Bird Report 2021 - In Progress

The Report sections listed below are largely complete and may be consulted here. They remain subject to further alteration until the final Report, complete with photographs, is published in the usual format later in the year. In the meantime, suggested changes, alterations or submissions for publication will be gratefully received by the Editor, Ernest Garcia (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

 

BIRDS IN GIBRALTAR 2021 

in progress


Compiled by Ernest Garcia

 

 

 

GIBRALTAR BIRD REPORT

 

2021

 

 

 

Editor: Dr Ernest Garcia

 

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Records Officer & Chairman

of Rarities Committee: Charles E. Perez

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AVAILABLE ON-LINE ONLY

 

Published 2022 by the

 

GIBRALTAR ORNITHOLOGICAL

AND NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY

PO Box 843

Gibraltar

 

Tel. 00 350 72639

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Web Site www.gonhs.org

 

 

© Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society 2022

 

CONTENTS

Add page nos.

Editorial

 

Acknowledgements

 

BIRDS IN GIBRALTAR 2021

Compiled by Ernest Garcia

Review of the Year

The weather 2021

The Systematic List

List of Contributors to Birds in Gibraltar 2021

 

Three recent contributions to the study of birds from Gibraltar.

Keith Bensusan and Clive Finlayson

 

Yellow-rumped Warbler Setophaga coronata. First Gibraltar record and second Iberian record.

Ernest Garcia

 

Iberian Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cooki. First Gibraltar record.

Ernest Garcia

 

House Bunting Emberiza deserti. First Gibraltar records.

Ernest Garcia

 

Gibraltar Ringing Report 2021

Charles Perez

 

Appendices

Appendix 1   Minimum daily totals of soaring raptors   spring 2021

Appendix 2   Minimum daily totals of soaring raptors   autumn 2021

 

Contributing to the Gibraltar Bird Report

 

The Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society

 

 

COVER PHOTOGRAPH:

 

 

 

 

EDITORIAL

Dr Ernest Garcia

 

 

SHOULD WE FEED WILDLIFE ?

 

Feed the birds. Tuppence a bag’ trilled Mary Poppins. The idea has caught on a massive scale and wildbird food suppliers make up a lucrative industry in many countries, especially in Europe and North America. The annual cost to regular feeders, I may add, far exceeds tuppence (two old pence); a few hundred pounds would be typical. Bird feeding can be rewarding to do. It has a feel-good factor and you get to enjoy close views of a range of species. The birds obviously benefit from being fed even though there is a real risk of disease transmission when they gather regularly in close proximity.

 

Deliberate bird feeding requires the availability of private or secluded areas, notably gardens, where feeding stations can be maintained. Gibraltar offers limited opportunities for this but there is scope for such provision in some public spaces. Of course, such species as House Sparrows, feral pigeons and the ever opportunistic Yellow-legged Gulls are expert in finding food from human discards, to the point of becoming a nuisance sometimes. They benefit from spilled food and accessible rubbish bins and sparrows soon learn to beg or steal crumbs wherever humans eat outdoors. I find it hard to refuse a hungry sparrow.

 

A few people in Gibraltar feed wildlife routinely. Recently I was surprised to come across a family who feed wild rabbits daily at an East Side site. The rabbits: up to a hundred of them, have learned to gather as soon as the deliverers arrive and are fed with carrots and other vegetables through a security fence. This probably does no harm, and may well be helping to sustain the food supply of such predators as foxes and raptors. The same cannot be said of those who feed feral cats.

 

I have nothing against cats and have been fortunate indeed to see such magnificent examples as lions, leopards, cheetahs and lynxes in the wild. I would be happy to support efforts to conserve the declining wild cats of Scotland. However, domestic cats are a problem since they massacre wildlife on an industrial scale. The essential difference between these cats and wild species is that domestic cats can rely on being fed by their owners whereas wild cats must rely on what they can catch for themselves. In nature this means that a male Wild Cat will have a home range of several square kilometres, taking in the ranges of perhaps three or four females. This low density is perfectly compatible with the survival of prey species.

 

The cat problem in Gibraltar mainly involves feral – gone-wild – homeless cats. Left to themselves most such cats would not survive. Unfortunately, there are quite unnatural ‘cat colonies’ in several areas that exist purely because well-meaning people feed them regularly. I’m sure that you know better than to do this but it is essential to try and dissuade others who do so. There is a strong case for officialdom to ensure the removal of feral cats, in the interests of local biodiversity and public health. It should be done forthwith.

 

Acknowledgments

Our Bird recorder, Charles Perez, maintained the Records Database and produced the Ringing Report. The photographs in this Report were supplied by XXXXXXX, whose excellent work is gratefully received. All those who contributed records during the year comprise the List of Contributors on Pxx.

 

 

 

REVIEW OF THE YEAR

 

Additions of new species to the Gibraltar Bird List are always of interest but they are infrequent. To be specific, during the 20 years (2001–2020) covered by this series of bird reports there have been eight years with zero additions, eight years when one new species was reported and three years when there were two. However, the 2001 report lists an exceptional four List additions. Now 2021 has also been noteworthy in having seen three new List additions: Iberian Azure-winged Magpie, House Bunting and Myrtle Warbler. These three are each of unusual interest and an appraisal of the respective records is given on Pp. x-x.

 

Novelties apart, 2021 stands out for the number of occurrences of species that are locally rare or very scarce. They included three flocks of Common Shelducks: totalling 52 individuals, a Little Swift (2nd record), a mid-January influx of storm-petrels comprising 13 European Storm-petrels and three Leach’s Storm-petrels, a Great Shearwater (6th record), a Dunlin (6th record), a Calandra Lark (5th record), a mid-April influx of Wood Warblers (seven birds), a Red-throated Pipit (4th record) and a Snow Bunting (2nd record). There were also more frequent records of Oystercatchers, Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Black-eared Wheatears than has recently been the case. These and all other records are included as usual in the Systematic List.

 

A good range of locally scarce species also figure among the 2021 records. However, the total number of species found during the year was 154, close to the annual average (151) and the same number as in 2020. It could have been considerably greater since a number of normally frequent species were not seen at all. These included the Common Tern, the Arctic and Pomarine Skuas, all lark species (except for the Calandra), the Sand Martin and the Short-toed Treecreeper. Most recent years have seen a sprinkling of records of scarce raptors but during 2021 there were no Black or Ruppell’s Vultures, no Pallid Harriers, no Red Kites, no Merlins and none of the rarer eagles. All this is just a curiosity and of no biological significance. It is a simple reflection of the variability of results to be expected from a very small territory such as Gibraltar, where most records of seabirds and raptors especially are of fly-bys.

 

The Myrtle Warbler and storm-petrel influx apart, early-year observations of note included the continued presence (from 2020) of an over-wintering Short-toed Snake-eagle that frequented the eastern sand slopes, where it was seen to capture a small lizard. Lizards and such invertebrates as beetles are characteristic of the habitat but it remains unknown what prey species made up its principal diet, although clearly there was an adequate supply. An overwintering Osprey was also present intermittently in the upper Bay area, where it was seen fishing near the western runway and landing there to consume its catches. There were also indications of an overwintering Sparrowhawk presence at both ends of the year.

 

The spring 2021 passages of soaring birds were particularly poorly evident locally, as usual due largely to unfavourable winds at key stages of the season. In fact, easterlies predominated during most of March and much of April, and coverage was weak in May. The seasonal total of soaring birds was 19,070 birds, well below the post-2001 average (25,574) not to mention the record tally of spring 2020 (57,243). The 2021 total was largely due to a sizable showing of Black Kites (11,950), a species that is now so numerous at the Strait that large counts result even when the peak movements are missed.  The Booted Eagle count of 1,784 birds, chiefly over a few days in early April, was noteworthy but all other species appeared in well below average numbers.

 

The autumn passages of soaring birds are very hard to monitor from Gibraltar since birds then often skirt the Rock or visit repeatedly without crossing. Regular counts are not carried out at this season. However, autumn 2021 produced a seasonal total of over 25,000 birds since some major movements of both Black Kites and Honey-buzzards were counted.

 

A good selection of grounded nocturnal migrants was observable during both seasons and enabled some substantial catches by ringers. These events occurred particularly during falls of migrants brought about, as usual, by a combination of east winds, poor visibility and rain during the night. Significant falls occurred in spring particularly. Following a wet night, on March 7th there were 24 Hoopoes and three early Woodchat Shrikes among a good range of pre-Saharan migrants including numbers of Common Chiffchaffs, Stonechats and Black Redstarts. Similar falls occurred at intervals in April, especially on April 9th, 10th, 15th, 16th and 25th, with trans-Saharan migrants figuring prominently.

 

 

Among the scarcer breeding species, both Peregrines and Common Kestrels did well; six Peregrine pairs and seven Common Kestrel pairs fledged a total of 13 and 21 young respectively. In contrast, only three breeding pairs of Little Owls were detected and only one of these fledged any young; the decline of this species gives cause for concern. Eagle-owl records were more frequent than usual but the presence of a nesting pair remains unestablished and local breeding has not been proved since 2005. On the positive side, over-summering by Tawny Owls was recorded in 2021 and it seems likely that a breeding presence will be confirmed before too long. All owl records in Gibraltar are of interest and should always be submitted, as indeed are breeding-season records of other locally scarce species such as the Alpine Swift, Raven, Great Tit, House Martin, Spotted Flycatcher and finches.

 

THE SYSTEMATIC LIST 2021

 

Records marked * are pending consideration by the Rarities Panel.

 

 

IMPORTANT NOTES.

 

Status definitions.

 

Vagrant: Exceptional at any time in southern Iberia (including Gibraltar), e.g. Allen’s Gallinule.

 

Local Vagrant: Exceptional in Gibraltar but not unusual in southern Spain, e.g. Woodpigeon, Moorhen.

 

Rare: Seldom recorded in Gibraltar or anywhere in southern Spain, e.g. Yellow-billed Chough and Fieldfare.

 

Occasional: Seen infrequently and not annually e.g. Common Cuckoo.

 

Regular:  Annual in small numbers. e.g. Red-necked Nightjar.

 

Common: Annual and sometimes numerous, e.g. Black Redstart.

 

Locations

Sites mentioned are shown on the Map on Page X. The term ‘Western Runway’ refers to the western end of the airfield runway, where a small loafing ground for gulls, cormorants, waders and some passerines is monitored by airfield staff.

 

Counts of migrant raptors. (See Appendices for daily totals).

Gibraltar only sees a variable fraction of the passage of raptors across the Strait. Most occur during westerly winds, when a higher proportion of the movements occur at the eastern end of the Strait. Harriers, falcons and the Osprey show only a limited tendency to seek short sea crossings and so their totals are invariably low. A daily watch is kept during the spring migration period.

 

Ringing

Birds ringed have been caught and ringed at Jews’ Gate, at the GONHS bird observatory at the south end of the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, unless otherwise stated.

 

Names.

We follow the classification, sequence and nomenclature employed in the HBW-Birdlife Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World, del Hoyo, J. & Collar, N. Eds. Volume 1 (2014) Non-passerines. Volume 2 (2016) Passerines. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.). (Also online at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology Birds of the World website https://birdsoftheworld.org/bow/home). Certain qualifiers, such as ‘Eurasian’, are omitted from vernacular names where no ambiguity results.

 

 

 

Barbary Partridge              Perdiz moruna                      Alectoris barbara

Resident.

There were frequent sightings from vegetated areas, notably the Nature Reserve and the eastern slopes. The continuing  bolstering of the population by releasing captive-bred birds, chiefly sourced as eggs from game breeders in Morocco and hatched locally, has meant that this species, which formerly could be quite elusive, is easy to find. Moreover, the birds are generally fairly tame. Forty were released in 2021. Numbers in the wild fluctuate and there is probably significant predation of chicks especially, by feral cats and gulls in particular. The current population has not been estimated recently but is likely to range up to 200 individuals after the nesting season.

 

Submitted records in 2021 included 36 during the January winter bird counts: including ten on Windmill Hill and 16 on the Upper Rock, 30 on Windmill Hill on October 2nd and 14 on the Sand Slopes above Catalan Bay on October 10th.

 

Common Shelduck            Tarro común                         Tadorna tadorna

Local vagrant: migrant.

There were an exceptional three records of apparently westbound birds. A flock of 14 flying south off the East Side on August 30th (EPRU); two, an adult and a juvenile flying west at Europa Point on September 10th (R. Perez) and 36 in two flocks, also flying west at Europa Point, on November 26th (R. Perez). Twelfth to fourteenth records.

 

One of two flocks of Shelducks seen from Europa Point.                                R. Perez.

 

Greater Flamingo               Flamenco común                 Phoenicopterus roseus

Irregular migrant, usually annual.

Four flocks were recorded: 30 flying northeast up the Bay on February 23rd, 100 flying west off Europa Point on September 24th, 40 over the Bay on September 26th and 33 heading west over Europa Point on October 11th.

 

Rock Dove                           Paloma bravía                      Columba livia

Rare. (Feral birds common).

The January winter bird counts found only 136 birds. Of these, 57 were in urban areas and gardens but the remainder were found in small flocks right around the Rock in what might be regarded as the ancestral habitat, occurring at Rock Gun, North Front, the East side, Europa Advance Road, Camp/Little Bays and Windmill Hill. This species receives very little attention locally but further observations in autumn, on October 10th, included 40 on the East Side slopes and small flocks widespread on all beaches, cliffs and coastal scrub areas, again suggesting a growing affinity for typical Rock Dove terrain.

 

Turtle Dove                          Tórtola europea                    Streptopelia turtur

Regular but scarce migrant.

Spring sightings totalled 11 birds, between April 9th and May 7th, seven of them on Windmill Hill on April 25th.

 

Only two were seen autumn, in the North Front cemetery on September 14th and 15th.

 

Collared Dove                     Tórtola turca                          Streptopelia decaocto

Common resident.

The January winter bird counts found 53 birds, 39 of them in gardens. There were however four in the frontier area, four at Europort and six in The Europa Point area. Counts on the western slopes between Witham’s Road and the Botanic Gardens included 37 on September 14th and 50 on September 16th.

 

Red-necked Nightjar         Chotacabras cuellirojo        Caprimulgus ruficollis

Regular migrant.

Single birds were seen on a Dockyard wall on April 16th, at Jews’ Gate on April 24th and at Ocean Village on May 17th.

 

Two were on Upper Rock roads at night on September 22nd. Four were ringed between September 17th and October 11th.

 

European Nightjar             Chotacabras europeo        Caprimulgus europaeus

Regular migrant.

There were no confirmed spring records but unidentified nightjars were reported from the Nature Reserve on April 25th and May 3rd.

 

Seven were ringed between September 6th and October 28th. A late bird was heard from Jews’ Gate on November 13th.

 

Alpine Swift                          Vencejo real                          Tachymarptis melba

Regular but scarce migrant. Scarce breeder.

Four were seen at the North Face, where there is a small colony, in spring. Only two other records were received, of single birds off Windmill Hill cliffs on April 1st and from Jews’ Gate on April 2nd.

 

Little Swift                            Vencejo moro                       Apus affinis

Local vagrant.

One seen among feeding Pallid Swifts at Jews’ Gate on April 2nd was only the second local record (C. Perez). The first was on August 8th 1995.

 

Pallid Swift                           Vencejo pálido                     Apus pallidus

Common migrant and breeder.

