Friday, 5 October 2012


The coastal area of Murcia isn’t particularly known for its raptors, but maybe after this autumn, more people will be looking out for them.  I say this because during the last week or so, there has been a positive plethora of them seen from around the Cartagena area.
My own first sightings (apart from those mentioned in previous postings) were on Wednesday, 26th September when along with Diego Zamora Uran and Antonio Fernandez-Caro Gomez, I did the monthly census at the EDAR (sewage farm) at Cabeza Beaza in Cartagena, which consists of two large settlement lakes.  Here we are basically counting ducks, waders and other water birds and occasionally we see some other species.  One of the first birds we saw there this afternoon was a Black Kite low over the first lake.  The count itself went ahead as normal, with interesting birds seen being 4 Pintail, a couple of Willow Warblers and a female or immature Common Redstart, plus 12 ‘Spotted’ Starlings in amongst the Spotless Starlings on the H.T. cables.  On our way back from the count, one of us noted a raptor flying over high up, so we stopped to check it out.  It turned out to be a Short Toed Eagle, and while scanning around, we saw several other raptors making their way to the coastal mountains (towards Tentagorra).  We ended up stopping and scanning the skies for about half an hour, during which time we totaled a second Short Toed Eagle, another Black Kite, 3 Honey Buzzards, a Peregrine, a Sparrowhawk and two Hobbies.  Very unexpected!

 Some of the raptors seen at the EDAR Beaza (Cartagena) - Short Toed Eagle, Honey Buzzard, Black Kite
 - all photos © Diego Zamora Uran

Since then, on one of the local blogs, there have been several days when good (for Murcia) numbers of raptors have been seen, either from Tentagorra (just south of Cartagena) or Cabo Tiñoso (just before the bay of Mazarron), with Short-toed and Booted Eagles, Honey Buzzards, a lot of Marsh Harriers, a few Ospreys, plus Hobbies, Peregrines and Kestrels.

I myself went with a couple of friends to Cabo Tiñoso on Thursday 27th September in the afternoon, but we didn’t have too much here.  When we met in Cartagena, we had some Alpine Swifts flying around (which were quite late) and at Cabo Tiñoso itself, a pair of Peregrines, a large female Sparrowhawk, and a couple of Grey Herons that came out of the clouds high up and which got us going to begin with.  Down below in the water, we saw a few Cory’s Shearwaters which were great to look at from above – you could see all the contrasting ‘colours’ on them.  And on the way home, a Golden Eagle flew parallel to the car just outside Cartagena.

Over the weekend, as I’m sure that you know, the weather turned and we had our first decent rain for 5 months.  (In fact I had arranged to go with six other people to Tarifa in Andalucia for raptors for the weekend, but in view of the weather forecast, we decided to cancel at the last minute.) The floods that reached the south of the region didn’t affect us, but we did still have some pretty heavy rain.

On the Saturday morning (29th September), I had a quick look at the Marchamalo Salinas where there was nothing of note (best birds being 32 Greater Flamingos) and then went with someone I met at the Salinas to the lighthouse gardens at Cabo de Palos.  Once again, things were quiet, apart from an immature or female Marsh Harrier that came in off the sea, 3 Northern Wheatears, a female/juvenile Common Redstart and an adult Shag.

 There are still a few Northern Wheatears hanging around

 Adult Shag, generally rare in the Mediterranean, but we have a few breeding pairs

I carried on from the lighthouse up the La Manga ‘strip’ to the ‘encañizadas’ at the far end to see if the change in weather had caused any changes there.  Of note here were 2 more Marsh Harriers that came in off the sea separately, a male and a female/immature, and Spoonbill numbers that had increased to 11.  Also, I couted a total of 55 Grey Herons and 60 Little Egrets and saw a Kingfisher, and had singletons of Swallow and Red-rumped Swallow go over.

A day for Marsh Harriers - one of the three I saw coming in off the sea
On my way back home, I decided to call in at the ‘Playa Paraiso’ side of the Marchamalo Salinas to see if the rain had affected thing there – and was pleasantly surprised to see that at last, the first lagoon was at least half covered in water (for the first time since the spring).  Here there were around 1,500 Yellow-legged Gulls roosting, including a colour-ringed juvenile whose ring I managed to read (not always easy when it’s green lettering on an orange background).  Also here were 4 Black Winged Stilts and 3 Greenshanks.  It started spitting with rain while I was there, and by the time I got home it was bucketing down, so that laid waste any plans I had for the afternoon.

