Wednesday, 20 March 2013

20th March - Spring migration gathers pace

Hi all,

As you can imagine, the last week has been quite hectic with the dowitcher remaining at least until yesterday, and I've been able to renew old aquaintances with people I've not seen since the last 'mega' here in Murcia, the Belted Kingfisher (also a 1st for Spain) back in 2009/2010.  Although not on a level with the UK where number of birders would be in the 1,000's, I should imagine that a couple of hundred people have made the trip here to see the bird (including one person who set out from Barcelona on the Monday afternoon, called in at Lugo (Galicia) for Thayer's Gull and then went for American Herring Gull also in Galicia on Tuesday before getting to Murcia on the Wednesday morning for the Dowitcher.  He reckoned that he'd have done around 3,000 km by the time he got home).  That brings back memories of bygone years, birding in the UK!  There may not be the number of twitchers here in Spain as in the UK, but they've got the same mindset!  And with Moussier's Redstart and Red-flanked Bluetail having been seen over the last few days in Spain, I've been tempted - maybe I'll just try to find more out about a Wallcreeper in the south of Murcia seen a couple of days ago and have a look for that!

Apart from various visits to San Pedro del Pinatar, I have managed to get out to some of my more local spots, and as the title to the entry suggests, more and more migrants can be seen.  (It is the first day of Spring today, after all!).  It's rare now not to see Barn and Red-rumped Swallows and House and Sand Martins about, and all three species of swift have now been seen locally (Common, Palid and Alpine), although they're not yet common.  Also, many winter species seem to have gone (for example, I've not seen the Velvet Scoters since the 8th March).

Calling in to the Mar Menor at the Marina de Carmoli area on friday afternoon (15th March), 3 Common Scoter remained including a now obvious male, together with a fair group of Great Crested (27) and Black Necked Grebes (19), and in the mixed flock were a single female Pochard  and a pair of Red Crested Pochard.  It's not often you see Red Cresteds on the Mar Menor, nor do they breed around this area so I assume they were just resting up on their way further north.
I spent the rest of the afternoon at San Pedro, where in the canal surrounding the salinas I saw a single female Mallard with 13 ducklings - the first 'young of the year' I've seen.

 San Pedro is good for more than just one wader - here a group of Sanderling...

...on the Mediterranean side of the salinas

 A bit in the shadows, mother Mallard and ducklings

The following day I called in to the lighthouse garden at Cabo de Palos (this year I'm not going to be going there with the frequency of the previous 4 years, probably just a couple of times a week).  Here there were obvious signs of movement, with 9 Robins, 7 Black Redstarts and 6 Hoopoes flying around the base of the lighthouse, whilst out at sea I had Common Redshank fly past north and an adult Gannet go south.  Also, a pair of Kestrels mating on a rock ledge.

 Not voyeurism - with the noise they make, you can't help but look

A couple of male Sardinian Warlers trying to out-do each other

From here I called in at the Marina de Carmoli, more than anything to see if the R.C.Pochard were still about.  They weren't, but the group of Common Scoter was up to 9 birds (with 2 males) and over the Marina itself were 3 Marsh Harriers with a further 3 more distant raptors circling of which one was a Booted Eagle, and probably the other two as well.

Calling in next at the rambla de Albujon, there was a group of 10 noisy Black Winged Stilts, a pair of Little Ringed Plovers, 2 Green Sandpipers, a Redshank, 4 Common Snipe and a single Jack Snipe.
There were also a couple each of Sand and Crag Martins (the Crag Martins are getting scarce now while the other hirundines increase in numbers) and four Swallows, plus 4 Iberian Wagtails, 2 White Wagtails and a single Water Pipit now coming into breeding plumage with its pink breast and white supercillium.

From here I went on to San Pedro, but there was nothing new (how blasé - just a Short-billed Dowitcher, 1st for Spain!).

 On the beach, Audouin's Gull...
 And Slender-billed Gulls and Sanderlings...
 ... meanwhile in the canal, very showy Little Egrets

On the sunday I'd arranged to meet some people at San Pedro so went straight there and stayed all morning, seeing quite a reasonable list of waders (Avocet, Black Winged Stilt, Slender-billed Dowitcher, Common Sandpiper, Little Stint, Dunlin, Green Sandpiper, Sanderling, Turnstone, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Grey Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Ruff) plus Kingfisher and a very smart Penduline Tit, and a new bird for the year, Common Swift (I'd only had unidentified Common/Pallid up until then).

A Spanish twitch!

...and the object of the twitch

 There WERE other waders around - here Spotted Redshank beginning to moult into b.p...

 ...Common Redshank...
 ... and Black-tailed Godwit
On monday (18th March) with clear skies and hardly any wind, I had another early look around the lighthouse gardens at Cabo de Palos before going to work. I had Sand Martin and a group of four Alpine Swifts fly over, and migrants on the ground were 3 Black Redstart, 2 Chiffchaff, a single Hoopoe, 2 Northern Wheatears, 4 Chiff/Willows, and new for the year, my first Willow Warblers (3) and Common Redstart (1).  There were also Swallows and a single Red-rumped Swallow flying about, but I think these may have been local birds as they were singing.

Tuesday (19th March) is a holiday (Fathers Day) in Spain, so I had the whole day to go out.  As it was again cloud and wind free, I started off at the San Pedro salinas, in the hope that the rush might be over and I might get to see the Dowitcher close, as the last few sightings have all needed a telescope.  I had no luck here as it kept to the far edge of the lagoon, but I met up with a crowd of birders from Cartagena and we had a look around the rest of the salinas and reserve.  I should explain here for those that don't know the area, apart from being a working 'salinas', it is also part of a national park and there is a reasonable sized area of coastal pines growing in the sand dunes.  Walking around these, we had a very smart male Black-eared Wheatear, male Common Redstart, Bonelli's Warbler (1st for the year) and male Subalpine Warbler (also 1st for the year).

In the afternoon, as there had obviously been a fall of sorts, I called into Calblanque, which is close to my home.  On my way to the carpark area, I had my first Woodchat Shrike of the year, and in the trees at the side of the carpark, another male Subalpine Warbler and six Chiff/Willows.  I went over to the salinas (of Rasall) to have a hunt through the Audouin's Gulls for colour rings.  There were 203 gulls, and I managed to read 13 rings, and here I had another male Black-eared Wheatear.

Lastly, as I just about had time, I called into the lighthouse gardens (Cabo de Palos) staying until it was almost dark.  Here I had my 3rd Subalpine Warbler of the day, plus 3 more Black-eared Wheatears and a single Northern Wheatear, but the most interesting sighting was an actual 'flock' of 11 Hoopoes.  Presumably they'd come in late on during the day, as being a holiday there'd have been a fair bit of disturbance there and they wouldn't have stayed.  Fascinating to watch them flying around like giant butterflies as the light went.

And that's about it for the moment, apart from I've managed to sort out some short video I took of the Short-billed Dowitcher on the 10th March, which you can see here.


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