First spring arrivals were reported from the town on the rather late date of March 15th and at least 100 were there by March 26th. Some 80 birds seen off the Windmill Hill cliffs on April 1st is noteworthy for the location; they seem likely to have been among those that nest on the eastern seacliffs. The geotracking research based on the Gibraltar Museum colony (see report on Pxx) ringed 15 birds between March 18th and July 22nd, and handled eight retraps.

 

Later sightings of this under-reported species included 20 over the Rock on August 1st and seven there on September 11th.

 

Common Swift                    Vencejo común                    Apus apus

Common migrant and breeder.

A count of 89 over the Rock on April 20th was the only spring record submitted.

 

Passage of hundreds of southbound birds was noted on July 26th, July 30th and August 1st. Small numbers were seen from Europa Point throughout August. The last was one seen from Jews’ Gate on September 10th.

 

Great Spotted Cuckoo      Crialo europeo                     Clamator glandarius

Occasional migrant.

The only sighting was of one perched on the Cable-car cable on December 27th. The date indicates a returning northbound migrant.

 

Common Crane                  Grulla común                                    Grus grus

Occasional and irregular migrant.

Two were seen flying west over the Bay, follower by two others heading north there, on November 15th.

 

European Storm-petrel     Paiño europeo                     Hydrobates pelagicus

Regular in the Strait but rare onshore.

An unusual influx into coastal waters occurred early in the year, when ten were off Europa Point on January 10th and three were there on January 12th.

 

At least nine were 3–4 miles off the east coast on April 1st. and one was seen, again off the east side, on September 4th. One found onshore at the Watergardens on November 9th was ringed before being released.

 

Leach’s Storm-petrel         Paiño boreal                         Hydrobates leucorhous

Rare, late autumn and winter.

Three were with European Storm-petrels off Europa Point on January 10th. Eighth record (K. Bensusan).

 

Great Shearwater               Pardela capirotada              Ardenna gravis

Very rare autumn migrant.

One was on the sea about one mile off Catalan Bay on the fringes of a raft of 50 Cory’s Shearwaters. Sixth record (E. Garcia).

 

Scopoli’s Shearwater        Pardela cenicienta mediterránea                                                                                                                          Calonectris diomedea

Regular, mainly on passage.

At least 1,000 were seen on eastbound passage on February 20th and 600 on the following day. One was seen on February 27th and 15 on April 24th. All observations were from Europa Point.

 

Records of westbound migrants seen from Europa Point comprised just 20 on October 31st and 87 on November 1st.

 

Cory’s Shearwater             Pardela cenicienta canaria  Calonectris borealis

Common March–October. Most numerous in summer.

All observations were from Europa Point. The earliest was of five birds on May 21st. Foraging birds were then present during all watches between June 3rd and October 31st. Most gatherings were of up to 100 birds but larger concentrations occurred during October, peaking at 600 on October 2nd. During October there was an often-spectacular close feeding association with Bluefin Tuna chasing flying fish, the shearwaters pursuing and often catching airborne fish trying to escape the tuna.

 

Cory's Shearwater.                                                                              R. Perez.

 

Balearic Shearwater          Pardela balear                      Puffinus mauretanicus

All year, especially summer. Migrant.

Just 236 birds in total were reported, chiefly from Europa Point, on 25 dates between January 10th and November 13th. The largest counts were of 38 on July 27th, 35 on both June 3rd and November 13th, and 34 on May 21st.

 

Black Stork                          Cigüeña negra                     Ciconia nigra

Common migrant.

Spring migrants totalled 207 birds, between March 12th and May 22nd. They included 100 on March 12th and 73 on April 26th.

 

Two southbound migrants were seen from the east side on October 4th and one was over the Rock on November 23rd.

 

White Stork                          Cigüeña blanca                   Ciconia ciconia

Common migrant, but most bypass Gibraltar to the west.

There were 102 in total on northbound passage, all seen between April 2nd and April 28th. They included a flock of 65 on the first date,

 

One seen from Camp Bay on July 27th was an unusual summer record. Northbound birds later in the year comprised 200 on November 1st and 30 on November 3rd.

 

Eurasian Spoonbill            Espátula común                   Platalea leucorodia

Occasional migrant.

A flock of 37 was seen from the La Linea coast heading south towards Gibraltar on September 19th. Seventeenth record (A. Colorado).

 

Glossy Ibis                           Morito común                        Plegadis falcinellus

Occasional migrant.

One was seen feeding on the lawn at Atlantic Suites on July 27th. A juvenile somehow managed to find its way into the old sports hall at the Victoria Stadium, where it spent several hours on September 7th before finding an open window. More conventional behaviour involved a flock of 18 coasting south along the east side on September 18th and five flying south over the Bay on November 3rd. Thirteenth to sixteenth records (J. Sanchez, Gibraltar Chronicle, T. Moyano and C. Finlayson, respectively).

 

Black-crowned Night-heron  Martinete común           Nycticorax nycticorax

Occasional: migrant.

One was reported from Windmill Hill on April 9th. Another was heard at dawn from Westview Promenade on August 17th. Sixteenth and seventeenth records (K. Bensusan, A. Yome).

 

Cattle Egret                          Garcilla bueyera                   Bubulcus ibis

Occasional: migrant and in winter.

There were four observations of single birds: at Europa Point on February 10th, on the Europa Point foreshore on May 7th, at Eastern Beach on June 20th and on a lawn at the new Mid-town Park on November 1st.

 

Grey Heron                          Garza real                              Ardea cinerea

Regular: migrant and in winter.

A few individuals were present during both winter periods, as has become usual in recent years. Most seemed to frequent the harbour area but there were also occasional sightings from the eastern shoreline, Europa Point, Little and Camp Bays and the western runway. Birds were seen fishing or resting on rocky areas of the shoreline or in flight to and from these locations. Up to three were present during the first winter period, the last being recorded on May 11th.

 

Birds reappeared from July 24th onwards and were reported regularly from mid September onwards. No migratory activity was seen in spring but in autumn a flock of eight flew southwest over the North Mole on October 2nd. Other records of more than a couple individuals comprised five flying south on the east side on October 11th, four flying north at Westview Promenade on November 12th and nine seen from Europlaza heading south on November 21st.

 

Purple Heron                       Garza imperial                      Ardea purpurea

Occasional migrant.

Two were seen flying south towards Gibraltar over La Linea east beach on September 1st and two were seen flying south at Jews’ Gate on October 2nd.

 

Little Egret                            Garceta común                     Egretta garzetta

Occasional: migrant and in winter.

There were only three sightings, all from Europa Point: one on August 29th, two on October 4th and two on November 26th.

 

Northern Gannet                Alcatraz atlántico                 Morus bassanus

Present all year, especially winter and passage.

Frequent sightings of foraging birds, and some that were probably entering or leaving the Mediterranean, totalled 374 individuals during the first winter period and up to April 24th. They generally involved counts of up to ten per hour but 117 were seen in 100 minutes on February 4th. All were seen from Europa Point.

 

A further 414 individuals were reported from June 3rd onwards. Summer counts included nine off Europa Point on July 24th, 15 there on August 6th and 15 off Sandy Bay on August 17th. Small numbers were present thereafter until the end of the year, with a maximum count of 70 from Europa Point on October 20th.

 

European Shag                  Cormorán moñudo        Phalacrocorax aristotelis

Resident.

Local birds were seen on virtually every watch from Europa Point throughout the year. The largest numbers of individuals were detected during the second half of the year, with maximum counts of 15 (including ten juveniles) on July 24th, 17 on July 30th and 17 on October 19th. As usual birds were commuting to and from feeding areas in Gibraltar Bay and the traditional nesting/roosting sites near Governor’s Beach. There were several reports of birds feeding off Punta Carnero, five miles west of Gibraltar, early in the year. Up to four were seen with Great Cormorants on the Little Bay cliffs and there were nine on the Seven Sisters rocks off the South Mole on September 7th. One adult individual was seen on the rocky slope immediately below the lighthouse on several dates in early October, the first time ever that a Shag has been seen settled on this extremely well-watched and apparently ideal resting site.

 

European Shag.                                                    R. Perez

 

Great Cormorant                Cormorán grande                Phalacrocorax carbo

Regular: migrant and winter.

Small numbers were present during the first winter period until at least April 11th. As usual, most records came from Gibraltar Bay and Europa Point: four on January 16th were the only ones reported from the eastern coastline. Favoured resting sites included the western runway, where 20 were counted perched on railings on January 22nd, and the Seven Sisters rocks. Two flocks of northbound migrants were seen: 35 over the town on March 9th and 15 from Jews’ Gate on April 2nd.

 

The earliest returning birds seen were two at Europa Point on August 27th. Small numbers were again present throughout the second winter period. Larger counts included eight on the Little Bay cliffs on October 10th, six on the western runway on October 11th, 11 at Europa Point on October 21st, seven flying towards the detached mole on November 4th and ten seen from Western Beach on November 20th. A roost above Governor’s Beach, used nightly by up to 13 birds, was occupied throughout the autumn and winter. A flock of 24 was seen flying south on November 5th.

 

Oystercatcher                     Ostrero euroasiático            Haematopus ostralegus

Regular: migrant.

Birds were seen on nine dates between July 24th and August 17th. They totalled 40, an exceptional number locally, including 12 on July 31st and 11 on August 6th. Nearly all were seen flying west past Europa Point but two were on the foreshore there on August 13th and three were at Sandy Bay on August 17th.

 

Common Ringed Plover   Chorlitejo grande               Charadrius hiaticula

Occasional: migrant and winter.

Two were on the western runway on January 15th.

 

Whimbrel                              Zarapito trinador                   Numenius phaeopus

Regular migrant and winter.

One on the Europa Point foreshore on January 22nd was the only report during the first half of the year.

 

A total of 17 were reported on seven dates between July 25th and August 16th. Nearly all were seen from Europa Point but one was observed 1.5 miles east of Gibraltar.

 

Turnstone                            Vuelvepiedras común         Arenaria interpres

Regular, mainly winter.

One on the Europa Point foreshore on January 22nd was the only report during the first half of the year but it is likely that others were present there since the regular small wintering flock was seen up to the end of 2020.

 

One was again found at Europa Point on July 25th and there were four there on August 16th, increasing to eight on November 26th. The South Mole also attracted birds and there were 13 there on September 7th and four on September 21st.

 

Sanderling                           Correlimos tridáctilo             Calidris alba

Regular, mainly winter.

Seven were reported, on four dates between September 4th and December 4th, from Eastern Beach, Western Beach, Sandy Bay and the Europa Point foreshore.

 

Dunlin                                    Correlimos común               Calidris alpina

Local vagrant.

One was on the Europa Point foreshore rocks on August 22nd. Sixth record (D. Curran).

 

Common Sandpiper          Andarríos chico                    Actitis hypoleucos

Regular migrant. Occasional in winter.

One was at Europort on January 16th. One seen at Westview Promenade on April 11th was the sole spring record.

 

There were records on four dates in July, ten in August, seven in September and two in October. These totalled 47 birds, generally seen in ones and twos, with a maximum of seven on August 16th. However, some individuals clearly lingered and may have been recorded on several dates. Birds were seen at Europa Point and scattered locations right around the coastline. Later in the year there was one at Camp Bay and two at Western Beach on December 4th.

 

Kittiwake                               Gaviota tridáctila                  Rissa tridactyla

Occasional: migrant and winter.

There were three observations from Europa Point: two birds on February 13th, eight on February 14th and three on February 15th.

 

Slender-billed Gull             Gaviota picofina                   Larus genei

Local vagrant.

An immature bird was sitting with Black-headed Gulls on the Europa Point cliff.

 

Black-headed Gull             Gaviota reidora                     Larus ridibundus

Common migrant and common in winter.

A flock of up to 40 was present at the Europa Point outlet from the start of the year until March 18th, when 20 were there. Larger numbers were sometimes present, including 60 on January 13th, 180 on January 16th, 80 on February 11th, 130 on February 13th, 80 on February 21st and 60 on February 27th.

 

Five at Europa Point on June 23rd, and a total of 22 sightings there during July, probably involved post-breeding migrants. Similar small numbers were seen at the Point in August: 35 in total on nine dates, and September: 11 on four dates. The regular winter presence at the outlet began to become apparent from October 4th, when 26 were present. Variable small numbers remained there until the end of the year, with larger counts occasionally: 60 on November 13th, 70 on November 25th, 130 on December 3rd and 84 on December 4th. Some were also reported from Western Beach, where there were 21 on November 20th and five on December 4th.

 

 

Mediterranean Gull            Gaviota cabecinegra           Larus melanocephalus

Common: migrant and winter.

This species was more evident than usual. All sightings came from Europa Point. Birds totalled 296 in total on 16 dates between the start of the year and March 18th. Double counts were made on nine dates, peaking at 45 birds on both March 5th and March 7th. Adults comprised 68 of 99 individuals whose age was recorded.

 

One on July 3rd was the first returning bird reported. There were 112 seen in total during the second half of the year, comprising 53 on 12 dates in July, 42 on nine dates in August and 17 thereafter, including 12 on November 9th.

 

Audouin’s Gull                    Gaviota de Audouin                        Larus audouinii

Common migrant. Some remain in winter.

All observations were from Europa Point. Five adults were seen on January 24th. A further 138 birds in total were counted on 12 dates between February 8th and March 18th, most of them on March 5th when 95 were reported. One was seen on May 21st.

 

Returning birds and those reported during the second winter period totalled 803. There were ten on four dates in June, the first on June 3rd. thereafter reports totalled 408 birds on 14 dates in July: including 100 on July 25th, 355 on 16 dates in August and nine on four dates in September. There were eight on October 2nd and then one or two on eight dates until the end of the year. These figures are all from day-counts of one or two hours duration and thus probably greatly underestimate the numbersof passing migrants especially. The great majority of observations were from Europa Point as usual but they included two juveniles resting at Sandy Bay on August 3rd and seven birds there on August 17th.

 

Lesser Black-backed Gull  Gaviota sombría                 Larus fuscus

Regular: migrant and winter.

There were reports of 27 birds in total during the first winter period, on nine dates up to March 7th. They included 12 at Europa Point on February 8th.

 

Lesser Black-backed Gull.                                                                            R. Perez.

A further 35 birds in total were seen, on 13 dates between July 19th and November 26th, including 14 from Europa Point on August 30th. In total, 62 individuals were reported during the year, a modest figure but still the largest annual count since 2004 (80). It is as yet impossible to say whether this simply reflects the recent upturn in observer activity.

 

Yellow-legged Gull             Gaviota patiamarilla             Larus michahellis

Common resident.

Present in its usual abundance.

 

Gull-billed Tern                   Pagaza piconegra               Gelochelidon nilotica

Occasional: migrant.

Two were seen flying west at Europa Point on August 6th.

 

Caspian Tern                      Pagaza piquirroja                 Hydroprogne caspia

Occasional: migrant.

One was seen flying west at Europa Point on August 29th.

 

Black Tern                           Fumarel común                    Chlidonias niger

Irregular migrant.

A group of 25 was in Gibraltar Bay on August 24th. Similar occurrences were a regular late summer feature in the 20th century but have since become very uncommon.

 

Sandwich Tern                   Charrán patinegro            Thalasseus sandvicensis

Common: migrant and winter.

There were only six reports during the first winter period, totalling 15 birds, the last on March 7th. They included four at Europa Point on February 27th. It is likely that the species was under-recorded.

