Saturday 25 June 2011


Colony of Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea), 9 nests, and White Stork (Ciconia ciconia), 3 nests. The photograph shows the whole colony, built in a single dead Maritime Pine. The 9 Grey Heron nests break down into 5 nests with chicks of varying ages, two nests with sitting adults and two empty ones. Toril, Cáceres. 19-05-2011 (Javier Prieta). Click on the photo to see it bigger.

Now that summer has come for real, the breeding heron count in Cáceres is pretty much over. With some last-minute information still to come in, with the consequent tweaks and corrections, we can give a foretaste here of the final results, mainly to reward the participants and thank them for their sterling efforts. These thanks are fully deserved because the censusing team achieved practically complete coverage of the whole province. Once all the final results are in, especially from the province of Badajoz, which has bigger populations than Cáceres for most heron species, this blog intends to give a complete account of this final result. To see other entries on herons in Extremadura, click here.

Breeding heron count in the province of Cáceres. Preliminary results, 2011.

- Grey Heron. At least 44 colonies found with about a thousand breeding pairs between them. It is the most widespread heron species in the province, with presence in all the heron colonies found. Sharp upward trend.

- Cattle Egret. Present in only 6 colonies with a total of about 1700 pairs. Although it is still the most numerous of Extremadura's heron species, this is the lowest known figure for the species in Cáceres, with an appreciable downward trend, both in the number of colonies and the number of pairs.

- Little Egret. About 60 pairs found in 5 colonies, all mixed colonies with Cattle Egret. It has always been a scarce species in Cáceres and the present result is similar to previous counts (stable trend).

- Night Heron. One known colony (Arrocampo Reservoir) with about 20 pairs. Slight increase.

- Purple Heron. Estimated 46 pairs in the province's only breeding site (Arrocampo). Stable trend.

- Squacco Heron. At least three pairs, also in Arrocampo Reservoir. Stable trend.

- Great White Heron. After breeding for the first time in Arrocampo in 2010, at least two pairs are now nesting in the same site this year.

- There is no information on two heron species that were not targeted by the count: Little Bittern (common breeder) and Bittern (occasional breeder).

- Interesting spinoff Spoonbill information was also obtained during the heron count, with 4 breeding sites found accounting for a total of about 40 breeding pairs. These are the highest provincial figures, both in terms of colonies and breeding pairs (see 2010 figures). Upward trend.

From here we pass on our thanks to all participants and wish all blog readers a good summer.

Friday 24 June 2011


A few days ago we reported Extremadura's first ever Laughing Gull record (Larus atricilla), a bird seen at Valdecañas Reservoir, Cáceres (click here). The first sighting was on 14 June 2011 (Ángel Sánchez, Francisco Hurtado amd Manuel Flores) and the second - and for now the last - was made on 20 June (F. Hurtado, M. Flores, Esmeralda Rodriguez and Carlota Gutierrez). The three photos below were taken by Francisco Hurtado on this latter occasion.

Wednesday 22 June 2011


Rüppell's Vulture (Gyps rueppelli), immature. Salto del Gitano, Monfragüe, Cáceres. 18-06-11 (Sergio Mayordomo).

Nearly exactly one year ago this blog duly reported the sighting of a Rüppell's Vulture (Gyps rueppellii) at Salto del Gitano in Monfragüe on 5 and 6 June 2010 (click here). This short entry is to report another bird seen in the same place on 18 June 2011. Again it's an immature bird, maybe in its 2nd or 3rd year. The observers this time were Sergio Mayordomo and Ricardo Montero.

We gave fairly copious information on the bird last time. Suffice it here to say there are only three confirmed records of this species in Extremadura with another two, ostensibly valid, in the queue for acceptance. As already pointed out there are other poorly documented records, suggesting that the bird is present in the area in low numbers on a fairly regular basis. These questionable records include a recent sighting of a bird seen near Trujillo in spring 2011, maybe an adult or subadult, for it is described as a "dark Griffon Vulture with white spots on the plumage" (María José Moreno and Julián Panadero).

