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
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'
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.