 

One was at Europa Point on June 6th. There were reports totalling 40 birds on 13 dates from July 19th until the end of the year. They included eight at Europa Point and four at Western Beach on December 4th. Some of the records came from the harbour area and Gibraltar Bay, where a small winter presence is usual.

 

Great Skua                           Págalo grande                      Catharacta skua

Present all year. Common migrant.

Observations totalled 19 birds on ten dates during the first winter period, the last on March 17th off Sandy Bay. They included five at Europa Point, where all other sightings occurred, on January 24th. One was seen on May 21st.

A further 25 birds in total were seen from Europa Point on 14 dates between August 15th and December 20th. They included  six on September 26th and at least four on October 2nd. The latter were in attendance together on Cory’s Shearwaters that were catching flying fish displaced by hunting tuna.

 

Puffin                                     Frailecillo atlántico              Fratercula arctica

Common migrant in the Strait but rare inshore.

Eleven were seen 3–4 miles off the east coast on April 1st. One seen 1.5 miles east of the Rock on August 3rd, an unusual summer sighting, recalls the record of an adult in breeding plumage on the sea also well off the east coast on May 4th 2021 (GBR 21: 26).

 

Razorbill                               Alca común                           Alca torda

Common: winter and migrant.

One was found dead in the harbour on January 5th. Three were seen from Europa Point on February 13th. During the second winter period there were four seen from Europa Point on November 25th.

 

Barn Owl                               Lechuza común                   Tyto alba

Occasional.

Single birds were seen at Windmill Hill on February 22nd and September 3rd. Single birds were also reported from Europa Advance road on December 6th and  in the nearby Europa Point area on December 20th. A screeching owl heard at Parson’s Lodge on September 28th seems most likely to have been this species.

 

Little Owl                               Mochuelo europeo              Athene noctua

Scarce resident.

One was heard calling above Governor’s Beach on January 15th and another was reported from the eastern cliffs of Windmill Hill on April 17th. Only three occupied territories were detected; at Catalan Bay, Both Worlds and Forbes’ Quarry. Three young were fledged at Forbes’ Quarry by the only successful pair. Former known territories at Laguna cliffs, Windmill Hill, the Lighthouse area and Moorish Castle remained vacant.

 

Scops Owl                            Autillo europeo                     Otus scops

Common migrant. Has bred.

One was heard from the Vineyards area on May 11th.

 

An injured bird that was found at Europa Point on August 13th later died. Two were seen on Signal Station road on September 21st and another was also on the Upper Rock on September 22nd. Single birds were ringed on September 13th and September 20th.

 

Tawny Owl                           Cárabo común                     Strix aluco

Regular: mainly winter.

There were six records from the general area of Jews’ Gate/The Mount: single birds on May 7th, June 3rd, July 8th, September 23rd and November 18th, as well as two on October 27th. No evidence of nesting was obtained but a breeding presence seems likely.

 

Eagle Owl                             Búho reál                              Bubo bubo

Recently re-established resident.

There were 11 reports during the first winter period and spring, when the species is vocal. An adult male was seen at several locations on the East Side cliffs on December 22nd; March 27th, 28th and 29th, April 6th and April 20th. Single birds were in the vicinity of Windmill Hill, where a disabled captive female is known to attract a wild male, on January 11th and January 20th. One was reported taking a Blackbird on the Upper Rock on March 26th. There were then reports from an undisclosed location of one bird on April 21st and 22nd.

Eagle Owl.                                                          J. Mesilio

 

Osprey                                  Águila pescadora                 Pandion haliaetus

Regular migrant and occasional in winter.

The overwintering individual from 2021 was present, probably intermittently, until at least January 19th, favouring the western runway as a resting and feeding site. Northbound migrants totalled 16, seen between March 13th and April 29th, including four birds on both April 2nd and April 3rd.

 

Southbound migrants totalling ten birds were reported between August 30th and October 4th. Two at the western runway on October 7th and one there on October 9th, may have been among those that winter in Bay area, as may have been one flying north over Europort on October 17th and one seen from Europa Point on December 6th. However, local wintering could not be confirmed, unlike in 2020/21.

 

Honey-buzzard                   Abejero europeo                  Pernis apivorus

Common migrant.

Northbound passage was poorly observable at Gibraltar but several movements went uncounted. The seasonal total was just 3,364 birds, seen between April 20th and July 18th, including 1,621 on April 29th.

 

The southbound passage, detected between August 24th and September 10th, with single stragglers on September 19th and October 1st, totalled 7,649 birds. These included 4,200 on August 29th but many more are known to have passed uncounted east of the Rock on that day. There were also 1,338 on August 30th.

 

Egyptian Vulture                Alimoche común                  Neophron percnopterus

Regular migrant.

Spring migrants totalled 39, between March 3rd and May 2nd. They included nine on April 3rd and seven on April 4th.

 

There were 21 southbound migrants reported, between August 6th and September 19th. They included seven, all adults, on September 8th.

 

Short-toed Snake-eagle   Culebrera europea              Circaetus gallicus

Common migrant. Occasional in winter.

The overwintering bird that frequented the eastern Sand Slopes in late 2021 remained there until at least February 3rd. One in that area on March 4th may also have been the same bird. In total 1,180 northbound migrants were observed between March 8th and July 31st, a modest count. They included 680 on March 12th. On April 2nd one was struck and killed by a Peregrine Falcon at the Mediterranean Steps; it fell into the sea.

Short-toed Eagle.                                                     T. Finlayson.

 

Observations during the second half of the year totalled just 61 birds, between August 1st and November 4th, all or most of them on southward passage.

 

Griffon Vulture                    Buitre leonado                      Gyps fulvus

Common migrant.

One was over the airfield on February 2nd. In total 313 northbound migrants were seen between April 2nd and June 27th, including 149 on April 28th.

 

Close-up of Griffon Vulture flying past Europa Point.                                          R. Perez      

 

There were only two subsequent records: two birds over the Rock on August 8th and a gathering of some 500 over the Bay and Rock on November 3rd, during the southward passage period.

 

Booted Eagle                      Águila calzada                     Hieraaetus pennatus

Common migrant. Occasional in winter.

There were 1,784 seen in spring, including 1,353 during a concentrated passage over April 2nd, 3rd and 4th. Observations were mainly between March 2nd and May 22nd but single birds present on at least eight dates between June 16th and August 12th seem to have included at least one individual that lingered to hunt locally.

 

Booted Eagle.                                                                                             R. Perez

 

Southbound migrants, often lingering as usual over Gibraltar during periods of levanter winds, totalled at least 483, seen between August 14th and October 20th. They included 112 on September 23rd and 100 on October 1st. One was over the Rock on November 8th.

  

Marsh Harrier                      Aguilucho lagunero                        Circus aeruginosus

Common migrant.

One headed north up the Bay on February 7th. A further 71 were reported, between March 9th and May 1st, including 24 on April 2nd and 14 on April 3rd.

 

Southbound birds were seen between August 29th and October 30th. They totalled 27, 15 of them on August 29th.

 

Hen Harrier                          Aguilucho pálido                 Circus cyaneus

Regular but scarce migrant.

Single birds were seen on April 2nd and November 23rd.

 

Montagu’s Harrier                Aguilucho cenizo            Circus pygargus

Common migrant.

Spring migrants reported totalled 28, between April 2nd and April 29th. Ten of them were on April 2nd.

 

There were 25 southbound birds in total reported between August 4th and September 10th.

 

Sparrowhawk                      Gavilán común                     Accipiter nisus

Common migrant.

Single birds were reported twice in January and twice in February, chiefly from the Windmill Hill area. An overwintering individual may have been involved. Northbound migrants totalled 327, seen between March 8th and April 29th. They included 186 seen between April 2nd and April 4th. An unseasonal individual was over the Rock on July 26th, an unusual summer record.

 

Southbound migrants totalling 81 birds were reported between August 29th and October 31st. Single birds were seen at Windmill Hill on November 7th and over Camp Bay on December 4th.

 

Black Kite                             Milano negro                                    Milvus migrans

Common migrant.

Northbound migrants totalled 11,950 birds, between January 11th and July 7th, a sizable number but still just 27% of the record count of spring 2021. The largest day counts were of 2,784 on April 3rd, 1,658 on March 12th and 1,673 on April 2nd.

 

The southbound passage was more evident and was well monitored in August. There were 16,497 birds, between July 13th and September 18th, with single stragglers on October 2nd and October 21st. The largest day counts were of 3,800 on August 6th. 2,800 on August 7th and 2,500 on July 26th.

 

Common Buzzard              Busardo ratonero                 Buteo buteo

Occasional: migrant and winter. Formerly annual migrant.

There were three records, all of spring migrants: two birds on March 13th, one on April 2nd and two on April 4th.

 

Hoopoe                                 Abubilla                                 Upupa epops

Common migrant.

Spring passage records totalled 61, between February 9th and April 18th. Most observations were of ones and twos, widely distributed in vegetated areas. However, there were 18 in the North Front cemetery on March 7th, when there were also two at Rosia and four on Windmill Hill. A late bird was on Windmill Hill on May 10th and one on the Upper Rock at Ape’s Den on June 27th was unseasonal.

 

Hoopoe.                                                               R Perez

 

Later in the year 21 were reported, between August 1st and September 19th. Four were ringed: one on February 24th and three in September.

 

European Bee-eater          Abejaruco europeo              Merops apiaster

Common migrant.

Small numbers of spring migrants, 395 in total, were counted from Jews’ Gate on nine dates between April 1st and April 29th.

 

Heavy passage was evident from Princess Caroline’s Battery during the morning on August 28th and many were heard at night passing over the South District on September 4th. There were 100 over the Rock on September 6th, 40 at Jews’ gate on September 10th and 14 also at Jews’ Gate on September 21st.

 

Single birds were ringed on September 7th and September 12th.

 

European Roller                 Carraca europea                  Coracias garrulus

Occasional: migrant.

Single birds were at Windmill Hill on April 8th and at Europa Point on July 29th. The latter bird, a juvenile, was reported to have arrived in Gibraltar by sea, having come aboard a ship in Turkey.

Roller at Europa Point.                                                                                   J. Bujega.

 

Common Kingfisher          Martín pescador común      Alcedo atthis

Regular but scarce migrant and in winter.

There were six reports of single birds, four of them in winter. The first was at Westview Promenade on January 3rd. Later sightings were on February 2nd from Europa Advance battery, Camp Bay on August 21st, the harbour area on September 26th, the harbour again on December 3rd and finally at Camp Bay on December 31st.

 

Wryneck                               Torcecuello                           Jynx torquilla

Regular but scarce migrant. Occasional in winter.

One was seen on Windmill Hill on April 10th. Two were ringed, on April 16th and April 23rd.

 

Nine more were ringed between September 7th and October 14th. Single birds were seen in the Botanic Gardens on November 1st, November 29th and December 9th. Some or all of these observations may have involved an overwintering individual that remained in the Gardens into 2022.

 

Lesser Kestrel                     Cernícalo primilla                 Falco naumanni

Regular migrant. Recently extinct breeder.

Only three records of migrants were received. One was seen from Jews’ Gate on March 12th and four were recorded there on April 2nd. One was at Europa Point on August 7th. Two apparently unpaired females were present at the former colony on the North Face during the breeding season but there was no evidence of nesting. However, an injured six-week old juvenile, still retaining some downy plumage, was found at Eastern Beach on July 2nd. It seems likely to have come from an undiscovered local nest. The young bird was well nourished but had a broken wing and other injuries attributed to attack by Yellow-legged Gulls: it died soon afterward.

 

Common Kestrel                Cernícalo vulgar                  Falco tinnunculus

Resident. Common migrant.

Local birds were widespread throughout the year. Seven at Jews’ Gate on April 2nd, followed by 11 there on April 3rd, probably included at least some migrants. Seven nests were located: at Catalan Bay, Both Worlds, Laguna/Eaton Park, the North face, Europa Point Mosque, the Devil’s Bellows at Windmill Hill and Camp Bay. All had a successful nesting season, fledging a total of 21 young.

 

Eleonora’s Falcon              Halcón de Eleonora                        Falco eleonorae

Regular but scarce migrant, especially in late summer and autumn.

Six individuals were recorded, on typical dates: at Europa Point on July 3rd, the Upper Rock on July 29th, Europa Point on July 30th, Windmill Hill on August 11th, Governor’s Lookout on August 13th and over the Rock on September 23rd.

 

Hobby                                   Alcotán                                  Falco subbuteo

Regular but scarce migrant.

Eight in total were seen between April 2nd and April 28th. Single birds on September 23rd, October 21st and October 22nd were notable as autumn records, which are infrequent.

 

Lanner Falcon*                   Halcón borní                         Falco biarmicus

Regular but scarce migrant.

One was seen from Jews’ Gate on August 27th.

 

Peregrine Falcon                Halcón peregrino                 Falco peregrinus

Resident. Some migrants occur.

Local birds were very evident throughout the year. Nesting pairs were present at North Front, Catalan Bay, the former Oil Tanks site, the Mediterranean Steps, Apes’ Den cliff and Camp Bay. No young were fledged at the Oil Tanks site but the other nests produced a total of 13 young.

 

Golden Oriole                      Oropéndola                           Oriolus oriolus

Regular migrant.

One was singing at Jews’ Gate on April 23rd. Two were on Windmill Hill on April 25th and one was there on April 26th. Single birds were ringed on April 16th and April 26th.

 

Single birds were in the North Front cemetery on September 3rd and September 8th.

 

Woodchat Shrike               Alcaudón común                 Lanius senator

Common migrant. Has bred.

Spring sightings totalled 97 birds, between March 7th and May 20th. They included ten on Windmill Hill on April 16th and 13 there on April 25th. Most observations were from that site and the North Front cemetery but there were three records (five birds) from Commonwealth Park and three from Westview Promenade. Only two were ringed, on March 15th and April 5th.

 

Later in the year there were only five records (six birds), between August 7th  and August 27th, two birds at Europa Point and four at the North Front cemetery.

 

Iberian Azure-winged Magpie     Rabilargo                   Cyanopica cooki

Local vagrant.

One found on Windmill Hill on April 21st by Victor Rocca constituted an unexpected first record for Gibraltar (fossils apart). The record is discussed further with the other first records made in 2021 on Ppxx-xx. The bird was reported on a further five dates until May 18th, usually at the south end of the Rock but once at Rock Gun, on May 13th, at the northernmost end of the Nature Reserve. There were no further sightings until September 7th when it (or another, which seems very unlikely) reappeared at Jews’ Gate. There were nine further sightings between then and the end of the year, and continuing into 2022. The bird again frequented the southern part of the Rock, apart from a visit to the Botanic Gardens on October 28th. It was attracted to fruiting olive trees at the Vineyards during late December.

 

Jackdaw                               Grajilla                                    Corvus monedula

Occasional. Has bred.

One frequented the refuse tip on Europa Advance road during the second half of March. Two were on Windmill Hill on April 4th. Single birds were seen at the Northern Defences on April 17th and Europa Point on April 18th. One was present in the northern part of the Upper Town, centred on the Moorish Castle, from at least July 27th until the end of the year and into 2022. One was again reported from Europa Advance Road on December 25th. It is possible that a single individual was involved in most of these records.

 

Raven                                    Cuervo                                   Corvus corax

Regular. Former resident.

