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Rare Birds in Spain

newThe rarest of the rare: an overview of 2010 rare bird highlights in Spain

Based on an idea by Eduardo Amengual, Ricard Gutiérrez and Alfonso Rodrigo

Comments edited by Ricard Gutiérrez


Spain has experienced a very good year for rarities in 2010. Within the amount of observations gathered in Rare Birds in Spain recent report pages, we've selected 22 of those, with <10 records in Spain to overwiew the quality and interest of observations along the year. Those either with photographic support or obtained by more than one single observer have been selected as a demonstration of this country potential for birdwatching but also as a possible poll, since the idea is to vote for the best observation or sighting along the year, regardless you've seen it, find it or not. . In some cases influxes or collections of these records are featured.

This is not a photographic competition but it's aimed to learn which might be the opinion of the visitors on the most interesting sighting or success within this 2010 year amongst the 24 featured below. Does not matter if you're Spanish or not, if you have seen the birds or not. Simply, have a look, realise how diverse (and rare!) the country is and please answer the poll which is located in the RAREBIRDSPAIN BLOG HERE

Happy 2011!

January 2010


  • CANDIDATE 1 Branta hutchinsii at Badajoz, January 2010

Indeed, this 'new' species has been doomed as an escape or present in collections in many places of Europe, but only the review of a set of data of which this might be the 2nd record for Spain will contribute to clarify its status.

Lesser Canada (Cackling) Goose Branta hutchinsii 2ND FOR SPAIN
Badajoz. An unmarked individual was spotted within a Geese flock at Vegas Altas, Badajoz (39º7.273’ N – 5º34.936’O), on 2.1 (Antonio Ceballos). See a photo below (A.Ceballos). Seen again on 24.1 (Javier Prieta et al/SEO-Cáceres) and 28.1 at Casas del Hito, Badajoz (Martin Kelsey). Read the full story in the January page


Photo above:© Antonio Ceballos. 2.1.2010

  • CANDIDATE 2 Bucephala albeola at Cantabria, January - March 2010

Dealing with ducks means always the possibility of escape. But both recent papers demonstrating that not all ducks are 'guilty' and the fact of being in suitable places and dates make observations such as this of the Cantabria Bufflehead, the 3rd for Spain, of worth ticking.

Bufflehead Bucephala albeola (1) 3RD FOR SPAIN
Cantabria. On 7.1.2010 morning a drake was found and photographed at Marisma Blanca, Santander, Cantabria (Luis Eduardo Molina, Sheila García, Isaac Villaverde). Seen until 30.1 and beyond until 21.3


Photo above:© Luis Eduardo Molina. 7.1.2010

  • CANDIDATE 3 Megaceryle alcyon at Murcia, relocated on January 2010 and present until March 2010

Indeed a late 2009 rarity but certainly looked for and extensively twitched during 2010, a first for the country and S Europe.

Belted Kingfisher Megaceryle alcyon (1) FIRST FOR SPAIN AND SOUTH EUROPE.
Murcia.The bird last seen at Murcia on 6.12.2009 was relocated after some weeks of search on 4.1.2010 (Miguel Ángel Muñoz) and 5.1.2010 (Miguel Ángel Muñoz, Antonio Jesús Hernández).


Photo above:© Kris de Rouck 17.1.2010

February 2010

  • CANDIDATE 4 Falco rusticolus at Asturies on February 2010

Conservation needs prevented the observers of releasing the location where this 1st of Spain was recorded in the coast of Asturies.

Gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus (1) FIRST FOR SPAIN
(1) Asturies A 1w was photographed at the coast of Asturies, N Spain during february 2010. Details of the observation have been supressed by the original authors to avoid the bird being twitched.


Photo above:© Juan Sagardia. February 2010

  • CANDIDATE 5 Larus smithsonianus at Madrid on February - May 2010

Perhaps Madrid is not the mecca for the rarities, but some good birds such as this American Herring Gull, the 4th for Spain, have turned up, this one after a hard birdwatching work by local gull watchers.

