Monday, 19 November 2012

Out and about during the week of 13th – 18th November 2012.

This time of year is normally fairly quiet, and the weather changeable and autumn migration at its end.

The past week has again been wet and windy but unseasonably warm, but I managed to get out to my usual local areas of the lighthouse gardens and Marchamalo salinas a couple of times midweek but with nothing new seen – still plenty of Black Redstarts at the lighthouse and something of a fall there on Tuesday 14th and Wednesday 15th with Blackbirds, Robins, Chaffinches, Stonechats, Chiffchaffs, Greenfinches and Sardinian Warblers, but the numbers of waders at Marchamalo having dropped noticeably.

 One of the winter residents in the lighthouse gardens, male Black Redstart...

...and Spotless Starling with four 'spotty' Starlings

 Still passing through, one of the Songthrushes seen this week

Now seen constantly overhead, Crag Martin

 I also managed to get over to the old salinas at Calblanque (Salinas de Rasall) where Audouins Gull numbers are starting to build up.  I counted 77 there on Wednesday afternoon, and managed to read 12 colour rings.  As is normal for around here, none of the birds were juveniles, the youngest being a second calendar year bird. About half the birds were ringed as pullus in the ‘La Mata’ lagoon near Torrevieja in Alicante province and most of the others as pullus at the Delta del Ebro in Tarragona (Cataluña).
Also at Calblanque I saw a couple of Siskins.  Judging by the reports I have been hearing from around Spain, this winter seems like it will be a good one for this species. (As an aside, another finch species, Lesser Redpoll has been present further up the coast in Alicante province, with a group of 6 being seen one of which was caught and ringed.  This is a species considered a rarity here in Spain, requiring a rarity description.)

 A 'looking into the sun' shot, two Siskins
 One of a couple of Hoopoes seen in Calblanque

 Seen from the hide at Calblanque, three of a group of four Greater Flamingos
On Friday afternoon (16th November) I had a look at the ‘Encañizadas’ at the end of La Manga strip. It had been raining heavily in the morning, so I hoped that there wouldn’t be much disturbance there, and so it turned out.  There were groups of Greater Flamingos fairly close, and good numbers of waders (1 Redshank, 8 Greenshank, 6 Curlew, 75 Dunlin, 15 Little Stint, 18 Ringed Plover, 23 Kentish Plover, 6 Grey Plover, 12 Turnstone and 4 Sanderling).  Flying along the Mediterranean edge of the Encañizadas was a constant stream of Cormorants in small groups, and I counted 228 during the time I was there.  On a single bush out in the marsh area I saw a stunning adult male Bluethroat (which disappeared as soon as I got my camera out), and in the same area I heard a Dartford Warbler.  Looking out across the gap between where I was and the San Pedro del Pinatar Salinas on one of the H.T. pylons was the regular Peregrine (it likes to sit there, getting a view over the whole area), and on one of the H.T. cables, a Kingfisher.  On the other side of the water I counted 94 Grey Herons in total with 9 of them on the roof of the abandoned house there.  Keeping them company on the roof was a Great White Egret, and there were a further 3 of these in the marsh, together with a group of 20 Spoonbills.  In the water itself but trying to keep hidden in the lee of the marshes, I counted 35 Mallard.  I had been there for just over an hour when I heard an almighty ‘bang’ which I originally thought was an explosion of some form, but it was apparently heard from several places at some distance from where I was, and I can only put it down to a sonic boom.  Whatever it was, it made me jump, but more importantly it put all the birds in the area up.  Following a group of duck with my bins, I could see they weren’t Mallard, and when they finally settled I could get the ‘scope on them and see that they were 6 Pintail (3 males) and a male Wigeon, one of the more infrequent ducks in the area.  A well spent hour and a half!

On Saturday 17th November, I went out for the morning ringing to the Quipar River, near Calasparra.  This is an inland river with water all year round (although not much more than a trickle in summer) and is surrounded by tamarisk (taray) bushes, and attracts a lot of insects and insectivorous birdlife.  The conditions were perfect for ringing, overcast with no wind, but there didn’t seem to be too many birds about.  However we managed to catch 39 birds of 9 species, the most common being Chiff-chaffs followed by Blackcaps, both of which winter here.  Surprise birds were a group of 4 Firecrests and a single Goldcrest, neither of which species had been ringed here before. It was the first time that I remember being able to compare Firecrest and Goldcrest in the hand.  Other birds caught were Songthrush, Robin, Black Redstart, Sardinian Warbler and Long-tailed Tit, and the only other birds heard were flyover Greenfinches and Siskins, and Wren and Cetti’s Warbler.

 The crew: José María Perez-Crespo, Almudena Lerín, Sergio Sánchez, Jose Antonio Zamora, Antonio Zamora and Francisco Alberto García Castellanos
 The general area
 and one of the ringing areas

And finally, the birds:



 Male Sardinian Warbler

 Two of the Firecrests caught
 and another

 Firecrest (with a strop on) and Goldcrest together

 The only recapture of the day, this Songthrush ringed almost exactly a year ago here

 Black Redstart

 Female Blackcap

and a male

We finished at 13:30 (having started at 7:30 a.m.), and I decided instead of going straight home, as I was halfway, to go to the area of ‘Revolcadores’ southwest of the town of Caravaca de la Cruz.  This is the highest area of the province of Murcia, and is where Murcia meets Granada and Albacete provinces.  By the time I got there I knew I only had a maximum of 2 hours if the weather held (which it didn’t, but it didn’t start raining till about 5pm by which time I was ready to leave anyway).  Being the highest area in Murcia, it’s where you have the best chance of seeing birds otherwise hard to see in Murcia, such as Redwing, Fieldfare and Great Spotted Woodpecker.  Of these I saw nothing of the thrushes (maybe it as too warm) but I did see Great Spotted Woodpecker (a pair chasing each other round some dead trees), and a surprise bird, my first ever Nuthatch in the region of Murcia.  The only thrush that WAS common was Mistle Thrush, calling from just about everywhere.  Other birds seen there were a group of 14 Corn Buntings, Cirl Bunting, Rock Buntings, Carrion Crows, Green Woodpeckers, Woodlarks, Magpies, Crested and Great Tits and a spanking single adult male Hen Harrier.  No photos of any of these I’m afraid - it was either too dark or the birds too distant or too fast!

After a lazy start on Sunday morning, I went over to an area close to the famous 'El Hondo' reserve near Crevillente in Alicante province.  Here there was another ringing session, but this time in the afternoon.  Setting 2 lines of 4 nets by about 2pm, we had lunch nearby and returned to the nets.  Nothing too stunning in them - again plenty of Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Reed Buntings.  While ringing these, we were caught out by a very heavy shower that lasted about 20 minutes, which required us to go out in the rain and fold the nets.  When the shower was over, as we were all soaked, we decided to just re-open the closest nets and take down the furthest.  By the time we returned to the close nets, there had been the pre-roosting movement of birds, with more Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Reed Buntings caught.  In total during the afternoon, about 35 birds were caught and apart from getting  getting thoroughly soaked, it was a good afternoon made better by hearing Common Cranes in the distance as we took down the nets.

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