Friday, 20 April 2012

Thursday, 19th April 2012 (morning)

Cabo de Palos lighthouse garden
Weather: Sky 2/8 cloud, wind NW F2-3 veering SW F1, temp. 12 - 16ºC.  07:45 – 10:15. With Mark Powell.

I sometimes question why I go to the lighthouse every morning (and many of my friends also question it – basically they think I’m mad), but today was an answer to that question!
I arrived at the carpark to the lighthouse earlier than usual to hear a Nightingale singing away from one of the bushes.  ‘This bodes well’ I thought.  And things just got better and better.  As I walked through the lower part of the garden there were at least another 3 Nightingales singing, Willow/Chiffs in every bush (principally Willow Warblers, although I did hear one Chiffchaff singing), Blackcaps in ever other bush and on going round the track towards the rocks at the end, I heard something that I recognized but couldn’t believe I’d heard.  Nothing rare, but something I associate here in Spain with winter mountaintops, and there it was, flying towards me, a blackbird with a bright white crescent on its front, a male Ring Ouzel.  I carried on around the lower garden area clocking up Redstarts, Woodchats, a Hoopoe in off the sea, Subalpine Warblers, Common Whitethroats, and returning to the main gate area, something in a bush hopping around which was none of the aforementioned – my first Garden Warbler of the year.
Here I was joined by Mark Powell, who having read the blog yesterday decided to come and try his luck.  We spent the rest of the morning together up until I had to leave to go to work.  We were talking in the carpark when I caught on to a male Golden Oriole shoot out of a tree and disappear over some roofs – luckily Mark saw it as well.  As we were talking I also heard the soft ‘chip’ that I’d heard yesterday and knew to be Ortolan Bunting – Mark was in luck, there was at least one still about.
We approached the area where the call had come from, and had the surprise of our lives – not one but 22 Ortolan Buntings flying around in a flock.  They did a couple of circuits of the ‘Sirio’ gardens area, but then were up and away.  Well at least Mark had seen them as we assumed that’d be the last of Ortolans for the day.  But as we continued round the cliff path, we came across some more that obviously didn’t have the strength to go - three birds resting on the middle of the low cliffs, another 5 on the base of the fence of the lighthouse gardens, and going round the high (eastern) cliffs area another couple.  What a superb sight, as they are such spectacular birds.

One of many new arrivals - Common Whitethroat

A very tired Ortolan Bunting

Two more of what were definitely 'Bird of the Day' - Ortolan Buntings

And two more

And yet another newly arrived bird

Well, that was it for my morning session as I had to go to work.  Mark stayed, and when I finished work I couldn’t resist coming back for another couple of hours, which I’ll put on as a separate entry.
If you want to see Marks account of the morning, it can be viewed on

Species seen/heard (and numbers)
Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) - 1
Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) - 1
Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) - 5
Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) - 2
Yellow Legged Gull (Larus michahellis) – c20
Rock Dove/Domestic Pigeon (Columba livia) - 3
Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) - 8
Swift (Apus apus) - 2
Hoopoe (Upupa epops) - 1
Crested Lark (Galerida cristata) - 2
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) - 1
White Wagtail (Motacilla alba alba) - 2
‘flava’ Wagtail (Motacilla flava) - 4
Swallow (Hirundo rustica) - 8
Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus) - 1
Blackbird (Turdus merula) - 12
Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) - 1
Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) - 3
Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) – 15+
Robin (Erithacus rubecula) - 6
Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) – 6+
Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis) – 15+
Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin) - 2
Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans) – 10+
Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala) - 9
Willow/Chiff (Phylloscopus trochilus/collybita) 15
Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) 60
Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) – 1++
Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator)
Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor) - 15
Corn Bunting  (Miliaria calandra) - 1
Ortolan Bunting (Emberiza hortulana) – 32+!!
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) - 12
Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) - 1
Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris) – 2

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