miércoles, 12 de julio de 2017

At sea Eleonora's Falcon moving from Catalunya to Mallorca

Figure 1. Falco eleonorae. Individual in flight c.26 nautic miles off Llobregat delta, Barcelona, Catalunya, 6 July 2017 (Ricard Gutiérrez)

On 6th July 2017 , 16:32 hours, Spanish time, an Eleonora's Falcon (Falco eleonorae) was seen in active flight c. 26 nautic miles SSE of Llobregat Delta, Barcelona at UTM ETRS89 coordinates 31T zone, x=423444, y=4521012. The bird was seen from MV Sicilia, a Balearia company vessel. Sicilia is a ferry connecting Eivissa island and Barcelona and the falcon was seen during a regular survey of endangered vertebrates (seabirds, cetaceans, turtles) conducted by the Catalan SeaLife Rescue Network (@FaunaMarinaCat).

Photographed and identified by the author, the bird was flying at low level, c.20-30 meters over the sea level (force 1 wind in that moment). It was apparently flying towards NW Mallorca (figure 2), at a further 66 nautic miles.

The record was introduced in the ornitho.cat database where recordings of the species in Catalunya during 2017 are being summarized (figure 3) and it is an unique record of the species moving from mainland Iberia to the Balearics.

Figure 2. Location of the Eleonora's Falcon sighting at 26 nautic miles off Llobregat Delta and c.66 nautic miles NNW of Mallorca.
Figure 3. Location of the current record (isolated red dot at sea, off mid Catalunya) compared with the rest of Catalunya 2017 sightings. Source: ornitho.cat (date 6.7.2017).

Eleonora's Falcon in Catalunya

As stated in the When & Where to Watch Birds in Catalunya book (Gutiérrez, 2017), the species is frequent in Catalunya during the early summer, see figure 4, when birds that will breed later in the Balearics visit Catalunya (and elsewhere in mainland Spain) to feed e.g. the seasonally abundant invertebrates. The species has been reported in 2017 in reasonable numbers (see figure 3), mostly in the Empordà comarcas of Catalunya.

Figure 4. Late Spring and early Summer phenology of Eleonora's Falcon (after Gutiérrez, 2017. When & Where to Watch Birds in Catalunya. Tundra eds). Note the peak of the species presence in late June. Early July marks the beginning of the drecrease of observations.

Figure 5. Falco eleonorae. Verges, Baix Empordà, Girona. A site mentioned in the WWBC book where the species is regular in June these last years. 21.6.2017 (Ricard Gutiérrez).

The current at sea sighting is an unexpected (and unprecedented in the @FaunaMarinaCat surveys) direct migration sighting. There have been regular observations of birds hunting during the late summer or early autumn at sea off Eivissa and Mallorca, but this is the first record of a bird in direct flight between mainland and the Balearics perfectly fitting the known phenology of the species in the area.

Ricard Gutiérrez

To know more, courtesy of @lopez_pascual:

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