Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Summary of outings over the weekend 26th to 28th October

The weather over this weekend was a real mix, with overcast skies and light rain first thing on Friday (26th) and remaining overcast all day although the rain stopped.  Temperatures in the range 15 – 18ºC.  Saturday was also cloudy with a few sunny spells and the same temperatures, but Sunday there was a change with cold northerly winds and much lower temperatures.

Friday, 26th October – Cabo de Palos lighthouse garden and Marchamalo Salinas 08:45 – 10:20
Weather: Sky overcast with light rain first thing; wind SW F2; 15ºC

I had a look at the lighthouse gardens first thing where Black Redstarts are now passing through quite strongly (I saw 13 in total).  Apart from that, things were relatively quiet, the only other birds of note being a slight passage of 11 Swallows going through.  The ‘winter’ birds have now taken up residence, meaning that there are always now Blackbirds, Robins, White Wagtails and Crag Martins to be seen.

On my way back home at the Marchamalo Salinas, again nothing to get too exited about.  Avocet numbers are still increasing (I counted 76), and there were 4 Black-tailed Godwits, 13 Redshanks, 12 Greenshanks and a single Spotted Redshank, plus a total of 22 Black Winged Stilts.  There was also a good group of 27 Slender-billed Gulls feeding and roosting on the first lagoon, and Audouin’s Gulls on the lagoon walls.  On one of the interior lagoons, a group of 3 Shelducks were feeding.

EDAR Beaza (Cartagena)  16:00 – 18:15 with Diego Zamora Uran; Antonio Fernandez-Caro Gómez; Antonio Sansano
Weather: Sky overcast; wind SW F2-3; 18ºC

In the afternoon we did our monthly count at the Cartagena ‘sewage farm’, counting principally wildfowl and waders.  Ducks were represented by Mallard, Shoveler, Shelduck, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Common Teal and 3 Red-crested Pochard.  Waders were principally a large number of Black Winged Stilts supported by 2 Ruff (Ruff and Reeve), 3 Common Sandpiper and a single Green Sandpiper.  Other birds of interest were a juvenile Peregrine which put just about everything up, and an adult Bonelli’s Eagle which floated over us just as we were finishing.

 The Peregrine that buzzed us

And the adult Bonelli's Eagle

Saturday, 27th October – Cabo de Palos lighthouse garden and Marchamalo Salinas 09:00 – 10:50
Weather: Sky almost totally overcast; wind SW F1-2; 17ºC

Once again a first call at the lighthouse garden where there were still a good number (11) of Black Redstart, and 4 Songthrush were new.  Walking around the cliff area I inadvertently flushed a juvenile Peregrine off its lookout perch and it flew off towards Calblanque.  Apart from these there was nothing new from yesterday.

Peregrine making a hasty exit
At the Marchamalo Salinas things were also much like yesterday, apart from an obvious increase in Grey Heron with 11 of them standing on the walls of the lagoons.  Something that was different though, was while checking through the waders, I heard a strange call from the sky behind me, and on looking round saw a Peregrine harassing a Short-eared Owl.  But the Peregrine wasn’t getting things all its own way – the owl seemed to be giving as good as it got!  After a few minutes of one chasing the other and vice versa, they must have decided that there was no future in it, and they separated, the Peregrine back towards Calblanque, and the Short-eared Owl circling and gaining height and drifting off to the north.  My second S.E.O. in as many weeks – not a bad record for this area.

 In front of me on one of the pools, Slender-billed and Black-headed Gulls...

...meanwhile behind me, a Peregrine and Short-eared Owl having a set-to

Calblanque (Los Belones) – 11:00 – 13:00.
Weather: Sky almost totally overcast; no wind; 21ºC

As I’d not been over Calblanque for a while (and more to the point it’s the only local easily accessible place with pine trees where a Yellow-browed Warbler, of which there’s been a few over the past few days in the north of Spain, might be lurking), I thought I’d have a walk around the two carparks (which are surrounded by pine trees).  Well, I’m not sure it was worth the effort – maybe it was the time of day, but I hardly saw anything – best birds were a Songthrush, Grey Wagtail, 15 Crag Martins, Blackcap, a couple of Thekla Larks, Blue Rock Thrush (male) and Green Woodpecker (actually, listing them out like that, it doesn’t seem so bad!).

