Monday, 6 August 2012


A weekend with the Heron family – 3rd to 5th August 2012

Friday 3rd August, 18:25 to 21:30, farm reservoirs near San Javier airport and Salinas at San Pedro del Pinatar.
Weather: Sky clear but hazy and very humid, wind F1 NE, temp. 32º - 25ºC.

En route to the Salinas at San Pedro, I called in for about half an hour to the farm reservoirs near San Javier airport to see if there was anything new there.  Numbers of Black Tern were on the increase with about 30 adult birds being seen, plus an adult Whiskered Tern in moult.  New birds actually IN the reservoirs were a couple of drab-looking Pochard.  The most interesting birds however were around the edges of one of the reservoirs – on the fence 15 Cattle Egrets, a Little Egret, 2 Night Herons (an adult and sub-adult), and on the banks of the reservoir, a Squacco Heron.
 Immature Night Heron

And an adult

 Record shot of the Squacco Heron seen there

 The adult moulting Whiskered Tern that was flying around the reservoirs

 Part of the group of Black Terns seen

 And the Gull-billed Tern that always comes to investigate whenever you stop there

At the Salinas of San Pedro, as I stayed till it was almost dark, I got to see all the Black Terns doing their feeding ‘dance’ – I estimated about 120 birds, and I checked them out for White-winged Black Terns but didn’t see any.  What I did see were a further 4 Whiskered Terns here.

Waders were thin on the ground here - apart from the breeding birds (Avocet, Black Winged Stilts, Stone Curlews and Kentish Plovers), I only saw 5 Redshank, a single Spotted Redshank and a couple of Greenshank, 6 Little Stint, 4 Curlew Sandpiper, 4 Ruff, c40 Black-tailed Godwit and 4 Common Sandpiper.
Other birds of note were a good concentration of around 80 Little Egrets, including a single Western Reef Heron hybrid.  The bird was obviously mainly Little Egret, the same as any other Little Egret, but the wings were a light grey colour.

Resting on some distant greenery alongside one of the lagoons I made out a bird, and on putting my scope on it, I could see it was another Squacco Heron, my second of the day.
Coming away from the Salinas, I checked along the base of the reedbeds in the first lagoon, and was rewarded with a male Little Bittern stalking and feeding.

Saturday 4th August, 12:45 to 16:10, Salinas at San Pedro del Pinatar and Lo Poyo (Los Nietos).
Weather: Sky clear but hazy and very humid, wind F1-2 SE-E, temp. 32ºC.

After a morning spent doing the monthly RAM seawatch from Cabo de Palos (which was fairly quiet – a slight movement of Balearic Shearwaters south and Cory’s north and lots of Sandwich and Common Terns south), I went back over to the San Pedro Salinas around midday.  Here there was not much change from yesterday, except that the Red-necked Phalarope showed itself again, feeding around a group of feeding Greater Flamingos, and being chased off by an adult Avocet whenever it got too close to the shore near the Avocets chick.  It was while watching this that I noticed a large dark looking heron drop down into the canal that runs alongside the Salinas.  My first thought was Purple Heron but wanted to confirm it, so I walked up to the canal.  Looking along it from the new wooden bridge, there was the bird I had seen – an adult Purple Heron.  And as a bonus, a Kingfisher flew out from under the bridge and along the canal.  Kingfishers do not breed here, but are early arrival winter visitors, normally arriving at the end of July/beginning of August, and this was my first post-breeding sighting.  

 Curlew Sandpiper that was walking along the side of one of the lagoons...

 ...together with this Little Stint

 Record shot of the Red Necked Phalarope seen again today

 Just for a change, a photo of some common birds - adult and juvenile Slender-billed Gull

And a record shot of the Purple Heron
  
Leaving San Pedro, on the way home I decided to drop in to Lo Poyo which is on the Mar Menor, about midway between Los Urrutias and Los Nietos.  There wasn’t too much disturbance at this time, and their was a good group of terns on the sandbanks, with 45 Sandwich, 10 Common and 12 Little Terns.  A recent arrival must have been the two adult Sanderlings in breeding plumage, but for me the most unusual were a group of 11 Audouin’s Gulls, of which 4 were juveniles.  Obviously, Audouins Gulls are not scarce around here, but to see 4 juveniles IS unusual.  Passage birds and winter birds here are normally adults, and seeing 4 juveniles makes me think that there must be a new breeding colony somewhere nearby – this year locally I have probably seen more juveniles than in any other year.

