Tuesday 26 April 2011


Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea). Photographer: Ben Lascelles (taken from IBC-Lynx).

Arctic Sea Swallows in Extremadura? Hard to believe. Extremadura is a fair way from the sea and even further from the arctic, but it seems that some birds from those latitudes have passed through the region. Witness "Aves de Portugal" (Catry et al, 2010).

This book reports the first ever record for Extremadura. A flock of 8 Arctic Terns (Sterna paradisaea) were seen flying over the River Tagus on 17 May 2002, where it runs along the Spanish-Portuguese border between Malpica do Tejo (Portugal) and Herrera de Alcántara (Cáceres). The birds were seen by Luis Gordinho. This surprising record, published and accepted by our Portuguese colleagues, seems to be trustworthy. This same birdwatcher has also seen other Arctic Terns along the Portuguese coast and is apparently conversant with the species. Although there are no known records hitherto of birds in inland Spain, the same publication also records another bird the same year in inland Portugal, in Paul de Boquilobo on 26 June 2002.

Catry, P., Costa, H., Elias, G. and Matias, R. 2010. Aves de Portugal. Ornitología do territorio continental. Assirio & Alvim. Lisbon.

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.

Monday 11 April 2011

MARCH 2011: Notable bird sightings in Extremadura

Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris). Guijo de Santa Bárbara, Cáceres. 06-03-2011. Raúl Guzmán.

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

- Egyptian Goose: two at Casas de Hitos, Navalvillar de Pela (Badajoz), on 03/03 (Martin Kelsey) and one at Valverde de Mérida gravel pit(Badajoz) on 22/03 (Jesús Solana).
-Shelduck: 12 at Sierra Brava Reservoir (Cáceres) on 03/03 (M. Kelsey).
-Mandarin Duck: one pair at Valcorchero, Plasencia (Cáceres), on 17/03 (Carlos Martín).
-Garganey: one pair at Arrocampo Reservoir (Cáceres) on 12/03 (Eva Palacios, Jesús Rodríguez, José Luis Calvo, Juan Jesús Pelegrín, Natalia Moral and Sergio Mayordomo).
-Glossy Ibis: one at Cerro Alto, Saucedilla (Cáceres), on 05/03 (Antonio J. Julián, Godfried Schreur and Iván Solana).
-Squacco Heron: two wintering birds hanging on at Campo Lugar (Cáceres) on 03/03 (M. Kelsey). One at Arrocampo (Cáceres) on 19/03 (Javier Briz and Óscar J. González) and two on 20/03 (Dave Langlois, J. Briz, Ó. J. González and Sammy Langlois).
-Grey Heron: colony count of 135 nests at Talayuela (Cáceres) on 15/03 (Javier Prieta and S. Mayordomo).
-Osprey: one at Arrocampo (Cáceres) on 01/03 (J. Prieta and S. Mayordomo), two on 07/03 (M. Kelsey) and one on 23/03 (M. Kelsey). One on River Tiétar, at La Bazagona (Cáceres), on 07/03 (Juan Carlos Salgado and Mercedes Rodríguez).
-Goshawk: one at La Tajadilla, Monfragüe (Cáceres), on 20/03 (Luis Martínez) and one pair at Pinofranqueado (Cáceres) on 30/03 (Alberto Pacheco).

-Long-Legged Buzzard: one immature (2nd winter) at Belén, Trujillo, on 26/03 (Dave Allen, Clive Mellon and Dennis Wir).
-Avocet: one at Galisteo Lake on 02/03 and 08/03 (S. Mayordomo) and two on 09/03, 11/03 and 12/03 (César Clemente, Javier Mahillo, J. Prieta and S. Mayordomo). Four in flight at Salto del Gitano, Monfragüe (Cáceres), on 18/03 (Ricardo Montero). One at Casas de Hitos, Navalvillar de Pela (Badajoz), on 30/03 (M. Kelsey).
-Sociable Lapwing: one adult female at Castuera (Badajoz) on 13/03 (Rodney Smith).
-Curlew: 16 at Riolobos rice fields(Cáceres) on 17/03 (S. Mayordomo).
-Jack Snipe: One at Arrocampo (Cáceres) on 12/03 (E. Palacios and S. Mayordomo).
-Spotted Redshank: one at El Batán rice field (Cáceres), on 08/03, 09/03 and 11/03 (J. Prieta and S. Mayordomo); and another at Galisteo Lake Cáceres) on 17/03 (S. Mayordomo).
-Yellow-Legged Gull: one at Alange Reservoir (Badajoz) on 05/03 (J. Solana).
-Whiskered Tern: one at River Guadiana, Mérida (Badajoz), seen several times on 18/03 and up to the end of March (J. Solana).
-Carrion Crow: one pair carrying nest material to a Pine Tree in Talayuela (Cáceres) on 15/03 (J. Prieta and S. Mayordomo).
-Bearded Tit: 2 males and one female at Arrocampo Reservoir(Cáceres), on 18/03 (S. Mayordomo), three on 20/03 (D. Langlois, J. Briz, Ó. J. González and S. Langlois) and one on 25/03 (S. Mayordomo).

