Thursday, 14 February 2013

14th February 2013 - Mar Menor area roundup

Hi all!

This is a local roundup covering the period 8th to 13th February.

On Friday the 8th in the morning, I went down to the now famous layby at km.8 on the F-34 (just west of Punta Brava/Las Urrutias).  En route, just outside Los Nietos I had 2 Magpie fly across the road.  This may seem like nothing exceptional, especially as I suspect they now breed in the 'marina de Carmoli', but apart from one seen once at the Cabo de Palos lighthouse garden, this was my most easterly sighting.  They seem to be slowly but surely moving further and further east.

On the shore of the Mar Menor in this area, there were relatively quite a few waders - 3 Curlew, 8 Turnstone, 2 Grey Plover, 2 Ringed Plover, plus the ever present Little Egret and a couple (pair?) of Slender-billed Gulls, and on the Mar Menor itself were Great Crested Grebes, Black-necked Grebes, Cormorant, Mallard, Shelduck, Common Scoter and possibly a single Velvet Scoter, and the Red-throated Diver was still present.

While I was there there was a constant stream of Crag Martins flying east to west along the shore, and in amongst them were a small group of three Swallows and a single House Martin.

On Sunday the 10th, also in the morning, at the same place, a single Booted Eagle (pale phase) was flying around, and on the sea, a group of 9 Common Scoter, Black-necked and Great Crested Grebes and the Red-throated Diver, but no sign of any Velvet Scoter.

In relatively calm water before the wind got up, the Red-throated Diver was showing well

I moved on from here to the rambla de Albujon, where interesting birds were 3 Little Egrets and a Great White Egret, 6 Black Winged Stilts, 2 Green Sandpipers, another Magpie, and while talking on the N-332 bridge over the rambla, a Water Rail ambled along the rambla itself, out in the open, towards the bridge.  As always though, setting up my camera should it come any closer, it dived into the reeds never to be seen again!

 Great White Egret with its cousin, the Little Egret
Time to go!

On Monday the 11th in the afternoon, yet another visit to the same place along the Mar Menor.  This time it was quite windy and waves high enough to hide any ducks.  I did eventually see a group of 9 Common Scoter plus Great Crested and Black Necked Grebes, but there was no sign of the Diver.

Calling in briefly at the EDAR El Algar, I noticed that a pile of earth had been dumped across the road just after the gates to the EDAR itself - I wonder if this is to deter birdwatchers going up to the reservoirs at the end - and the gates of the EDAR were wide open although I couldn't see anyone in there working.

My last call was to Calblanque where I hoped to read some colour rings on Audouins Gulls.  En route to the salinas I had a very nice male Rock Bunting, but at the salinas themselves, there had obviously been some water pumped in as the further lagoons were full, and all the Audouins were on the walls of these lagoons, directly in the sun and too far for me to get any readings.

As it was still quite breezy, I thought I'd do a half hour or so's seawatch at the far end of Calblanque, and this worked out to be very worthwhile, with half a dozen Gannets, 3 Cory's and 3 Balearic Shearwaters and most surprising of all, 7 Mediterranean Gulls (all adults) all flying east with the wind, and reasonably close in.  Closer to where I was sitting was a Thekla Lark and Black Wheatear.  On my way back, I surprised a Kestrel that was struggling with a small rat, trying to carry it off.

 The wind was quite good for a short seawatch - here an adult Gannet
 While seawatching I had a couple of smaller birds around me - here a Black Wheatear...

 ... and here a Thekla Lark
 As you can see from this, the wind was moving the Med. a bit!

 On my way out of Calblanque, I came across this Kestrel with its prey

On Wednesday the 13th, in the early afternoon, I called into the 'Club Nautico' area of Los Urrutias.  The water level here is now very low, and between the shore and club nautico itself is almost a carpet of algae.  On this 'carpet' were groups on Ringed Plovers and Slender-billed Gulls plus a Little Egret, while at the edge of the algae the winter resident Great White Egret was fishing.

At the km.8 on the F-34 again afterwards, with the Mar Menor calmer at last, the group of 9 Common Scoter were being chased around by kite-surfers, and also on the water were 22 Great Crested Grebes and 6 Black Necked Grebes.  Apart from this, all was quiet.

I was going to go on to the Rambla de Albujon from here - however in the parking area there was only one car with suspicious looking characters in it, so I decided I didn't want to risk leaving the car for an hour or so, so I went over to Calblanque again.  This time, as it was warmer and calmer, I walked around the back of the salinas in order to read some Audouin's rings, and was very surprised to see an Osprey sat on a post there.  When it saw me it was off, but I did manage to snap a quick photo as it made it's way off towards the Med. and then on west towards Portman.  I counted around 200 Audouins Gulls (but only managed to read 5 rings) and with them were a couple of adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls (not common around here) and 10 or so Yellow-legged Gulls.  Other birds of interest seen here were Black Wheatear, Little Owl, Dartford and Sardinian Warbler, Stonechat, Songthrush, Rock Dove, Shelduck, Mallard, Hoopoe and Common Buzzard, and I heard Green Woodpecker.  Also while walking around the back of the salinas I saw a couple of Rabbits and a single Iberian Hare.

 On a warmer, calmer day today, this Thekla Lark was up there giving it's all

 One of the adult Audouins's Gulls coming in from the Med. to the salinas
 One of a couple of pairs of Little Owls in Calblanque

The surprise of the day - this Osprey that was sitting on a post in the middle of the salinas
And that's all for now.  With warm southerly winds forecast for this weekend, there should be plenty to see.
Good birding!


  1. Hi Richard

    Congratulations on some great finds this last few Months, your posts have kept me going in this crap weather we have been having here in Cheshire. will be back for April 1st looking forward to a mornings birding in the Lighthouse Garden with you



  2. Great sightings.. I'll soon be in the area :-)

    1. Keep checking the blog! I try to keep it as up to date as possible. The only problem is that the spring tends to come early to Murcia, so you may find a lot of the wintering birds (ducks and thrushes) have gone by the time you get over.