Monday, 24 December 2012

Saturday, 22nd December 2012 – A trawl around the local area

I hadn’t planned to go out birding today, but weatherwise it was such a good day, I couldn’t resist.  It was more like the first day of summer, not winter – not a cloud in the sky all day, no wind and temperature up to 23ºC (a bit different to the UK from what I can gather).

I started out at the Marchamalo Salinas.  It was fairly quiet here, with waders represented by just a group of 10 Little Stints, 25 Black Winged Stilts and around 40 Avocets.  There were 8 Grey Herons and 32 Audouins Gulls on the walls of the lagoons, 12+ Shelduck in the lagoons, and a single Lesser Black-backed Gull in amongst the Yellow-legged Gulls sat in one of the dry lagoons.  Passerines were represented by just 3 Meadow Pipits and a Southern Grey Shrike.

I then moved on to the ‘Encañizadas’ at the end of La Manga strip.  Here things were much livelier. I counted 113 Mallard (I think my highest ever number here) together with 10 Pintail (4 males and 6 females).  The Spoonbills were for once on my side of the Encañizadas until they were flushed – a group of 11 of them.  There were very few Little Egrets (only 15), but their bigger cousins were represented by around 110 Grey Herons and 2 Great White Egrets, one of which had caught a large fish and was having a lot of trouble trying to eat it.  I was surprised that the Yellow-legged Gulls hadn’t latched onto it.  Other birds of note were a Peregrine on its usual watchpoint on one of the H.T. pylons; a couple of Sandwich Terns and good numbers of plovers (50+ Ringed; 40+ Kentish and at least 8 Grey).  Other waders present were Dunlin, Sanderling, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Turnstone and Greenshank, and of the 78 Greater Flamingos I saw, I managed to read 5 colour rings, 3 of which I think were Italian.

 A general view, with Mallard and Flamingos in the foreground, and Great White Egret, Grey Herons and Little Egret along the wall - the G.W.Egret struggling with a fish it had caught
 The group of 11 Spoonbills with a Grey Heron
Part of the group of Pintail seen

I returned to Marchamalo, but this time the Playa Paraiso side.  Once again due to lack of rain, the first lagoon from here is gradually drying out, but this is a favoured area for the small plovers, and I had 15 Ringed and 12 Kentish here, together with a couple more Little Stints.  I had a look over the Mar Menor from the beach here, principally looking for Red-breasted Mergansers which are normally here by now, but there was no sign of any, just Black-necked Grebes.  In the new reed area though were a single Fan-tailed Warbler,  and a couple each of Black Redstart and Stonechat which I managed to photograph.

 The rather smart male Black Redstart that hangs around the carpark area...
 ... and a male Stonechat keeping an eye on the sky
My next stop was once again a beach on the Mar Menor, this time just to the west of Los Nietos, the ‘Arenal’ which is where the Richards Pipit(s) winter.  As I’d managed to get relatively close to one during the week, I thought I’d dedicate a couple of hours trying to photograph it, but as is sure to happen, I couldn’t find it, and the only birds seen were a flock of 40+ Serins, 12 Crested Larks, 4 Meadow Pipits, 2 Stonechats, 2 Reed Buntings (male & female) and a Kestrel.  On the Mar Menor itself, things were very quiet with just a single Little Egret, 4 Slender-billed Gulls and a Greenshank.

One of the flock of Serin

Giving up here, I went a few kilometers west to the sailing club at Los Urrutias.  Here again, things were quiet.  In the Mar Menor itself there were only 3 birds – a Little Egret, a Grey Heron and a Great White Egret.

 Great White Egret keeping an eye out for fish - my third of the day...
 ...and keeping it company, a Grey Heron

Leaving there, I went inland slightly, reaching the old sewage farm of El Algar just before 3 pm.  I hoped that the Long-legged Buzzard might still be around (and possibly closer than on previous occasions).  However, the first raptor I saw which was hunting the overgrown lagoons just inside the fence was a ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier, and while watching it, I had a couple of female/immature Marsh Harriers go distantly through my field of view.  When the Hen Harrier finally disappeared, I thought I’d check for any raptors on top of the many H.T. pylons in the area, and on doing so, yes, there was one.  But it wasn’t the Buzzard that I was looking for, it was an Osprey!  I watched this for a while until it flew off, then continued my check of the pylons.  And yes, finally on a distant one was the bird I was looking for (it is very easy to recognize face on as at a distance it appears white headed and white upper breasted, and the rest of the body seems red).  I watched it for a while and saw it fly from its perch and come towards me, but then lost it behind a reservoir, but by climbing up the wall of the reservoir I re-located it about 15 minutes later when it flew onto another pylon, distant but directly in front of me.  I carried on watching it together with a group of birdwatcher from Cartagena (Isidro Bartolomé; Conrado Requena; Francisco Javier Palacios; Javier Noguera; Marcos; Toni and Pepe).  It moved once again to sit on a streetlamp but although actively looking around all the time, it was still there when we all left.  Other birds seen there were a Common Buzzard; Shelduck; Black-necked and Little Grebes, Hoopoe; Green Sandpiper; Black Winged Stilt and Water Pipit.

 The first 'raptor on a pylon' - not the Long Legged Buzzard expected, but an Osprey

 Three shots of the Long Legged Buzzard - the last taken 'digiscoping'
Leaving the sewage works around 5 pm and on the way back home, I called in once again at the Mar Menor, this time in the corner where the rambla de Albujon empties into it.  I was hoping to see the Common Scoter that had been there earlier in the week, but had no luck, but I did count 62 Great Crested Grebes there.

My last stop of the day was at the Marina de Carmoli.  It was by now getting towards dusk, and I spent 20 minutes watching the harriers coming in to roost.  There was a single ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier already there and also a Common Buzzard, and I counted 8 Marsh Harriers come in in total.

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