Sunday, 19 May 2013

Saturday, 18th May 2013 – Cabo de Palos lighthouse garden – Spring migration – it’s not over yet!

Hi all,

Yesterday (Saturday) morning I had a few hours to spare, and as over the last few days the weather has been mixed, with sunshine but also heavy showers (including hail, thunder and lightening) and has been very windy at times, I decided to go over to the lighthouse garden, somewhere I haven’t been for a week or so now.  In all honestly I was prepared to see very little -  theoretically the main spring migration being more or less over now - so I was quite unprepared for the number of migrants I DID see.

Parking outside the gardens at 8:35 am, as I got out of the car I could see and hear Spotted Flycatchers on several of the surrounding fences, and as I walked through the gardens, they were everywhere calling to each other and fighting each other for flies and mosquitoes.  In the more dense bushes, there were small yellow warblers, which on getting the binoculars on them proved to be Melodious Warblers, and popping out of one bush to sit on top, a male Common Whitethroat which started to sing.

 Common Whitethroat

Working my way through the garden, I had more birds sitting on top of bushes, which turned out to be a couple of Whinchat, a single Northern Wheatear and a male Woodchat Shrike.  Flying over there was a continuous movement west of Common Swifts with a few Pallids in amongst them, plus Swallows.  The resident birds were also making their presence known, with Sardinian Warblers and Blackbirds sitting atop wires or ‘pita’ plants, and Spotless Starlings flying up from the rocky areas.


Male Woodchat Shrike keeping a lookout on top of a 'pita'...

 ... and one of the residents, a male Sardinian Warbler
By the time I’d finished my walk around the inner lighthouse garden (the fenced-in area), I’d seen around 15 Spotted Flycatchers (which were the main migrants) with a supporting cast of 4 Melodious Warblers, 2 Whinchat, 2 Common Whitethroats, 2 Willow Warblers, 1 Common Redstart and a Northern Wheatear.  Also, surprisingly (as although not uncommon in the winter, they don’t breed here), a single, very dark looking Stonechat.

 Female Common Redstart

Continuing my walk around the cliffs and other garden areas, more and more Spotted Flycatchers showed themselves, together with a couple of Pied Flycatchers, another Whinchat, a few more Willow and Melodious Warblers and two ‘flava’ Wagtails.  I include photos of the wagtails, as I’m uncertain as to which sub-species they are.  I initially thought ‘thunbergi’, but the male bird I saw had a definite white chin which ‘thunbergi’ doesn’t, so I’m now erring towards the Italian ‘cinereocapilla’.  What do you think?

 From behind, it looks like a normal 'iberiae'...

 ... but a side view shows it doesn't have the eyestripe

 The female that was with it may or may not be of the same sub-species

 Another slightly clearer view of the male

 A suicidal Whinchat, just standing in the middle of the road!

 That's better!  It was feeding with the two 'flava' wagtails

Coming back to the car park area, I sat down for 15 minutes or so to see what might hop out of the bushes in the ‘Sirio’ garden.  More flycatchers, Melodious Warbler, Willow Warblers, a single Robin hiding in the densest part, but what’s that flash of yellow/green the size of a blackbird? Yes, you’ve guessed – a Golden Oriole (female, my first for the year).  It sat in the centre of a bush for a few minutes, then flew up the line of bushes and disappeared.

 One of a couple of male Pied Flycatchers seen this morning...

 ... and what may have been the same bird

 As always here, the Robins don't like showing themselves too much

 What a morning – possibly the largest ‘fall’ of the Spring, with Spring almost over. The main protagonist was Spotted Flycatcher, of which I reckon I saw more than 30.

The bird of the day, Spotted Flycatcher - they were everywhere!

Finishing there at around 10:45, I decided to have a look at the Salinas at Marchamalo on my way home to Los Belones, and because of the number of small migrants, to also look at the tamarisk bush area next to the salinas.  In the Salinas themselves, all was pretty quiet – around 50 Avocets being the most notable birds, but there’s definitely been a late movement of Ringed Plovers as there were 12 of these, much to the chagrin of the local Kentish Plovers.

 In the salinas, the main birds were Avocets and Ringed Plovers...
... and in the tamarisk bushes at the edge of the salinas, more Spotted Flycatchers and Willow Warblers
Along the edge of th salinas, a Kentish Plover was doing a 'distraction display'

Walking around the bushes, there were more Spotted Flycatchers, Melodious and Willow Warblers but no sign of more Golden Orioles that I had hoped for.  Overhead I had Common, Pallid and a single Alpine Swift, plus Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow and House Martins, and in the adjacent fields, Short-toed Larks and Fan-tailed Warblers singing.

What a surprisingly good morning!

For those of you that don’t know the Salinas, I climbed an adjacent hill to take a couple of photos of the Salinas, bushes area and go-kart track so that you can see where I’m talking about.

 The east end of the salinas, with the motorway and go-kart track in the foreground, then scrub, trees and the salinas themselves, and in the background, on the left the Mar Menor, and the Mediterranean on the right.

 The west end of the salinas, with the Urbanization 'Playa Paraiso' to the left
Full list of birds seen during the morning (45 species):

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta); Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna); Black Winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus); Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta); Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula); Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus); Redshank (Tringa nebularia); Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos); Audouin’s Gull (Larus audouinii); Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis); Common Tern (Sterna hirundo); Little Tern (Sterna albifrons); Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus); Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto); Alpine Swift (Apus melba); Swift (Apus apus); Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus); Hoopoe (Upupa epops); Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla); Swallow (Hirundo rustica); Red-rumped Swallow (Hirundo daurica); House Martin (Delichon urbicum); ‘Yellow’ Wagtail (Motacilla flava ¿cinereocapilla?); White Wagtail (Motacilla alba alba); Robin (Erithacus rubecula); Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus); Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra); Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus); Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe); Blackbird (Turdus merula); Fan-tailed Warbler (Zitting Cisticola) (Cisticola juncidis); Melodious Warbler (Hippolais polyglotta); Whitethroat (Sylvia communis); Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala); Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus); Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata); Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca); Great Tit (Parus major); Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator); Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus); Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor); House Sparrow (Passer domesticus); Serin (Serinus serinus); Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris); Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis).



  1. Regarding the Yellow Wagtail. Is it possibly an Ashy-headed Yellow Wagtail? We had a same looking sub-species at Northam Burrows in North Devon last month(April) and the general consensus of opinion was "Ashy-headed." Even then it was suspected a cross breed. It was the same white throat that confused local birders.

    1. Hi Maurice, thanks for the input.
      Yes, that's the conclusion I came to, Ashy-headed (the Italian sub-species ‘cinereocapilla’, Motacilla flava cinereocapilla'). The two doubts I had about it was that the crown and back of the head appear more blue than grey, and the bird didn't have the white spot above the back corner of the eye, but now that I've had more time to look at various internet photos of Ashy-headed, I see that the white spot isn't always there. Also, with the weather we've had of late from the Med. pushing migrants west, it's not an unlikely bird to see.
      Regards, Richard.