Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Monday, 27th February 2012 – Salinas de San Pedro del Pinatar

Weather: Sky no cloud, wind NE F2-3, temp. 13ºC. 17:10 to 18:20.
The salinas at San Pedro del Pinatar are the largest working salinas in the region of Murcia.
As I had to go to San Javier, and the salinas are just up the road from there, I decided to make a brief visit, mainly to see if I could find any early migrants.
I saw nothing particularly out of the ordinary, but did have a Spoonbill fly over me across the road, and also saw 2 Marbled Teal, which I don’t know if have overwintered, or if they are recent arrivals after the winter.
Black-tailed Godwits feeding in one of the lagoons
Species seen
Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber)
Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)

Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)

Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)

Slender-billed Gull (Larus genei)

Yellow-legged Gull (Larus cachinnans)

Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)

Black Winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)

Redshank (Tringa totanus)

Black-necked Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis)

Marbled Teal (Marmaronetta angustirostris)

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)

Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)

Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta)

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)

Stonechat (Saxicola torquata)

Monday, 27 February 2012

Sunday, 26th February 2012 – Salinas de Rasall, Calblanque

Weather: Sky 2/8 cloud, wind SW F1-2, temp. 18ºC. 12:30 to 13:30.
The 'salinas de Rasall' is another disused salinas which is being improved, and is a very popular waypoint for migrating adult Audouin’s Gulls, that roost on the walls of the lagoons. I normally stop there to read the coloured rings that I see on the gulls. I counted 437 Audouins Gulls in total, and managed to read 26 rings. The only other birds seen of note was a small flock of 5 Lapwings that flew over heading east.
Audouin’s Gulls roosting on the walls of the Salinas
Species seen
Audouin’s Gull (Larus audouinii)
Yellow-legged Gull (Larus achinnans)

Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)

Sunday, 26th February 2012 – Salinas de Marchamalo, La Manga

Weather: Clear sky, wind SW F1, temp. 16ºC. 11:30 to 12:15.
The Salinas de Marchamalo is a disused Salinas which is supposedly being improved so that it can once again be the magnet for birds it used to be. This improvement is meant to include pumping water from the Mar Menor into the Salinas so that they don’t dry out.
My first stop around the salinas was at the end of the track opposite the school (by ‘Carpinteria Denis’), as quite often a number of small waders gather here. However on this occasion there was nothing, except 2 Monk Parakeets flying over! Crossing over to the asphalted track that goes out into the Salinas, there were 14 Golden Plover resting on one of the walls (their usual roost).
I then stopped at the side of the road in the corner down from the Go-karts. From here, on the walls of the Salinas I counted 18 Grey Heron, and quite a surprise, 2 Great White Egrets. Other than that, things were fairly slow – a group of 15 Little Stint and a Spotted Redshank being the highlights.
Testimonial shot of the two Great White Egrets, together with a Grey Heron
I then drove round to the Playa Paraiso side of the Salinas, but apart from another group of 15 Little Stints, there was nothing there out of the ordinary.
Species seen
Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus)
Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)

Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)

Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria)

Black Winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)

Redshank (Tringa tetanus)

Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus)

Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)

Little Stint (Calidris minuta)

Audouin’s Gull (Larus audouinii)

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus rubber)

Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)

Great White Egret (Egretta alba)

Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)

Fan-tailed Warbler (Cisticola juncidis)

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Saturday, 25th February 2012 – Saladares del Guadalentín

