Monday, 5 November 2012

Around the Mar Menor and other places

During the last week, I have been going to my normal areas to see if I can find anything different, mainly the Cabo de Palos lighthouse gardens and Marchamalo Salinas first thing, and then various places in the afternoons.  Not wishing to bore you with lists of the same birds, I am just going to summarize.

Cabo de Palos lighthouse gardens – 29th, 30th, 31st October, 1st and 3rd November, all visits around 8 to 10am.
All the usual birds were seen here on all the days, (Yellow-legged Gull, Collared Dove, Blackbird, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Sardinian Warbler, Black Redstart, Robin, White Wagtail, Crag Martins, Southern Grey Shrike and Stonechat).  In the bay area between the lighthouse and La Manga there was a juvenile Gannet most days (possibly the same bird) with 2 on the 3rd.  Also over the sea on the 29th, a line of 26 Cormorants flying south.  Other birds seen on the 29th when there was a small fall of migrants, were 17 Chifchaff, 3 Songthrushes, a Dartford Warbler, a Chaffinch, a Spotted (as opposed to Spotless) Starling, and the star bird, a female Goldcrest, this little sprite being something of a rarity here in Murcia.

 Quite a rarity in Murcia, female Goldcrest seen near the lighthouse at Cabo de Palos...

...and recently quite common, a Chiffchaff seen in the same location...

 ... and the now ever-present Robin...

 ... and another, this time with a Chiffchaff in the same bush...

 The Southern Grey Shrike that seems to have taken up residence...

...and the Kestrel, also often seen around the lighthouse

Meanwhile out in the bay towards La Manga, this juvenile Gannet seems to be hanging around

On the 30th there were another 8 Chiffchaffs, a Songthrush, a male Chaffinch which flew out to sea north, 2 Linnets, 8 Greenfinches, 5 Serins and 3 Blackcaps (one male, 2 females/juveniles).
On the 31st there were 9 Chiffchaffs, 2 Sonthrushes, a Meadow Pipit, and I heard Dartford Warbler, Goldcrest and Chaffinch.
On the 1st October, ‘different’ birds were 2 Meadow Pipits, a Grey Heron over the sea heading south, a Dartford Warbler and 3 Chiffchaffs, and a Chaffinch heard.
Lastly, on the 3rd the only non-regular birds were 2 Chiffchaffs, and a single Cormorant flying over high up heading south.

Marchamalo salinas – 29th, 31st October, 1st and 3rd November, all visits around 10 to 10:30am.
I normally stop in a roadside ‘layby’ (actually a rough area that you can just squeeze a car into to get off the road), on the NE corner of the Salinas, and scan from here.  The pool immediately in front is now at a good level for viewing waders if they are in this pool, although recently most of the long legged waders are in the pool behind and have to be ‘scoped. There have been reasonable numbers of Little Stints (25 to 85) and Dunlin (15 to 50) in the first pool, and also good numbers of ‘Shanks with up to 15 Greenshanks, 12 Spotted Redshanks and 20 Common Redshanks.  Also during the week numbers of Avocets have been increasing with 108 on the 1st November.  Other waders have been a few Black-tailed Godwits (with 8 on the 1st); the ever present Black Winged Stilts (25 on the 29th October, although as these have a habit of keeping close to the lagoon walls, there may have been many more in some of the other lagoons impossible to view); 5 Ringed Plovers and 2 Kentish Plovers on the 1st Nov. (again there may have been many more), and a single Common Snipe on the 1st Nov.  Non-waders included up to 26 Greater Flamingos (with up to 6 juveniles) and 4 Little Egrets on the 1st November, 10 Grey Herons and 9 Shelducks on the 31st October, and a male Peregrine Falcon that put everything up, on the 29th October. 

 A general view of the salinas, showing groups of Black Winged Stilts, Avocets and Slender-billed Gulls...

...and a Slender-billed Gull in close-up, particularly colourful for the time of year...

 ...unlike this winter plumaged Spotted Redshank, swimming rather than walking
 A couple more of the winter residents, Shelduck and Greater Flamingo

 More winter birds, Avocet, Spotted Redshank and Black Winged Stilt...

 ...and a Black-tailed Godwit
 Greater Flamingos having a snooze

 ...and another Spotted Redshank, this time showing its legs...

 ...and the same bird with a Black-tailed Godwit
Passerines included a single Fan-tailed Warbler that sat on a bush next to the car, begging to be photographed, and unlike normal DIDN’T fly off as soon as I got my camera out! 
On the 29th I walked along the bushes from my normal parking spot back to the ‘Playa Paraiso’ urbanization (which has many Tamarisk trees, a favourite with the phyllosc warblers).  Here I had a single Dartford Warbler, 11 Chiffchaffs, 6 Songthrushes, 11 Robins, 3 Blackbirds, a Southern Grey Shrike, 3 Chaffinch, around 120 Serins, 2 Meadow Pipits, 6 Sardinian Warblers, 2 White Wagtails, 3 Black Redstarts, Crested Lark, Stonechat and a single Bluethroat (which winter here).

 "Take my photo and I promise I won't move" - a very obliging Fan-tailed Warbler (or Cisting Zitticola for the new generation of birders)...

