Thursday, 25 July 2013

25th July 2013 - Mar Menor update

Hi all, 

Since my last post, I've been going regularly to the old salinas at Marchamalo (Cabo de Palos), and the salinas at San Pedro del Pinatar.  The water levels in both places have been rising, which in Marchamalo has had the effect of forcing the waders to some of the more central (and less accessible) lagoons, but with a telescope, they can still be seen from the road in the mornings (with the sun behind you).

In actual fact there hasn't been too much in th way of waders - at Marchamalo, a lot of Black Winged Stilts, up to 6 Curlew Sandpipers all in breeding plumage; a single Little Stint, a few Common Redshanks and Greenshanks, Common and Green Sandpipers passing through, and  at San Pedro, again many  Black Winged Stilts, and the first Ruff and Black-tailed Godwits of the return passage and I've been told of a group of 4 Oystercatcher seen flying over the salinas last week.  In amongst the Black Winged Stilts I had a colour ringed individual which appears to have been ringed originally in Portugal, but I'm still waiting for precise details.

What HAVE been moving in very strongly have been Greater Flamingos, with a maximum this last week of 147 at Marchamalo and around 800 at San Pedro.  I've been reading colour rings on some of them and although I haven't got their histories back yet, some I know have been ringed originally at the Delta del Ebro and others have Italian rings (probably ringed on Sardinia, where I have had recoveries from in previous years).

Other birds in movement have been gulls and terns, and I have seen Gull-billed, Sandwich, Common, Black and Whiskered Terns at San Pedro, and a single Whiskered amongst the Sandwich, Common and Little Terns at Marchamalo.  Again at Marchamalo, numerous Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls have been passing through, mainly adults, although I have now started to see a few juvenile Black-headed Gulls with their almost brown backs.

Although the majority of my trips out recently have been to San Pedro and Marchamalo salinas, yesterday, Wednesday 24th July we had our monthly count at the Cartagena sewage farm at the EDAR Cabeza Beaza.  Here you could certainly see things are in movement, with a count of over 650 Black-headed Gulls (with an adult breeding plumaged Mediterranean Gull mixed in with them - the first time I think this species has been seen at this inland site), over 680 Black Necked Grebes accumulating here to moult, the majority of them being adult birds in breeding plumage, and in amongst a group of 68 Pochard, a group of 7 Ferruginous Ducks, the largest group of this normally rare duck seen at this site.

And that's it for now.  Apologies for the lack of photos - the birds generally just haven't been close enough, but I include a couple of some of the Flamingos.

 At Marchamalo, a lot of Flamingos have come in recently...

... joining the families of Shelducks

Happy birding,


Tuesday, 16 July 2013

A bit more movement

Hi all,

Further to my entry last week, over the last weekend I went out to a few places locally.

On Friday evening (12th July), as it was totally overcast, I had a look at the Marchamalo Salinas from the Cabo de Palos side (had it been sunny, it would be impossible to see anything as you are looking directly into the sun).  It seems like there have been no breakdowns with the pump this year and water is currently being pumped in regularly, to the extent that the Salinas are relatively full at the moment – at the place where I normally park there are no muddy fringes at the edges of the lagoons for waders, and the only waders seen were a few Avocets, Black Winged Stilts and a small group of Kentish Plovers.

On the wall at the back of one of the lagoons however, in the same place as on previous years, a good number of gulls and terns is building up – I had 20 Sandwich, 6 Common and 7 Little Terns there, plus a good group of 25 adult Black-headed Gulls which are obviously returning migrants and which will probably hang around to moult.  Other birds of interest seen were 34 Shelduck, including 2 groups of different sized ducklings, 7 in each group, which have obviously been raised here as they are too small to fly yet.

Saturday morning early saw me taking a trip over to the Salinas at San Pedro.  I started off at El Mojón, where I saw my first returning wader, an adult Greenshank, but apart from that things were relatively quiet (just the usual Avocets, Black Winged Stilts, Kentish Plovers, Greater Flamingos), although crossing the small wooden bridge over the canal there, I was struck by the number of House Martins and Swallows flying south along the beach.  Obviously their migration has started as well.