Male Blue Rock Thrush on its lookout

San Pedro del Pinatar Salinas – 15:00 – 17:00
Weather: Sky 2-3/8 cloud; wind N F1; 24ºC

After a quick lunch, as it had brightened up a bit, I thought I’d go to San Pedro to see if there were any interesting waders about, and in particular to see if there might be some Knot along the walkway between the two windmills (the ‘La Mota’ walkway).  I didn’t stay there too long as the only wader I saw along the edge of the first lagoon was a single Ringed Plover.  I did however do a count of the Black Necked Grebes – 217 in total.
Round at the other side of the Salinas (on the port road), birds of interest were 6 Ruff, a Grey Wagtail, Kingfisher, a late Reed Warbler, around 400 Greater Flamingos and a group of 9 Cormorants.  I took a walk along the canal that runs alongside the Salinas as the reeds in this have now all been cut.  I was hoping for a Water Rail or similar, but had to make do with Moorhens!

A couple of the many Moorhens along the canal

Sunday, 28th October – Cabo Tiñoso (Cartagena), EDAR Mazarron and Saladares del Guadalentín 08:40 – 12:45
Weather: Sky clear; wind N F3-4; temperature 11 - 15ºC

For a change of scene, I decided this morning to go to Cabo Tiñosa, the last cape in the Cartagena area before entering Mazarron.  Although this is a popular Sunday daytrip spot, I thought that if I got there early enough there shouldn’t be too many people around, as the clocks had gone back the night before.  I wanted to get there early, as I was particularly looking for two species, Alpine Accentor and Ring Ouzel which are notorious for disappearing if there is too much disturbance.  Setting off therefore at 8 a.m., I got there at 8-40, and sure enough I was the only person there.  However, with a cold northerly wind blowing, a brisk walk around the area showed me that it was not only people that were absent.  There WERE birds about, just not the ones I wanted to see.  Commonest birds apart from Greenfinch and Chaffinch were Songthrush (31 counted – obviously an overnight fall of them) and Black Redstart (12).  There were a few others seen, such as Blackbird, Black Wheatear, Blackcap, Dartford and Sardinian Warblers and Crag Martin.

Although not on my original itinerary, as it was so cold I decided to call in at the EDAR (sewage farm) of Mazarron otherwise known as the ‘Charco de las Moraderas’, in case the cold had displaced any of the more northerly wildfowl that we don’t normally see here (such as Tufted Duck).  Although in actual fact there wasn’t anything I wouldn’t have expected, and although viewing is limited to being a long way off, it was worth the effort as I did see 3 Ferruginous Ducks (all males), 3 Common Teal, 6 White-headed Ducks and a Purple Gallinule and my first Reed Bunting of the winter.

A mix of the birds seen, with three male Ferruginous Ducks, Pochard, a couple of B.W.Stilt, Greenshank, and another duck that I didn't notice till I unloaded the camera onto the computer!

As I was down in that area, I decided to call into the Saladares del Guadalentín on my way back home, more than anything to see if the Dotterel were still about. Over there I bumped into Paul Sparkes who covers the area regularly and who had also been looking for them but without success.  He told me he had also been looking for them the day before but without success, and although it IS possible that they were keeping under cover due to the cold northerly wind that was blowing, I think we can probably assume that they’ve gone.  Birds seen over there were plenty of Black Redstarts (20+), a flock of 30+ Jackdaw and a flock of 50+ Skylarks.  Also interestingly, I saw 2 Northern Wheatear in spite of the cold.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

23rd October 2012 – Cabo de Palos lighthouse garden – 08:15 to 10:10 a.m. and 18:00 to 18:50 p.m.

Weather: Cloud 4/8, no wind; 13-18ºC
I thought I’d have an early look at the lighthouse garden, and on arriving there I could see that there had obviously been a fall.  There seemed to be Blackbirds and Robins calling from everywhere.  I took my normal walk around the gardens inside the fenced area, starting with the lower part around the rocks, and then went up the asphalted road up to the lighthouse itself, then walking down the steps to the gate.  Apart from the Blackbirds and Robins, I flushed numerous Songthrushes on my way round, and saw Sardinians and a Dartford Warbler and Chiffchaffs.  The Southern Grey Shrike that seems to have taken up residence was in its usual place, and I also saw a couple of Black Redstarts, and two Common Redstarts, one an adult male and the other a female or juvenile.  I also saw a few Crag Martins flying around the top of the lighthouse, and various Spotless Starlings feeding around the bushes.

