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Rare Birds in Spain

Identification

The Red-footed Booby at l'Empordà, Catalonia, on December 2010. 2nd for Europe

compiled by Ricard Gutiérrez

with photos from & video from Rafael Larrodé & Ricard Gutiérrez

A page in collaboration with:

Introduction
Photographs
Video
Epilogue
Acknowledgements

Introduction 

On 4.12.2010, Silvia Guix, one of the wardens of the Montgrí, Medes islands and Baix Ter Natural Park was working at the l'Estartit harbour, Girona when she noticed an odd Gannet perched on a boat. She had experience on regular seabirds seen in the Park, including Northern Gannets (Morus bassanus) but for some reason that particular Gannet seemed odd, having a couple of very red feet. Bird guides showed a very rare species so she decided to check the record with fellow Empordà county birders from Frontera website.

When on 5.12.2010 morning both Jordi Martí-Aledo and Àlex Ollé heard the description and later saw Silvia images couldn't believe what they were watching: 1st Red-footed Booby for Catalonia, 2nd for Spain (after the bird at Estepona, Málaga in August 2010) and 2nd for Europe, only with a couple or so more WP records (!!). Sealife responsable of the park, Àlex Lorente, contacted RG to comment the news because of RG work in the Park with Mediterranean Storm-Petrel. By chance RG was on a family holiday only c.20 km from L'Estartit. But news came too late on 5.12.2010. A late attempt by Frontera team (A.Ollé, T.Montràs & J.M.Aledo) gave no results (!) and it was dark night when RG knew the news. Quick facebook website update and begin convincing family of a quick twitch on 6.12.2010, only a 'detour' from planned route.

As Frontera website spread the news, early 6.12.2010 gathered a number of birders in l'Estartit pier and the Booby was seen first flying and fishing in the N coast of Meda Gran island (Julio Pérez Cañestro, Gerard Dalmau, Miguel Angel Fuentes, Gabriel de Jesús, Alba Casals, Elisabeth Tetas, Anna Mallol; Roser Solé, Josep Tantull; Silvia Guix; Ricard Gutiérrez, Helena Arbonés, Josep Arbonés, Lluïsa Mor; Àlex Ollé, Teresa Montràs, Jordi Martí-Aledo; Albert López, Gemma González). Later, to the astonishment of some of the present, the bird was seen flying close to the outer pier of the harbour and entering INSIDE the harbour (photos below), giving good opportunities of flight shots. More observers gathered there when the bird was found perched on a boat inside the harbour, close to the commercial boats visiting the Medes islands (photos & video below) (Miguel Angel Fuentes, Gabriel de Jesús, Alba Casals, Elisabeth Tetas, Anna Mallol; Roser Solé, Josep Tantull; Silvia Guix; Ricard Gutiérrez, Helena Arbonés, ; Àlex Ollé, Teresa Montràs, Jordi Martí-Aledo; Albert López, Gemma González; Àlex Lorente, Salvador Coll; Joaquim Camps; Ferran López, J.L.Copete, Arnau Bonan; Guillem Hontangas; Rafael Armada; Daniel Roca; Pierre-André Crochet et al)

Interestingly, Projecte Ninam's biologist Gemma González shared some vital information: on 3.12.2010 presumably the same bird had been seen and photographed on board of fishing vessel 'Medan' from Roses harbour fleet by Rafael Larrodé (see two photos below), c. 37 km (c.20 nm) to the NE of L'Estartit.

The bird was seen still in the area on 7.12 (A.Powell, T.Alonso, Q.Carballal, S.Guix, A.Lorente, C.Garcia, R.Gutiérrez and others) and attracted many foreign birders as well as the media e.g. Ara newspaper. Also seen on 8.12 by many observers.

The bird, as shown below, it's younger than 2 years old and it's in active moult of wing and tail feathers. To this respect, CR.-SEO member Daniel López Velasco has pointed out to rarebirdspain mailing list that according to its tropical, perhaps S ocean origin, it's better aged as 2nd cycle bird. The author of the August observation of perhaps this same individual, John Hopkins, until this record the sole European holding a sighting of this species within the continent has forwarded a mail sent by seabird specialist Steve Howell regarding the August record:

'Coincidentally, I just saw 15-20 Red-footed Boobies just like this bird last week off Baja, as well as Browns. So, a nice Red-footed Booby, either early second-cycle (although I don’t think p1 is dropped?) or late first cycle (can’t see details of primary molt waves but looks like outers are old and inners new, plus bill color is typical of first/second year), and probably brown-bodied morph (perhaps white-tailed brown?), as truly white-bodied birds usually show some white by this age on upperwing coverts and body'

Is it the same bird seen in Estepona, Málaga in August 2010? Steve N.G.Howell comments to John Hopkins on the Estartit bird:

'The second bird looks to have have started its PB2 (second wave of) wing molt with 1 or more inner primaries renewed, but still an old juv outer primary; yours [per the August bird] looked to be was half-way or so through its first wave of molt. It seems feasible from Aug to Dec this progression could have occurred but there’s not much data to work from on known-age individuals to support pro or con this conjecture. I would thus say, possibly the same bird, but without a band there’s no way to know?'

Therefore we can state that it cannot say 100% sure that both birds, the one from August and this one, are the same although it could be.

Photographs

All photos & video © Ricard Gutiérrez except the first © Rafael Larrodé

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Sula sula. On board of Medan, Off Cap de Creus, Girona, 3.12.2010 © Rafael Larrodé

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Sula sula. Entering L'Estartit harbour, Girona, 6.12.2010 © Ricard Gutiérrez

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Sula sula morning twitch, L'Estartit harbour, Girona, 6.12.2010 © Ricard Gutiérrez

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Sula sula 2nd cycle , L'Estartit harbour, Girona, 6.12.2010 © Ricard Gutiérrez

Sula sula 2nd cycle , L'Estartit harbour, Girona, 6.12.2010 © Ricard Gutiérrez

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Sula sula 2nd cycle , L'Estartit harbour, Girona, 7.12.2010 © Ricard Gutiérrez

Continue to the Epilogue on this bird occurrence here.

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Acknowledgements

All this could not have been possible without a number of friends and people. First of all, Silvia Guix, from the Montgri, Medes and Baix Ter Natural Park found the bird at L'Estartit and thanks to her photos shown to friends at frontera.cat, the bird could be identified. 2nd to the facilities given by the Natural Park in all senses as well as frontera.cat friends. Also important was the collaboration of Projecte Ninam friends in tracing a photo and record of what turned up to be the same bird seen quite N of this area at Cap de Creus. And also to the amount of people attending the twitch without disturbing the bird. Contributing with Medes Islands park would be a good idea to promote the fact that these sightings are something else than anecdotical and can help local economies.


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Citation
Gutiérrez, R. (ed.) 2010. The Red-footed Booby at l'Empordà, Catalonia, on December 2010. 2nd for Europe. Retrieved from http://www.rarebirdspain.net/arbsi037.htm 



 

 


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The Red-footed Booby at l'Empordà, Catalonia, on December 2010. 2nd for Europe

Summary:
Introduction

Photographs

Video

Acknowledgements

Citation
 
 
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13.12.2010