Weather: Clear sky all day, no wind, temp. 9 – 17ºC
The saladares del Guadalentín is an area of agricultural land to the east of the A7 motorway, between Alhama de Murcia and Totana. The Guadalentín river runs north to south through the area in a river valley bordered by reedbeds.
I normally pay a visit to this area towards the end of February, to see any remaining winter birds, and in the hope of seeing my first summer migrants.
Everything started out well – I managed to get out of the house and en route by 7am, in order to pick up Conry (Conrado Requeño Aznar) from Cartagena at 7-30. However at 7-20 I was waiting for a pick-up truck at the side of the motorway, due to a puncture, and so it was not until 9 that I got to Conry’s house, my wallet sizably lighter!
The only good this about this was that on arriving at Conry’s house, there was a Great Spotted Cuckoo flying around calling. A good omen?
We got to the saladares at about 10 a.m., and spent the next few hours driving around the tracks. The first decent sighting was of a group of 74 Reed Buntings feeding in a ploughed field, together with Corn Buntings and our first Tree Sparrow of the day. There were also numerous Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Linnets and a few Serins, and following behind a tractor that was ploughing, a group of at least 150 White Wagtails. We caught a glimpse of another Great Spotted Cuckoo as it flew parallel to us on the other side of a hedgerow of trees. In some of the farm reservoirs that we passed, we had Green and Common Sandpiper, Little Grebes, Coot and Moorhen, and on some of the ploughed fields, small groups of Meadow Pipits and Skylarks (and quite possibly Lesser Short Toed Larks, but as I find their call so similar to Skylark, we couldn’t be certain), and in trees around the fields, the occasional Southern Grey Shrike.
Southern Grey Shrike
Along the top of the river valley we saw a few Magpies and many Jackdaws. I decided that as I was driving ‘the Tank’, we could cross down into the river valley and drive along the track alongside the river. Here we saw many small birds; Songthrushes, Blackcaps, Reed Buntings, Chiffchaffs and had 3 Penduline Tits, plus Marsh and ringtailed Hen Harrier. Also we heard at least 1 Cetti’s Warbler. Coming back out of the river valley we drove along the service road parallel to the Totana/Mazarron motorway, scanning fields as we went for Little Bustards and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, but without success.
We did however see a large raptor which on getting the ‘scope on it, turned out to be an immature Golden Eagle.
Immature Golden Eagle
We tried some more forays along the tracks, and finally found a group of 5 Calandra Larks in a field, which when they flew showed the characteristic black underwing.
It was by now early afternoon, and we considered giving up then, but decided to persevere and have a look on the west side of the river, especially as last year Conry had seen a small group of Lesser Kestrel prospecting an abandoned farmhouse there. So, driving around and Conry called for me to stop – at the back of a field to our left, a group of Little Bustard. As soon as we stopped the majority of them took to flight. 23 in all, plus 2 still sitting in the field, but as soon as we got out the cameras, they too took off. We drove of to where we thought they had landed, but no sign of them. However, in the middle of a ploughed field was a raptor with pale markings on its head. Our first thought was that it was a Marsh Harrier, but when we approached and it flew a few metres, we were amazed to see that in fact it was a falcon of some sort. As it appeared to be brown in colour (this turned out to be an effect of the light as it did in fact have grey on the upperparts) and was very large with a very slender looking moustache, we wondered if we’d come across a Saker. We watched it on the ground and in flight in various fields, but always with the bird between us and the sun. Eventually after driving across various fields, we managed to get it with the sun behind us. It looked enormous, and was attacking a Booted Eagle on the ground which later flew off. We later saw the falcon fly off with a Rock Dove/Domestic Pigeon, but I don’t think it caught it itself, rather robbed it from the Booted Eagle. At that time there was also a Common Buzzard in attendance, trying to see what all the fuss was about. We finally managed to get a few photos of the bird and decided to try to identify it later. (In the end, after showing the photos and discussing with various people, we came to the conclusion that it was a Peregrine Falcon, of the sub-species ‘calidus’, a rare large northern European visitor in the winter).
Peregrine Falcon ssp. ‘calidus’
Peregrine Falcon ssp. ‘calidus’ – note the pale face, eyestripe, small moustache, pale underparts
Peregrine Falcon ssp. ‘calidus’ – note the size (the prey is a Rock Dove/Domestic Pigeon)
We decided to call it a day at that.
Species seen
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)
Corn Bunting (Miliaria calandra)
Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus)
Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris)
Linnet (Carduelis cannabina)
Serin (Serinus serinus)
Great Spotted Cuckoo (Clamator glandarius)
Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus)
Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
Coot (Fulica atra)
Penduline Tit (Remiz pendulinus)
Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus)
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)
Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)
Magpie (Pica pica)
Jackdaw (Corvus monedula)
Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax)
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus calidus)
Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus)
Skylark (Alauda arvensis)
Crested Lark (Galerida cristata)