Early start today - I almost beat the sun coming up

 The 'winter resident' Southern Grey Shrike, keeping an eye out for insects

Somewhat late, a male Common Reststart

 Typical visitors at this time of year - Blackbird...

 ...and Robin

 However the most interesting birds were several groups of Siskins.  It is the first time I’ve seen Siskins here.  I first saw a group of about 20 which were joined by other groups including one of 50+, and I reckon that in total I saw more than 110.  They were coming in from the southwest, dropping onto the point of the gardens where they fed for a while, then flew off again heading north.  Their point of arrival and heading are a bit of a mystery to me, as I’ve always understood that the birds we see here in the winter are birds from northern Europe and Russia.

And not so typical - the first time I've seen Siskins here, dropping in to feed...
...and then heading off north
In the rest of the gardens area were the usual birds, with 20 Collared Doves in the carpark area, House Sparrows and Spotted Starlings, Crested Larks plus various finches (Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Linnets, Serin), and on the rocks at the easternmost rocks, a couple of Northern Wheatears.

 In the rest of the area I walk, Linnet...

 ...Northern Wheatear...

...Crested ('Carpark') Lark

I returned in the afternoon to see if any Siskins still remained, but there were none.  In fact most of the passage birds had gone.  What was new though, were around 30 Black Redstarts within the fenced area of the lighthouse garden, including 2 adult males, and the number of Stonechats had increased to three, 2 males and a female.

 Daytime arrivals, many Black Redstarts...

 ...and Stonechat
 Another of Black Redstart

Birds seen:
24 Blackbird (Turdus merula); 13 Songthrush (Turdus philomelos); 28 Robin (Erithacus rubecula); 8 Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita); 3 Crested Lark (Galerida cristata); 3 Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus); 8 Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala); 1 Dartford Warbler  (Sylvia undata); 5 Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris); 110+ Siskin (Carduelis spinus); 1 Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis); 40+ Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochrurus); 2 Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus); 4 White Wagtail (Motacilla alba alba); 25 Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor); 2 Audouin’s Gull (Larus audouinii); 1 Gannet (Morus bassanus); 1 Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs); 2 Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe); 8 Crag Martin (Ptyonoprogne rupestris); 20 Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto); 9 House Sparrow (Passer domesticus); 8 Linnet (Carduelis cannabina); 1 Serin (Serinus serinus); 1 Little Egret (Egretta garzetta); c20 Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis); 1 Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus).

Monday, 22 October 2012

Summary of outings over the weekend 19th to 21st October around the Mar Menor

The weather over the weekend has been generally grey skies with drizzle and rain, and relatively low temperatures (less than 20ºC most of the time apart from Sunday afternoon when the sun finally came out).  In fact, a lot like the UK!

Friday, 19th October – Cabo de Palos lighthouse garden and Marchamalo Salinas 08:45 – 10:15
Weather: Totally overcast with drizzle; wind SE F3-4; 16ºC

I had a look at the lighthouse gardens first thing, in the hope that there may have been a fall of birds due to the weather conditions. Also, I hadn’t been there since the 6th of October, so I was keen to see if there much change in the species.  Although there were less birds than I had hoped, there were some interesting numbers, with 4 migrating Swallows, and of winter birds 8 each of Blackbirds and Songthrushes, 4 Robins, 16 Crag Martins, 9 Sardinian Warblers, a Dartford Warbler and 16 Starlings. (Although the Sardinian Warblers breed in the scrub around the lighthouse, there were many more than normal, presumably birds on migration).  The real surprise birds were a Short-eared Owl which stayed around the lighthouse, a Purple Heron which flew off south over the Mediterranean and a Kingfisher on the shoreline.

 Although a poor record shot (due to the light conditions), this Purple Heron is still identifyable by the angular neck and long dangly toes

No problem i.d.'ing this Short Eared Owl...

...which was eventually chased off by a Yellow-legged Gull, but returned

 Some of the commoner winter visitors - 'Spotty' (as opposed to Spotless) Starlings...


