Tuesday, 11 September 2012

El Arenal de Los Nietos

Over the last few days I have made three visits to the Arenal, Los Nietos.  The Arenal is the beach area adjoining and to the west of Los Nietos, on the Mar Menor.  The reason for checking out the area was to see if there was possibly any Dotterel there, as the habitat  is exactly like the habitat in Almeria where Dotterel winter, and a Dotterel was seen there a couple of years ago at the end of August.

My first visit on Friday, 7th September drew a blank, but I was 90% certain that I’d heard a Richards Pipit there.

Visiting there again late on Sunday, 9th September, this time to gauge the passage of ‘flava’ Wagtails as we’d be trying to ring these there the next day.  The passage was light, with only around 50 wagtails seen, but there was a heavy passage of Swallows and Red-rumped Swallows going into roost, and I had a single Common Swift fly through, the first for quite a few days.
As I walked back to my car which I had left at the entrance to the Arenal, I saw a Montagu’s Harrier (juvenile) fly up along the reedbed opposite, and a few minutes later in the same area, a female or immature Marsh Harrier.

Monday, 10th September, I got there at 5pm, as we were to set up the nets for ringing.  Once we had set up the nets, I went for a walk along with Angel Guadiola along the Arenal as far as the first stream that empties into the Mar Menor and back.  On our way along, I heard the characteristic call of a Richard’s Pipit, and saw the bird in flight.  I called Angel’s attention to it and we both watched it for a while until it flew again and we lost it.  It was the typical Richard’s Pipit, very upright in stance, quite fat-bellied and holding its head as if looking slightly upwards.  To me a strange thing about it was that it had an almost unmarked throat and belly, and its belly looked very light, almost yellow coloured.

Getting back to the nets and the people ringing, it was time for a net round.  There was a fair group of ‘flava’ Wagtails in the reeds between the two lines of nets that had been set up, and we could see a few birds in the nets.
In total there were 15 ‘flava’s’ caught, plus Fan-tailed Warblers, a Lark and a Reed Warbler.  I say a ‘lark’ as it was ringed and identified as a Thekla Lark, but personally I think it was a Crested.

Whilst the ringing was going on, I was scanning around to see if I could see either of the Harriers I had seen yesterday.  I had no luck with these, but did pick up a raptor hovering above the skyline that looked wrong for a Kestrel.  The wings looked too broad and rounded and in hovering, the wings moved up and down much more than Kestrel.  I called to everyone there that I thought I had a Black Winged Kite, and most of them had a look and agreed with me, but it wasn’t until I saw it drop down that the i.d. was confirmed, floating down with wings held in the typical ‘V’ shape.  A very good record locally.  I lost it behind some trees, but saw it again later further away and watched it go over to the Marina de Carmoli beyond Los Urrutias.

Back at the ringing, in total 26 birds were ringed, the majority of which being ‘flava’ Wagtails, but also 4 Fan-tailed Warblers, 3 Sardinian Warblers, 2 Reed Warblers and the Lark.

 The 'Lark' - most said Thekla, but me and one other said young Crested

No doubts about this little chap - Fan Tailed Warbler (or 'Zitting Cisticola' for those new to birding!)

Later, when it was dark and we were standing around talking, we noticed the silhouette of a bird flying, and in the bin’s I could see it was a Barn Owl.

Bird species seen
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
Black Winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus)
Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus)
Yellow-legged Gull (Larus cachinnans)
Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur)
Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
Crested Lark (Galerida cristata)
Southern Grey Shrike  (Lanius meridionalis)
Red-rumped Swallow (Hirundo daurica)
Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
House Martin (Delichon urbicum)
Richard’s Pipit (Anthus richardi)
‘flava’ Wagtail (Motacilla flava iberiae)
Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus)
Blackbird (Turdus merula)
Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala)
Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
Fan-tailed Warbler (Cisticola juncidis)
Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor)
Linnet (Carduelis cannabina)
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

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