Calandra Lark (Melanocorypha calandra)

Stonechat (Saxicola torquata)

Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros)
Songthrush (Turdus philomelos)
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)
Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis)
Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)
Cetti’s Warbler (Cettia cettia)
Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor)
Common Teal (Anas crecca)
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
White Wagtail (Motacilla alba alba)
Little Owl (Athene noctua)
Blackbird Turdus merula)

Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata)
Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala)
Great Tit (Parus major)
Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

Sunday, 26th February 2012 – Encañizadas, Mar Menor, Murcia

Weather: Clear sky, no wind, temp. 14ºC. 10:15 to 11:00.
The encañizadas is the area of water between the end of La Manga strip and the Salinas of San Pedro del Pinatar.
I decided to go here reasonably early so as to beat the heat haze. I was in particular looking to see if the pale-bellied Brent Goose was still around. When I arrived, I noticed that the water level was very low as it has been recently (I've had explained that the reason for this, is that the Mar Menor, having such a large surface area, is unable to make up for the water lost due to evaporation fast enough from the Mediterranean, so slowly empties out).
The pale-bellied Brent Goose photographed the 6th January 2012._ A Spanish rarity, it has spent the winter here
Photographed again, the 8th February 2012 together with a Spoonbill
The majority of the waterbirds were in the Mar Menor but off the San Pedro end, many hidden by land, so although I didn’t see the Brent, this may have been because it was out of view.
The day started well as on leaving my house, I saw my first local House Martin of the year flying around, singing.
I spent 45 minutes in all at the 'encañizadas'.
The most notable birds were 5 Spoonbills, 104 Grey Herons (a very high number), 3 Great White Egrets, 2 Pintail (male & female) and a single male Wigeon. I did see waders, but the majority was too far away to identify. I also heard a single Dartford Warbler.
Species seen
Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
Curlew (Numenius arquata)

Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)

Dunlin (Calidris alpina)

Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)

Slender-billed Gull (Larus genei)

Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)

Crested Lark (Galerida cristata)

Stonechat (Saxicola torquata)

Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros)

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

White Wagtail (Motacilla alba alba)

Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata) - heard

Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala)

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)

Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus rubber)

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)

Pintail (Anas acuta)

Wigeon (Anas penelope)

Great White Egret (Egretta alba)

Friday, 24 February 2012

Thursday, 23rd February 2012 – EDAR Beaza (sewage farm), Cartagena

Weather : Sky no cloud, no wind, temp. 14ºC. Time : 15:50 to 18:00.
Observers : Richard Howard; Diego Zamora Uran; Antonio Fernandez-Caro Gomez
The monthly census of the main Cartagena sewage farm (located behind the ‘Parque Mediterraneo’), surveying water birds on and around the two large settlement lagoons. Also seen, a Red Fox.
The Greylag Goose that has taken up residence here for the past few months
Species seen
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) - 22
Black-necked Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) - 171

Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) - 4

Greylag Goose (Anser anser) - 1

Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) - 13

Common Teal (Anas crecca) - 18

Pintail (Anas acuta) - 2

Red Crested Pochard (Netta rufina) - 1

Pochard (Aythya ferina) - 2

White Headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala) - 38

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) - 131

Shoveler (Anas clypeata) - 365

Coot (Fulica atra) - 95

Black Winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) - 42

Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) - 5

Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius) - 3

Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) - 5

Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) - 1

Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) - 3

Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus) - 143

Yellow-legged Gull (Larus cachinnans) - 150

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) - 1

Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa) - 3

Stonechat (Saxicola torquata) – 2

Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) – 1

White Wagtail (Motacilla alba alba) – 15+