Tuesday 21 June 2011


Laughing Gull (Larus atricilla) in the foreground with a Black-Headed Gull (Larus ridibundus) in the background. Valdecañas Reservoir, Cáceres. 14-06-2011 (Ángel Sánchez)

On Tuesday 14 June 2011 Extremadura's first ever Laughing Gull (Larus atricilla) was spotted in Valdecañas Reservoir in the province of Cáceres. This American species is fairly similar to our Black-Headed Gull (Larus ridibundus). Gulls as a group are usually hard to identify; in this case, however, the bird was an adult in full breeding plumage so the few differences stood out well. The Laughing Gull's hood spreads much further down the neck; its mantle is a darker grey and its legs are longer. The lucky observers were Ángel Sánchez, Francisco Hurtado and Manuel Flores. Six days later, on Monday 20 June, the same bird was relocated on the opposite shore of the same reservoir, 7 km from the first site (F. Hurtado, M. Flores, Esmeralda Rodríguez y Carlota Gutiérrez).

Prima facie this seems a very surprising record, especially due to the date in late spring and the fact that the bird is an adult. A trawl of past records, however, shows both factors to be less extraordinary than might at first be thought. Maybe the most surprising fact after all is that it is an inland record, since all previous Spanish records were in coastal provinces, both on the Atlantic and Mediterranean side of the country.

Up to 2008, the most recent year with officially accepted records, a total of 51 Laughing Gulls had been recorded in Spain, 7 in the Canary Islands (CR-SEO, 2010). Still pending confirmation are two records from early 2009, in the Canaries and Málaga; there were no reported records in 2010. Up to June 2011 the Cáceres record seems to be the only one in the year (see the websites rarebirdspain and reservoir-birds). Nearly half (22) of the accepted sightings occurred in late 2005 when many storm-blown birds appeared after Hurricane Wilma.

De Juana's analysis (2006) of the 21 accepted sightings up to 2003 shows no clear seasonal pattern, with observations in almost every month of the year and peaks in winter (December-January) and during post breeding dispersal (July-August). The Cáceres record probably fits into the latter category. Broken down by ages, up to 2003 half the birds detected were adults, although there might be an in-built bias here as immatures are more likely to go unnoticed.
Sources: - De Juana, E. 2006. Aves raras de España. Lynx Edicions. Barcelona. - CR-SEO (Comité de Rarezas de SEO). 2010. Observaciones de aves raras en España, 2008. Ardeola 57(2).

Wednesday 15 June 2011

MAY 2011: Notable bird sightings in Extremadura

Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus). Talaván Reservoir, Cáceres. 14.05.2011 (Eva Palacios).

A list of the most notable bird sightings in Extremadura in May 2011, most taken from the GOCE birdwatching forum. Compiled by Sergio Mayordomo