... and yet another Chiffchaff 

Other outings:

31st October 2012 – San Pedro del Pinatar 14:20 – 16:20
On the evening of the 30th October, I heard a report that there had been a male Eider seen in the port at San Pedro del Pinatar, so in the afternoon of the 31st I took a trip over there to see if it was hanging around.  I spent a couple of hours in the port area, but the bird wasn’t there (I personally think that it had maybe strayed too far south in the northerly winds of the previous day, and that the mouth of the Rio Segura at Guardamar (Alicante province) might be worth a look, as in the past Eider have been known to winter there).  What I did see in the port was a very late Common Tern, a Sandwich Tern, 6 Turnstones, a Kingfisher and I heard a Common Sandpiper.  As I was in the area, I had a look around the Salinas themselves, but there was nothing out of the ordinary there, apart from a flock of about 200 Jackdaws near the desalination plant, and a Grey Wagtail in the canal near the information centre that separates the Salinas from the main road.

Record shot of a very late Common Tern

On my way back home I stopped off along the Mar Menor at Punta Brava, and looking over the Mar Menor had 26 Black-necked Grebes, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 12 Shoveler (only one of which was an adult male) and 14 Teal (all of which were females or juveniles).  Lastly, coming past Lo Poyo, I saw 2 Marsh Harriers over the reedbeds by the Mar Menor, a Common Buzzard on an electricity pylon, and a Little Owl on the roof of an abandoned house between Los Nietos and Los Belones.

1st November 2012 – Encañizadas, La Manga 11:00 – 12:50
As the 1st November is a public holiday here in Spain, I had the whole day free, so after checking out the lighthouse garden and Marchamalo, I went up the La Manga strip to the end, the area known as the ‘Encañizadas’.  On my way up there I noticed a group of gulls sitting on a breakwater, so decided to stop and have a look.  In total there were 40 Black-headed Gulls, 5 Slender-billed Gulls, 5 Sandwich Terns, a couple of adult Yellow-legged Gulls and a single adult winter plumage Mediterranean Gull, and interestingly the Med. Gull was colour ringed with a red ring with white lettering, similar to one I had seen at the Encañizadas on the 15th September, whose ring I couldn’t read as it was too far away.  No such problem with this bird, originally ringed as a Euring 8 (adult) on a rubbish-tip in the south of Hungary on the 16th May 2010, it has been seen several times since in Hungary, but this is the first sighting outside of that country.

 The colour-ringed Mediterranean Gull in the Mar Menor...

...and some more of the group of gulls and terns seen there
At the Encañizadas themselves there was a fair mix of species, with Grey, Ringed and Kentish  Plovers, Greenshank and Redshank, Turnstone, Stone Curlew and Curlew amongst the waders, 17 Cormorant, 73 Grey Heron but only 3 Little Egret, 4 Great White Egret (the first of the wintering birds), Kingfisher, and amongst the passerines 4 Stonechat and a couple of Dartford Warblers.

2nd November 2012 – Sierra Espuña, EDAR Alhama de Murcia, Saladares del Guadalentín 08:30 – 17:00
I took an early morning trip up to Espuña in the hope of seeing winter thrushes and accentors.  I went straight up to the ‘Pozos de Nieve’ on the top of Espuña to an area I know as a wintering area of Ring Ouzels, and within 5 minutes of getting out of the car I had seen a minimum of 6 of these, together with Coal, Great and Crested Tits and many Jays.  I continued on to the ‘Pozos de Nieve de Murcia’ and remained there for several hours, during which time I saw more Great, Coal and Crested Tits, another 6 Ring Ouzels plus Blackbirds, Mistle Thrushes, Songthushes and a couple of Redwings, and a Firecrest and 2 Chough, and on returning to my car I saw a further Firecrest.

 O.K., I realise they're not birds, but they ARE photogenic - a flock of Barbary Sheep (Arruí - Ammotragus lervia) which have been long introduced into Sierra Espuña

 And a photogenic bird, this male Black Redstart - quite common in Espuña...

 ...and a record shot of the only Crossbill I saw here today
I then went higher up on the military road towards the radar station, in the hope of seeing Alpine Accentors there, but without success.  I did however see a ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier pass through.

Leaving Sierra Espuña in the early afternoon, I called into the sewage farm (EDAR) of Alhama de Murcia.  This was a new site for me and it definitely looks interesting, having two reed surrounded settlement pools. Although fairly quiet, I did see Mallards,  Coots, Little Grebes, Black Winged Stilts, Pochard, Shovelers and White-headed Ducks on the pools, plus a couple each of Swallow and House Martins flying around overhead, and a female or immature Marsh Harrier flew through.

As it was virtually on the way home, I called into the Saladares del Guadalentín, a rural area to the east of the Guadalentín river valley.  Although just a fleeting visit, I did see a Golden Eagle perched on an electricity pylon.

3rd November 2012 – Calblanque, Los Belones, 10:50 – 11:30
Although quite windy, I went over to Calblanque hoping to read colour rings on the Audouin’s Gull that are normally present in the old Rasall Salinas.  However when I got there, there were only two gulls present, neither of which were ringed, and the only birds of note were my first local Reed Bunting of the winter, and a Sparrowhawk as I drove out.

And finally, for any birders that are around the region of Murcia at the moment, keep an eye (or two) out for Common Cranes (that have been pouring down the western side of Spain but a few odd ones have been seen in Murcia) and Griffon Vultures of which there seems again to be quite a few groups in the S.E. corner of Spain, and some have been seen in both Murcia city and close to Cartagena.

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