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.

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