-Purple Heron: one at Arrocampo (Cáceres) on 12/03 (E. Palacios and S. Mayordomo) and another at Valdefuentes Gravel Pit, Galisteo (Cáceres), on 30/03 (S. Mayordomo).
-Montagu's Harrier: one at Santa Marta de Magasca (Cáceres) on 20/03 (M. Kelsey) and 3 males and one female on 22/03 (G. Schreur). One male at Usagre (Badajoz) on 21/03 (Ángel Sánchez).
-Ringed Plover: two at El Batán rice field (Cáceres) on 08/03 and one on 11/03 (S. Mayordomo). One at Valverde de Mérida (Badajoz) on 22/03 (J. Solana).
-Collared Pratincole: 14 at Valverde de Mérida (Badajoz) on 22/03 (J. Solana) and two at Palazuelo (Badajoz) on 30/03 (M. Kelsey).
-Swift: several at Montehermoso (Cáceres) on 31/03 (C. Clemente and J. Mahillo).
-Cuckoo: one at Arroyo de la Luz (Cáceres) on 05/03 (Florencio Carrero). One at Portaje on 11/03 (S. Mayordomo). One at Trujillo (Cáceres) on 17/03 (M. Kelsey). First female at Villanueva de la Vera on 26/03 (D. Langlois) and at Casatejada (Cáceres) on 27/03 (S. Mayordomo).
-Roller: one at La Pulgosa, Cáceres, on 27/03 (Santi Villa).
-Bee-eater: several at Usagre (Badajoz) on 20/03 (Emilio Costillo), at Las Hurdes (Cáceres) on 25/03 (A. Pacheco) and at Mérida (Badajoz) on 26/03 (Steve Fletcher).
-Wryneck: three at Villanueva de la Vera on 26/03 and one on 28/03 and 30/03 (D. Langlois).
-Woodchat Shrike: one at Esparragalejo (Badajoz) on 10/03 and another on 12/03 (Ángel Luis Sánchez). One at Cáceres on 13/03 (Javier Caballero).
-Short-Toed Lark: one at Galisteo (Cáceres) on 30/03 (S. Mayordomo), six at Zorita (Cáceres) and two at Palazuelo (Badajoz) (M. Kelsey).
-Willow Warbler: one at Casatejada (Cáceres) on 18/03 (S. Mayordomo). Several individuals observed at Villanueva de la Vera (Cáceres) as from 25/03 with a peak of 7 on 30/03 (D. Langlois).
-Iberian Chiffchaff: one at Villanueva de la Vera (Cáceres) on 22/03 and three on 24/03 (D. Langlois and S. Langlois). One at Monfragüe (Cáceres) on 27/03 (E. Palacios, R. Montero and S. Mayordomo) and another on 29/03 (J. Prieta, Luis S. Cano and S. Mayordomo). One at River Ruecas at Palazuelo (Badajoz) on 30/03 (M. Kelsey).
-Bonelli's Warbler: one at Villanueva de la Vera (Cáceres) on 31/03 (D. Langlois).
-Savi's Warbler: several at Arrocampo Reservoir(Cáceres) on 19/03 (J. Briz and Ó. J. González).
-Grasshopper Warbler: one at Ibahernando (Cáceres) on 21/03 (S. Fletcher) and one at Villanueva de la Vera (Cáceres) on 26/03 (D. Langlois).
-Sedge Warbler: one at Arrocampo (Cáceres) on 18/03 (S. Mayordomo), 20/03 (D. Langlois, J. Briz, Ó. J. González and S. Langlois) and 25/03 (S. Mayordomo). Another at Zorita (Cáceres)on 30/03 (M. Kelsey) and three at Valdefuentes gravel pit, Galisteo (Cáceres), (S. Mayordomo).
-Reed Warbler: on 20/03 one at Arrocampo (Cáceres) (D. Langlois and S. Langlois), another at Puente Viejo in Badajoz (Juan Carlos Paniagua) and another at Arroyo Budión, Torviscal (Badajoz), (Luis Lozano).
-Great Reed Warbler: on 30/03 one on River Ruecas at Palazuelo (Badajoz) (M. Kelsey), another at Valdefuentes gravel pit, Galisteo (Cáceres) (S. Mayordomo).
-Orphean Warbler: one at Montehermoso (Cáceres) on 31/03 (J. Mahillo).
-Spectacled Warbler: one at Zorita (Cáceres) on 30/03 (M. Kelsey).
-Nightingale: one at Villanueva de la Vera (Cáceres) on 25/03 and five on 26/03 (D. Langlois); on this same day another at Monfragüe (Cáceres) (Manuel García del Rey) and at Mérida (Badajoz) (S. Fletcher).
-Redstart: one male at Villanueva de la Vera (Cáceres) on 25/03 and 28/03 (D. Langlois). One at Plasencia (Cáceres) on 29/03 (R. Montero).
-Whinchat: one at Cerezo (Cáceres) on 14/03 (A. Pacheco).
-Black-Eared Wheatear: one at Acehúche (Cáceres) on 20/03 (A. J. Julián). On 21/03 one pair at Usagre (Badajoz) (Á. Sánchez) and another bird at Cerezo (Cáceres) (A. Pacheco).
-Tree Pipit: one at Trujillo (Cáceres) on 24/03 (J. Muddeman).
-Yellow Wagtail: one at Oliva de Plasencia (Cáceres) on 13/03 (A. J. Julián) and another at Santa Marta de Magasca (Cáceres) on 20/03 (M. Kelsey). One male of the M. f. flavissima subspecies at Usagre (Badajoz) on 21/03 (Á. Sánchez) and another at Arrocampo (Cáceres) on 25/03 (S. Mayordomo).

