Due to climate change or to local features it is a reality that every time more species of birds, formerly though as a summer visitors, are spending winter time in some areas of South Europe.
I have been absolutely surprised by the view of a Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava) in Ebro Delta. It was on Sunday November 4 and I was spending the day with a couple just arrived from Switzerland. We had nice views of many birds but we saw five different species that until few years ago were summer visitors and now are becoming more common during the winter.
First was the Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava) leaving the reedbeds at raisang with tens of White Wagtails (Motacilla alba alba). Later a group of Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) (5 of them) flying over the fields with some Crag Martin (Ptyonoprogne rupestris). Barn Swallow is coming up in numbers every winter and its presence is considered “not rare” in Ebro and Llobregat deltas. We counted 6 Hoopoe (Upupa epops) in different areas. Hoopoe is a quite common summer-but-also-winter bird in Catalonia, specially along the coast. In the paddy fields we saw one White Stork (Ciconia ciconia), though this species is specially common in winter in Lleida Steppes. Finally a number of Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides) were spending the day alongside channels, reedbeds and on paddy fields.
White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala) is a local and rare duck species that lives in deep pools and lakes in Central and South Spain, Morocco, Tunis and Turkey. It is a diving duck living shallow lakes. It is a resident to short range migratory species.
It’s presence in Ebro Delta has been a rarity until this 2011. From August 2011 there have been several White-headed Duck recorded in this delta. On Sunday December 4th we saw a female diving in the main lagoon in Ebro Delta, “l’Encanyissada”. It was diving mixed in a group of Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina) and Pochard (Aythya ferina). The bird was watched for more than one hour diving, sleeping and taking care of its plumage. From 28 November have been a group of six in this same lagoon.
Spanish & Moroccan population is about 1.000 birds (2008) with a great increase of birds in Spain from late 70s (22 birds wintering in 1977 and almost 2.400 in 2000) but downing again to about 600-800 individuals in 2008, all of them living in South and Central Spain wetlands such as Doñana National Park, Tablas de Daimiel and El Fondo Natural Reserve (Alicante).
The Catalan Government has approved a new edict that is allowing to hunt over 60.000 finches in Catalonia next winter. All green associations in the country have protested against this crazy law but was approved in the Parliament by the three main political parties. This appointment arrives three years after the abolition of hunting this kind of birds in Catalonia.
The species to be hunt includes Goldfinch (6.504), Greenfinch (3.490) and Linnet (3.367) but are Chaffinch who is gonna take bigger piece of all since 46.800 of them will be killed. The populations of some of these birds are growing last years (overall Chaffinch) but Linnet is a more scarce species every time.
This hunt is related about old southern Spain tradition to hunt singing birds and make sing contests with these birds. It is a deep-roots tradition in many areas of southern Europe. Different green associations in the country have started different actions to protest agaisnt this edict.