A pair was reported on scattered dates throughout the year except during March and May. Three were seen together on seven dates between June 17th and September 11th and there were six on August 21st. Local nesting was not observed but may have occurred either in Gibraltar or in the near hinterland. Most observations in Gibraltar were made in the northern half of the Nature Reserve but the birds ranged south to Europa Point at least once.

 

Blue Tit                                 Herrerillo común                  Cyanistes caeruleus

Common resident.

The winter bird count on January 16th found 39 birds, most of them on the Upper Rock but including three in gardens and one at Jacob’s Ladder. In general, birds frequented most vegetated areas on the west side of the Rock, including the larger gardens, but records of one in the North Front cemetery on September 14th and four there on September 15th were more unusual. Birds ringed totalled 59 and there were 34 retraps of local birds.

 

Great Tit                                Carbonero común               Parus major

Scarce resident.

The only sight records were from the Botanic Gardens, where there were three on April 25th and two on September 1st. Seven were ringed at Jews’ Gate but five of them were retrapped individuals.

 

Calandra Lark                     Calandria común     Melanocorypha calandra

Local vagrant.

One was Windmill Hill on April 16th. Fifth record (K. Bensusan).

 

Zitting Cisticola                   Cistícola buitrón                   Cisticola juncidis

Regular: migrant and in winter. Has bred.

There were five records, all from the south of the Rock. Two were at Europa Point on July 18th and there was one there on July 31st and August 13th. One was on Windmill Hill on September 14th and there were three there on October 2nd.

 

Isabelline Warbler              Zarcero pálido                      Iduna opaca

Occasional: migrant.

One was in Commonwealth Park on April 25th.

 

Melodious Warbler             Zarcero políglota                  Hippolais polyglotta

Common migrant.

Spring sight records totalled 189 birds, reported between April 9th and May 20th. A considerable number were found on April 25th, when there were 91 on Windmill Hill and 23 in the North Front cemetery. There were 44 ringed in spring, between March 31st – a record early date – and May 20th.

 

Only six were seen in autumn, on four dates between August 18th and September 11th. An additional 16 were ringed, between August 10th and September 24th.

 

Sedge Warbler                    Carricerín común     Acrocephalus schoenobaenus

Local vagrant.

One was ringed on March 30th. Eleventh record (C. Perez).

Sedge Warbler, 11th record.                                             C. Perez

 

Common Reed-warbler    Carricero común              Acrocephalus scirpaceus

Common migrant.

There were 11 ringed in spring, between April 23rd and May 4th.

 

Four were seen during the southward passage period: in the North Front cemetery on August 14th, September 15th and September 16th, and in the Vineyards on September 5th. An exceptional 64 were ringed between August 18th and October 25th.

 

Grasshopper Warbler       Buscarla pintoja                   Locustella naevia

Occasional: migrant.

Three were ringed in spring, all on April 25th.

 

One was seen at Sandy Bay on October 3rd. Two more individuals were ringed, on September 13th and September 21st.

 

House Martin                       Avión común                                    Delichon urbicum

Common migrant. Scarce summer resident.

Very few reports were received, most of them of small groups noticed on northward passage. The first was one at Europa Point on February 8th. A further 78 birds in total were observed, on eight dates between February 12th and May 18th, the largest count being 28 on April 29th.

 

Ten at Europa point on August 24th and one at Levant Battery on October 15th were the only records during the second half of the year.

 

Red-rumped Swallow       Golondrina dáurica             Cecropis daurica

Common migrant. Has bred.

Northward passage was only reported on five dates in spring, between April 2nd and April 17th, mainly from Jews’ Gate. In total just 89 birds were seen.

 

Post-breeding there were 57 birds seen in total, on seven dates between October 5th and November 16th. They included 35 seen from Levant Battery on October 5th and 17 there on October 22nd. In addition, a noteworthy 35 birds were ringed at Jews’ Gate between October 14th and November 29th, largely with the aid of tape lures.

 

Barn Swallow                      Golondrina común              Hirundo rustica

Common migrant. Formerly bred.

The earliest record was of six at Europa Point on January 28th. A further 447 individuals were reported between January 29th and May 20th, most of them in late March and early April, although 45 arrivals were on April 29th. One was seen at Europa Point on June 6th.

 

Mainly small numbers, a total of 256 birds, were noted on southward passage between July 25th and Octor 22nd. They included 70 at Europa Point on August 24th and 110 seen with other hirundines from Levant Battery on October 15th. Tape-luring at Jews’ Gate resulted in the ringing of 86 birds, between September 6th and October 28th.

 

Crag Martin                          Avión roquero                       Ptyonoprogne rupestris

Common: migrant and winter resident. Has bred.

The winter bird count in January found 1,291 birds but the majority of the roosting population departs to feed in Spain at first light, before the count begins. Four were ringed at Jews’ Gate on February 13th and one was ringed on March 3rd. One at Jews’ Gate on April 2nd was the last sighting of the first winter period.

 

The first returning bird was seen from Jews’ Gate on Septmber 28th. Numbers built up slowly during early October but there were already over 2,000 with other feeding hirundines seen from Levant Battery on October 15th. The very large numbers that roosted in winter at the traditional site in the Governor’s Beach caves 2020/21 were eclipsed by record numbers using the site in 2021/22. They were censused as part of an ongoing study (see Pp.xx) that found 18,226 birds on December 8th and 20,000 there on December 10th, by far the largest known roost of this species in the world. There were 341 birds ringed between October 18th and the end of the year, most of them in Vanguard Cave at Governor’s Beach.

 

Western Bonelli’s Warbler  Mosquitero papialbo         Phylloscopus bonelli

Common migrant.

Spring migrants totalled 21, between April 2nd and April 25th. They included three in Commonwealth Park on April 16th. Birds ringed in spring totalled 91, between March 29th and May 4th.

 

Single birds were seen in the Botanic Gardens on August 10th and at Governor’s Lookout on August 13th. Four more were ringed between September 17th and September 19th.

 

Wood Warbler                     Mosquitero silbador             Phylloscopus sibilatrix

Occasional: migrant.

Single birds were seen on Windmill Hill, an unusual location for this species, on April 10th and April 15th. Seven were ringed between April 13th and April 25th. Together these records amount to a sizable influx for the area.

 

Willow Warbler                    Mosquitero musical             Phylloscopus trochilus

Common migrant.

A very early individual was ringed at Jews’ Gate on February 27th. Grounded migrants were reported widely in spring, between March 20th and May 10th. They totalled 259 birds, including a notable fall on April 25th when there were 63 on Windmill Hill, 36 in the North Front cemetery, 31 around Europa Point, three in the Botanic Gardens and one in Commonwealth Park. A further 181 birds were ringed in spring, between March 24th and May 18th.

 

Sight records were sparse in autumn. They totalled 32 birds, between August 21st and October 14th, including 15 on Windmill Hill on October 2nd. There were 159 ringed between August 21st and October 18th.

 

Iberian Chiffchaff                Mosquitero ibérico               Phylloscopus ibericus

Common migrant.

Spring sightings totalled 13, between February 23rd and April 4th. One was in Commonwealth Park on March 14th but the others were reported from Jews’ Gate, where an additional five were ringed between March 29th and April 17th.

 

Post-breeding sightings totalled 11 birds, between July 29th and October 9th. There were 50 ringed between August 10th and October 13th. In addition, a very late individual was caught on November 19th; the identification was confirmed in the hand and by hearing it call.

 

Common Chiffchaff           Mosquitero común               Phylloscopus collybita

Common migrant and common in winter.

The winter bird count on January 16th found 80 birds, which were widely distributed within nearly all vegetated areas; they included nine in Commonwealth Park and 12 in The Convent garden. Ten on Windmill Hill and 12 at Europa Point on March 7th may have included spring migrants, the last of which was seen on April 15th. Birds ringed during the first half of the year totalled 35, the last on April 19th.

 

Two in the North Front cemetery on September 8th were the earliest returning birds seen. There were 186 ringed between September 6th and the end of the year.

 

Blackcap                              Curruca capirotada              Sylvia atricapilla

Common: resident, migrant and winter.

The winter bird count on January 16th found 107 birds, most of them in the nature Reserve and in larger gardens. No unusual concentrations were reported during the passage periods but a count of 38 in the Botanic Gardens on November 1st may be noteworthy. Birds ringed totalled 1,978: 292 in spring and 1,696 during the second half of the year.

 

Garden Warbler                  Curruca mosquitera                        Sylvia borin

Common migrant.

There were four sight records in spring of this relatively unobtrusive migrant, all from relatively open locations. Three were on Windmill Hill on April 10th, three on the Europa Point foreshore on April 24th, one in the North Front cemetery on April 25th and two in Commonwealth Park also on April 25th. Birds ringed in spring totalled 29, between April 9th and May 18th.

 

Autumn sightings were also from relatively open locations, chiefly the North Front cemetery. They totalled 11 birds, between August 21st and October 7th. Many more were caught by ringers; 216 new birds between August 20th and October 26th, followed by a late individual on November 10th.

 

Orphean Warbler                Curruca mirlona                   Sylvia hortensis

Common migrant.

Migrants totalling 13 birds were seen on six dates between March 30th andd May 4th. They included four on Windmill Hill on April 10th. Seven were ringed between March 27th and May 4th.

 

There were no sight records in autumn but 24 were ringed between September 1st and October 12th.

 

Sardinian Warbler              Curruca cabecinegra          Sylvia melanocephala

Common resident.

The winter bird count on January 16th found 135 birds, including 40 on Windmill Hill. In general, birds were widespread in all suitable habitats year-round. The largest reported concentrations came from Windmll Hill, where there were 31 on April 10th and 45 on October 2nd. A record of three on May 5th in Commonwealth Park is noteworthy in what is still a relatively newly created green space. Birds ringed totalled 325.

 

Subalpine Warbler             Curruca carrasqueña          Sylvia cantillans

Common migrant.

The first observation was of one at Camp Bay on February 28th. A further 50 birds were seen, between March 7th  and May 18th, including seven on Windmill Hill both on April 9th and April 15th. Birds ringed in spring totalled 15, between March 30th and May 4th.

 

Single birds were on the Upper Rock on October 18th and in the Botanic Gardens on November 1st. Five were ringed between September 20th and October 13th.

 

Common Whitethroat        Curruca zarcera                   Sylvia communis

Common migrant.

Spring migrants reported totalled 176 birds, between March 30th and May 18th. Over 100 were seen on Windmill Hill during the second half of April, including 26 on April 25th. Birds ringed in spring totalled 25, between March 29th and April 28th.

 

There was only one sight record in autumn, a single bird at Europa Ploint on October 4th. However, a further 33 birds were ringed, between September 4th and October 7th.

 

Spectacled Warbler           Curruca tomillera                 Sylvia conspicillata

Regular migrant. Has bred.

Single birds were present on Windmill Hill on April 17th and 25th, and at Europa Point on April 25th. Three were on Windmill Hill on April 26th.

 

Dartford Warbler                 Curruca rabilarga                 Sylvia undata

Regular migrant. Occasional in winter.

There were six on Windmill Hill and another at Europa Point on March 7th.

 

Later in the year there were single birds on Windmill Hill on October 2nd and in the North Front cemetery on November 3rd and 4th. One was ringed on October 23rd.

 

Wren                                      Chochín                                Troglodytes troglodytes

Common resident.

Few reports were received, chiefly of birds seen on the Upper Rock, where most of the 25 birds seen on the winter bird count on January 16th were found.  They included four birds on Windmill Hill on October 2nd. Only 14 birds were caught by ringers, three of which were retrapped individuals.

 

Common Starling               Estornino pinto                     Sturnus vulgaris

Common in some winters.

Three were with Spotless Starlings at Western Beach on January 15th. There were 18, also with Spotless Starlings, on Windmill Hill on February 21st. Three were seen in the Europa Point area on November 21st and one was there on December 22nd. One was ringed on October 14th.

 

Spotless Starling                Estornino negro                   Sturnus unicolor

Common resident.

The winter bird on January 16 found 30 birds, half of them at Western Beach, seven on Windmill Hill and most of the rest in the town area. Nearly all subsequent reports came from Windmill Hill, an exception being six at Western Beach on November 20th. The numbers seen on Windmill Hill fluctuated during the year but peaked at 42 birds on April 17th and 31 on September 14th.

 

Mistle Thrush                      Zorzal charlo                         Turdus viscivorus

Local vagrant.

A first-year bird was ringed on October 26th.

 

Song Thrush                       Zorzal común                       Turdus philomelos

Common: migrant and winter.

The winter bird count on January 16th found seven birds, four on Windmill Hill and three on the Upper Rock. Few were reported during the remainder of the first winter period and in spring. There were five on Windmill Hill on March 7th and three other single birds were seen, the last on April 23rd. Four were ringed between February 13th and April 19th.

 

Later in the year over 100 were seen between October 14th and November 21st, including counts of 40+ at the southern end of the Rock on October 18th and 24 in the North Front cemetery on November 6th. A further 173 were ringed, between October 9th and November 21st.

 

Redwing                               Zorzal alirrojo                        Turdus iliacus

Occasional: migrant.

A notable count of 23 was made at the northern end of the Rock on October 26th. There were four other sightings, of single birds, between October 24th and November 15th, the last of these at Grand Parade. Single birds were ringed on November 11th and 12th.

 

Blackbird                              Mirlo común                          Turdus merula

Common resident.

The winter bird count on January 16th found 87 birds, including 14 on Windmill Hill. Birds were widespread all year in all vegetated areas, including on the shrubbier eastern slopes. Up to 18 were present on Windmill Hill between April 9th and April 25th, which may have included some migrants. A count of eight at Commonwealth Park on April 25th is noteworthy for a mid-town location.

 

Larger site counts during the rest of the year included 16 on Windmill Hill on September 14th and 14 in the Botanic gardens on November 1st. Birds ringed during the year totalled 125 and there were also 60 retraps of local birds, indicative of their resident status.

 

Ring Ouzel                           Mirlo capiblanco                   Turdus torquatus

Occasional migrant.

All reports were during the southward passage period. Two were above Jews’ gate on October 26th and one was at the northern end of the Nature Reserve onOctober 26th. Single birds were ringed on October 10th, 26th and 27th.

 

Spotted Flycatcher            Papamoscas gris                 Muscicapa striata

Common migrant. Some breed.

At least four breeding pairs were located, three in the Botanic Gardens and one in the Trafalgar cemetery nearby. Scattered reports in June, July and August from the Convent garden, Green Lane road (2 birds), Tovey Cottage on the Upper Rock (3) and Jacob’s Ladder (3) may have involved locally nesting birds.

 

The earliest arrival noted was a bird ringed on April 23rd. Five more were ringed in spring, up to May 18th. The earliest observation in the Botanic Gardens was of one on April 25th, when there were also eight others seen at other sites, including three on Windmill Hill and three in Commonwealth Park. There were 13 on Windmill Hill on May 18th, clearly migrants.

 

There were six reports, of up to four birds, between September 10th and September 29th, from the North Front cemetery and Botanic Gardens. Nine were ringed in autumn, between September 5th amd October 6th.

 

Robin                                     Petirrojo                                 Erithacus rubecula

Common: migrant and winter. Has bred.

The winter bird count on January 16th found 46 birds. A pair in Commonwealth Park, first noted on April 10th, remained there until at least July 2nd, but no evidence of nesting was found. One was nearby at Wellington Front on August 21st. Elsewhere, the last sighting of the first winter period was from the North Front cemetery, where there was one on March 30th. There were 38 ringed during the first half of the year, the last on April 13th.