 The group of mixed terns - Sandwich, Common and Little

 Recoed shot of the two adult Sanderlings

Part of the group of 11 Audouins Gulls - adult and three of the juveniles
 
Sunday 6th August, 09:15 to 13:25, Salinas at San Pedro del Pinatar, farm reservoirs at San Javier and old sewage farm (EDAR)  of El Algar.
Weather: Sky clear but hazy, no wind, temp. 28º -32ºC.

Another morning visit to the Salinas, but numbers of just about everything seemed less than the last two days.  I had a look for the Purple Heron but without success, but I did see the Red-necked Phalarope again briefly, when it dropped into one of the lagoons I was scoping.  But as I set up my camera, it must have flown off and I didn’t see it again.  What also dropped in were a couple of juvenile/female Red Crested Pochard – quite unusual for here.

 The two Red Crested Pochards that dropped in

 Part of a large feeding flock of Slender-billed Gulls that formed on one of the lagoons

  Waders were in short supply today - one of the few seen, a Little Stint

On my way back towards home, I called by the farm reservoirs at San Javier.  Here I had around 40 Black Terns and a single Whiskered, half a dozen Gull-billed Terns, and on the usual fence, 18 Cattle Egrets, 1 Little Egret, 3 Night Herons (1 adult and 2 juveniles), a Grey Heron and a Squacco Heron!  Quite a tally of the heron family.
 One of three Little Grebes on the reservoirs

 A juvenile Night Heron that flew off as soon as I approached

 As did this Grey Heron

 Three of the Pochard seen on a reservoir
 
 On the banks of one of the reservoirs, Black Winged Stilt, juvenile Night Heron and Cattle Egret

 
 Whilst on the fence above the bank, adult Night Heron, various Cattle Egrets, a single Little Egret and a Squacco Heron (you can only see its leg)

 A better view of the Squacco Heron, after some of the Egrets had flown off

 Continually flying around the reservoirs, this adult Whiskered Tern

Meanwhile, roosting on whatever they can, some of the Black Terns

My last port of call was at the EDAR El Algar where there is still only a very small pool with liquid in (I say liquid, as I’m not sure exactly what it is, but it’s certainly not water, and with a couple of dead birds around it, I am starting to wonder).
Here were 4 Black Winged Stilts, 3 Green Sandpipers, a single Common Sandpiper, 5 Little Ringed Plovers and 2 Little Stints.

Species seen/heard over the weekend
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Black Necked Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis)
Balearic Shearwater  (Puffinus mauretanicus)
Cory’s Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea)
Gannet (Morus bassanus)
Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
Little Egret/Western Reef Heron hybrid (Egretta garzetta x Egretta gularis)
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
Night Heron (Nicticorax nicticorax)
Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea)
Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus)
Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
Coot (Fulica atra)
Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)
Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina)
Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Black Winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)
Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus)
Redshank (Tringa totanus)
Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus)
Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)
Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)
Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
Little Stint (Calidris minuta)
Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)
Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)
Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)
Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)
Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)
Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus)
Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus)
Sanderling (Calidris alba)
Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis)
Audouin’s Gull (Larus audouinii)
Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)
Mediterranean Gull (Larus melanocephalus)
Slender-billed Gull (Larus genei)
Gull-billed Tern  (Sterna nilotica)
Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis)
Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)
Little Tern (Sterna albifrons)
Black Tern (Chlidonias niger)
Whiskered Tern (Chlidonius hybrida)
Woodpigeon Columba palumbus)
Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur)
Swift (Apus apus)
Alpine Swift (Apus melba)
Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
Iberian Wagtail (Motacilla flava iberiae)
White Wagtail (Motacilla alba alba)
Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
Red-rumped Swallow (Hirundo daurica)
House Martin (Delichon urbicum)
Sand Martin (Riparia riparia)
Fan-tailed Warbler (Cisticola juncidis)
Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis)
Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris)

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