- Greylag Goose: flock of 7 adults and 2 chicks at Alqueva Reservoir(Badajoz) on 11/05 (Ángel Sánchez). First breeding record in Extremadura, although feral birds cannot be ruled out.
- Barnacle Goose: one bird seen during April at Casas de Hitos (Badajoz) still there on 02/05 (Eva Palacios, Paco Ramírez, Javier Prieta, Miguel Ángel Muñoz and Sergio Mayordomo).
- Shelduck: up to 18 pairs seen at Valdecañas Reservoir (Cáceres)on 05/05 and a pair with 2 chicks on 11/05 (Á. Sánchez, Francisco Hurtado, José Guerrero and Manuel Flores). First breeding record for Extremadura.
- Shoveler: 1 drake at La Albuera lakes (Badajoz) on 01/05 (José Guerra and Marc Gálvez). Three drakes and 1 duck at Casas de Hitos (Badajoz) on 02/05 (E. Palacios, P. Ramírez, J. Prieta, M. Á. Muñoz and S. Mayordomo). One drake at Valdecañas Reservoir(Cáceres) on 05/05 (Á. Sánchez, F. Hurtado, J. Guerrero and M. Flores). One at Talaván Reservoir (Cáceres) on 20/05 (Antonio Núñez).
- Red-Crested Pochard: 5 drakes and 1 duck at River Guadiana, Talavera la Real (Badajoz), on 04/05 (G. Schreur). 10 drakes and 2 ducks at Alange Reservoir(Badajoz) on 17/05 (Á. Sánchez).
- Pochard: one drake at Casas de Hitos (Badajoz) on 02/05 (E. Palacios, P. Ramírez, J. Prieta, M. Á. Muñoz and S. Mayordomo). 2 drakes at Aldea del Cano (Cáceres) on 13/05 (S. Mayordomo).
- Tufted Duck: one pair at a small reservoir Zorita (Cáceres) on 11/05 (Á. Sánchez).
- Cormorant: 250 occupied nests counted at La Serena Reservoir Badajoz) in 2 colonies of 240 and 10 nests on 15/05 (Mª José Valencia and Xurxo Piñeiro) and 262 nests at the first of these colonies on 26/05 (Á. Sánchez, Domingo Rivera and Luis Lozano). This gives a total of 272 nests on this reservoir.
- Spoonbill: two new breeding colonies discovered, one with an estimated 12 nests at Valle del Tiétar on 04/05 (J. Prieta) and another at Valle del Alagón with 3 nests on 20/05 (César Clemente).
- Squacco Heron: one bird at Arrocampo Reservoir (Cáceres) on 02/05 (E. Palacios, P. Ramírez, J. Prieta, M. Á. Muñoz and S. Mayordomo), 2 on 11/05 (J. Prieta) and 1 on 15/05 (J. Briz). This makes at least 3 pairs present at this reservoir in spring 2011.
- Hobby: one at Dehesa Boyal de Montehermoso (Cáceres) in early May (Javier Mahillo). One at the dam of Valdecañas Reservoir(Cáceres) on 14/05 (G. Schreur). One at Alange on 18/05 and another at Santa Marta de Magasca on 19/05 (Martin Kelsey). Three birds seen at Talayuela (Cáceres) on 22/05 (Jesús Calle). One bird at Villanueva de la Vera (Cáceres) on 28/05 (Dave Langlois).
- Purple Swamphen: one at River Guadiana, Talavera la Real (Badajoz), on 04/05 (G. Schreur).
- Lapwing: over 10 birds at La Albuera lakes(Badajoz)on 01/05 (J. Guerra and M. Gálvez) and 7 with breeding behaviour on 04/05 (G. Schreur). One at Torremejía Lake (Badajoz) on 02/05 (A. Núñez). One at Campo Lugar (Cáceres) on 14/05 (M. Kelsey). Three at Galisteo ricefields(Cáceres) on 22/05 (E. Palacios and S. Mayordomo).
- Kentish Plover: about 10 birds at Casas de Hitos (Badajoz) on 02/05 (E. Palacios, P. Ramírez, J. Prieta, M. Á. Muñoz and S. Mayordomo).
