Friday, 18 January 2013

Pallid Harrier?

Hi all,

It’s been a while since I last had anything worth posting – around the Mar Menor things are much the same – the Common Scoter that were around appear to have gone now but the group of 6 Velvet Scoters remain; the Long-legged Buzzard hasn’t been seen since the 4th January although there does seem to have been a flow of Common Buzzards coming through the area, and there definitely seems to be an Osprey wintering in the area, as I’ve now seen one fishing on the Mar Menor a few times.

 Osprey looking out for fish close to the Mar Menor shoreline, 13th Jan.

Last weekend was all about censuses – we had the Aquatic Wintering birds survey (annual) and the Wintering Cormorants survey (which takes place every 10 years).  The former didn’t show too many surprises although the numbers of Grey Herons in the ‘encañizadas’ between the end of the La Manga strip and San Pedro del Pinatar was high, as was the number of Spoonbills (eventually we decided on 44 of the, three of which were colour ringed but unfortunately too distant to be able to read the rings); also, the numbers of Red-Breasted Mergansers was down again - quite worrying this.

The Cormorant survey I think just confirmed what we had all suspected, that Cormorant numbers have increased exponentially over the past few years, with over 3,000 roosting on one of the islands in the Mar Menor plus a few thousand more on other islands and in the Salinas at San Pedro del Pinatar.  (You only have to see the big group of 1,000+ which steams through the Mar Menor in the afternoon to know that they’re pretty common).

Part of the group (of 1,000+) Cormorants steaming through the Mar Menor

What has been seen of interest though, is a ringtail Harrier.  I first noticed the bird while looking through a friend’s blog, and saw a photo of what he had labelled  as Hen Harrier which to me had all the appearance of a juvenile Pallid Harrier except for the white ‘boomerangs’ around the carpal joint.  Here’s a link to the blog page:

Yesterday afternoon (thursay, 17th January) I was taking a trip along the Mar Menor and up the rambla de Albujon, and I bumped into some friends (José Antonio Barba, José, Oscar and Raquel) who were ringing and attaching radio locators to Common Snipe there.  As they had all the nets set and as I had just seen the Velvet Scoters closeby, we all went to have a look at the scoters.  While we were there at about 4-30pm, a harrier flew over us, not very high up.  This is not an uncommon occurrence here as it is close to a harrier roost and Marsh Harriers quite often fly over.  However, this wasn’t a Marsh Harrier, and both José Antonio and I had the same impression – the bird was a small ‘ringtail’ with a very marked face and pointed wings, a plain rusty-orange colour below – surely a juvenile Pallid Harrier.  It flew along the tideline where we lost it eventually.

I personally have only seen Pallid Harrier once before, last autumn in La Janda in Cadiz province, and it was a second year male so there was no debate about it.  This one however would be a 2cy bird, possibly easy to confuse with Montagu’s or even Hen (although at this time of year, there shouldn’t be any Montagu’s about).  I decided I would follow it up (José Antonio had to go back to his ringing). 

Assuming it would go to the harrier roost, I drove down there and got out my scope.  There were already 3 Marsh Harriers quartering the reedbeds there, but no sign of the bird I wanted to see.  After about 10 minutes for some unknown reason I looked behind me, and there, close, was the bird – flying over some houses.  It went back west and I got some good views of it and took some photos – the only problem with the photos is that they were taken into the sun, so I’ve had to play a bit with ‘photoshop’ to get any detail.  I carried on watching it until it flew over the main coastal road there and flew back up along the shoreline, but I’m sure it probably came back to the roost later.

