Dupont’s Lark in Spain: an uncertain future?

I stood on the edge of the aerodrome at Alfés, Catalonia, feeling slightly opressed by the growing darkness and the chill spring air. A dog was barking somewhere in the distance, but I couldn’t say where or how far. The noise of traffic was a soft but constant throb.

A few minutes of impatient vigil bore their fruit: a soft, mournful whistle rising and falling came to my ears. Tu-u-ee, wee-i-oo. The Dupont’s Lark. The enigmatic Dupont’s Lark singing and establishing its territory at the only known site left to the species in the whole of Catalonia.

That was several years ago now, and if my memory doesn’t fail me it was also the last time I heard the Dupont’s Lark at Alfés. In all probability it was the very last time I would ever hear the Dupont’s Lark in Catalunya. Two years ago field researchers revealed that the Dupont’s Lark was no longer breeding at Alfés. In other words it had become extinct in Catalonia.

Some local media sources spread the news with effusive, unrestrained joy. Now the small band of diehard ecologists in Lleida had one less argument to support the need for protection of the Alfés thyme fields.

Luckily, the Dupont’s Lark still breeds elsewhere in Spain. The species even has its “own” reserve at Belchite in Aragón, purchased by the Sociedad Española de Ornitología. There are also scattered populations of Dupont’s Lark in other parts of Aragón, in Guadalajara, in Almería…However, recent research has revealed gloomy findings: the population levels quoted in many sources a few years earlier were serious overestimates of the Dupont’s Lark’s real population. In reality there were probably fewer than a quarter of the previously quoted total actually living in Spain.

One February evening this year I sat inside my car, waiting for the growing darkness to spread its hold on the thyme fields of Alfés. I had my windows wound down, I could hear a Calandra Lark jingling restrainedly to itself. I waited a while and listened. I didn’t hear a Dupont’s Lark. More than likely it would have been a little too early in the season, even if the species had not disappeared from Catalonia forever.

Page 20 of 20
1 18 19 20