Monday, 22 October 2012

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).

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