Birds in Spain
compiled by Ricard Gutiérrez
with photos from Àlex Lorente and PNAE Wildlife Recovery Center
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After being in the Empordà county the previous week and leaving l'Estartit harbour, Girona on 9.12.2010 morning and much to the desperation of birdwatchers visiting the area later in that day or in the following weekend, some from outside Catalonia and Spain, the Red-footed Booby that had pulled crowds (in Spanish standards) to the Montgrí, Medes and Baix Ter Natural Park harbour of L'Estartit left the area and nobody had any information about it during the following days. Everybody begun thinking that the species had left because of the cold temperatures of those days, approaching freezing limits in some cases or following any of the fishing vessels of the Costa Brava fleet.
Surprise reached the table of RG at the office (RG works as the Seabird and Wetland Officer of the Wildlife Service of Catalonia Government) when Àlex Lorente, the Sealife Biologist of Montgrí, Medes and Baix Ter Park sent on 15.12 aftenoon two photos of the RF Booby back to L'Estartit saying, however, that the bird look injured, in a certain bad condition and that a fishing line hanged from its bill (see two photos below).
It was clear that, as it had happened before in N Catalonia, this seabird had eaten some kind of fishing gear and very probably a hook was somewhere inside its stomach system compromising its normal life. Given it had apparently trapped before by a sailor (for some unexplained reason), it was clear that a new trapping attempt was to be carried out if the bird remained in the harbour that night. And so it happened. The Natural Park successfully captured the Booby and kept it in safe conditions instructed by the Aiguamolls de l'Empordà Natural Park Recovery Center. Given the safety of the bird was 1st to nothing else, and to avoid additional disturbance to the injured bird, no news were broadcasted on the bird occurrence or situation.
On 16.12 the bird was examined within the Aiguamolls de l'Empordà Natural Park Recovery Center and a primary aid veterinary protocol was applied. The examination, however, stated that the hook was not visible so it was needed a treatment in the main central recovery center of Torreferrussa where the bird arrived on 17.12.
X-Ray at Torreferrussa showed that the bird did not have one but THREE hooks placed in its stomach: two new, close to the intestine tract,so very deep perhaps 4-5 days old. Another, however, placed in another place of the stomach, perhaps broken and older. Bird also showed some kind of deformation in its legs, typically due to perching in round surfaces. In any case of birds showing this state, the protocol points to euthanasia to avoid further suffering to the bird. However, given the bird rarity and interest, a surgery to extract the hooks and give the Booby an opportunity was conducted on 17.12 midday. Fortunately the surgery was successful and the three hooks were extracted. The bird was recovering well by 18.12 although recovering members of the Gannet family in recovery centers is somewhat difficult.
Although possibilities of recovery are low, the Booby is having an opportunity. Despite the new two hooks were critical to the bird, the presence of the 3rd older hook may have explained the rather 'ill looking' pointed out by some observers during the 5-9.12 staying at L'Estartit.
On 20-23.12 the bird remained in Torreferrussa recovery centre, Barcelona where it was visited and videotaped on 22.12 (Ricard Gutiérrez). According to veterinaries Rafael Molina and Elena Obon the bird also had some plastic inside its stomach and suffered a surgery of 4 cm length. By the last week of the year the bird should leave the Intensive Cure Unit and begin eating solid food. See a video below (Ricard Gutiérrez). However, very sadly, the bird died unexpectedly on 23.12 (CRFS Torreferrussa).
It's a pity that species such as this, or a recent Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) case, arrive to the Mediterranean Sea and Spanish coasts only to die. Although the hooks affecting the Booby are from leisure angling (not commercial fisheries), seabird casualties by fishing bycatch are amongst the major causes of death in some species such as Shearwaters or Mediterranean Shags in our waters, not to mention the problem with Albatrosses elsewhere. All these episodes should make us think about the need of protection of the sea and its inhabitants and that we indeed need more efforts to effectively protect it.
You can read the Environment Department press release on this subject (in catalan) here.
Sula sula 2nd cycle , L'Estartit harbour, Girona, 15.12.2010 afternoon © Àlex Lorente
Sula sula 2nd cycle , PNAE Wildlife Recovery Center, Girona, 16.12.2010 ©CRFS PNAE /Generalitat de Catalunya
Sula sula 2nd cycle , Torreferrussa Wildlife Recovery Center, Barcelona, 22.12.2010 © Ricard Gutiérrez
Thanks to the interest of Àlex Lorente and the staff of the Medes, Montgrí and Baix Ter Natural Park the bird could be trapped to be treated. The Rural Agents and the people of the Empordà Marshes Natural Park helped it at the first time and the people of the Torreferrussa Recovery Center did the surgery. Wildlife Service personnel helped in several ways. To all the people concerned in the birds fate too.
Gutiérrez, R. (ed.) 2010. The Red-footed Booby at l'Empordà, Catalonia, on December 2010. 2nd for Europe. Epilogue. Retrieved from http://www.rarebirdspain.net/arbsi038.htm
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The Red-footed Booby at l'Empordà, Catalonia, on December 2010. 2nd for Europe.Epilogue.
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