Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Saturday, 10th November 2012 - Close to home

The past week has been wet and windy, so my first opportunity to go out was Saturday, which was also the day of the monthly RAM bird and mammal seawatch that we carry out from Cabo de Palos in conjunction with many other capes around Europe.  Today there were four of us counting, Antonio Fuentes, Inés Chamartín, Paul Sparkes and myself, and we had reasonable weather for the count – overcast so we weren’t this month seeing silhouettes on the horizon (we start early in the morning, and Cabo de Palos faces east, so if it’s sunny it’s not always easy to see distant birds).
In the three hours we were there, we had a good passage of Gannets of all ages north, and also a fair number (80+ I estimated) of Balearic Shearwaters, and surprisingly, a few Common Scoter which were coming in close. 
Other birds were Mediterranean, Black Headed, Audouins and Yellow-legged Gulls, Cormorant and Shag, and there were a few passerines coming in (White Wagtails, Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Meadow Pipits, Black Redstarts, Chiffchaffs) with the Yellow-legged Gulls chasing them if they saw them in time.  When we first went up to our seawatch spot, there were 9 Black Redstarts and 3 Chiffchaffs flying around the area.

After the seawatch finished at 11:30, we all went for a look around the gardens of the lighthouse.  Although it was quite late in the day for this and there had been plenty of disturbance by now, there were still a good number of birds around, the most interesting being more than 20 Black Redstarts and a male Blue Rock Thrush, and an interesting butterfly, a Plain Tiger which we see occasionally at this time of year around this area.

 Male Sardinian Warbler - a resident and passage migrant in the lighthouse garden

 Male Chaffinch, a passage bird in the gardens
 Blue Rock Thrush - seen most winters in the gardens

Not all the migrants are birds - a Plain Tiger seen in the gardens today
After breakfast in a nearby bar, I decided to call into Marchamalo Salinas, but instead of the ‘La Manga’ side, I went into the ‘Playa Paraiso’ side.  The reason for this is that apart from the rain we’ve had over the past few days helping to fill up the Salinas, I’d noticed a couple of days ago that water was once again being pumped into the Salinas, so I wanted to see how the levels were at the far end.  And they weren’t bad – the very first lagoon from Playa Paraiso was about half covered, and there were good numbers of Ringed (12) and Kentish (20) Plovers, and Little Stints(8).  I thought I’d take a look round the reeds by the beach to see if there were any Bluethroats about.  These I didn’t see, but there were numbers of Stonechat, Black Redstart, Goldfinch, Dartford and Sardinian Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Cettis Warbler, Serins, Meadow Pipits and Crested Larks, and a couple of Crag Martins flying overhead.  But the most surprising bird was an ‘acrocephalus’ warbler that took an age to see clearly, but when I did, I could see it was just a late Reed Warbler.

A late Reed Warbler in the reeds by the beach

In the afternoon I called into the ‘Arenal’ at Los Nietos, the next village to where I live, which gets wintering Richard’s Pipits.  I hadn’t been down here for a while, mainly because after rain it gets difficult as the access is just a (sometimes very) muddy track.  We saw a Richard’s Pipit here back in September when we were ringing the ‘Yellow’ Wagtails, but on the few occasions I’ve been here since I haven’t seen them, and I’ve got a feeling that there’s an autumn passage of them, but the wintering birds arrive much later.  Anyway, I wanted to see if I could find any.  My luck was in, I heard a single bird a few hundred metres west of where they normally get.  Other birds seen there were a couple of Skylarks (winter visitors here), groups of finches (Greenfinches, Serins and Linnets) with a few Meadow Pipits, and as I walked around the area I flushed a flock of 20 Stone Curlews and an Iberian Hare.  There were Crag Martins flying around most of the time and as I left I saw a single Swallow.

 As is normal, only a 'rear view' of the Stone Curlews - they never hang around to be photographed!

I didn’t have much time left as the sun sets now at 6pm here, but a paid a quick visit along the ‘Rambla de Albujon’.  Since the heavy rain in October washed all the reeds into the Mar Menor, things have been quiet there as new reeds grow – not tall enough for many birds, and no seeds for the Reed Buntings and Penduline Tits we normally get here in the winter.  As I walked along the rambla, I did hear a couple of Cetti’s Warblers singing, but they weren’t in the rambla itself, rather in the reeds and bushes that have spread over the rambla wall to the other side.  There were a few winter birds in the rambla itself  however,  with Green Sandpiper, 8 Common and a single Jack Snipe, numerous Chiffchaffs and a couple of Bluethroats calling, and as it started to get dark many White Wagtails started dropping in to roost.

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