-Greylag Goose: eight at Alange Reservoir(Badajoz) on 05/03 (J. Solana), two at Portaje Reservoir Cáceres) on 11/03 (S. Mayordomo) and one flying over Monfragüe (Cáceres) on 22/03 (John Muddeman).
-Lapwing: 11 at Galisteo (Cáceres) (S. Mayordomo) and one at Casas de Hitos, Navalvillar de Pela (Badajoz) (M. Kelsey) on 30/03.
-Alpine Accentor: two at Portilla de Jaranda, Guijo de Santa Bárbara (Cáceres), on 06/03 (Raúl Guzmán).
-Brambling: two at La Garganta (Cáceres) on 08/03 (R. Montero) and 20 on passage at Salto del Gitano, Monfragüe (Cáceres) on 12/03 (E. Palacios and S. Mayordomo).
-Bullfinch: two at Villanueva de la Vera (Cáceres) on 05/03 (D. Langlois).

Monday 4 April 2011


Flock of Greylag Geese (Anser anser). Casas de Hitos lake, Navalvillar de Pela, Badajoz. 22-01-2011. Juan Pablo Prieto.

The traditional wintering areas for Greylag Geese (Anser anser) in Spain are in the northern plains of Spain, the "meseta norte" (Zamora and Palencia) and in the saltmarshes of the River Guadalquivir in the south. Until a few years ago these two areas accounted for almost the whole Iberian population. Extremadura lies between these two spots and all geese heading for Doñana must overfly it. For decades they did just that, flew straight over without hardly stopping. This stands to reason given the dearth of natural wetlands in Extremadura. The figures are telling: the January counts from 1978 to 1989 throw up the paltry mean figure of 59 Greylags wintering in the area. But two factors brought about a change in this situation; firstly the construction of more reservoirs and irrigated farming land and secondly the increase in the European Greylag population. From 1991 to 1995 the mean number of wintering Greylags in Extremadura soared to 2700, increasing almost fifty-fold, with peaks of 3750. The standout site is Valdecañas Reservoir in northeast Cáceres, with 33-65% of the total. The rest are spread around large and medium-sized reservoirs, each of which holds at most a few hundred birds. During the next seven winters no January counts were made in Extremadura but the general impression was of a continuing upward trend. At the turn of the century the number of wintering Greylags perhaps topped 5000 for the first time. The January count of 2002 came out as 4500 in the province of Cáceres alone and an estimate of 8000 for the whole of Extremadura. The renewed regional counts as from January 2003 bear this out, with figures that were undreamt of only a few years back. The 2006 count was 19,043 Greylags and 10,380 in 2007. Numbers seem to have been quite similar in 2010 and 2011. Nonetheless, a detailed look at the figures shows that in most places, mainly reservoirs, the numbers have held pretty steady since the 1990s. Barring one district: the Vegas Altas of Guadiana, where the massive takeup of irrigated farming created the conditions for a new and sizeable wintering area for Greylags. This district now boasts 14,000 birds, sometimes up to 90% of Extremadura's wintering Greylags, most of them feeding in maize and rice stubble. This poses a stiff and thrilling challenge for birdwatchers for these huge flocks often have a few stowaways of the rarer and much sought-after geese species.

Greylag (Anser anser) in Extremadura. The red bars show the figures recorded in the official January counts (DGMN, GIC-UEX, SEO/BirdLife). The blue bars show estimates for years without a count or not yet published (2010). Some official counts (e.g.2008) are partial, given that the main aim was to count the wildfowl in wetlands and many of Extremadura's wintering Greylags live and feed in cropland that does not come into the wildfowl count. Another factor that hinders counts is that geese do not usually form winter roosts in Extremadura.