- Black-Headed Gull: 20 pairs with breeding behaviour at Alange Reservoir(Badajoz) during May (Á. Sánchez). 81 birds at Madrigalejo (Cáceres) on 02/05 (E. Palacios, P. Ramírez, J. Prieta, M. Á. Muñoz and S. Mayordomo). 40 birds on Yelbes ricefields(Badajoz) on 07/05 (Jesús Solana). 5 breeding-plumage adults at Portaje Reservoir(Cáceres) on 21/05 and 8 breeding-plumage adults at Galisteo ricefields(Cáceres) on 22/05 (E. Palacios and S. Mayordomo).
- Yellow-Legged Gull: 4 nests at Valdecañas Reservoir(Cáceres) on 05/05 (Á. Sánchez, F. Hurtado, J. Guerrero and M. Flores). Some immatures at Alange Reservoir (Badajoz) on 17/05 (Á. Sánchez).
- Long-Eared Owl: one at Alconchel (Badajoz) on 02/05 (J. Guerra and M. Gálvez).
- White-Rumped Swift: as well as numerous Monfragüe records, one bird was observed at Guijo de Santa Bárbara (Cáceres) on 08/05 (G. Schreur) and 22/05 (Jesús Calle) and 4 at los Canchos de Ramiro (Cáceres) on 22/05 (C. Clemente).
- Yellow Wagtail: several males singing at Casas de Hitos ricefields(Badajoz) on 02/05 (E. Palacios, P. Ramírez, J. Prieta, M. Á. Muñoz and S. Mayordomo) and 1 bird on 14/05 (M. Kelsey).
- Tree Pipit: One territorial male singing at Dehesa de Abajo, Tornavacas (Cáceres), on 10/05 (J. Prieta). Third likely breeding record for Extremadura.
- Skylark: several birds seen at Puerto de Tornavacas (Cáceres) on 02/05 and one at Garganta la Olla (Cáceres) (E. Palacios, P. Ramírez, J. Prieta, M. Á. Muñoz and S. Mayordomo). One bird at Llanos del Convento, Pinofranqueado (Cáceres), on 07/05 (Alberto Pacheco).
- Chiffchaff: one male singing in Holm Oaks next to Arroyo Fresnedoso, Talayuela (Cáceres) on 04/05 and another in a pinewood at Dehesa de Abajo de Tornavacas (Cáceres) on 10/05 (J. Prieta).
- Iberian Chiffchaff: one male singing at Puerto de Miravete (Cáceres) on 24/05 (M. Kelsey).
- Spotted Flycatcher: one at River Almonte, Trujillo, on 09/05 (M. Kelsey).
- Rock Thrush: one pair at Puerto de Esperabán, Pinofranqueado (Cáceres), on 05/05 (A. Pacheco). 2 males and 1 female at Pico Villuercas (Cáceres) on 13/05 (Fergus Crystal and Juan Pablo Prieto). One pair at Pitolero, Cabezabellosa (Cáceres), on 21/05 (Eric Quin) and 1 male in the same place on 22/05 (R. Montero).
- Redstart: several pairs at Pinofranqueado (Cáceres) during May (A. Pacheco). One male at La Codosera (Badajoz) on 06/05 (G. Schreur). Two males in a pinewood at 1550 m at Dehesa de Abajo, Tornavacas (Cáceres); 2 males in same place on 10/05 (J. Prieta) and 1 different male on 24/05 (Iván Solana and J. Prieta). At Brezo mountain refuge, Losar de la Vera (Cáceres), one male on 14/05 and 3 on 21/05 (D. Langlois). Three males at Sierra de Alor, Olivenza (Badajoz), on 15/05 (Juan Carlos Paniagua). One pair in a Cork-Oak wood at Sierra de Santa Catalina, Serradilla (Cáceres), on 20/05 (Alfredo Gómez).
- Wheatear: one pair at Santa Marta de Magasca (Cáceres) on 19/05 (M. Kelsey).
- Crossbill: one male singing at 1520 m in a pinewood at Dehesa de Abajo, Tornavacas (Cáceres), on 10/05 (J. Prieta) and a young bird seen there on 24/05 (I. Solana and J. Prieta). Second certain breeding record and site for Extremadura.