 

The earliest returning birds seen were two on Windmill Hill on October 2nd. There was a notable autumn passage, with at least birds reported 200, including 100+ on the southern end of the Nature reserve on October 24th and 32 in the Botanic Gardens on November 1st. A noteworthy 1,423 birds were ringed between September 24th and the end of the year.

 

Nightingale                          Ruiseñor común                  Luscinia megarhynchos

Common migrant. Has bred.

Spring sightings totalled 141 birds, between March 27th and May 13th. The great majority were seen around Jews’ Gate and on Windmill Hill. The latter site held 23 on April 10th, 30 on April 16th and 22 on April 25th. Three were seen in Commonwealth Park. There were 53 ringed between March 29th and April 29th.

 

A juvenile that was found at St Martin’s school on July 1st could not have travelled far and may have hatched in Gibraltar. There were two at Jews’ Gate on August 17th and another was seen there on August 25th. One was on Windmill Hill on September 14th. Another 45 were ringed between August 10th and October 14th.

 

Pied Flycatcher                   Papamoscas cerrojillo         Ficedula hypoleuca

Common migrant.

Spring records totalled just 14 birds, reported on seven dates between April 9th and April 25th. They appeared at scattered sites including Windmill Hill (5), Commonwealth Park (3) and the Botanic Gardens (2). Birds ringed totalled 32, between April 9th and May 4th.

 

Sightings were a little more frequent in autumn when 31 were seen, between September 9th and November 4th. Most were seen in and around the Botanic Gardens, where there were seven both on September 15th and September 16th. A further 123 birds were ringed, between September 6th and October 18th.

 

Black Redstart                    Colirrojo tizón                       Phoenicurus ochruros

Common: migrant and winter.

The winter bird count on January 16th found 67 birds, including 13 on Windmill Hill. Spring migrants were conspicuous on March 7th, when there were 60 on Windmill Hill – including an individual of the very dark Iberian variant ‘aterrimus’ – and 70 in the North Front cemetery. Ten were ringed during the first part of the year, the last on March 16th.

 

Post-breeding arrivals were evident in late October on the Upper Rock, where there were 25+ at the southern on October 24th and 20+ in the northern section on October 26th. There were also concentrations in the North Front cemetery in early November, including 22 on November 5th. Birds ringed in autumn totalled 552, between October 8th and the end of the year.

 

Common Redstart             Colirrojo real                   Phoenicurus phoenicurus

Common migrant.

Spring sight records totalled 163, between March 26th and May 18th. The majority were seen on Windmill Hill, where there were 15 on April 10th, 25 on April 16th and 35 on April 25th. The North Front cemetery also attracted birds, including 13 on April 25th. Birds ringed in spring totalled 29, between March 29th and April 30th.

 

Post-breeding migrants were seen between September 11th and October 14th., chiefly in the North Front cemetery. They totalled 33 birds. There were also another 98 birds ringed, between September 5th and October 27th.

 

Blue Rock-thrush               Roquero solitario                 Monticola solitarius

Resident.

Present in usual locations but not often reported and probably under-recorded. Most records were from the North Front cemetery, the eastern slopes, Europa Point and especially Windmill Hill. Most observations were of one or two birds but there were five on Windmill Hill on April 16th. Two were ringed, on October 6th and October 28th.

 

Whinchat                              Tarabilla norteña                  Saxicola rubetra

Common migrant.

Spring migrants were relatively prominent with 59 reported between March 30th and May 4th. Most were seen on Windmill Hill, where there were 11 on April 25th but a few appeared in the North Front cemetery. One was in the unexpected location of the new Midtown Park on April 9th.

 

There were three on Windmill Hill on October 2nd and one was at Europa Point above the Mosque on October 4th. Two were in the North Front cemetery on both October 14th and October 18th.

 

Stonechat                             Tarabilla común                   Saxicola torquatus

Common: migrant and winter.

Very few were found during the winter bird count on January 16th; just six on Windmill Hill and one in L:ittle Bay. An influx of migrants was evident on March 7th, when there were 45 on Windmill Hill, four at Europa Point and 15 on the North Front cemetery. None were seen in spring after this date.

 

The first returning birds were noted on October 2nd, when there were 19 on Windmill Hill. Only small numbers were seen later in the year, six in the North Front cemetery on October 14th being the largest site-count. Eight were ringed between October 8th and November 20th.

 

Northern Wheatear            Collalba gris                          Oenanthe oenanthe

Common migrant.

Spring migrants seen totalled 37, between March 5th and April 28th. They were found in the North Front cemetery, at Westview Promenade (4 birds), the Europa Point foreshore and, chiefly and as usual, on Windmill Hill; where there were nine on April 16th. One was ringed on March 30th.

 

Single birds were seen on September 3rd and October 10th in the North Front cemetery and on October 4th at Europa Point.

 

Black-eared Wheatear      Collalba rubia                       Oenanthe hispanica

Common migrant.

There were 17 seen in spring, between April 9th and April 26th. One was in the North Front cemetery but all the others were on Windmill Hill, including nine on April 9th. One was ringed on April 9th.

 

Nine birds were seen between September 3rd and September 17th, all in the North front cemetery. The annual total of 27 individuals was the largest since the 20th century, when falls of migrants sometimes included similar or larger numbers.

 

Firecrest                               Reyezuelo listado                Regulus ignicapilla

Regular but scarce: migrant and winter.

There were four records of single birds during the first half of the year; in the Trafalgar  Cemetery on January 5th, and in the Botanic Gardens on March 1st, May 17th and May 18th. The May records, very likely of the same individual, were unusually late.

 

Single birds were seen on the Upper Rock on October 16th and October 27th.

 

House Sparrow                  Gorrión común                     Passer domesticus

Common resident.

The winter bird count on January 16th found 289 birds. These were widely distributed in gardens, built-up areas and open locations but only four were found in the Nature Reserve, which is densely vegetated. The few site counts received later in the year included up to 20 in the North Front cemetery in March and up to 15 on Windmill Hill in April. Eleven were ringed.

 

Tree Pipit                              Bisbita arbóreo                     Anthus trivialis

Regular migrant.

There were 81 sight records, most of them from Swindmill Hill, between March 29th and April 26th. Nineteen on Windmill Hill on April 25th had increased to 20 birds by the following day, some of which may have spent the night there. Three were ringed in spring; on April 14th. 16th and 20th.

 

 One was at Jews’ Gate on September 22nd. Five were ringed in autumn; three on September 12th and two on September 16th.

 

Red-throated Pipit              Bisbita gorgirrojo                  Anthus cervinus

Local vagrant.

One was at Europa Point on April 25th. Fourth record (K. Bensusan, C. Finlayson & C. Perez ).

 

Red-throated Pipit at Europa Point.                                                                                                 C. Finlayson.

 

Meadow Pipit                       Bisbita pratense                   Anthus pratensis

Common: migrant and winter.

The winter bird count on January 16th found 22 birds, all of them in the Windmill Hill and Europa Flats areas. There were eight on Windmill Hill and three at Europa Point on March 7th. Four were recorded from Jews’ Gate on April 1st.

 

Few were seen in autumn with the exception of 34 recorded from Europa Advance road on October 22nd.

 

Tawny Pipit                          Bisbita campestre                Anthus campestris

Regular migrant.

One was at Jews’ Gate on April 2nd and there were three records from Windmill Hill, single birds on April 9th and 26th, and two birds on April 10th.

 

Yellow Wagtail                    Lavandera boyera                Motacilla flava

Regular but scarce migrant.

Spring sightings totalled 17 birds, on five dates between February 27th and May 18th, including seven at Europa Point on April 25th.

 

In autumn there were 12 birds on four dates between September 16th and October 15th, most of them at Europa Point.

 

Grey Wagtail                        Lavandera cascadeña        Motacilla cinerea

Regular but scarce: migrant and winter. Has bred.

One on Windmill Hill on January 16th was the only report during the first half of the year. In autumn there were five observations: two on the Europa Point foreshore on September 11th, two in the harbour on September 26th, one on Windmill Hill on October 2nd, one at Western Beach on October 13th and three in the North Front cemetery on November 5th.

 

White Wagtail                      Lavandera blanca                Motacilla alba

Regular but scarce migrant. Regular in winter. Has bred.

Only small numbers were reported, none of them during the breeding season. The winter bird count on January 16th found 10 birds, eight on the isthmus and two at Europa Point. Thereafter the largest site counts were of six in the North Front cemetery on January 31st and March 7th and seven at Europa Point on March 5th. A Pied Wagtail M. a. yarrellii was in the North Front cemetery on February 16th. Single birds in Commonwealth Park on April 23rd and at Europa point on April 25th were the last reported in spring.

 

Pied Wagtail perched on a Norfolk Island pine.                                                              D Bartolo.

 

Only ten birds in total were seen during the second half of the year, on six dates between September 26th and December 4th. Four at Western Beach on December 4th was the largest count.

 

Chaffinch                              Pinzón vulgar                       Fringilla coelebs

Common: migrant and winter.

Very few were reported during the early year; the winter bird count on January 16th found 18 birds, nearly all on the Upper Rock. Further winter and spring records totalled  just 14 birds, seen on six dates between February 5th and April 16th. They included eight on Windmill Hill on March 7th. Five were ringed between February 23rd and March 31st. A male was in the Botanic Gardens on June 17th.

 

Returning birds were reported from October 26th when one was in the northern Nature reserve. A sizable southward passage, over 1,000 birds, was seen over the Rock on November 3rd. Other records were of very small numbers and there were no December reports, which is unusual. Observations included up to three in the Botanic Gardens in early November. A further 21 were ringed, from October 16th until November 15th.

 

Brambling                            Pinzón real                           Fringilla montifringilla

Occasional: migrant.

Twelve were identified among the large Chaffinch passage seen over the Rock on November 3rd.

 

Bullfinch                               Camachuelo común                       Pyrrhula pyrrhula

Rare migrant.

A first-year female was ringed on November 16th.

 

Greenfinch                           Verderón común                  Chloris chloris

Common: migrant and winter. Some resident.

The winter bird count on January 16th found 37 birds, chiefly on the Upper Rock and in gardens. An observation of three newly fledged  birds in the Trafalgar cemetery on May 6th was the only report of nesting received. These apart, 44 birds were seen between March 7th and May 18th. Most were observed from the Upper Rock, with a few on Windmill Hill and three in Commonwealth Park on May 6th. Sixteen were ringed between February 15th and May 18th.

 

Post-breeding records totalled 156 birds, seen between August 19th and November 6th. Again, most were seen from the Upper Rock but there were up to seven in the Botanic Gardens in November and 27 were in the North Front cemetery on November 1st. Another 194 individuals were ringed between August 4th and November 20th.

 

Linnet                                                Pardillo común                     Linaria cannabina

Common migrant.

There were reports of 58 on eleven dates between January 15th and May 10th. They included 32 seen from Jews’ Gate on April 2nd and seven there on April 3rd. Other records were of no more than three birds, seen at Jews’ Gate, on Windmill Hill and in the North Front cemetery. One was ringed on March 15th.

 

Southbound migrants were only reported on three dates: five on Windmill Hill on October 2nd, several flocks over the Rock on October 24th and a single bird on November 3rd. Two were ringed in autumn, on October 25th and November 7th.

 

Goldfinch                              Jilguero común                    Carduelis carduelis

Common: migrant and winter. Has bred.

Just 77 were reported during the first half of the year, on 12 dates between January 15th and April 26th. Observations were mainly from Windmill Hill and Jews’ Gate. They included 54 seen on northward passage at Jews’ Gate between April 1st and April 4th.

 

In autumn there were reports of 361 on 14 dates between October 2nd and November 21st, again of birds seen chiefly from the Upper Rock. Some small movements went uncounted during this period. There were 22 birds ringed, all of them in autumn between October 2nd and November 19th.

 

Serin                                      Serín verdecillo                    Serinus serinus

Common: migrant and winter. Has bred.

The winter bird count on January 16th found 17 birds, 13 of them on the southern flats. The sparse spring reports included 15 at Europa Point on February 21st, 45 seen on northward passage at Jews’ Gate on March 8th and six on Windmill Hill on April 26th. There were nine further records of one or two birds, up to May 18th. Three were ringed on February 27th and another on March 2nd. Mid-year sightings comprised single birds at Europa Point on June 3rd and in the Botanic Gardens on July 2nd, and two at Europa point on August 1st.

 

Subsequent sightings totalled 62 birds, on eight dates between October 10th and December 4th. The only double-figure counts were of 24 on the Upper Rock on October 26th and 21 in the North Front cemetery on November 1st. There were 48 ringed between October 9th and November 21st.

 

Siskin                                                Jilguero lúgano                    Spinus spinus

Regular but scarce migrant. Occasional in winter.

One was in the Botanic Gardens on February 23rd. There were three spring records from Jews’ Gate: four birds on March 31st, four on April 2nd and seven on April 10th.

 

Autumn passage was more evident than usual, Several flocks were seen from the Upper Rock on October 24th and there were 29 there on October 26th and one on October 28th. Six were seen from Europa Point on November 13th. Birds ringed totalled 50, all in autumn between October 23rd and November 17th.

 

Myrtle Warbler                     Picafollas coronado                        Setophaga coronata

Vagrant.

One was found in aloes at Europa Point on February 27th and remained there until March 3rd. First record (L. López and M. Morales Holgado) and only the second for the Iberian Peninsula. See Pp.x-x for an account of this exceptional record.

 

Myrtle Warbler at Europa Point.                                                                         C. Finlayson.

 

Snow Bunting                     Escribano nival                    Plectrophenax nivalis

Vagrant.

One was on the Europa Point foreshore on November 4th. Second record (T. Finlayson).

 

Snow Bunting at Europa foreshore.                                           T. Finlayson.

 

Corn Bunting                      Escribano triguero               Emberiza calandra

Occasional: migrant and winter.

Up to four were present on Windmill Hill on nine dates between March 7th and May 18th.

 

Ortolan Bunting                  Escribano hortelano                        Emberiza hortulana

Occasional: migrant.

One was on Windmill Hill on April 16th and two were at Princess Caroline’s Battery on September 8th.

 

Cirl Bunting                         Escribano soteño                 Emberiza cirlus

Occasional: migrant.

A female was ringed on April 16th.

 

House Bunting                   Escribano sahariano           Emberiza deserti

Vagrant.

A female was caught and ringed at Jews’ Gate on September 19th and a male was seen at Europa Point on October 15th. First and second records (C.Perez and K. Bensusan; R. Perez respectively). See Pp.x-x for an account of these exceptional records.