...and Kestrel

On my way back home I called into the Marchamalo Salinas which I had not visited since the 5th October.  As no water has recently been pumped into the Salinas, the lagoon that I normally stop at was not as full of water as on my previous visit, and there was a large muddy fringe to the pool nearest to where I park the car.  Here there were a good number of waders, with 27 Little Stints, 37 Dunlin, 4 Ringed and a single Kentish Plover, and a single juvenile Grey Plover.  In the next (deeper) lagoon, there was a good number of Avocets (38), 5 juvenile Greater Flamingos, 27 Black Winged Stilts, a Ruff, 4 Spotted Redshanks, 7 Common Redshanks and 8 Greenshanks.  On one of the ‘motas’ was a group of 62 Audouin’s Gulls, which included a juvenile and a 2nd year bird, all the others being adults.  Other birds seen were 2 Little Egrets, 2 Shelducks, 5 Slender-billed Gulls and 12 Black-headed Gulls.

Saturday, 20th October – Cabo de Palos lighthouse garden, Marchamalo Salinas and the ‘Encañizadas’ at the end of La Manga

Cabo de Palos lighthouse gardens 10:00 – 11:20
Weather: Overcast (rain overnight); wind NW F1; 13ºC

The birds seen were much the same as yesterday but without the Purple Heron, Short-eared Owl, Kingfisher, Songthrushes or Starlings (only Spotless Starlings today).  There was a definite increase in the number of Blackbirds and Robins, and new birds were a single male Black Redstart, a couple of Chaffinches, a Chiffchaff, and surprisingly a late male Common Redstart.  Out to sea were a few Cory’s Shearwaters.

 A bit of a late migrant, this Common Redstart

 A Robin, a regular visitor to the lighthouse gardens in winter, although not always so showy
 And in the bay, sitting on its favourite islet, a Shag with a Yellow-legged Gull for company

Marchamalo salinas 11:45 – 12:00
Weather: Cloud 5-6/8; wind NW F1; 18ºC

Changes from yesterday were another juvenile Greater Flamingo, 7 Grey Herons, less Dunlin and Little Stints (although these may have been on one of the central lagoons not visible from my watchpoint), a couple of Sandwich Terns on the ‘mota’ with the Audouin’s Gulls whose numbers had dropped to 23, and the number of Slender-billed Gulls  had increased to 18 in a group doing their typical ‘dive-feeding’ (jumping up from the surface of the water and diving into the water to catch their prey).

‘Encañizadas’, Veneciola, La Manga 12:30 – 13:20
Weather: Cloud 7/8; no wind; 17ºC

This is another place I had not visited for a while, this time since the 29th September.  I was particularly interested in the number of Spoonbills that were around, and to know whether the Great White Egrets had arrived yet.  As the weather was cold and threatening rain, there were not too many people around causing disturbance, and there was a reasonable sized group of waders at the edge of the water which included a single Bar-tailed Godwit, not a wader commonly seen in Murcia province (in fact the Encañizadas are the only place I know of to see Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew and Knot on a regular basis although on this occasion I didn’t see Knot).  Other birds of interest were the high number of Grey Herons (81 in total), the 33 Spoonbills (which were all sleeping or preening in the marshes in the centre of the Encañizadas), a single adult Lesser Black-backed Gull, 12 Sandwich Terns and the first post breeding Water Pipit I have seen this autumn.  Egrets were particularly low in numbers – I only saw 2 Little Egrets and there was no sign of Great White Egret.

 The only birds close enough to photograph! Part of a flock of Black-headed Gulls

Sunday, 21st October – Cabo de Palos lighthouse garden, Marchamalo Salinas, Calblanque and the ‘desembocadura’ of the Rambla de Albujon (Los Urrutias)

Cabo de Palos lighthouse gardens 09:40 – 10:30
Weather: Totally overcast with drizzle/light rain; wind NW F2; 13ºC

A rapid walk around gardens at the lighthouse showed few surprises, the only major one being a female or juvenile Marsh Harrier coming in off the sea from the northeast, and definite passage of Swallows going through with a total of 21, and singletons of  Chiffchaff and Black Redstart.

Marchamalo salinas 10:35 – 11:00
Weather: Cloud 8/8 with drizzle; wind NW F2; 15ºC

The only new bird here today was a single Black-tailed Godwit.  Dunlin numbers remained at 22, and Little Stints 18.  Of interest was the ‘herding-feeding’ action of the Avocets.  Normally when I see them feeding they are dispersed and feeding individually, but this feeding action was of approximately 40 Avocets together in a very tight group moving and feeding as one.  I have seen this form of feeding before and it is quite comical to watch.