American Herring Gull Larus smithsonianus (1) FOURTH FOR SPAIN
(1) Madrid
There was a 2w at Colmenar Viejo dump, Madrid on 7.2 (Delfín González). See a photo below and a special photopage here (D.González). The bird was relocated at Pinto dump, Madrid on 26.2 (Javier Marchamalo). Finding this gull is almost mission impossible given the number of gulls around Madrid those days.Seen again in May 2010.


Photo above:© Delfín González. 7.2.2010

March 2010

  • CANDIDATE 6 Motacilla flava feldegg 'superciliaris' at Lanzarote on March 2010

2010 was the year of Passerine rarities as well. One of the firsts to appear was this one at the new hotspot of the Canary Islands: Lanzarote, where a number of both local and regular visitors produced an extraordinary set of records this year, being this superciliaris the 1st of the firsts for the country of 2010.

Black-headed Wagtail Motacilla flava feldegg 'superciliaris' (1)
Lanzarote One intergrade of these between feldegg and presumably flava was seen and photographed at Famara, Lanzarote on 19-21.3 (Juan Sagardia, F.José García Vargas).


Photos above:© Juan Sagardía. 19-21.3.2010

April 2010

  • CANDIDATE 7 Sylvia rueppellii at Cabrera Island on April 2010

Mediterranean rarities hotspot island is Cabrera and it contributed on 2010 to the Spanish list with a dream bird for many: a Rüppell's Warbler, not only photographed in the hand and ringed but also in the wild in a beautiful scenery. Another 1st for the country.

Rüppell's Warbler Sylvia rueppellii (1) FIRST FOR SPAIN
(1) Illes Balears An adult male was trapped and ringed at Cabrera island, Balearics, on 18.4 (Eduardo Amengual, via mobile phone, David Cuenca) and the bird remained in the island on 21.4 (Eduardo Amengual).


Photo above:© David Cuenca .21.4.201

  • CANDIDATE 8 Phylloscopus orientalis at Llobregat Delta on April 2010

But if you need an island 'inland' that's the Llobregat Delta. Surrounded by industrial estates, it survives thanks to many people fight along these years. And every one and then produces something interesting. In 2010 a 1st and 2nd for Spain of another difficult species: Phylloscopus orientalis.

Eastern Bonelli's Warbler Phylloscopus orientalis (1) FIRST & SECOND FOR SPAIN
(1) Barcelona An individual was trapped and ringed at Remolar-Filipines reserve, Llobregat Delta, Barcelona on 17.4 (Joan Castelló; Armand Ramal, Pedro Bescós). The bird was latter heard in the reserve (Joan Castelló). It was seen again in the wild on 18.4 (Marcel Gil).
Another individual, the 2nd for Spain, was trapped and ringed at Remolar-Filipines reserve, Llobregat Delta, Barcelona on 13.5 (Marcel Gil).


Photo above:© Joan Castelló. 17.4.2010

  • CANDIDATE 9 Phoenicurus moussieri at Grazalema, Huelva on April 2010

There are only 3 accepted records in Spain up to 2008 (Ardeola 57(2), 2010, 481-516) and this onel although seen briefly, demonstrates the potential of the areas in S Spain to attract African vagrants.

Moussier's Redstart Phoenicurus moussieri (1)
(1) Cádiz One was seen on 7.4 from Coros, Puerto de Grazalema, Grazalema mountain range, Cádiz (Jose Arnal and Paco Torres).


Photo above:© José Arnal & Paco Torres per Andalucian Bird Society

May 2010

  • CANDIDATE 10 Somateria spectabilis at Mar Menor, Murcia on May 2010

If the Belted Kingfisher was a major surprise, when this King Eider reached the same place it could be hardly believed. But it behaved wild and despite rather unseasonal dates, it might be something usual for the species. A 5th for the country, and in the Mediterranean sea!.

King Eider Somateria spectabilis (1)
(1) Murcia. A female King Eider surprisingly appear at Riera de Albujón, Mar Menor, Murcia, on 14.5 (Antonio Hernández). See more photos in the special photopage here The bird remained in the area on 18.5 although behaving even less confidingly (Antonio Hernández).