House Bunting in arrested moult.                                                 C. Finlayson

 

Appendix 1 (Soaring Bird Tables)

 

      APPENDIX 1       MINIMUM DAILY TOTALS OF SOARING RAPTORS   SPRING 2021
                       
See Systematic List for records of falcons and species represented by fewer than ten individuals
                       
Date Osprey Honey-buzzard Egyptian Vulture Short-toed Eagle Griffon Vulture Booted Eagle Marsh Harrier Montagu's Harrier Sparrowhawk Black Kite Day Totals
11-Jan                   2 2
13-Jan                   1 1
14-Jan                   1 1
02-Feb         1           1
07-Feb             1       1
08-Feb                   1 1
10-Feb                   85 85
12-Feb                   14 14
21-Feb                   75 75
25-Feb                   10 10
26-Feb                   200 200
03-Mar     2             15 17
04-Mar                   200 200
05-Mar                   120 120
08-Mar       6         9 8 23
09-Mar             1   6 1 8
12-Mar     6 680   5 1   15 1658 2365
13-Mar 1     53         11 879 944
22-Mar 1     10   15 4   17 550 597
23-Mar                   10 10
24-Mar 1         8     4   13
01-Apr                 1 6 7
02-Apr 4   5 23 45 657 24 10 58 1673 2499
03-Apr 4   9 91 5 500 14 5 90 2784 3502
04-Apr 2   7 174 9 196 5 6 38 563 1000
07-Apr                 1   1
11-Apr 1   1 12 4 65 2 1 33 362 481
12-Apr                 1   1
17-Apr 1                   1
20-Apr   4   34 14 48 6 3 17 955 1081
21-Apr       9 2 4 1   5 140 161
25-Apr   1       1         2
26-Apr   350   1     1     550 902
27-Apr   60 3   2 18 2 1 1 34 121
28-Apr   380   4 149 78 4   12 178 805
29-Apr 1 1621 1   1 56 5 2 8 630 2325
30-Apr   256   50   1       28 335
01-May   76   7 3 2 1     52 141
02-May     5               5
10-May   20                 20
13-May   150               68 218
15-May       1             1
17-May         3           3
21-May   15   1             16
22-May   420   14   122       84 640
23-May         28           28
01-Jun         38           38
04-Jun         1           1
05-Jun         1           1
06-Jun                   1 1
16-Jun         6 1         7
20-Jun   1                 1
21-Jun   6               8 14
23-Jun       1             1
27-Jun       1 2           3
01-Jul       1             1
04-Jul           1         1
06-Jul   3   3           1 7
07-Jul           1       3 4
13-Jul           1         1
18-Jul   1                 1
24-Jul       1   1         2
26-Jul       1   1         2
27-Jul           1         1
31-Jul       2   1         3
TOTALS 16 3364 39 1180 314 1784 72 28 327 11950 19074
Date Osprey Honey-buzzard Egyptian Vulture Short-toed Eagle Griffon Vulture Booted Eagle Marsh Harrier Montagu's Harrier Sparrowhawk Black Kite Day Totals

 

 

                 APPENDIX 2       MINIMUM DAILY TOTALS OF SOARING RAPTORS   AUTUMN 2021
                       
See Systematic List for records of falcons and species represented by fewer than ten individuals
                       
Date Osprey Honey-buzzard Egyptian Vulture Short-toed Eagle Griffon Vulture Booted Eagle Marsh Harrier Montagu's Harrier Sparrowhawk Black Kite Day Totals
13-Jul                   4 4
18-Jul                   4 4
19-Jul                   2 2
24-Jul                   50 50
25-Jul                   248 248
26-Jul                   2500 2500
29-Jul                   200 200
30-Jul                   500 500
31-Jul                   625 625
01-Aug       1           2720 2721
02-Aug         2         100 102
04-Aug               1   148 149
05-Aug                   120 120
06-Aug     1 1           3800 3802
07-Aug                   2800 2800
10-Aug                   60 60
12-Aug           1         1
14-Aug     1 28   40         69
15-Aug                   200 200
17-Aug                   350 350
18-Aug           20         20
19-Aug       12   15         27
21-Aug           1   2     3
22-Aug           1         1
24-Aug   205   8   65       80 358
25-Aug               1     1
27-Aug               1     1
28-Aug   500 1 1   3   1   300 806
29-Aug   4200 1     1 15 13 8 124 4362
30-Aug 2 1449 4     3   3 1 1144 2606
01-Sep     1               1
02-Sep   178       4 1   1 41 225
03-Sep 1                   1
04-Sep           1         1
06-Sep           4         4
07-Sep                 1   1
08-Sep 1 117 7       5     67 197
09-Sep   469 2     2     2 247 722
10-Sep   529 2       2 3 5 30 571
11-Sep           6     2   8
13-Sep           1     1   2
14-Sep             1   1   2
16-Sep 1                   1
18-Sep                   31 31
19-Sep   1 1       1   1   4
20-Sep           3     1   4
22-Sep           15     1   16
23-Sep 1     1   112         114
24-Sep                 5   5
25-Sep 2         15     6   23
26-Sep                 18   18
29-Sep           8         8
30-Sep       1   15     1   17
01-Oct   1   5   100     1   107
02-Oct           25     4 1 30
04-Oct 1                   1
05-Oct           4 1   1   6
07-Oct 2                   2
09-Oct 1                   1
10-Oct           2     1   3
13-Oct       1   15         16
14-Oct                 2   2
17-Oct 1               1   2
18-Oct                 2   2
20-Oct           1     1   2
21-Oct                   1 1
26-Oct                 2   2
27-Oct                 2   2
28-Oct                 2   2
29-Oct                 2   2
30-Oct             1       1
31-Oct                 1   1
03-Nov 1       500           501
04-Nov       2             2
  14 7649 21 61 502 483 27 25 77 16497 25356
Date Osprey Honey-buzzard Egyptian Vulture Short-toed Eagle Griffon Vulture Booted Eagle Marsh Harrier Montagu's Harrier Sparrowhawk Black Kite Day Totals

 

 

Acknowledgements: Matt Ashman, Robert Azopardi, David Bartolo,  Ian Beggs, Keith Bensusan, John Bujega, Alex Colorado, Jonathan Connor, John Cortes, Dee Curran, Roger Dickie, Mark Cutts, Graeme Dunlop, Morris Figueras, Clive Finlayson, Tommy Finlayson, Stewart Finlayson, Ernest Garcia, Marie-Carmen Garcia,  Harry Van-Gils, Albert Gonzalez, Trevor Hammond, Roland Hayes, Tyson Holmes, Jutta Kuester,  Luis Lopez, Stephen Morgan, Tony Moyano, Corrine Massetti, Jason Mesilio, Franz-Josep Odinius,  Stanley Olivero, David Parody, Robert Quested, Kieron Palmer,  Charles Perez, Robert Perez, Nigel Ramos, Vincent Robba, Paul Rocca, Charlie Rugeroni, John Sanchez, Shane Shacaluga, Stephen Warr, Albert Sheriff, Jill Yeoman, Albert Yome, Rose Zapata. EPRU- Environmental Protection & Research Unit.

 

 

THREE RECENT CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE STUDY OF BIRDS IN GIBRALTAR

Keith Bensusan & Clive Finlayson

 

Gibraltar has featured prominently in the study of birds since the 18th Century. This is not surprising, given the importance of the Strait for migrating birds and the very rich avifauna that the surrounding region supports by European standards. More recently, much focus has been given to the remarkable archaeological deposits at the Gorham’s Cave Complex UNESCO World Heritage Site. These have demonstrated that bird diversity has been high in Gibraltar since the Pleistocene, with two contrasting findings apparent: that changes in global climate can be detected through the composition of the avifauna across the fossil record, and that Gibraltar and its hinterland have supported a consistently high species richness of birds due to the region’s role as an ecological refugium, with far more stable climate than most of the rest of Iberia and Europe.


Accounts of three recent studies were published in high-impact journals in 2021. All involved at least some authors who are members of GONHS; two of them were authored solely by GONHS members. The themes explored in these publications – migration, the impact of climate change on the movements of birds, the role of the Gorham’s Complex as a refuge for roosting birds – link the studies to findings from the deep past. This helps to demonstrate that time is an essential factor to consider in ecological studies.


We summarise these three papers and provide links to access them online.

 

 

Bensusan, K., Holmes, T.L., Perez, C., Finlayson, G., Finlayson, S., Guillem, R., Finlayson, C. 2021. Crag Martin neontology complements taphonomy at the Gorham’s Cave Complex. Scientific Reports, 11: 16851. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-95974-9

The Gorham’s Cave Complex was known to ornithologists before the site’s very rich fossil record of birds became apparent. This was partly due to the large numbers of Eurasian Crag Martins Ptyonoprogne rupestris that use these caves as a winter roost. Indeed, two publications during the 1970s by Elkins & Etheridge, birders stationed on the Rock, studied these birds in some detail. Numbers of Crag Martins at the site were monitored intermittently until the late 1980s but not after, and by the 2000s it was assumed that the size of the roost had diminished to a few hundred birds at most.


Assumptions are no substitute for facts and one of the surprises arising from a renewed focus on this winter roosting site is that numbers of birds using the caves are still healthy. Indeed, it was apparent from data collected for this study that the winter roost at the Gorham’s Complex is the largest known globally, with numbers comparable to those from the 1970s. More remarkable still have been counts subsequent to the publication of this paper, with over 20,000 birds using the site.
The most interesting insights provided by the study are those that arose from a carefully planned trapping and ringing campaign at the three most accessible caves at the site. This allowed for identification of individual birds, recording their biometrics (weight, wing length, fat, muscle) and determining rates of recapture at each cave. It thus demonstrates the obvious value that bird ringing continues to have when field studies are coordinated and executed with well-framed hypotheses and discipline.


The abundant data collected throughout the autumn and winter months allowed the authors to demonstrate that birds show remarkable fidelity to individual caves, with an over 90% chance of recapture at the cave where they were originally ringed. This was true within and between years, with birds returning to the same cave after leaving Gibraltar for the breeding season. This is a remarkable find, but more interesting still is that birds differed in condition, with birds in best condition at Gorham’s Cave and worst condition at Vanguard Cave. And the better the condition of birds at a cave, the higher the chances of recapture of individuals at that cave. Such a level of fidelity is unprecedented in a passerine that roosts together in its thousands. It suggests that caves differ in their value as roosting sites, and that the birds roosting here know what they are doing, with the birds that are in better condition choosing the better caves. The challenge arising from this finding is to investigate whether selection of roosting site is finer-scale still than this initial study has shown.


The paper highlights that Crag Martins have used the site throughout the Pleistocene. This small passerine is present in the fossil record and given that small, light and hollow bird bones do not preserve well, we can assume that representation is likely to imply some level of abundance during those periods. The current value of the site to these birds, despite their distance from foraging sites in Spain, must be due to favourable conditions at the caves. The finding about fidelity to roosting site, with its link to the birds’ condition, is quite remarkable and demonstrates that the site’s complex geomorphology hides secrets from humans that must be obvious when seen through the eyes of a Crag Martin. Moreover, the high resolution of today’s data can help to fine-tune the picture of the ecological past, with neontology thus complementing taphonomy as the title states.

 

 

Finlayson, S., Holmes, T.L., Finlayson, G., Guillem, R., Perez, C., Bensusan, K., Finlayson, C. 2021. Birds with multiple homes. The annual cycle of the pallid swift (Apus pallidus brehmorum). PloS ONE, 16(11): e0259656. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.Pone.0259656

The team that carried out the Crag Martin study has a wider research interest in Gibraltar’s aerial insectivores, which when taken together are present in Gibraltar throughout the year.
One of the most noteworthy features of Gibraltar’s breeding bird assemblage is the abundance of swifts that breed in urban areas during the spring and summer months. These comprise two species: Common Swifts Apus apus and Pallid Swifts Apus pallidus. The roof of the Gibraltar National Museum holds an accessible colony of the latter and, since part of the team that conducted the study is based at the museum, these birds provide an ideal opportunity for research.
Swifts are incredible navigators and the best adapted group of birds for life in the air. Although some species of swifts use buildings for nesting, their relationship with our own terrestrial environment is so fleeting that swifts have long been difficult to study. Pairs are however long-lived and return to the same nesting holes year after year, allowing the only opportunity for capture and marking.


Until recently, such marking was done solely with a ring. However, there have been huge advances in technology and the type of tracking equipment that was once unimaginable even for larger birds is now available for birds as small as swifts. These provide data of an incredible resolution that help to elucidate the intricacies of birds’ annual journeys, far beyond the traditional straight-line plots generated by ringing data, where the only geographic details known are the sites of initial trapping and recapture. Thus, confident that birds could be retrieved between years, the team decided to fit a series of Pallid Swifts with GPS loggers.


Similar studies have been carried out on swifts before, including Pallid Swifts, using light level geolocators, a technology with a lower accuracy than the latest GPS loggers that were used in this study, for the first time. This high-tech methodology has illuminated the incredible aerial ability of these birds and provided additional information on their movements. Furthermore, by equipping different animals with loggers set to record at different time intervals, different aspects of their movements could be studied concurrently.


The results showed that movement of these birds in sub-Saharan Africa is more complex than what was once the view regarding migratory journeys and birds’ winter destinations. At various dates that remain broadly stable across birds and years, Pallid Swifts spend time in three different zones: the Sahel, Sudanian and Guinea biomes, from dry grasslands and savannah in the north to rainforests of West and Central Africa further south. A bird that was tracked over two years consistently visited the same areas during the same dates. Individual birds may fan out longitudinally, but they remain within the same latitudes and thus the same biomes. Such movements likely reflect tracking of resources, possibly in response to rainfall.


Perhaps the most incredible finding was the time that it takes for Pallid Swifts to cross the Sahara on their way to and from their breeding grounds: one bird achieved this feat, from West Africa to Morocco, in just over a day, with a total of 1,858km flown in just over two days. The notion that some swift species remain airborne throughout the non-breeding period was supported by two individuals that were tracked over Africa during eight months. These birds gave no indication of coming to land.


Sample sizes in such studies are necessarily low: the technology is expensive and access to birds is problematic. However, the amount of information that can be gleaned from single animals is extremely valuable and offsets the problem that sample size would pose to poorer data. As technology continues to improve, so will knowledge of aspects of birds’ lives that we could once only dream about.

 

 

Lawrence, K., Barlow, C.R., Bensusan, K., Perez, C. & Willis, S.G. 2021. Phenological trends in the pre- and post-breeding migration of long-distance migratory birds. Global Change Biology, 00: 1-15. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.15916. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/gcb.15916

The impact of climate change on birds is now well-known. These range from shifts in survivorship and distribution to changes in breeding and migration phenology. The latter has attracted a lot of attention and it is now known that many birds that migrate between Eurasia and the Afrotropics arrive at their breeding grounds earlier, and leave later, than they used to. Most of the studies have been Eurocentric, focussing on data collected in Europe, and far less information is available on trends in the Afrotropics. This is understandable because European datasets are extensive, but studies of a wider geographic scope are possible when good datasets are available from the Afrotropics too.


This publication was led by Kieran Lawrence, a PhD candidate at Durham University, and his supervisor Stephen Willis. In addition to Keith Bensusan and Charles Perez from Gibraltar, the paper was co-authored by Clive Barlow, well-known for his role in studying and popularising the birds of the Gambia and Senegal. Large ringing datasets were contributed from both locations. Collaboration between fieldworkers and researchers working at these different locations resulted in a publication that sheds light on trends in the timing of migration for a series of passerine species that breed in Europe but winter south of the Sahara, across their distributions and throughout the year.


