Friday, 10 February 2012

Reflecting on Spanish visitors

The recent records of Glossy Ibises in the UK and in particular Wales have reminded me of conversations last summer with scientists at the Palacio, Coto Donana, Spain.  More of that later.

Glossy Ibis on the nest, Spain

It seems that up to 30 Glossy Ibises may have been in Wales at one time recently.  This includes a flock of 23 reported from Carew, Pembrokeshire flying over the road to roost.  This has reduced to 12 or 13 in recent evenings but the residue have not been found elsewhere.  This the second time that a large flock has occurred in Wales as 25 were in the Burry Port, Carmarthenshire area a couple of years ago.

Spanish Glossy Ibis with white plastic ring.

Many of the the birds seen well are ringed with white plastic rings being very prominent.  A bird at Borth, Ceredigion is so approachable that the ring number has been read and it is no surprise to me that its origin is Spain.  A little over 10 years ago no Glossy Ibises bred in Spain but now the Donana population is over 5,000 pairs and still increasing.  Indeed with my friend Javier Hidalgo we discovered a new colony in an existing heronry in a group of tamarisks last May.

Juvenile Glossy Ibis, Spain

Discussing the fact that many more birds than ever before were reaching the UK the Donana scientists were not surprised.  Indeed although not confirmed then they had received news that two of their ringed birds had been located in Cuba.  That really got me thinking.  What are the origins of the Spanish birds?  Rather than colonising from Eastern Europe could they have arrived from the Americas? Why do they head north in autumn?  Why do they not go south to Africa?

Glossy Ibis in autumn in France
 Whatever just like the increasing records and even nesting of many heron species in recent years  the ibises are a welcome sight.  With colonies now nesting in the Carmargue how long before they colonise Britain?


  1. Not surprising that those birds showed up in Cuba. The occurrence of herons in the Caribbean that emanate from your side of the Atlantic has been well documented. There is a strong east to west push, especially in the summer and fall, that has brought Little Egret, Western Reef Heron and even the African subspecies of Osprey to the area. A good friend of mine found a Wood Sandpiper on Tobago many Decembers ago.

  2. These Cuban records are interesting and follow this record from Trinidad & Tobago a couple of years ago: