My aim today was to find some Dotterel. Over the last couple of weeks, they have been coming into their traditional passage and wintering locations in Albacete and Almeria provinces, and I am sure they must be around somewhere in Murcia. I had planned to explore the area around Jumilla, but on hearing the weather forecast, decided against going so far, as due to heat haze, I would be traveling 90 minutes each way to only be able to search fields for a maximum of 2 - 3 hours. I needed somewhere nearer, and settled on the Saladares del Guadalentín, an area I have not visited since late spring. This is a triangle of farmland between Alhama de Murcia, Totana and Mazarron, and through which the river Guadalentín flows.
Arriving in the general area around 8am, I checked fields around the (empty) village of Los Muñoces before crossing under the RM-23 motorway which brought me into the saladares proper.
From here, I went on service roads alongside the RM-23, then the RM-3 up to the Guadalentín river itself, and along the top of the river bank. I then crossed into the farmland areas, and as always managed to get completely lost but saw some reasonable birds. The first bird of note was a Short-toed Eagle sat on top of an H.T. pylon, and I saw either this bird again later or another in the company of a third bird, soaring and then disappearing to view. I also managed to wander into a group of 30 or more Black-bellied Sandgrouse. This is a species that is really hit-or-miss for me. I would estimate that for every 5 trips here to find this bird, I see it once, so to see a decent sized group, and on the ground too, was pretty good.
One of two Short Toed Eagles seen
Part of the group of Black Bellied Sandgrouse seen...
...that landed on a field close by...
...but soon scuttled away in the way that they do...
...and one that flew almost overhead
In my meanderings around, I also saw a few migrants, including a couple of Willow Warbler, 2 Whinchat, 3 Turtle Doves, a group of 5 Northern Wheatear together sometimes sparring with each other (I presume they were a family group), 2 Booted Eagles (one dark, the other light phase).
Record shot of one of the Whinchats
And one of the Wheatears
Resident birds were thin on the ground – I only saw 1 Stone Curlew, no Calandra or Lesser Short-toed Larks or Spectacled Warblers at all and no Little Bustards (still, I think of Little Bustard and Black-bellied Sandgrouse as being mutually exclusive – having seen one species there’s no chance of seeing the other).
One of the residents, a male Stonechat
And another resident, Jackdaw
Crossing over the river to the west side of the saladares, I came across a field swarming with ‘flava’ Wagtails (all ‘Iberian’ that I could see). There were about 75 of them in total in three small fields, feeding and what I can only describe as ‘panting’ as many were wandering around with their mouths open – a form of keeping cool I presume. Why they should keep to these particular three small fields I have no idea, but I noticed a Kestrel keeping an eye on them from an overhead electricity cable.
Two photos of 'Iberian' Wagtails, a juvenile and adult female
And the Common Kestrel keeping an eye on them
Slightly further on was another concentration of birds – this time Cattle Egrets. I estimated there to be around 120, wandering around melon fields, feeding on grasshoppers.
Part of the large group of Cattle Egrets
It was while watching these that I noticed kestrels overhead. First 3, then 10, then checking around with my bins., 36 in total. Whenever you see such a concentration of Kestrels around here, you automatically think Lessers, and on checking them out with the ‘scope, that indeed is what they were. They were also hunting the grasshoppers in slightly thicker grass, as always hovering similar to a Common Kestrel. Although distant, they could be i.d.’d on their calls, and the adult males were obvious, the ‘grey’ parts on the head, coverts and tails being almost a soft blue colour.
Various shots of the Lesser Kestrels
One bird I wasn’t certain of, though, was a lot closer. It was on top of the electricity pylon I’d parked the car by. I took various photos, but still can’t decide if it was a Lesser or Common, so any comments appreciated. The last ‘different’ bird there was a Montagu’s Harrier, which was chased off by Kestrels (of the Common sort) and Jackdaws.
And a couple of shots of the Kestrel I'm not sure about. I THINK it's Common Kestrel
That was about it for there. No luck with the Dotterels, but a decent morning’s birdwatching. I left at 1:30pm to get back to the Mar Menor, where I made a quick stop at Lo Poyo (Los Nietos) and saw Sandwich and Little Terns, and Grey Plovers and Greenshank amongst the birds there, and then came home.
The group of terns and gulls seen from the shoreline
And a group of Sandwich Terns
Grey Plover with Little Egret
And Ringed Plover showing its back to the Grey Plover
Bird species seen
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus)
Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus)
Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus)
Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni)
Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus)
Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)
Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)
Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrines)
Slender-billed Gull (Larus genei)
Yellow-legged Gull (Larus cachinnans)
Sandwich Tern (Sterna sanvicensis)
Little Tern (Sterna albifrons)
Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
Hoopoe (Upupa epops)
Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa)
Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis)
Rock Dove / Domestic Pigeon (Columba livia)
Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur)
Crested Lark (Galerida cristata)
Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis)
Red-rumped Swallow (Hirundo daurica)
Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
House Martin (Delichon urbicum)
‘flava’ Wagtail (Motacilla flava iberiae)
White Wagtail (Motacilla alba alba)
Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)
Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)
Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus)
Blackbird (Turdus merula)
Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala)
Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)
Magpie (Pica pica)
Jackdaw (Corvus monedula)
Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor)
Great Tit (Parus major)
Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris)
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)