The findings of the study demonstrate substantial alterations to the annual routines of a range of species that spend the year between Europe and the Afrotropics, throughout their range. Data from Gibraltar and The Gambia showed a very strong response to the passage of time, with species migrating earlier in spring and later in autumn. Overall, birds are now spending more time in their breeding grounds and less time at their non-breeding grounds than when these data first began to be collected; on average 16 days longer in Europe and up to 63 days fewer in sub-Saharan Africa. The paper provides some very simple illustrations of the models employed and these illustrate these points very effectively. The trends are in turn linked to a series of climatic variables throughout the geographic range of the study and these are themselves susceptible to global climate change. For the first time, such impacts are demonstrated across this entire Palearctic-African migration system.
Gibraltar represents the entry point for the arrival of many birds to Europe and was thus an ideal location for such a study. Fortunately, there were enough years of data to make a meaningful contribution to this important research. The data collected by the GONHS ringing programme are now extensive but, until now, they had not been properly exploited in scientific investigation. It is thus encouraging to see data from Gibraltar being used in research of such impact. Not least, this was possible thanks to the many volunteers who have given countless hours of their time to participate in a campaign that has been ongoing since 1991. However, management of data can be complex when many different parties are involved in their collection. To continue making a meaningful contribution to science, GONHS must ensure that ringing and recording protocols are carefully outlined and observed. The objective of ringing is to provide data for analysis, after all. These large datasets can then continue to be used to test hypotheses.

 

 

 

RINGING REPORT 2021

 

Charles Perez

 

Gibraltar Ringing Group, GONHS, P.O. Box 843, Gibraltar

 

The Gibraltar Ringing Group, working under the auspices of the British Trust for Ornithology, is based at the Strait of Gibraltar Bird Observatory at Jews’ Gate, on the Upper Rock. The Covid-19 pandemic continued to curtail the ringing campaign in the spring of 2021, with no visiting ringers present until the autumn. The spring campaign was carried by myself with help from Jill Yeoman and operated from February 13th until May 20th. The nets were opened again mid-summer on August 3rd until September 1st, when UK ringers, eager to ring in Gibraltar after an enforced sabbatical, arrived and continued the operation until November 21st; the longest continuous stint in recent times. Pallid Swifts at their nesting site in the Museum were targeted in late March, April and July; results of this geotracking project are summarised on pages??. Trapping at the Crag Martin roost at the Gorham’s Cave Complex was only carried out on November 8th and 29th, due to adverse weather conditions.

There were 44 ringing days in the first half of the year, one more than in 2020, and 84 ringing days in the second half, twice as many as in 2020. Ringing took place from sunrise until early afternoon, occasionally continuing throughout the day when many migrants were present and weather conditions were appropriate.

In total, 8,050 birds were processed; 3,968 more than in 2020. These comprised a record 7,228 new birds and 822 retraps. With a similar number of ringing days, the spring total was 925 new birds, 198 fewer than in 2020, due to inclement weather. The post-breeding period recorded 6,303 new birds ringed, a spectacular 3,692 more than the previous year. There were ten controls of foreign-ringed birds: a Chiffchaff from the United Kingdom; a Willow Warbler, Orphean Warbler and Greenfinch from Spain, a Robin from Corsica, three Blackcaps from Belgium, a Blackcap from Denmark and a Garden Warbler from Norway.

A total of 134 birds were processed in February, most of them resident and wintering birds, although the 67 Blackcaps ringed will have included northbound migrants. Resident birds comprised two Blue Tits, three Sardinian Warblers, a Blackbird and a Greenfinch, with wintering birds consisting of five Chiffchaffs, four Black Redstarts, four Crag Martins, three Serins, a Song Thrush, a Chaffinch and a Greenfinch. The first trans-Saharan migrant, a Hoopoe was trapped on the 24th followed by a record early Willow Warbler on the 27th.

Adverse weather conditions resulted in only 12 ringing days in March during which a total of 227 birds were processed. The first week was affected by heavy rain showers and westerly winds during the second week reduced the catch. During this period only some Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and single individuals of Black Redstart, Robin, Crag Martin and Serin were processed. By March 14th levanter conditions settled in and the catching rate improved as many wintering birds moved north. These included 23 Blackcaps, 18 Robins and four Black Redstarts. The first Woodchat Shrike of the season was trapped on the 15th, followed by a wave of Phylloscopus warblers; a further 30 Willow Warblers from March 24th, 16 Bonelli’s Warblers from the 29th and 24 Common Chiffchaffs from the 14th. Nightingales arrived on the 29th, giving a March total of eight birds. Other arrivals included an Orphean Warbler on the 27th, a Common Whitethroat and a Common Redstart on the 29th, a Northern Wheatear and a Subalpine Warbler on the 30th and an early Melodious Warbler on the 31st. A Sedge Warbler on the 30th was only the ninth ringing record. Wintering birds were still heading northwards giving a total of 98 Blackcaps, 24 Robins and 6 Black Redstarts ringed during the month.

April began with northerly winds, the worst weather conditions for ringing as migrants encounter headwinds and the ringing site is then very blustery. Throughout the month only 18 days were optimal for ringing but conditions improved during the second half of the month, with depressions moving in from the west bringing overcast skies and easterly winds with some levanter cloud over the Rock providing ideal ringing conditions. In total 612 birds were processed, the most numerous species being the Willow Warbler, with 146 birds ringed, followed by 74 Blackcaps and 70 Bonelli’s Warblers. Of note were good numbers of Nightingales with 47 birds ringed as well as 36 Melodious Warblers, 31 Pied Flycatchers, 24 Common Whitethroats and 22 Common Redstarts. The 19th was the best day, with 67 birds ringed throughout the day. There was a good fall of migrants on the 25th although ringing was hampered by steady rain during the morning: nevertheless a few hours ringing in the evening resulted in 66 birds ringed, including five Common Reed-warblers, three Grasshopper Warblers, an exceptional 19 Melodious Warblers, 19 Willow Warblers, five Nightingales, four Bonelli’s Warblers, four Blackcaps, three Pied Flycatchers and single individuals of Common Redstart, Common Whitethroat, Sardinian Warbler, Wood Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher. Other species of note trapped during the month were a Black-eared Wheatear on the 9th, three Tree Pipits from the 14th until the 20th, six Wood Warblers between the 13th and 17th and one on the 25th, single Wrynecks on the 16th and 23rd, and single Golden Orioles on the 16th and 24th. A female Cirl Bunting on the 16th was only the second ever ringed at the Observatory and the fifth record for Gibraltar.

Only five ringing days were attempted during May, due mainly to northerly and westerly winds that hampered the operation. During this period a total of 95 birds were processed, including 26 retraps of resident birds. The most numerous migrant species was Garden Warbler: 13 in total, together with eight Melodious Warblers, five Bonelli’s Warblers, four Willow Warblers and four Spotted Flycatchers. Single Orphean Warblers were trapped on the 3rd and 4th, with two Common Reed-warblers, a Subalpine Warbler and a Pied Flycatcher also on the 4th.

During the last few years the post-breeding ringing campaign has started in late September but this year nets were erected at the top site on August 4th. However, only eight days of trapping were attempted, due to fresh westerly winds, during which 261 birds were processed. These were mainly of resident species, with many juveniles ringed. Of these the most numerous were Sardinian Warblers with 57 new birds, followed by 31 Greenfinches, 18 Blackbirds and 15 Blackcaps. The first trans-Saharan migrants were trapped on the 10th: two Melodious Warblers, a Nightingale and an Iberian Chiffchaff. Heavy fog and levanter cloud on the 18th produced 14 new birds including two Common Reed-warblers, a Nightingale, a Melodious Warbler and an Iberian Chiffchaff, followed by 23 new birds the following day that included the first Garden Warbler of the season. Migrant totals for the month were two Garden Warblers, seven Melodious Warblers, five Nightingales, four Common Reed-warblers and a Willow Warbler.

The weather throughout September was favourable, with many days of easterly winds and the expected levanter cloud. Although there were a few days with westerly winds, these were mainly light throughout the mornings and ringing could continue, enabling a total of 28 ringing days during the month. This resulted in a spectacular total catch of 1,352 birds of 35 species, the majority trans-Saharan migrants.

The lower nets below the Observatory were erected on the 5th, resulting in a catch of 101 birds that day, followed by 100 birds the following day: a Sparrowhawk, a European Nightjar, ten Barn Swallows, four Nightingales, three Common Redstarts, three Common Reed-Warblers, three Melodious Warblers, two Common Whitethroats, 14 Garden Warblers, three Orphean Warblers, a Willow Warbler, two Common Chiffchaffs, two Iberian Chiffchaffs, a Spotted Flycatcher and two Pied Flycatchers were ringed, as well as resident, species. A Hoopoe, a Bee-eater and a Wryneck were trapped on the 7th, but northerly winds the following two days hampered the catching rate. The middle of the month saw the catching rate increase to over 50 birds on most days, with three Tree Pipits trapped on the 12th, a Scops Owl and a Grasshopper Warbler on the 13th, and a Red-necked Nightjar and a Bonelli’s Warbler on the 17th.

Thirty new birds were ringed on September 19th, including Gibraltar’s first House Bunting, an adult female in arrested moult. Other species with arrested moult encountered this month included Common Whitethroats and Garden Warblers. The best day-total, 104 birds, was processed on the 20th, comprising single individuals of Scops Owl, Wryneck, Nightingale, Melodious Warbler, Subalpine Warbler and Orphean Warbler, 24 Garden Warblers, 21 Pied Flycatchers, 11 Iberian Chiffchaffs, 11 Willow Warblers, seven Common Redstarts, four Common Reed-warblers, two Common Chiffchaffs and two Spotted Flycatchers, together with resident species.

Blackcap numbers, a total of 263 birds, increased towards the end of the month. Other significant September totals included 178 Garden Warblers, 169 Sardinian Warblers, 133 Willow Warblers, 102 Pied Flycatchers, 80 Blackbirds, 58 Common Reed-warblers, 55 Common Redstarts, 26 Orphean Warblers, 26 Common Whitethroats, 39 Iberian Chiffchaffs, and 37 Nightingales. Less frequent species comprised two Scops Owls, two Bee-eaters, three Hoopoes, four European Nightjars, two Red-necked Nightjars, five Tree Pipits, six Wrynecks, four Bonelli’s Warblers and two Grasshopper Warblers.

Favourable weather throughout October resulted in 27 ringing days until the 29th. Only two days proved unsuitable; the 3rd, due to strong to gale force westerly winds and rain showers, and the 22nd, when fresh northerlies prevented the ringing operation. The month saw the numbers of trans-Saharan species diminish in the first few weeks whereas wintering species began to arrive in good numbers; so much so that a record for October of 3,764 birds of 41 species were processed. There were seventeen days with over one hundred birds processed between the 9th and 29th of the month, with over 200 birds on the 20th and 21st and over three hundred birds on the 24th and 25th, with an all-time record 384 birds on the latter date.

Trans-Saharan migrants caught in October totalled 59 Common Redstarts, 52 Garden Warblers, 25 Willow Warblers, 22 Pied Flycatchers, nine Common Reed-warblers, seven Iberian Chiffchaffs, six Common Whitethroats, six Nightingales, three European Nightjars, three Spotted Flycatchers, two Red-necked Nightjars and two Orphean Warblers. Hirundines were active during the evening, and playback at the more exposed nets above the Observatory, resulted in 71 Swallows, 33 Red-rumped Swallows and 42 Crag Martins trapped and ringed. This demonstrated the effectiveness of playback, given that only 198 Swallows and 17 Red-rumped Swallows had been ringed locally during the previous 30 years. Some last dates for trans-Saharan migrants were Spotted Flycatcher on the 6th, Common Whitethroat on the 7th, Orphean Warbler on the 12th, Iberian Chiffchaff and Subalpine Warbler on the 13th, Nightingale on the 14th, Willow Warbler on the 18th, Common Reed-warbler on the 25th and Common Redstart on the 27th.

Arrival of some wintering birds began with the first Black Redstart and Stonechat on the 8th, Song Thrush on the 9th, Chaffinch on the 16th and Siskin on the 23rd. The most numerous species were again Blackcaps and Robins, with 1,294 and 1,031 birds ringed. Black Redstarts arrived in large numbers from the 18th, giving a total of 371 ringed, and their passage continued into November. Finch passage was light, with none of the usual large falls, resulting in meagre totals of 11 Chaffinches, 20 Serins, 124 Greenfinches, 17 Goldfinches and 23 Siskins ringed.

Among scarcer birds trapped in October were single Sparrowhawks on the 9th and 17th, a Common Starling on the 14th: only the third ever ringed, a Dartford Warbler on the 23rd, a Mistle Thrush on the 26th and single Ring Ouzels on the 10th, 26th and 27th.

There were 15 ringing days in November between the 4th and 21st. During this period a further 1,468 birds were processed: 1,210 new and 258 retraps. Cold conditions during the month in northern Europe and the northern half of Iberia resulted in unexpected numbers of wintering birds arriving at the site and over 100 birds were processed on six dates, including high totals of 145 on the 9th, 126 on the 11th and 124 on the 16th. Robins dominated the catch in November with 393 new birds ringed, followed by Blackcaps with 252 birds and Black Redstarts with 182 birds. Large arrivals on the 11th and 12th coincided with light westerly winds, not the usual conditions for a fall of migrants but nevertheless welcome, with 100 Robins, 64 Blackcaps, 30 Common Chiffchaffs and 22 Black Redstarts processed as well as single Redwings on both days. A few Crag Martins were trapped as they headed to their roost at Gorham’s Cave Complex: two on the 9th, five on the 10th and single birds on the 13th and 17th.

November finch passage was slow, due to light westerlies and the lack of heavy levanter cloud that induces flocks to fly low and land at the ringing site. A total of 28 Serins were ringed throughout the period. Siskin flocks could be heard flying south throughout the month and 27 were ringed, including nine on the 16th. Other finch species were scarce and only ten Chaffinches, 14 Greenfinches and five Goldfinches were ringed during the period. A Linnet on the 7th and a Bullfinch on the 16th (21st record) completed the catch.

Late trans-Saharan migrants comprised a Garden Warbler on November 10th, a Red-rumped Swallow on the 12th and an Iberian Chiffchaff on the 19th. The last of these was mainly identified by its distinctive call. A European Storm-petrel picked up in the town area on the 20th was ringed and released at Rosia Bay.

The Crag Martin roost at Vanguard Cave was tackled on the 8th and 29th of the month, with 123 and 83 birds processed, including a Red-rumped Swallow on the latter date. A further session was carried out on December 6th when 75 birds were processed.

