángel Luis Sánchez, Emilio Costillo, Jesús Solana, Javier Briz, Sergio Mayordomo and Javier Prieta.
- GRUSEC. Censos invernales: 2009, 2009, 2010, 2010.
- Extremadura Birds Database. J. Prieta and S. Mayordomo.