Monday, 4 March 2013

4th March 2013 – Local roundup

Hi all,

Another week when the weather hasn’t been at all settled.  We’ve had days of sun, but also light rain, heavy showers and hail, with wind predominantly from the north west  - and judging from the long-range weather forecast, things won’t be changing anytime soon.  On the national TVE weather forecast on the 1st March, they gave an overall forecast for the next 3 months (March, April and May) showing persistent high pressure over the north of the British Isles forcing low pressure systems to track east from the Atlantic further south than usual, with associated fronts moving continually over Spain.  In simple terms, lots of cloud and rain from the west!  We’ll see!

Birdwise, there has once again been very little movement of migrants, and most of the winter birds are still around.  There have been a few reports in Murcia of Short-toed Eagles being seen, and at the Rambla de Albujon on Tuesday 26th February, I had my first ‘Yellow’ Wagtails of the year (actually Iberian – the blue-headed with white supercillium and chin, types), and in a group of Crag Martins feeding over the rambla, a couple of Red-rumped Swallows.  On the same afternoon, I had what was probably my last sighting of the Red-throated Diver in the Mar Menor (not seen since), and the group of 9 Common Scoter, all at the km.8 of the F-34 just west of Los Urrutias/Punta Brava.  Also on the same day just prior to sunset, 40 minutes at the harrier roost at the ‘marina de Carmoli’  produced me a couple of Hoopoes, at least 5 Marsh Harriers and a single ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier, but no sign of the Pallid Harrier.

 Probably my last sighting of the Red-throated Diver

 The 'winter' hirundine locally - Crag Martin

One of the early migrants, 'Iberian' (Yellow) Wagtail

On Thursday 28th February early afternoon, after rain in the morning, I took a little trip over to the Cabo de Palos lighthouse garden, in the hope that the rain might have forced some birds down, but it seemed to be quieter than normal, the only birds that might have been migrants (as opposed to winter visitors or residents) being a couple of Stonechats and 3 Black Redstarts.

On Friday 1st March, after rain and hail in the morning, as the sky had cleared a bit, I called in once again at the Mar Menor to see if I could find the Red-throated Diver.  I had no luck with that bird but was surprised to see single Oystercatcher on the shoreline – not a rare bird around here but definitely unusual (I normally only have two or three sightings per year locally).  Also unusual was a group of eleven Mediterranean Gulls sat on the water, all adults and many in full breeding plumage. 

 Uncommon around the Mar Menor, my first Oystercatcher locally for the year

Moving along to the ‘desembocadura de la rambla de Albujon’ scanning over the Mar Menor I was surprised to see the group of 6 Velvet Scoter that have been around over the winter – I hadn’t seen them recently and had thought they’d gone.  As always, they were a fair way out (telescope definitely required), but they seem to have a habit which maybe is an aid to distinguish them at distance – they seem to tilt their heads up in the air a lot ending up with their bills almost vertical.  Whether this is some form of aid to digestion I don’t know, but it looks quite comical, and I can’t say I’ve ever noticed Common Scoter doing this.

Saturday the 2nd March, being the first Saturday of the month, we had our monthly ‘RAM’* census – 3 hours on the cliffs at Cabo de Palos counting seabirds and mammals. 

I had intended to call into the lighthouse garden for a quick stroll before the census started, but the gates were all sealed – remedial works are being carried out so there’s currently no public access (I hope they’re not going to take too long).  So, back to the census, starting at 08:30, we had clear skies and it wasn’t too cold.  However, the numbers of birds seen wasn’t fantastic.  There was a passage of around 120 Balearic Shearwaters during about half an hour, and we were kept amused by what presumably was a family group of Shags, 2 adults, 3 immatures and 2 juveniles (which must have been just out of the nest), swimming around the rocks for about an hour.  Apart from that, we saw more than 70 Gannets, 3 well spaced out Great Skuas and a single Pomerine Skua, Cormorants, Sandwich Terns and a couple of Black-headed Gulls, and towards the end of the count, a couple of pods of dolphins, one of around 17 Bottle-nosed Dolphins and the other of 7 Common Dolphin (not that I can claim to know the difference when they’re at distance – I just noted them as ‘large’ and ‘smaller’ – luckily they people I was with DID know the difference).

Adult Cormorant in breeding plumage with diving Shag in the background
 Cormorant (L) and Shag (R) together allowing comparison of the head shapes

 The family group of Shags around the rocks

Two juvenile Shags, fresh out of the nest and looking very pale

On the way home from the RAM, I called into Marchamalo Salinas, but these were very quiet – top birds on the La Manga side being 15 Avocet and 4 Shelduck, and round at the ‘Playa Paraiso’ side, 20 Kentish Plover and 3 Little Stints.  Still, at least there was plenty of water in the lagoons.

On Sunday, 3rd March, I called in at all the usual places along the Mar Menor but saw nothing new, and then called in at the old sewage farm (EDAR) of El Algar.  I had been told that the rain over the past few days had put quite a bit of water in one of the old lagoons (that had been totally dry all autumn and winter), so I thought it might be worth a look.  And there WAS plenty of water, and waders hadn’t wasted any time in finding it.  There were 4 Black Winged Stilts, 3 Greenshank, a single Spotted Redshank and a couple of Little Ringed Plovers.  Previously when this EDAR was functioning, it used to be a magnet for waders (including Temminck’s Stints, the first Pectoral Sandpiper for the region of Murcia and a few of years ago, an Egyptian Plover), so if the water remains I’ve got high hopes for the site.

And that’s about all (as I sit here looking out of my window watching the rain falling).


* RAM – Red de observación de Aves y Mamiferos marinos.  More details (in English) in the following link:


  1. Hi Richard

    Can you get this weather situation sorted before we arrive on April 1st please

    Yours Hopefully

    Mark & Tracy

    1. Hi Mark,

      If the weather forcasters can't get it right (and they're paid professionals), what chance do I have!!

      Overcast with rain showers forecast today but sunshine tomorrow! Lets see if they're right!


  2. I arrive on Sunday .. some sun for me please too :-)