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Birdwatching day trips in Madrid September 2014

John Muddeman
21/09/2014 16:29:20

Abbreviated results for birdwatching day trips around Madrid on 4th and 20th September 2014, including an aberrant Pied Flycatcher

Posted in: Birds | Madrid | Mainland Spain, Central Spain

Late August and September see the aPiedFlyr - Ficedulahypoleuca © John MuddemanAberrant Pied Flycatcher - right wing
Ficedula hypoleuca
© John Muddeman
great bulk of summer-breeding migrants moving through the region on their southbound journeys to African wintering quarters.

As I started to write I needed to raise the sun blind, now it's clouded over again, and noticed a rator moving high over. The binoculars revealed it was a Western Marsh Harrier, my first from my apartment, and while not a rare species at all in general, it's only the second time I've seen it in W Madrid. And quite why it should be moving NE over this area of low mountains and dehesa is a mystery! That said of course, this is migration time and dispersing birds can be found almost anywhere.

Early September say me taking an American out for the day. The clear and sunny conditions meant it was hot by the time we finished, but even so it wasn't a scorcher and we saw plenty of the regional specialities we hoped to, plus a smattering of migrants. My last European Bee-eaters of the year on active passage were excellent, and while small birds got distinctly difficult in the heat, one of the very last was a bit of a surprise, being a 'Woodchat Flycatcher'. a PiedFlyl - Ficedulahypoleuca © John MuddemanAberrant Pied Flycatcher - left wing
Ficedula hypoleuca
© John Muddeman
A what?! OK, so it was an aberrant Pied Flycatcher, one of the hundreds of thousands or probably millions that surge like a slow wave through the Iberian Peninsula in late summer and autumn and can be seen and heard almost anywhere there's sufficient scrub and tree cover as they move through. Autumn pied flycatchers are a tricky trio to identify, with Pied, Collared and Semi-collared being present in Europe, though the latter two are very rare as vagrants on autumn passage in W Europe. The young birds basically look like breeding females and even the males become female-like.

One of the most important field features for species ID is the size of the white patch at the base of the primaries, and this bird had a huge white patch giving it an extraordinary appearance in flight (hence the Woodchat Shrike analogy). But the first thing I did after noting the calls and taking a couple of quick pictures was to age the bird, since this is a crucial step to sexing and therefore identifying the bird too. And indeed, despite big white patches usually meaning Collared Flycatcher, this was just abberrant. The pictures (while poor) clearly show how extreme this bird was compared aPiedFly3 - Ficedulahypoleuca © John MuddemanAbberrant Pied Flycatcher in flight
Ficedula hypoleuca
© John Muddeman
to a normal individual which was beside it!

The second trip was in much cooler conditions after the first late summer rains, and was quite different. There were actually more raptors than during the first trip, though this was thanks to picking up a few late migratory species, plus a couple of hoped-for Golden Eagles, and with a few more water birds at one site and cooler conditions for smaller birds, we were able to continue to see small migrants more acively later in the day. There were no real surprises this time (except a late juvenile Woodchat and an absence of Iberian Grey Shrikes), but Great Bustards were far more in evidence, a flock of White Storks on passage was a bonus, Cinereous and Griffon Vultures, Spanish Imperial, Short-toed Snake and Booted Eagles appeared again, Sardinian and Subaline Warbers showed repeatedly and well, Black Wheatear apprared well again, Spanish and Rock Sparrows and the endemic Iberian Green Woodpecker and Iberian Magpie showed well on both trips too.

Anyhow this list gives a better idea of what can be seen in a 9 hour door-to-door trip around this time of year. 'lo' denotes a leader-only record, but I've included them to show what's possible. Most of the latter were only heard, but to keep it simple, the table just shows whether the species was recorded on day 1 (= 4th) and/or day (=20th).

Bird list

Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa). 2 nPiedFly - Ficedulahypoleuca © John MuddemanNormal Pied Flycatcher
Ficedula hypoleuca
© John Muddeman

Gadwall (Anas strepera). 1,2
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos). 1,2
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata). 2
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca). 1,2
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina). 2
Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus). 1,2
White Stork (Ciconia ciconia). 2
Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis). 2
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea). 1,2
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta). 1,2
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo). 1,2
Red Kite (Milvus milvus). 1,2
Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus). 1,2
Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus). 1,2
Short-toed Snake Eagle (Circaetus gallicus). 1,2
Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus). 2
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo). 1,2
Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aquila adalberti). 1,2
Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos). 2
Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus). 1,2
Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus). 1
Great Bustard (Otis tarda). 1,2 WStorksGriffon - CiconiaGyps © John MuddemanMigrating White Storks + Griffon Vulture passing below
Ciconia ciconia & Gyps fulvus
© John Muddeman

Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax). 1,2
Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra). 1,2
Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus). 2
Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia). 2
Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus). 2 (lo)
Ruff (Philomachus pugnax). 2
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus). 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus). 1,2
Rock Dove (Columba livia). 1,2
Common Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus). 1,2
Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto). 1,2
Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus). 1,2
Little Owl (Athene noctua). 1,2
Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus). 1 (lo)
Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis). 2
European Bee-Eater (Merops apiaster). 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major). 1,2
Iberian Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis sharpei). 1,2
Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis). 1
Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator). 1,2
Eurasian Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus). 1
Iberian Magpie (Cyanopica cooki). 1,2
Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica). 1,2
Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax). 1 (lo)
Western Jackdaw (Coloeus monedula). 1,2
Northern Raven (Corvus corax). 1,2
Coal Tit (Periparus ater). 1 (lo)
Great Tit (Parus major). 1,2
Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus). 1 (lo),2
Greater Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla). 1 (lo),2
Crested Lark (Galerida cristata). 1,2
Thekla Lark (Galerida theklae). 1 (lo),2
Sand Martin (Riparia riparia). 1 (lo)
European Swallow (Hirundo rustica rustica). 1,2
Eurasian Crag Martin (Ptyonoprogne rupestris). 1,2
Common House Martin (Delichon urbicum). 1,2
Red-rumped Swallow (Cecropis daurica). 1 (lo),2
Cetti's Warbler (Cettia cetti). 1,2 (lo)
Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus). 1 (lo),2 (lo)
Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus). 1,2
Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis). 2
Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla). 1 (lo),2
Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin). 1 (lo)
Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis). 1,2
Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata). 1
Western Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans cantillans). 1,2
Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala). 1,2
Eurasian Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes). 1
Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europaea). 1
Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla). 1,2
Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor). 1,2
Common Blackbird (Turdus merula). 1,2
Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos). 1 (lo)
Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros). 1,2
Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus). 2
Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra). 1,2
European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola). 1
Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe). 1,2
Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe hispanica). 1
Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucura). 1,2
Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius). 1,2
Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata). 2
European Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca). 1,2
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus). 1,2
Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis). 1,2
Rock Sparrow (Petronia petronia). 1,2
Western Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava). 1 (lo),2 (lo)
White Wagtail (Motacilla alba). 1,2 (lo)
Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris). 1,2
European Serin (Serinus serinus). 2 (lo)
European Greenfinch (Chloris chloris). 1,2
European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis). 1,2
Common Linnet (Carduelis cannabina). 1,2
Corn Bunting (Emberiza calandra). 1,2 (lo)
Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia). 1,2
Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus). 2

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