So when I got home, apart from playing around with the photos, I got stuck in to all the reference books I have over ‘Pallids’, and eventually I came to the conclusion that this definitely WAS a juvenile Pallid, for the following reasons:

 Record shot of the underside of the Harrier

 Record shot of the upperside

1)                  Ringtail.  The white rump in the form of a thick curved line rather than a squared block.
2)                  Wingpoint.  The wingpoint is formed by 3 ‘fingers’ giving a pointed wing appearance, and the ‘hand’ is narrower than the ‘arm’ with only 4 fingers (Hen Harrier has 5).
3)                  Pattern of the underwing.  It has the typical pale ‘boomerang’ at the base of the primaries, around the carpal joint.
4)                  Facial pattern.  A complete pale collar around the neck, with dark behind and in front of the collar.  Dark cheek with small white point at the eye.

Generally it had the aspect more of a large falcon than either Marsh or Hen Harrier, and appeared much smaller than the Marsh Harriers that were flying nearby.

So, what do you all think?

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Christmas is officially over!

Here in Spain, the Christmas festivities continue through to 12th night (Reyes) on the 6th January.  The 6th is normally a national holiday, but as it fell this year on a Sunday, in some provinces (Murcia included), the holiday was passed over to the 7th, which marked the official end of Christmas, making the weekend a 3 day weekend.

Obviously I’ve been making good use of these holidays especially as the weather has been mainly clear skies, light or no wind and mild, getting out into the field almost every day.  This is a summary.  One of my readers commented that he liked that I put a few location shots in my Extremadura report, so I'll try to include some habitat shots in my reports in future.

Thursday, 3rd January.  After working in the morning, I arranged to go to the ‘Arenal’ at Los Nietos (on the Mar Menor) together with Pepe Navarro to look for the Richard’s Pipit there.  It wasn’t the best of days, with overcast skies and a north-easterly force 3-4 wind, and no surprise, we didn’t locate the pipit.  We just had a few Crested Larks, Serins, Stonechats and Meadow Pipits.  As we still had an hour and a half of light left, we decided to go to the ‘desembocadura de la rambla de Albujon’, about 6 km. further west along the Mar Menor.  Here we had a bit more luck with the birds, seeing amongst other things, Bluethroat, Water Pipit, Common and Jack Snipe and an adult Night Heron (it seems that there are just so many birds that should be in Africa just aren’t bothering anymore).

Friday, 4th January.  After another morning at work, I went in the afternoon to the old sewage farm (EDAR) at El Algar, meeting up with Stefán Aki Ragnarsson to have another look at/for the Long-legged Buzzard.  With clear skies and no wind, it took some looking for, especially as there is a new Common Buzzard in the area with a pale head and eye-stripe which from behind looked suspiciously like the Long-legged.  Eventually we found it, soaring with 3 other Common Buzzards some way off from the EDAR. It was interesting to note how much longer winged it was compared to the Common Buzzards. Other birds of interest seen were a ringtail Hen Harrier, a couple of Marsh Harriers, 3 Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk.

 The Common Buzzard easily mistaken for the Long-legged from behind until it shows its tail
  Another, this time more typical, Common Buzzard that seems to have taken up residence
 The same bird, in flight

On the way back home at 6 pm., I called into the harrier roost in ‘marina de Carmoli’, where I had a minimum of 7 Marsh Harriers, the same or another ringtail Hen Harrier (which judging by the paleness of the underwing I think was a juvenile male), and another Common Buzzard.

Saturday, 5th January.  The whole day free (again), and clear skies, no wind and afternoon temperature around 20ºC.  I decided to start the day visiting a farm reservoir where there is sometimes a Ferruginous Duck, and I was lucky today, seeing 2 Pochard (male & female), the Ferruginous Duck (a male), 4 Coot, 6 Little Grebes and a couple of Black Necked Grebes.