Photo above:© Antonio Hernández. 14.5.2010

June 2010

  • CANDIDATE 11 Oenanthe oenanthe seebohmi at Gran Canaria on June 2010

It might seem it's close to African coasts, but finding a continental vagrant in the Canaries is not that easy. For that reason, this overshooter in June 2010, a rather calmed month for rarities, was much welcome. A 1st for Spain in Gran Canaria island.

Seebohm's Weathear Oenanthe [oenanthe] seebohmi (1) FIRST FOR SPAIN
(1) Gran Canaria. A male was photographed at close range at Castillo del Romeral, Gran Canaria, on 19.6 (José García Monzón). There are more photos in the Special photopage here.


Photos above:© José García Monzón. 19.6.2010

July 2010

No candidates

August 2010

  • CANDIDATE 12 Pterodroma cf feae sightings off A Coruña August - November 2010

During August to November, a number of sightings of Pterodroma feae/madeira were collected in the waters off A Coruña, 1-2 offshore but the rest from Estaca de Bares in an unprecedented set of observations of this taxon in Spain and probably the 1st in mainland Europe involving two birds altogether.

(Fea's) Petrel Pterodroma c.f. feae

(1) A Coruña. An individual 'sp' was seen at Banco de Galicia fishing area 42°43'N 11°44'W on 13.8 (Albert Cama (Seo/Birdlife) Campanya INDEMARES del IEO).
A Coruña. One or two individuals of Pterodroma feae-madeira were seen on board of 'Aula do Mar' off Cariño, A Coruña, on 28.8 (José Miguel Alonso Pumar and others)
A Coruña. Two individuals were seen together (!) from Estaca de Bares cape, A Coruña, on 4.9 (Daniel López Velasco, Antonio Sandoval, Ricardo Hevia). Probable 1st observation of two 'Fea's' like petrels altogether from mainland Europe.
A Coruña. A Fea's type bird was seen from Estaca de Bares cape, A Coruña, on 18.9 (Antonio Sandoval, Ricardo Hevia, Álvaro Barros).
(7-8) A Coruña. 2 individuals were seen on 25.9 from Estaca de Bares, A Coruña (Pablo Pita -both-, Ricardo Hevia -the 1st-).

A Coruña. An individual was seen from Estaca de Bares cape, A Coruña, on 3.10 (David Calleja).
A Coruña. An individual was seen from Estaca de Bares cape, A Coruña, on 1.11 (Daniel López Velasco, Marco García, Pablo Pita, David Martínez Lago & Ricardo Hevia).

  • CANDIDATE 13 Oceanodroma castro off A Coruña August 2010

Like in the case of Fea's-like Petrels this year a number of sightings of Madeiran storm Petrel were collected particularly celebrated was one off Estaca de Bares on 22.8

Madeiran Storm Petrel Oceanodroma castro (1,2-4) c.6th FOR SPAIN
A Coruña. A bird was recorded on board of 'Aula do Mar' off Cariño, A Coruña on 22.8 (José Miguel Alonso Pumar and others).


Photo above:© Antonio Gutiérrez. 22.8.2010

(2-4) A Coruña. Off Galician coasts, at Banco de Galicia, 42°43'N 11°44'WA, different birds were seen between 12-24.8, maximum 3 on 20.8 (Xulio Valeiras (IEO), Joan Cartes (ICM), Wolf Isbert (Colaborador IEO) y Albert Cama (Seo/Birdlife) Campanya INDEMARES. IEO).

  • CANDIDATE 14 Sula sula off Málaga August 2010

First sighting of this species in Spain and Europe, it might be the same bird seen later in Catalonia but considered here as a different observation.

Red-footed Booby Sula sula (1)
(1) Málaga. A bird was seen and photographed off Estepona, Málaga on 11.8 (John Hopkins).
See a special identification and photopage here.


Photo above:© John Hopkins 11.8.2010

September 2010

  • CANDIDATE 15 Phaeton aethereus off Estaca de Bares, A Coruña September 2010

The species has even bred in the Canary islands but watching one from mainland Europe is another thing. Much to the desperation of would-be observers, only three fortunate birdwatchers hold this 'blocker' for those maintaining an Iberian list.

