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.

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