The male Ferruginous Duck...
 ... showing its wing pattern

Leaving there at about 11-30, I decided to have a look over the Mar Menor from a point just west of the village of Los Urrutias.  Jose Navarro had told me that he’d seen some Common Scoter there a few days ago and I wanted to see if they were still around.  Well, they didn’t take long to find and there was also a large group of Great Crested Grebes (48 in total) and Black Necked Grebes (25).  I also had a Great White Egret settle down in front of me for a while, but there were 2 other duck which appeared like scoters but not Common Scoters.  They were totally separate from the Common Scoters, at the limit of telescope range, and had their heads under their wings, asleep.  The only way to confirm my suspicions was to see them with their wings open, so I settled down for a possible long wait.  While waiting I had a Red-breasted Merganser (redhead) float past – my first one this winter in the Mar Menor. (They used to be relatively common, but each year there seems to be less).  I also had Dartford Warbler and Bluethroat.  Then, after about an hour and a half (by which time I had been joined by Jose Navarro), they eventually started preening, and I got a sight of one of them with its wings open – big white flash – Velvet Scoter.  The other one did the same and was confirmed as another Velvet.  This was a really good record for Murcia – I’ve only seen one before, strangely enough in the same location at the beginning of January 2008 – maybe I need to check out the zone on a more regular basis, or is it just that this winter there have been lots of Scoter about (there’s certainly more Common Scoter being seen than is usual).
 'Digiscoped' record shot of one of the Velvet Scoter and Red Breasted Merganser...
 ...the two Velvet Scoters with a Great Crested Grebe passing by...

 ... and the two Velvet Scoters finally awake

Jose went off to lunch and I carried on birding, this time to the ‘Rambla de Albujon’.  Nothing too out of the ordinary here - just a couple of Stone Curlew, Water Pipit, Cetti’s Warbler, Green Sandpiper and my first Grey Wagtail of the year.

 Some habitat shots of the famous 'desembocadura de la Rambla de ALbujon'

Looks nothing special, but has turned up some good birds over the years, such as Belted Kingfisher and King Eider
And the rambla itself, which empties into the Mar Menor
Next I went on to the old sewage farm (EDAR) of El Algar, to check up on the Long-legged Buzzard.  I saw a couple of Common Buzzards and a ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier, but no sign of the Long-legged.  The only other birds of note here was the/another Osprey and a group of 4 Little Ringed Plovers.

 The Osprey that did a flypast before settling on an H.T. pylon in the distance
... and the 'ringtail' harrier hunting over the lemon groves

My last stop of the day was at the harrier roost in the ‘marina de Carmoli’, where I had a minimum of 9 Marsh Harriers and a couple of ‘ringtail’ Hen Harriers.

Sunday, 6th January.  A leisurely 10 am. start to the day today at the Los Urrutias sailing club (on the Mar Menor).  The day was totally cloudless again with no wind and max. temperature around 20ºC.  Interestingly, the weather strongly affects the Mar Menor – as it is so shallow, when there is high pressure (as there was today), the water is literally ‘pushed’ out and large areas are uncovered (almost like a permanent low tide).  At the Los Urrutias sailing club, large areas of mud/algae become uncovered which waders and members of the heron family love, hence there are always Little Egrets/Great White Egrets/Grey Herons around.
Today there was a single Little Egret, another single Great White Egret and a Grey Heron, a group of 9 Greenshank and a rather large group (for here) of 78 Black-headed Gulls.

Going further west along the Mar Menor, and meeting up with various birdwatchers,  over the Marina de Carmoli there were up to 3 Booted Eagles soaring together, plus 2 Marsh Harriers.  On the Mar Menor, the 3 Common Scoter, 2 Velvet Scoter and Red-breasted Merganser were again visible, and around at the old EDAR of El Algar, 2 Common Buzzards on electric pylons.

 A slightly better shot of the two Velvet Scoter

 More different Common Buzzards at the EDAR...
... this one quite unusual, being barred underneath

 A flight shot of the above bird

Monday, 7th January.  The same conditions again today, i.e. clear skies, no wind and temperatures up to 19ºC.  All very pleasant.  I decided to start the day at the old Salinas at Calblanque, on the Mediterranean side from where I live.  I was particularly looking for 3 birds, Common Gull, Wryneck and Water Rail, and I also wanted to check on the Audouins Gull numbers and read any rings that I could.