Part of the group of Yellow-legged Gulls resting at the side of the water in Playa Paraiso
On the Sunday morning (30th September), as it was still fairly cloudy, I called in once again at the lighthouse garden at Cabo de Palos.  Here things had definitely changed, as the bushes seemed to be alive with the ‘tick-tick-tick’ing of Robins, and there were Blackbirds everywhere.  I also heard the gruff call of a Ring Ouzel, but couldn’t find the bird.  Other birds seen were a Pied Flycatcher (surprisingly, my first of the autumn in Murcia), a couple of Common Redstarts (females or juveniles), a couple of Chiff/Willows, 3 Northern Wheatears, a Whinchat, a Southern Grey Shrike (which started to sing – maybe happy that the rain had come as there were black beetles everywhere), a group of 15 Monk Parakeets (which are probably the noisiest birds around at the moment, until the Starlings get here in force). There were also a few Swallows about, and on the sea, 3 Shag (adult and 2 juveniles) and a juvenile Gannet. 

 Adult and juvenile Shag

 There had definitely been a small fall of Blackbirds this morning

 Birds that are becoming increasingly more common around the area, Monk Parakeets

  From here I called into Cala Reona (Cala Flores, Cabo de Palos) as this is a good place to see Booted Eagles at this time of year.  I didn’t see any, but did see 3 Kestrels, one or two of which were making a real racket – the consensus of opinion is that it may have been one or two residents trying to kick-out an interloper.  Here I also had another Southern Grey Shrike singing, and a couple more Common Redstarts.  Once again, at about 11:30 the rain started and put off any thoughts of more birding for the day.

 Southern Grey Shrike

On Monday morning (1st October) before work, I called in again at the lighthouse garden at Cabo de Palos.  Here there were much less Blackbirds than yesterday, but I did see 7 Northern Wheatears, 3 Common Redstart, 4 Robins and my first Meadow Pipit of the autumn.  Unexpected were two Jackdaws that flew along from the port area of Cabo de Palos itself.

 Female or juvenile Common Redstart...

 ...and a male

My first Meadow Pipit of the autumn
In the afternoon, I called into the old EDAR (sewage farm) at El Algar.  The recent rains had put a layer of water over half of one of the lagoons, but there was very little birdlife apart from a female or immature Marsh Harrier, 3 Kestrels, and for me quite surprising, 8 Turtle Doves.  Also seen drinking in the lagoon was an Iberian Hare.
On my way back to Los Belones, via the Marina de Carmoli (Los Urrutias), another female/immature Marsh Harrier and 8 Curlew.

On Tuesday (2nd October) I didn’t actually go out birdwatching, but as I always carry my binoculars in the car, I did identify 2 Marsh Harriers in Los Belones in the afternoon.  They were flying south high up, up to the ‘Cabeza del fuente’, the mountain overlooking Los Belones.

On Wednesday (3rd October) I saw another Marsh Harrier (a male) flying over from the doorway of my office in Los Belones at around 11:30 in the morning, which was again heading south.
In the afternoon, I called in at the farm reservoirs on the way to San Javier airport.  I wasn’t expecting to see much, and was very surprised to see a single adult moulting Black Tern sat on a float, and seen again later flying.  The reservoirs themselves were very full of water, and other birds of interest seen were a single Common Sandpiper, a Little Ringed Plover and a Common Snipe, plus the usual Little Grebes, Moorhens, Coots and Mallard ducks.

 Three views of the very late Black Tern which is still hanging around

From here I carried on to the Salinas at San Pedro del Pinatar, and walked down ‘La Mota’, the walkway/cyclepath that divides the Mar Menor from the Salinas themselves.
Although I saw nothing too out of the ordinary here, the rain (and presumably winds) had obviously pushed a lot of the crustacean food sources to the edges of the lagoons as the waders and Black-necked Grebes were feeding along the edge of the walkway allowing good photo opportunities.  Waders seen were Black Winged Stilts (3), Curlew Sandpiper (1 juvenile), Dunlin (12), Sanderling (c.50), Little Stint (19), Ringed Plover (4), Redshank (2), plus around 250 Black Necked Grebes, 120 Greater Flamingoes and 60 Slender-billed Gulls.  Other birds seen were Mediterranean Gulls, Sandwich Terns, Black-headed Gulls, a Willow Warbler and a few Swallows.

Some of the birds seen on my walk down 'La Mota'
 Adult male Ringed Plover



 Little Stint


 Juvenile Slender-billed Gull

 Little Stint

 Juvenile Curlew Sandpiper


 Common Redshank

 Juvenile Curlew Sandpiper
Black-necked Grebe
 Black-necked Grebe hunting!

Greater Flamingos
 Black-necked Grebe hunting

 Black-necked Grebe
 Black-necked Grebes

 Willow Warbler

Little Stints having a scrap!

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