Tuesday, 23 April 2013

23rd April 2013 – Where are all the migrants?

Hi all,

As this is one of the peak times of year for passerine migrants, Mick Brewer and I have been covering the lighthouse gardens at Cabo de Palos, and between us have been there every morning over the last couple of weeks.

 This time last year was the peak passage period for passerines, but this year we have been hard pushed to see anything other than the now resident Swallows and Red-rumped Swallows.   Since my last report the only migrants worthy of note have been a male Common Redstart on the 14th and 15th; a Wryneck also on the 15th (which may have been the same bird as seen the previous week); a Turtle Dove, Northern Wheatear and three Willow Warblers on the  19th; 7 Northern Wheatears, 4 Willow Warblers and a female Pied Flycatcher on the 20th; 4 Willow Warblers and probably the same female Pied Flycatcher on the 21st, and finally at least 10 phylloscopus warblers (of which at least 3 were Willow Warblers) on the 10th.

 A rather splendid looking Spotless Starling - on of the residents at the lighthouse

 And a Wryneck that posed for a few seconds

 The only other bird of particular interest was on the 18th, when we heard, and then saw, a Green Woodpecker come in calling from the north-east and attach itself for a few seconds to the lighthouse itself (maybe it thought it was a giant tree trunk!).  It then flew off along the shoreline heading west.

Although I am not sure of the reason for the paucity of birds, it may well have something to do with the fact that there has been high pressure over the Mediterranean for the last week or so.  The lack of birds has also been noted on Isla Grosa just up the coast where a constant-effort ringing program is currently being carried out.  Apparently in the last week they caught only around 100 birds during the whole week (source ANSE - to see more link to http://www.asociacionanse.org/la-campana-de-anillamiento-de-isla-grosa-en-radio-online-murcia/20130422) whereas 100 a day is more normal.  If this is the case, things may well change at the end of this week as a low pressure system should be hitting the coast on Thursday and Friday.

Away from Cabo de Palos, in the Mar Menor we saw the two remaining Common Scoters from the km.8 marker along the F-34 road (just west of Los Urrutias) on the 14th April, but returning there on the 21st, there was no sign of them.  I have also seen a few Collared Pratincoles in ploughed fields around the area with a flock of more than 18 also on the 21st April.  There has also been a quite heavy passage of hirundines and swifts during the last week. 

At the rambla de Albujón at the western end of the Mar Menor on the 21st, birds heard singing from the reedbed were at least 4 Reed Warblers and 2 Great Reed Warblers.

 One of at least 4 Reed Warblers at the rambla de Albujon, viewed from the road bridge

At the old sewage farm (EDAR) of El Algar, the water in the first pool has slowly been evaporating away, but there is still a good number of Wood Sandpipers there (7 on the 21st) and a Ruff on the 17th and 20th.  This is also a very good place for Turtle Doves, and I saw 3 on nearby telephone cables also on the 20th.

At the Marchamalo Salinas (behind the go-kart track at Cabo de Palos) numbers of Little Stints are starting to build up, as are Curlew Sandpipers (some of which in their splendid red breeding plumage), but otherwise things are quiet.

 Three of the group of five Curlew Sandpipers at the salinas

On my only trips out to the Salinas at San Pedro del Pinatar, the passage waders appear to have almost all left now – just a few Turnstones and Sanderling on the beach at El Mojón on the 20th, but the summer terns are now in, with Common, Little and Gull-billed’s seen easily.

The only other bird of interest that I’ve seen recently, was a Little Egret/Western Reef Heron cross on Saturday 20th April at the sailing club at Los Urrutias on the Mar Menor, although it didn’t stay for long (seen until 14:30, but it was being harassed by Little Egrets and had disappeared by 17:30 not to be seen again).  These birds turn up occasionally around the Mar Menor and are similar to Little Egrets, but can have a lot of pale grey on them instead of being pure white.  I also noted that the bird appeared to be an adult in breeding plumage (with the wispy feathers on the back and flesh coloured feet) but didn’t have the two ‘egret’ plumes on the head.

 The Western Reef/Little Egret cross, together with a normal Little Egret
 The Western Reef/Little Egret cross, showing the extent of grey on the wings


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