On the way over to Calblanque, I had a Buzzard on one of the H.T. pylons, so a quick stop and check to make sure it was a Common, which it was.  Then on to the Salinas.

Here there was a good concentration of Audouins – I counted 172 in total, and while going through them read 19 rings, and found one of my target birds, an adult Common Gull.  Also there, were a dozen Yellow-legged Gulls and 5 Slender Billed Gulls doing their normal plunge-diving feeding action.

 Adult and juvenile Yellow-legged Gull in amongst the Audouins...

 ... and the adult Common Gull

 Finished with the gulls, I walked along the back of the Salinas to some other pools which is where in the past I’ve seen Water Rail, and it was while walking here that I came across another of my targets, a Wryneck sitting on a fencepost.  The Wryneck in this area is very sparse and all the sightings I’ve had locally are either on passage or winter birds, I’ve noticed Wrynecks at the Salinas here over the last 3 winters now.  There were also lots of finches (Green, Gold, Serins, the odd Chaffinch), up to 4 Dartford Warblers, a Hoopoe, Stonechats, Crested Larks, Meadow Pipits, Fan-tailed Warblers, a couple of Songthrushes, Black Redstarts and a pair of Green Woodpeckers trying to hide on the palm tree trunks.  In the pools where I’ve seen Water Rail in the past were a couple of immature Greater Flamingos, a pair of Mallard, a couple of Little Egrets and 3 Spotted Redshanks and a Water Pipit hopping around, and while I was there a group of 9 Kentish Plover dropped in.  But no sign of the Water Rail.  I stayed there for about half an hour scoping, but no sign.  I decided to give up and go back, and while on my way back I at least heard the typical ‘pig being murdered’ call of a Water Rail.  Well, two and a half out of three ain’t bad!

 Wintering Wryneck habitat...

 ... with good views!

...and a record shot of the bird in question together with a Stonechat...

...and as a neighbour, Green Woodpeckers - this one trying to hide

Getting back to the car, I drove to the east end of Calblanque, and on the way had a large flock of about 60 Meadow Pipits fly by, and at the end, a single Black Wheatear.  Coming out of Calblanque itself, I was surprised to hear a Corn Bunting singing, so I stopped to look for it (not that they take much searching for), and found two of them.  A very pleasant 3 ½ hours spent!

Singing its heart out was this Corn Bunting
In the afternoon I had to go to San Javier, and having gone that far from home, decided to go a bit further and call into the Salinas at San Pedro del Pinatar.  I wanted to see if the Common Scoter were still around on the Mediterranean there, but there was no sign of them at all.  In fact the Salinas were generally very quiet – even Flamingo numbers were low – I estimated I saw about 50.  Birds of particular interest were 4 Spotted Redshank (there must be some sort of movement going on as they seem to be in all the Salinas at the moment, whereas a week or so ago they were hard to find), 12 Black-tailed Godwits, and an almost totally white Black-necked Grebe which was hiding (I don’t blame it as it really stands out should any predator go by) in the edge of some reeds.

 Some of the few birds at the San Pedro salinas - here a nice breeding plumage Black Tailed Godwit...
 ... one of a few Spotted Redshanks around at the moment...

 ... the ever present Black Winged Stilt and Avocet...

 ... and the most unusual bird - this Black Necked Grebe!

And that’s the end of the Christmas and New Years holidays for this winter!


Thursday, 3 January 2013

The follow-up

Wednesday the 2nd January was much more relaxed than the previous day.  I had the day off work and stayed local to finish off the sites that I hadn’t been able to cover the previous day.  So at the crack of 11 I was back down at the Marchamalo Salinas, where this time I had 6 Kentish Plover, a Stone Curlew on one of the lagoon walls (in truth I had seen one yesterday, but it was as flat as a Hedgehog so I couldn’t count it), and true to form, the Monk Parakeets were calling everywhere.