 Adult Slender-billed Gull preening - note the pinkish tone to the tail and underwing

 A group of S.B.Gulls preening

 Slender-billed Gulls and Avocets, with Greater Flamingos in the background

Calblanque, Los Belones 11:10 – 13:40
Weather: Cloud totally overcast with drizzle; wind NW F1; 15ºC

I wanted to check out the Audouin’s Gulls at the old Salinas de Rasall, and also had a look around the rest of Calblanque.  I entered Calblanque from Los Belones via Las Jordanas, and the first notable sighting was of a group of 35 Woodpigeons perched together in a couple of Carab trees.  These must be their normal roost trees as I have seen large groups of Woodpigeons in these same trees before.  Down in the camping area, the only bird of note was a single very loud Chiffchaff ‘hueet’ing away.  I went on to the wooded area slightly further west but things were very quiet here too with a Sparrowhawk being the only noteworthy bird.  Coming back past the information centre, I stopped for about 20 minutes opposite the carpark as I could see there were various birds in the olive trees there.  Here I saw Robins, Blackbirds, Great Tit and a couple of Blackcaps.

Moving on down to the Rasall Salinas, again there was very little birdlife – a Green Woodpecker, Little Egret and 8 adult Audouins Gulls on one of the motas, 2 of which were colour ringed and one of which I recognised straight away, first ringed in the Delta del Ebro (Tarragona) as a nestling the 19th June 1988 and now has the distinction of being the longest living Audouin’s Gull known.  From the Salinas I carried on to the eastern end of the track where there were more Crested/Thekla Larks and a pair of Black Wheatears being particularly showy.

 Black Wheatear keeping an eye out for lunch...

 ...and it's found something to eat!

Desembocadura de la rambla de Albujon (Los Urrutias) 18:00 – 19:00
Weather: Sky 3/8 cloud; No wind; 24º

At last some blue skies! I spent an hour in this corner of the Mar Menor walking a little way up the banks of the river.  Of note here were a Common Sandpiper and Sandwich Tern at the Mar Menor itself, and at least 2 Bluethroats nearby, the first of the wintering population that I have seen.

DOTTERELS in Murcia - ZEPA Saladar del Guadalentín, 17th October 2012

Although I have seen Dotterel in various places in Spain, up until now I have never seen them in the province of Murcia.  This is not due to lack of trying – in fact this autumn I have made a special effort to try to find them but without success.  The Dotterel, although not a rarity in Murcia, can definitely be considered as ‘scarce’.  Unlike in the surrounding provinces of Alicante, Albacete and Almeria, there is no regular spot to see them.  (In Alicante they are normally seen from the end of August in the fields surrounding ‘El Hondo’ near Crevillente; in Albacete there are several flocks seen close to the border with Murcia again from the end of August onwards until October/November and also in the Spring, and in Almeria they winter in the southern coastal dunes to the east of Almeria city).

Recent recorded sightings in the region of Murcia are normally single records per year of single birds although two years ago a flock of 36 was seen.

Therefore apart from being one of my favourite birds to see, I was very interested to receive a message that two had been seen last Sunday in the Guadalentín valley, and that by Tuesday the number had increased to 8.  I arranged to go with the finder, Paul Sparkes, on Wednesday afternoon to view them.  Arriving at 3 p.m., we went straight to the area he had last seen them the day before, but they were nowhere to be seen, but we did have a Golden Eagle go over us quite close (2nd year bird, I think).

 Immature (2nd year) Golden Eagle

However, checking nearby likely fields, Paul noticed movement that wasn’t Stone Curlew – yes, it was the Dotterel.  To begin with we only saw five, but eventually saw the whole group of eight.  From the coloration, 2 appeared to be adults as they were quite dark on the breast.

 Five of the eight Dotterels seen

 One of the quite colourful birds, presumably an adult

 The same bird with a draber looking individual

We watched them from a safe distance so as not to disturb them, for about ¾ of an hour, and then had a look around the rest of the ZEPA.  Other birds of note seen were a group of 5 Black-bellied Sandgrouse that flew over, and a ringtail Hen Harrier.

 Three shots of the 'ringtail' Harrier.
 The pale underwing and single pale tailfeather makes me think it is an immature male

Birds seen

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis); Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus); Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos); Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus); Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa); Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus); Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis); Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus); Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus); Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos); Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis); Crested Lark (Galerida cristata);  Skylark (Alauda arvensis); Swallow (Hirundo rustica); Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus); Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe); Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata); Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis); Jackdaw (Corvus monedula).