Red-billed Tropicbird Phaeton aethereus (1) 1ST FOR MAINLAND SPAIN
A Coruña. One adult was seen from Estaca de Bares headland, A Coruña, on 18.9 (Ricardo Hevia, Antonio Sandoval, Álvaro Barros). First for mainland Spain.

  • CANDIDATE 16 Calidris acuminata at Albufera de Valencia, September - October 2010

Well documented observation of this sought-after wader that fortunately could be seen by many observers visiting the Valencia Albufera. A 3rd for the country.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata (1) THIRD FOR SPAIN
(1) Valencia. An adult was found at R.N del Malvinar, El Perelló (Sueca) P.N Albufera de València on 29.9 (Toni Alcocer). On 30.9 was seen again at the same site (Bosco Dies, Vicente Esteller, Vicente Llorens, Gabi Llorens, Miguel Piera, Pedro Marín, Pepe Ruiz, Fran Lloris, Toni Alcocer).Last seen on 1.10 (Josep Puentes; Jus Pérez Martín et al).


Photo above:© Toni Alcocer 30.9.2010

October 2010

  • CANDIDATE 17 Oenanthe isabellina at Cabrera island, October 2010

Cabrera is good on Spring. And in Autumn too! This 2nd for Spain (after a record in 2009 in Andalusia) was the highlight of the island season!.

Isabelline Weathear Oenanthe isabellina (1) SECOND FOR SPAIN
Illes Balears. On 8.10 one was seen at Cabrera island, Balearics (Eduardo Amengual,David Cuenca).


Photo above:© Eduardo Amengual 8.10.2010

  • CANDIDATE 18 Dolichonyx oryzivorus at Lanzarote, October - December 2010

The combination of the words American + vagrant + passerine is mouthwatering for many, if not all, Spanish birdwatchers. Finding one is not only extremely rare but something to celebrate. And Lanzarote again produced one in October that remained in the area in December too. A 1st for Spain.

Bobolink Dolichonyx oryzivorus (1)
(1) Lanzarote One individual was found at Tias golf course, Lanzarote, Canary islands on 21.10 (Juan Sagardía). Seen later in the evening too (F.J.García Vargas, A.Unquiles). Not seen on 22.10 but relocated on 23.10 at the same site (J.Sagardía). The 1st for Spain. It was seen again on December 2010 at the same wide area (Juan Sagardía).


Photos above:© J. Sagardía 21.10.2010

November 2010

  • CANDIDATE 19 Oenanthe isabellina influx, November 2010

There was an small influx of this species in Spain involving what might be 3rd to 4th observations of this species. This interesting set of observations has even a further interest given the rarity of the species.

Isabelline Weathear Oenanthe isabellina (1,2,3)
A Coruña. On 2.11 a bird was seen and photographed at Baldaio, A Corula (Xabier Varela). See a photo below (X.Varela).The bird from Baldaio was indeed present there 1-6.11. See photos below (José L. Fernández Carnero.).


Photo above:© Xabier Varela 2.11.2010

(2) A Coruña. On 20.11 a bird was found at Nemiña, A Coruña (D.Fernández). Seen again later on 20.11 when photographed (F.Pereiras;Pablo Fernández, Pedro J Menendez, Daniel López Velasco).

topo(3) Lanzarote One was found at Rubicón plains, Lanzarote, on 26.11 (F. Javier García Vargas).

December 2010

  • CANDIDATE 20 Tarsiger cyanurus, Alicante, December 2010

The 1st of 2 observations of Red-flanked Bluetail in Spain this month, plus another along the year in Andalusia. This one was well documented with excellent photos but could be relocated by a single fortunate observer.

Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus (1)
(1) Alicante A 1w/f bird was found at Clot de Galvany, Elx, Alicante on 1.12 (Jacobo Antonio Ramos). 4th for Spain after birds in Llobregat Delta, Albufera de Valencia and Huelva. The bird was present in the morning of 1.12.
The bird was last seen on 2.12 (Graham Critchell)


Photos above:© Jacobo Antonio Ramos . 1.12.2010

  • CANDIDATE 21 Sula sula L'Empordà, Girona, December 2010

While it's not known if this bird was the same or not as that from Málaga (it might be the most probable option despite it cannot be proven), it is certainly the most wanted for not only Spanish but European birdwatchers that came to L'Estartit to twitch it. Unfortunately it died due to 3 hooks in its stomach by late December when it was taken into care.

Red-footed Booby Sula sula (1)
(1) Girona. A bird was seen and photographed off Cap de Creus, Girona on 3.12 (Rafael Larrodé) then moved to l'Estartit, Girona on 4.12 (Sílvia Guix) where it remained at least until 6.12 and was seen by over 40 people.See a special identification and photopage here. It remained until 9.12 abd seen again on 15.12, hurt, when taken into care but finally died on 23.12 after stomach surgery to attempt saving it


Photo above:© Ricard Gutiérrez 6.12.2010

  • CANDIDATE 22 Porzana marginalis Las Navas de la Concepción, Sevilla,December 2010

One of the last surprises of the year, this first for Spain and only 4th for Europe and 5th for the WP that reached a village at Sevilla mountains, well far from the sea, and was released in a nearby spring, where it was never seen again.

Striped Crake Porzana marginalis (1)

(1) Sevilla A bird, a female according to literature, was found in the middle of downtown Las Navas de la Concepción, Sierra Norte, 436 meters above the sea, Sevilla on 12.12.2010 (Antonio Garcia Marquez). It was released the following 13.12 day nearby (Antonio Garcia Marquez).


Photo above:© Antonio García Márquez 12.12.2010

  • CANDIDATE 23 Bombycilla garrulus 'influx' at Asturies, December 2010

These 7th & 8th records for Spain were found at Asturies coast on 18.12 and 29.12, all after a good season in the rest of C Europe.

Bohemian Waxwing Bombycilla garrulus (1)
(1) Asturies A 1w was found at Proaza, Asturies, on 18.12 (Manuel Fernández Pajuelo y Agustina Fernández Alvarez).

(2-3) Asturies Two birds were seen at Valgrande, Llena, Asturies on 29.12 (Xuan Cortés)


Photo above:© Manuel Fernández Pajuelo 18.12.2010

  • CANDIDATE 24 Tarsiger cyanurus, Tordera river, Girona, December 2010

The 2nd for Catalonia and 2nd seen in December. When found on 26.12 by local observer David Caballé, nobody thought it could be relocated. But on 29.12 two keen year-listers, Gerard Dalmau and Toni Alonso gave it a try and found it much to the celebration of the rest of observers. On 30.12 it was widely twitched by tens of observers along the day, being the 1st individual of this species that can be properly twitched in Spain.

Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus (1,2) FIFTH FOR SPAIN
(2) Girona A 1w/female was seen over the Perxistor area, Sant Feliu de Buixalleu, Girona on 26.12 (David Caballé). This bird was relocated at the same area on 29.12 (Gerard Dalmau, Toni Alonso et al) when photographed. On 30.12 at least 19 people went to see the bird and some photos and video could be obtained (David Caballé, Gerard Dalmau, Oriol Clarabuch, Ponç Feliu, Pere Cortinas, Roger Sanmartí, Daniel Valverde, Anna Mallol, Gabriel de Jesús, Alba Casals, Ricard Gutiérrez, Javi Mendoza et al). Coordinates for the site are as follows: N 41.72673 E 002.58362 datum European 1950.

Tarcya Photo above:© Toni Alonso 29.12.2010


Thanks to all contributors and supporters for making possible this website. Also thanks to Eduardo Amengual for the idea and Alfonso Rodrigo for his continous support and encouragement.

The rarest of the rare: an overview of 2010 rare bird highlights in Spain. Rare Birds in Spain. Retrieved from 

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The rarest of the rare: an overview of 2010 rare bird highlights in Spain

January (I)
February (II)
March (III)
April (IV)
May (V)
June (VI
July (VII)
August (VIII)
September (IX)
October (X)
November (XI)
December (XII)

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