From here I carried on along to the ‘Encañizadas’ at the end of La Manga for an hour and a half.    Here things were fairly quiet.  Most of the usual birds were about, but there were a few ‘no-shows’, such as Kingfisher, Peregrine and Great White Egret.  Best birds here were a group of 34 Spoonbill, and in amongst a group of around 80 Mallard, 3 female Pintail. Also unusual, a single adult Lesser Black-backed Gull in amongst the Yellow-legs (it seems strange, but around this area Lesser Black-backs are really uncommon, and yet on the south coast Lesser Black-backs can be seen everywhere).

 The Encañizadas

Waders were well represented, with Little Stints, Dunlin, Turnstone, Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Grey Plovers, Sanderling and a dozen Curlew.

Returning from the Encañizadas, I called in at Playa Paraiso to have a look at the Mar Menor from there, particularly for Red-breasted Mergansers of which I’d not seen any at all so far this winter, but I drew a blank.
From here I continued along the Mar Menor calling into the sailing club at Los Urrutias.  This is a favourite spot for a wintering Great White Egret, and there it was as I entered.  A surprise here on the way was Booted Eagle along the road, and a group of 19 Stone Curlew.

 Booted Eagle that appeared to have eaten recently, seen at the side of the road

 One of the few waders at the Los Urrutias sailing club

 A now regular winter visitor, Great White Egret

My next stop was the ‘desembocadura’ of the Rambla de Albujon.  I was hoping for a Kingfisher here but didn’t see one.  What I did see though was an Osprey that flew off along the beach east, and returned back about 10 minutes later with a massive fish.  A bonus bird here was my first Woodpigeon of the year!

 A resident and common winter visitor, you can't go far without seeing a Southern Grey Shrike

An unusual winter visitor but good to see all the same, Osprey with its lunch
My last call was at the old sewage works (EDAR) of El Algar where I met up with Pepe Navarro. He had just seen the Osprey which made a further pass around the area while I was there.  I don’t know what had happened to the fish, as I can’t imagine that it had eaten it in the time I took to get there (or it’s just possible that it was a different Osprey).  We did well with raptors in the hour and a half we were there, seeing a couple of Marsh Harriers, 2 Common Buzzards, the Long-legged Buzzard and a couple of Kestrels as well.

Taken looking into the sun, but it IS the Long-legged Buzzard!

Other new birds for the year were a Songthrush (not particularly common outside spring and autumn passage) and 5 Little Ringed Plovers, bringing my total for the year after just 2 days to 98 species.

New species for the year:
73.       Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus)
74.       Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus)
75.       Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus)
76.       Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
77.       Curlew (Numenius arquata)
78.       Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus)
79.       Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
80.       Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
81.       Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)
82.       Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
83.       Sanderling (Calidris alba)
84.       Spotted Redshank (Tringa erthyropus)
85.       Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)
86.       Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)
87.       Sandwich Tern (Sterna sanvicensis)
88.       Pintail (Anas acuta)
89.       Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus)
90.       Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)
91.       Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus)
92.       Great White Egret (Egretta alba)
93.       Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
94.       Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus)
95.       Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)
96.       Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus)
97.       Songthrush (Turdus philomelos)
98.       Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius)


Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Ringing out the old and ringing in the new

Welcome 2013.  To all readers, a very happy and prosperous new year.

This time of year is when birdwise I take balance of the old year and try to kick-start the New Year with my personal ‘birdrace’.

Mainly due to the film ‘The Big Year’ released last year, the buzzphrase here in Spain seems to be ‘Big Year’.  This is something I have been doing every year in one form or another ever since I first started birdwatching 40 years ago (was it really that long ago!).  Since I’ve been living in Spain, apart from keeping details of new birds seen here, my ‘yearlist’ has been confined to the region of Murcia – peninsular Spain is just too big to go for new birds anywhere on the peninsula, although I do take the occasional trip outside the region.  To that end, my ‘yearlist’ for 2012 came to 226 species, 4 more than in 2011 but a fair way below my best year, 2009 when I saw 242.  But all in all, quite respectable.  Every year I seem to miss something which I feel I SHOULD have seen – in both 2009 and 2011 it was Woodlark, in 2010 Firecrest, and in 2012, believe it or not, it was Blue Tit (the thing is that I just didn’t trip over one, and I certainly wasn’t going to make a special couple of hundred kilometre round trip just to find one!).  Note the common thread with all these birds – they’re all woodland birds – I really must get out into the woods more often!  It also shows that although I always keep a ‘yearlist’, I don’t take it TOO seriously.