 

 

 

Table 1:  Controls 2021

 

Ring

Species

Date

Co-or

Site

County

Country

Control Date

Duration

Distance

2A515926

Greenfinch

04/04/2021

35° 52N 05° 19W

Punta Blanca

Ceuta

Spain

28/04/2021

24 days

28km

2Z92453

Willow Warbler

08/09/2020

41° 29N 31° 23W

Talavera, Pina de Ebro

Zaragoza

Spain

04/05/2021

238 days

737km

2KA11659

Orphean Warbler

05/07/2018

42° 22N 02° 30W

Nalda, La Rioja

Logroño

Spain

05/09/2021

1158 days

736km

ES49339

Garden Warbler

21/08/2021

58° 13N 08° 19E

Espevigheia, Lillesand

Aust-Agder

Norway

12/09/2021

22 days

2655km

16563992

Blackcap

07/09/2021

50° 40N 03° 36E

Frasnes-lez-Anvaing

Hainaut

Belgium

01/10/2021

24 days

1769km

7129911

Robin

07/04/2021

42° 34N 09° 28E

Puntentaja, Borgo, Haute-Corse

Corsica

France

12/10/2021

188 days

1459km

15579534

Blackcap

02/09/2018

50° 34N 05° 37E

Beaufays

Liege

Belgium

19/10/2021

1143 days

1832km

CX67204

Blackcap

02/09/2021

55° 02N 10° 33E

Erhevrvs_Forskole, Tipsvaenget,

Fyn

Denmark

20/10/2021

48 days

2431km

17298649

Blackcap

26/09/2021

51° 15N 03° 31E

Sint Laureins,

Gost-Vlaanderen

Belgium

23/10/2021

27 days

1825km

NRC515

Chiffchaff

18/07/2021

51° 25N 00° 28W

Queen Mary's Reservoir,

Surrey

England

14/11/2021

119 days

1744km

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 2:   Annual Ringing Totals 2021

 

 

Spring

Autumn

Total

Total

Total

Totals

SPECIES

2021

2021

2021

2020

2019

91-21

Quail

 -

 -

 -

 -

-

8

Turtle Dove

 -

 -

 -

 -

-

30

Collared Dove

 -

 -

 -

 -

-

13

Red-necked Nightjar

 -

4

4

2

2

122

European Nightjar

 -

7

7

6

4

162

Pallid Swift

3

12

15

7

7

62

Common Swift

 -

 -

 -

4

-

62

Great Spotted Cuckoo

 -

 -

 -

 -

-

3

Common Cuckoo

 -

 -

 -

 -

-

1

Purple Swamphen

 -

 -

 -

 -

-

1

Moorhen

 -

 -

 -

 -

-

1

Storm Petrel

 -

1

1

 -

-

3

Leach's Petrel

 -

 -

 -

-

2

Cory's Shearwater

 -

 -

 -

 -

-

2

Little Bittern

 -

 -

 -

-

1

Night Heron

 -

 -

-

 -

-

1

Gannet

 -

1

1

 -

-

2

Woodcock

 -

 -

 -

-

1

Yellow-legged Gull

 -

 -

 -

 -

-

226

Puffin

 -

 -

 -

 -

-

1

Barn Owl

 -

 -

 -

 -

-

1

Little Owl

 -

 -

 -

-

13

Scops Owl

-

2

2

5

2

207

Long-eared Owl

 -

 -

 -

-

-

2

Eagle Owl

 -

 -

 -

-

1

Honey Buzzard

 -

 -

 -

 -

-

8

Short-toed Eagle

 -

 -

 -

 -

-

9

Griffon Vulture

 -

 -

 -

 -

-

14

Booted Eagle

 -

 -

 -

-

6

Bonelli's Eagle

 -

 -

 -

-

1

Sparrowhawk

1

3

4

2

3

85

Black Kite

 -

 -

 -

6

Hoopoe

1

3

4

2

4

106

European Bee-eater

 -

2

2

 -

4

29

River Kingfisher

 -

 -

 -

-

9

Wryneck

2

6

8

3

-

50

Lesser Kestrel

 -

 -

 -

 -

-

1

Common Kestrel

 -

 -

 -

2

1

25

Merlin

 -

 -

 -

-

2

Hobby

 -

 -

 -

 -

-

3

Peregrine

 -

 -

 -

1

-

1

Golden Oriole

2

 -

2

1

-

23

Woodchat Shrike

2

 -

2

9

6

226

Coal Tit

 -

-

 -

 -

-

2

Blue Tit

8

51

59

47

26

1208

Great Tit

 -

2

2

1

-

98

Wood Lark

 -

 -

-

 -

-

3

Thekla Lark

 -

 -

 -

-

2

Zitting Cisticola

 -

 -

 -

 -

-

29

Isabelline Warbler

 -

 -

 -

 -

-

5

Melodious Warbler

45

15

60

9

10

835

Icterine Warbler

 -

 -

-

6

Sedge Warbler

1

1

 -

-

9

Reed Warbler

11

64

75

2

18

420

Great Reed Warbler

 -

 -

1

 -

1

Grasshopper Warbler

3

2

5

3

5

58

House Martin

 -

 -

 -

 -

1

150

Red-rumped Swallow

 -

35

35

3

4

52

Barn Swallow

 -

86

86

2

4

284

Crag Martin

4

337

341

792

550

2478

Bonelli's Warbler

91

4

95

114

68

2028

Wood Warbler

7

7

1

-

85

Yellow-browed Warbler

 -

 -

 -

 -

-

9

Willow Warbler

181

159

340

256

217

7140

Iberian Chiffchaff

5

51

56

10

17

551

Common Chiffchaff

29

192

221

97

180

6301

Mountain Chiffchaff

 -

 -

-

1

Cetti's Warbler

 -

 -

 -

-

4

Long-tailed Tit

 -

 -

-

-

5

Blackcap

208

1770

1978

1169

2736

37498

Garden Warbler

29

216

245

70

143

3200

Orphean Warbler

7

24

31

18

12

474

Lesser Whitethroat

 -

-

 -

 -

-

2

Sardinian Warbler

30

295

325

200

112

6985

Subalpine Warbler

15

5

20

25

24

736

Common Whitethroat

26

32

58

33

42

858

Spectacled Warbler

 -

 -

 -

 -

-

23

Dartford Warbler

 -

1

1

2

3

101

Short-toed Treecreeper

 -

 -

 -

2

23

Wren

4

7

11

11

4

383

Starling

 -

1

1

 -

-

2

Spotless Starling

 -

 -

 -

 -

1

36

Song Thrush

4

173

177

6

70

1652

Mistle Thrush

 -

1

1

 -

-

3

Redwing

 -

2

2

-

12

Blackbird

24

101

125

70

35

2758

Ring Ouzel

 -

3

3

 -

1

25

Rufous Bush Chat

 -

-

 -

-

-

2

Spotted Flycatcher

6

9

15

2

2

330

Robin

23

1438

1461

228

449

15591

Bluethroat

 -

 -

 -

 -

2

11

Nightingale

53

45

98

52

48

1241

Red-breasted Flycatcher

 -

 -

 -

-

-

1

Pied Flycatcher

32

123

155

121

13

2455

Black Redstart

9

553

562

160

287

8695

Common Redstart

29

98

127

36

45

1402

Rock Thrush

 -

 -

 -

-

4

Blue Rock Thrush

 -

2

2

 -

-

81

Whinchat

-

 -

2

79

Stonechat

8

8

2

1

234

Northern Wheatear

1

-

1

 -

2

46

Black-eared Wheatear

1

 -

1

 

31

Goldcrest

 -

 -

 -

1

-

7

Firecrest

 -

 -

 -

 -

2

39

Dunnock

 -

 -

 -

 -

1

24

House Sparrow

6

5

11

10

3

969

Spanish Sparrow

 -

 -

 -

-

6

House/Spanish Sparrow

 -

 -

 -

 -

-

1

Tree Pipit

3

5

8

1

2

111

Meadow Pipit

 -

 -

 -

 -

6

49

Richard's Pipit

 -

 -

 -

 -

-

1

Tawny Pipit

 -

 -

 -

 -

-

15

Yellow Wagtail

 -

 -

 -

 -

1

4

Grey Wagtail

 -

 

 -

1

 

25

Chaffinch

5

21

26

11

19

767

Brambling

 -

 -

 -

 -

 -

7

Hawfinch

 -

 -

 -

 -

 -

5

Common Rosefinch

 -

 -

 -

 -

 -

1

Bullfinch

 -

1

1

1

 -

23

Trumpeter Finch

 -

 -

 -

-

1

Greenfinch

14

196

210

79

79

4321

Linnet

1

2

3

4

1

112

Crossbill

 -

 -

 -

 -

-

1

Goldfinch

22

22

10

13

1019

Serin

4

48

52

20

25

1268

Siskin

 -

50

50

 -

-

267

Corn Bunting

 -

 -

 -

-

10

Rock Bunting

 -

 -

 -

 -

-

8

House Bunting

 -

1

1

 -

1

Ortolan Bunting

 -

 -

 -

 -

1

38

Cirl Bunting

1

 -

1

-

-

2

Little Bunting

 -

 -

-

2

TOTAL

931

6297

7228

3725

5322

117374

 

 

Acknowledgements: Matt Ashman, Ian Beggs, Kenny Cramer, Mark Cutts, Roger Dickie, Graeme Dunlop, Richard Geary, Graham Hill, Ian Lees, Ray Marsh, Graham Mortimer, David Pallas, Kieron Palmer, Charles Perez, Alison Rees, David Wilkinson, Lara Winsloe, Jill Yeoman.

 

 

 

Iberian Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cooki. First Gibraltar record.

 

Ernest Garcia

 

 

 

Iberian Magpie eating olives at Vineyards estate, Gibraltar (R. Perez)

 

The Iberian Azure-winged Magpie is known from the Gibraltarian Pleistocene fossil record. However, there are no historical or recent observations of this iconic member of the Iberian avifauna either from Gibraltar or from anywhere in the vicinity. To be specific, the closest locations where this magpie can be found are the Montes de Málaga, 115km away and the Algaida pinewood, also about 115km from Gibraltar. The latter is the only location in Cádiz province, on the very provincial boundary on the south bank of the Guadalquivir, where the species occurs and there are no known observations from anywhere else in the province (A. Onrubia, MIGRES, pers. comm.).

 

The current geographical range of the Iberian Azure-winged Magpie comprises much of the southern third of Portugal and the southwestern quadrant of Spain, with the core population in northern Extremadura. There is an outpost population in northwestern Granada and northeastern Málaga provinces. De Juana & Garcia (2015) describe the distribution in detail. The birds are very sedentary but nevertheless individuals and small flocks have wandered on rare occasions well outside the usual range, to eastern Spain and southern France. The surprising appearance of a single bird on Windmill Hill, Gibraltar, on April 21st 2021, as described on Pxxx, may be a further instance of anomalous dispersion.

 

Reference

De Juana, E. & Garcia, E. 2015. The Birds of the Iberian Peninsula. Helm, London.

 

 

 

 

 

House Bunting Emberiza deserti. First Gibraltar records.

 

Ernest Garcia

 

 

Male House Bunting at Europa Point, Gibraltar (R. Perez)

 

The House Bunting is a familiar commensal species around human habitation in the Maghreb as well as an inhabitant of wilder rocky slopes in some areas there. In Morocco it ranged no further north than the Middle Atlas in the 1950s and was only common then from the High Atlas southwards (Thévenot et al., 2003). Since then a steady northward range expansion during the latter part of the 20th century and into the 21st century has been well documented (Bergier et al., 2022), culminating with the establishment of breeding populations in cities on the southern coastline of the Strait of Gibraltar, at Tangier (Amezian et al., 2006) and Ceuta (CR-SEO, 2021).

 

It remains to be seen whether further range expansion will lead to establishment in the Iberian peninsula. Four records of single birds have been accepted by the Spanish rarities committee (CR-SEO), all from coastal southernmost Andalucía. They were found at Algeciras harbour, Cádiz, in June 1987; at Nerja, Málaga, on October 13th 2009; in Algeciras city on and around October 29th 2021, and at Fuengirola castle, Málaga, from January 18th to February 13th 2022. To these may now be added the records of a female ringed at Jews’ Gate, Gibraltar, on September 19th 2021 and a male at Europa Point, Gibraltar, on October 15th 2021. There are no Portuguese records.

House Bunting, trapped and ringed at the Jews' gate Observatory on 19th September 2021.                C. Finlayson.

 

The circumstances by which these birds came to cross to Europe are of course unknown. Post-breeding dispersal may account for some records. On the other hand, the species is a popular cagebird in Morocco and there have been observations of individuals on the trans-Strait ferries that may have been released by owners uncertain at the last moment of whether they would be allowed to import them through the Spanish customs (A. Onrubia, J. Elorriaga, pers. comm.). In any case, the colonisation of southern Spain by a North African passerine is likely to be slow if it happens at all. The Strait interrupts any gradual range expansion and arrivals by a very small number of scattered individuals over a long period can be expected to make pair formation very difficult, although not impossible. However, the fact that House Buntings are attracted to villages and towns increases the likelihood of establishment. Continuing arrivals, and in greater numbers than in the small recent influx, are a prerequisite of initial colonisation.

 

References

Amezian, M., Bensusan, K., Perez, C. & Thompson, I. 2006. Is House Bunting about to colonise Europe ?  Birding World 19: 263.

Bergier, P., Thévenot, M., Qninba, A. & Houllier, J-R. 2022. Oiseaux du Maroc/Birds of Morocco. SEOF Publications, Paris.

CR-SEO. 2021. Informe Bimensual Noviembre–Diciembre 2021. SEO-Birdlife (seo.org/rarezas).

Thévenot, M., Vernon, R. & Bergier, P. 2003. The Birds of Morocco. BOU Checklist 20. Tring, UK.

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow-rumped Warbler Setophaga coronata. First Gibraltar record and second Iberian record.

 

Ernest Garcia

 

A Yellow-rumped Warbler was discovered at Europa Point on February 27th by Luis López and Manuel Morales, visiting ornithologists from Spain. It was frequenting flowering stands of Candelabra Aloes Aloe arborescens where it was seen drinking nectar. It remained in the area until at least March 3rd, enabling many birders to see and photograph it. The images taken show heavy streaking above and below, distinct yellow patches on the flanks and crown as well as the rump, and distinct head markings. These features are a strong indication that the bird was an adult male in winter plumage (Curson 1994).

 

 

 

Yellow-rumped Warbler on aloes at Europa Point Gibraltar (Finlayson Nature Photography)

 

The Yellow-rumped Warbler is one of the commoner American Wood-warblers (family Parulidae), chiefly nesting in coniferous forests of Alaska, Canada and the northern United States, ranging further south in the Rocky Mountains in the west. The eastern and western populations were long treated as two distinct species, the Myrtle Warbler in the east and Audubon’s Warbler in the west. The Gibraltar bird, as well as others recorded in the western Palearctic, was a Myrtle Warbler. The species is a partial migrant in its native range, wintering south to central America.

 

North American passerines very seldom cross the Atlantic but the Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler is one of the more frequently recorded species. There are at least 26 records from the United Kingdom as well as 20 from the Azores, 19 in Iceland and 18 in Ireland, as well as single records from Norway, The Netherlands and the Canary Islands. It is unsurprising that most of these birds made landfall in countries closest to North America. Prior to the Gibraltar record the only other Iberian observation was of one found in northwesternmost Spain, at the Laguna de Traba, a coastal lagoon at Laxe, A Coruña, Galicia, on 18 September 1982 (Rabuñal 2011).

 

The great majority of European, including Azorean, records have been in autumn, between September and November, chiefly October, no doubt involving storm-blown and sometimes ship-assisted individuals displaced during their southward migration. The Gibraltar record is unusual in having occurred in February/March but the dates are closely similar to the Canarian record, where the bird was seen in Gran Canaria from February 25th to March 2nd (1984, De Juana 2006). It seems likely that both of these southerly records involved birds that arrived further north in Europe during the previous autumn and then migrated further south.

 

References

Curson, J. 1994. New World Warblers. Christopher Helm, London.

De Juana, E. 2006. Aves raras de España. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Rabuñal, J. L. 2011. Reinita coronada. Ardeola 59(2): 399.

 

 

 

[End paper]

Contributing to the Gibraltar Bird Report

 

All records of birds seen in or from Gibraltar are welcomed for incorporation into the Society’s archives and for publication in the annual reports. Records from adjacent regions of Spain are also gratefully received and will be forwarded to local recorders, where appropriate.

 

Records should be sent to the Recorder, Charles E. Perez, Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society, P O Box 843, Gibraltar, email rThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Records of rarities should be accompanied by a full description as well as photographs if possible. Other contributions for the Report should be sent to the Editor, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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