Definitely a red letter day today. I had arranged to go out birding with Gabriel Lorenzo in the afternoon, searching for Richards Pipit(s) on the shore of the Mar Menor between Los Nietos and Los Urrutias, and checking in one of the local blogs, I saw that a Long Legged Buzzard had been seen about 5 km along the road on the other side of Los Urrutias yesterday (and a very good photograph of it in flight, showing it to be a typical adult bird). It had been seen to fly into the vast area opposite the beach just beyond Punta Brava (the area being known as the ‘marina de Carmolí). Although they apparently now breed in a couple of places in the south of Spain, this is a species that I have not seen since a prolonged stay in Israel in 1978 and would definitely be a new species for me for Spain – if we could find it!
So, we met at 2:30 pm by the local train station in Los Nietos and went over to the beach and started walking. I find the best way to find the Richards Pipit is to keep walking until you flush it and hear it call. Then watch where it drops, hoping that it won’t go too far.
And this is what happened this time. I heard its call, didn’t see it fly but saw it walking around feeding in the long grass on the beach. Calling Gabriel over, we got good views of it both with bins and ‘scope, but as always, a decent photo was nigh-on impossible. It eventually flew further up the beach, and we continued walking in case there might be another. We didn’t find any more, just Crested Larks, Serins, Greenfinches, Linnets, Goldfinches, Meadow Pipits, Stonechats and a single Southern Grey Shrike. We had a couple more sightings of the Richards Pipit, but none as good as the first, and so decided to call it a day there and go looking for the Buzzard.
We stopped off at a couple of my favourite areas en route, the Los Urrutias sailing club (where we had 9 Turnstone; a single Grey Plover, 6 Ringed Plover, 10 Greenshank, a couple of Little Egrets and 4 Slender-billed Gulls and heard a Reed Bunting), and the ‘desembocadura de la rambla de Albujon’ (mouth of the Albujon river where it empties into the Mar Menor). Here we had a good range of birds, but no sign of the Common Scoter that I have seen on previous days, and no sign of any type of buzzards (possibly because a military helicopter was on manoeuvres, passing overhead over and over again). Birds seen were 19 Great Crested Grebe; 15 + Black Necked Grebe; 19 Mallard; 3 Slender-billed Gulls; 2 Grey Heron; 1 Little Egret; 1 Curlew; 2 Turnstone; 2 Chiffchaff; a Water Pipit; 6+ Crag Martin; 2 Sandwich Tern; a Fan-tailed Warbler; Hoopoe; Green Sandpiper and a couple of Cormorant, and heard Cetti’s Warbler and in the distance, Red-legged Partridges calling.
I had one last hope before it got dark, calling into the old and now disused sewage farm at El Algar. Although there is now no water here, I had seen Buzzards and Booted Eagles there in the past, and have seen Marsh Harriers roosting there. As we approached, perched on a telegraph pole was a Common Buzzard – a good sign. Parking outside the gates of the EDAR, we looked through and checked out all the poles and H.T. pylons in the distance. On one of them was a buzzard that looked VERY interesting – through the ‘scope we could see that it had a pale (almost white) head with a dark line back from the eye, pale breast and brick reddish underparts. Could this be our bird ? We just needed the tail, but couldn’t see it as the bird was facing towards us. We tried driving round to get a closer view, but wherever we went the distance was pretty much the same AND we had the sun in our eyes, so we came back to the original location. It had moved slightly closer by then to sit on a streetlamp, but was still facing us with the lamp in the way of its tail. However, by watching it continually through the ‘scope, I eventually got the tail – an orange/brick red colour. It was our bird. It eventually flew off from the lamp and flew further away presumably to roost. Brilliant! Long Legged Buzzard! Spain-tick (or ‘bimbo’ as they call them here).
Common Buzzard that surprisingly didn't fly off as we drew up alongside it
Record shot of the L.L.Buzzard using just camera and 400 mm lens...
...and a couple of record shots through the 'scope - I presume that the exaggerated reddish hew is due to the sun being almost on the horizon
The light was by now on its way, but as we had to drive back past the harrier roost, we had a 10 minute stop there. Not as good as over the weekend, with just 3 Marsh Harriers and a single ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier, but a good finish to the day.