So, enough about the old year, come on the new one!  As I mentioned before, I normally start the new year with my own personal ‘birdrace’, with others if anyone can manage to be up bright and early on New Years day, but if not on my own.  Last year was a bit of a disaster – I was in the UK with several carloads of people, but we had to call it off early afternoon as rain stopped play – and when I say rain, it was the real thing, absolutely bucketing down without the prospect of it stopping.

Unlike ‘normal’ ‘birdraces’ that usually take place in the Spring, the main constraint on a ‘New Years day’ race is not the availability of birds so much as the number of hours of daylight you have to see them in, and my strategy is to go to the furthest point while it’s dark and start as it gets light.  This is a report of the day.  There are not many photos in this report I’m afraid, as on a birdrace there’s just not enough time to mess around with cameras.

So Tuesday 1st saw me up at 6 and on the top of Sierra Espuña (an hour and a half’s drive away) at 8-15.  This is a woodland/mountainous area where I expected to get all my woodland birds, which are normally more active first thing.  So far so good, except once I got there it was totally overcast and start to rain lightly!  I walked out to the ‘Pozos de Nieve de Murcia’ expecting to get all the thrushes including Ring Ouzel, possibly Redwing but definitely Mistle Thrush, only to find when I got there that NOTHING was moving, and apart from a group of Long-tailed Tits and various Chaffinches, I drew a total blank, and got soaked through to boot!  I came back to another lower area in Espuña where there was a café at around 10 o’clock and had a walk around the woodland there.  Just my luck, it finally stopped raining then, but I certainly wasn’t going back up to the top again – apart from anything else, I didn’t have the time.  I managed to luck into ‘tit’ flock there, which included a couple of non-guaranteed birds such as Firecrest and Short-toed Treecreeper (another species I didn’t see at all in Murcia in 2012!), and got all the commoner birds such as Crested, Great and Coat Tits, Robin, Blackbird, Black Redstart, Southern Grey Shrike, Green Woodpecker (heard only). I spent far too much time hunting for Crossbill and finally left Espuña at 11-20 with only 18 species under the belt.

 Photo of the 'Pozos de la Nieve de Murcia' in Sierra Espuna, taken on a sunnier day

My next stop was going to be the Guadalentín valley for steppe species, but I had recently been made aware of a sewage farm en route (the EDAR of Alhama de Murcia) and thought I’d call in there on the off chance of overwintering hirundines.  I didn’t see any, but DID pick up almost all the ducks I had expected to see at another EDAR in Mazarron apart from Ferruginous Duck (which I had another site for anyway if I had time), and this meant that by not having to go to Mazarron I could claw back an hour.  So after 40 minutes and with another 18 species including Green Sandpiper, Black-necked and Little Grebe, Mallard, Shelduck, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Purple Gallinule, Marsh Harrier, Cetti´s and Dartford Warblers, Common Snipe and Green Sandpiper, I was making tracks for the Gaudalentín valley.

 Some of the wildfowl at the EDAR Alhama de Murcia

Here I had nothing too startling – no Little Bustards or Black-bellied Sandgrouse, but I did manage to pick up most of the other birds I expected – Stonechat, Crested, Sky and Lesser Short-toed Larks, Magpie, Jackdaw, Little Owl, Water and Meadow Pipits, Blackcap and Sardinian Warbler, Red-legged Partridge, my first Kestrels of the day and a surprise bird, a group of 15 Golden Plover.  Again, I stayed far too long, this time searching for Calandra Lark which I didn’t see in the end.