- Teal: One drake at Casas de Hitos (Badajoz) on 02/05 (E. Palacios, P. Ramírez, J. Prieta, M. Á. Muñoz and S. Mayordomo) and a pair there on 13/05 (Godfried Schreur).
- Osprey: One bird at Arrocampo Reservoir(Cáceres) on 08/05 (Javier Esteban) and 09/05 (G. Schreur). One bird mobbed by a Raven at Borbollón Reservoir(Cáceres) on 11/05 (Rafael Vicente).
- Hen Harrier: one bird at Valverde de Leganés (Badajoz) on 04/05 (G. Schreur).
- Golden Plover: 3 birds in breeding plumage at Santa Amalia ricefields (Badajoz) on 02/05 (Fernando Yuste).
- Ringed Plover: 4 birds at a pond at Alange (Badajoz) on 11/05 and on 18/05 and two at Casas de Hitos (Badajoz) on 14/05 (M. Kelsey). 14 birds at Galisteo ricefield (Cáceres) on 18/05 (S. Mayordomo).
- Black-Tailed Godwit: one bird at La Albuera Lakes(Badajoz) on 01/05 (J. Guerra and M. Gálvez).
- Redshank: one bird on a pond between Alange and Almendralejo (Badajoz) on 11/05 (M. Kelsey). One bird at Guadiloba Reservoir on 24/05 (S. Mayordomo).
- Marsh Sandpiper: one bird at Casas de Hitos ricefields (Badajoz) on 02/05 (E. Palacios, P. Ramírez, J. Prieta, M. Á. Muñoz and S. Mayordomo).
- Green Sandpiper: one bird at Galisteo Lake (Cáceres) on 18/05 (S. Mayordomo).
- Dunlin: one bird in breeding plumage at Casas de Hitos (Badajoz)on 02/05 (E. Palacios, P. Ramírez, J. Prieta, M. Á. Muñoz and S. Mayordomo) and 7 birds at Torremejía Lake(Badajoz) (A. Núñez). Two birds at a pond between Alange and Almendralejo (Badajoz) on 11/05 and one at Casas de Hitos (Badajoz) on 14/05 (M. Kelsey).
- Curlew Sandpiper: one bird at La Albuera lakes(Badajoz) on 01/05 (J. Guerra and M. Galvez). One bird at a pond between Alange and Almendralejo (Badajoz) on 11/05 (M. Kelsey).
- Little Stint: 4 at Torremejía Lake(Badajoz) on 02/05 (A. Núñez). Two birds on a pond between Alange and Almendralejo (Badajoz) on 11/05 (M. Kelsey).
- Sanderling: one bird on a pond between Alange and Almendralejo (Badajoz) on 11/05 (M. Kelsey).
- Lesser Black-Backed Gull: 2 birds at Torremejía lake(Badajoz) on 02/05 (A. Núñez). One bird at Yelbes ricefields (Badajoz) on 07/05 (J. Solana). Several at on Alange Reservoir(Badajoz) on 17/05 (Á. Sánchez). One immature at Galisteo ricefields (Cáceres) on 22/05 (E. Palacios and S. Mayordomo).
- Black Tern: 3 at Portaje Reservoir (Cáceres) on 21/05 (E. Palacios and S. Mayordomo).
- Whiskered Tern: 6 at La Albuera lakes (Badajoz) on 01/05 (J. Guerra and M. Gálvez) and 5 there on 04/05 (G. Schreur). Ten at Valdecañas Reservoir (Cáceres) on 05/05 (Á. Sánchez, F. Hurtado, J. Guerrero and M. Flores). Two at Valdesalor Reservoir on 06/05 (S. Mayordomo). One at Portaje Reservoir (Cáceres) on 21/05 (E. Palacios and S. Mayordomo).
- Whinchat: One female at Arrocampo (Cáceres) on 09/05 (G. Schreur), another female at Galisteo (Cáceres) on 13/05 (S. Mayordomo) and another at Cabezabellosa on 21/05 (E. Quin).
- Garden Warbler: 20+ birds feeding on blackberries in the hedgerows of River Guadiana at Talavera la Real (Badajoz), up to 9 birds in one bush, on 02/05 (G. Schreur).
- Sedge Warbler: one bird under the Roman Bridge of Mérida (Badajoz) on 11/05 (M. Kelsey).