From here at 14:25 with another 22 species under the belt, it was a 40 minute dash back to closer to home, Calblanque, next to my home village of Los Belones.  Here I had a stroke of luck in re-locating one of two Rock Buntings I had found a few days ago, and in the Salinas were Greater Flamingo, Slender-billed, Yellow-legged and Audouins Gulls, but no luck with the Common Gull which was what I particularly wanted.  Black Wheatear and Crag Martins here were welcome additions to the list.

 The Rasall salinas at Calblanque

I followed that by a quick dash to the lighthouse at Cabo de Palos hoping for Cormorant, Shag and Gannet, but of the three I only got Gannet, and I couldn’t wait too long as I still hoped to stop at a few more places.
My next stop, at 4 pm., were the Marchamalo Salinas for waders, where I picked up Shelduck, Grey Heron, Little Stint, Redshank, Greenshank and Avocet, but no sign of plovers (Ringed and Kentish).  Things were definitely not going to plan – I didn’t even hear any Monk Parakeets which normally are all over the place.
From here, as I had arranged to meet someone to look for the Long-legged Buzzard, I went straight to the old sewage farm (EDAR) of El Algar, finishing (giving up on) the day there. I just missed the L.L.Buzzard by about a quarter of an hour and couldn’t find any of the 2 or 3 Common Buzzards that are wintering around the area, and the only new bird (and a surprise one at that) was a Sparrowhawk.

 The old EDAR at El Algar - doesn't look much, but good for raptors over surrounding fields

All in all, not quite the day I had expected, but it didn’t bode well from the start with getting wet and not seeing hardly anything at my first stop.  And my total for the day, 71 species – far short of my best ever of 100.  C’est la vie!

Species seen (in the order of sighting):
1.      Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalus caudatus)      
2.      Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
3.      Jay (Garrulus glandarius)
4.      Great Tit Parus major)
5.      Crested Tit Parus cristatus)
6.      Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochrurus)
7.      Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
8.      Firecrest (Regulus ignicapilla)
9.      Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis)
10.  Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhis brachydactyla)
11.  Coal Tit (Parus ater)
12.  Blackbird (Turdus merula)
13.  Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis)
14.  House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
15.  Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
16.  Serin (Serinus serinus)
17.  Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor)
18.  Rock Dove (Domestic pigeon) (Columba livia)
19.  Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus)
20.  Black Necked Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis)
21.  Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
22.  Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
23.  Coot (Fulica atra)
24.  Cetti’s Warbler (Cettia cetti)
25.  Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
26.  White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala)
27.  Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
28.  Pochard (Aythya ferina)
29.  Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata)
30.  Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)
31.  Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio porphyrio)
32.  Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)
33.  Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)
34.  Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
35.  Magpie (Pica pica)
36.  Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
37.  Linnet (Carduelis cannabina)
38.  Crested Lark (Galerida cristata)
39.  Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus)
40.  White Wagtail (Motacilla alba alba)
41.  Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
42.  Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
43.  Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)
44.  Fan-tailed Warbler (Cisticola juncidis)
45.  Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
46.  Jackdaw (Corvus monedula)
47.  Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
48.  Black Winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)
49.  Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta)
50.  Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris)
51.  Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)
52.  Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa)
53.  Lesser Short-toed Lark (Calandrella rufescens)
54.  Skylark (Alauda arvensis)
55.  Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala)
56.  Little Owl (Athene noctua)
57.  Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria)
58.  Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia)
59.  Slender-billed Gull (Larus genei)
60.  Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis)
61.  Audouin’s Gull (Larus audouinii)
62.  Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)
63.  Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucura)
64.  Crag Martin (Ptyonoprogne rupestris)
65.  Gannet (Morus bassanus)
66.  Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
67.  Little Stint (Calidris minuta)
68.  Redshank (Tringa totanus)
69.  Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)
70.  Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
71.  Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
72.  Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)