Thursday 2 June 2011


Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo). Plasencia Reservoir, Cáceres. By Javier Prieta.

The Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) is a recent coloniser in Extremadura. It must have been a scarce winter visitor for much of the twentieth century, becoming common only as from the 1980s (e.g. a count of 804 in 1986). Since then numbers have soared; witness the two national roost-based wintering Cormorant counts, one held in January 1996, producing a figure of 8656 (25% of the Spanish total) and another in January 2003 with 12,265 (18%). In both cases Extremadura was the region with most wintering Cormorants in Spain (Prieta, 2007).

It didn't take long for the first nests to be found in Spain (del Moral and de Souza, 2004). Before 1990 only a few one-off breeders were known from the Medas Islands off the coast of Girona in Catalunya. The first inland record was a failed breeding attempt in Santillana Reservoir, Madrid, in 1989. The first breeding record in Extremadura involved a weakly-flying pair that produced two chicks in Valuengo Reservoir, Jerez de los Caballeros, in 1993 (F. Gragera). Similar one-off cases recurred in other parts of Spain until, in 1997, the first breeding colony was found on Navalcán Reservoir, Toledo. By the beginning of the C21st there were several established colonies, adding up to over 40 breeding pairs. The first Extremadura colony of 10 breeding pairs was found in 2002 on La Serena Reservoir(Prieta, 2007).

Cormorant Colony (Phalacrocorax carbo) on La Serena Reservoir, Badajoz, in 2007 (photos: Carlos Sunyer).

The first and only national count of breeding Cormorants dates from 2007 (Palomino and Molina, 2009), producing a total of 532 pairs in 11 Spanish sites. The main population has built up in Toledo, with 4 colonies and 214 pairs, the lion's share of them in Rosarito Reservoir (202 pairs). Badajoz accounts for the second-biggest population, 3 colonies with 132 pairs: 102 at La Serena Reservoir (on dead Holm Oaks where the River Esteras flows into the reservoir, in the municipal district of Capilla), 26 pairs at the reservoirs of Valuengo and La Albuera (River Ardila, Jerez de los Caballeros) and 4 pairs on the River Guadiana (Valdetorres). The only breeding record in the province of Cáceres was a failed attempt on the River Tagus in the National Park of Monfragüe; a pair built a nest on a dead Eucalyptus tree in May 2006 without any signs of an ensuing clutch (J. Prieta).

By 2011, four years after the abovementioned count, news has come in of the three Extremadura "colonies", although it should be made clear that there has been no official regional count of the species. La Serena Reservoir recorded unprecedented figures. In mid-May Xurxo Piñeiro and María José Valencia counted 250 occupied nests in two colonies: the traditional one on an islet with 240 nests on 29 trees, nearly all Holm Oaks, plus a much smaller colony with 10 more nests. Some days later, on 26 May, personnel from the Regional Council of Extremadura counted 262 occupied nests in the first colony, broken down into 3 subcolonies of 248,11 and 3 nests (Ángel Sánchez, Luis Lozano and Domingo Rivera). This is therefore without doubt one of the biggest, if not the biggest, in the whole of Spain. Conversely, the other two sites recorded in the 2007 count, Guadiana-Valdetorres (Jesús Solana) and Valuengo-La Albuera (Antonio Nuñez), seem to be empty. Or rather they did not even exist any more, since there were no signs of any nests or nest remains in either site. It might well be the case that the so-called colony of the River Guadiana, recorded in 2007, never existed, arising from a mistake in the interpretation of the figures. As for Valuengo, we lack precise information on 2007 and the following years, but it would seem in principle that the 2007 figures were valid.

In sum: the known breeding Cormorant population in Extremadura in 2011 is confined to a single site (La Serena Reservoir) with 272 nests shared out in 2 colonies of 262 and 10 nests. This is the biggest known figure for the species, so the trend is still upwards.

- Del Moral, J. C. and de Souza, J. A. 2004. Cormorán Grande invernante en España. II Censo Nacional. SEO/BirdLife. Madrid.
- Palomino, D. and Molina, B. 2009. Aves acuáticas reproductoras en España. Población en 2007 y método de censo. SEO/BirdLife. Madrid.
- Prieta, J. 2007. Aves de Extremadura, vol. 3. Anuario 2001-2003. ADENEX. Mérida