Going round to the port road area of the Salinas, things seemed to be relatively quiet at the pool at the far end (nearest the port itself), although there were a couple of Turnstones on one of the islands, and a group of about 30 Slender-billed Gulls.  Working my way back towards the information centre there were plenty of Little Terns still feeding young on the walls of the lagoons, and a few Gull-billed Terns flying over with food in their mouths obviously coming back from the fields inland with food for their young.  In the 3rd lagoon on the right (from the information centre), there is a distant line of posts, and on these I counted 34 adult Black Terns still in breeding plumage plus a few Common and Sandwich Terns, and while watching these I had 3 Whiskered Terns fly over.  All in all, a good morning for tern varieties.  There seemed to have been a small influx of Little Egrets as well, as I counted 14 of them.

Having seen the Black Terns, I thought that on my way back I would call in at the farm reservoirs close to the airport road that joins the AP-7 and San Javier airport.  This turned out quite worthwhile, as I had another 16 adult Black Terns here, together with 8 Gull-billed Terns, a couple of Green Sandpipers, an adult Night Heron, Cattle Egret and Squacco Heron!

 A couple of photos of one of the Black Terns seen

 A record shot of the adult Night Heron...

 ... and another of the adult Squacco Heron

Rounding off the weekend, I called in on Sunday morning firstly to the Cabo de Palos end of Marchamalo Salinas to check out the terns and gulls (here in the past I have seen Elegant Tern in with the Sandwiches, and as a pair of Elegants have bred this year in Valencia, it’s quite possible they may call in here on their way back south). But it wasn’t to be today – today there were just 10 Sandwich, 10 Common and 8 Little Terns, plus just 8 Black-headed Gulls and 7 Mediterranean Gulls (all adults, starting to lose their breeding plumage).  Other birds were a few Slender-billed Gulls, Audouin’s Gulls, lots of Yellow-legged Gulls, a couple of adult Greater Flamingos (quite early for here), and plenty of swifts (both Common and Pallid) and hirundines (House Martins, Swallows and Red-rumped Swallows).

As I haven’t been over to Calblanque for a while and as I still had time before you have to use the bus service there, I called in to the Salinas at Rasall, more to see how the water levels were than anything else.  They weren’t bad at all, with just a few totally covered in salt and these had about 50 Yellow-legged Gulls sat on them.  On the walls of the lagoons were 18 Audouin’s Gulls (17 adults and just one juvenile) and I managed to read a couple of colour rings from them - the birds were originally ringed one in 2009 at the La Mata lagoon in Alicante (a large breeding colony) and the other on Isla Grosa just of the coast from La Manga in 2008 when there was a sizeable colony there.

 Apart from that, things were very quiet with just a couple of Black Winged Stilts and half a dozen Kentish Plovers.

And that’s it, so until my next report,


Monday, 8 July 2013

8th July 2013 – They’re on their way back!

Hi all,

Although it hardly seems possible, for some species the breeding season is now over and birds are once again heading south.  Looking at some farm reservoirs close to San Javier airport over the weekend, I had my first returning Black Terns, adults in full breeding plumage, feeding over the reservoirs together with a couple of Gull-billed Terns.

 First returning Black Tern...

... together with a Gull Billed Tern

I also called into the Salinas at San Pedro on Sunday morning where a couple of the people who work at the information centre were out manning an information desk at the side of one of the lagoons.  This was the ideal opportunity to ask about the breeding success of some of the local birds, and I was told that in general most breeding species were up to their normal numbers (Avocets, Black Winged Stilts, Shelduck, Kentish Plovers, Black-headed and Slender-billed Gulls, Common and Sandwich Terns).  One species that did seem lower are the Little Terns, but this may well be due to the amount of rainfall during the winter and spring making many inland areas more interesting to the terns.  And a species that has definitely increased – 502 pairs of breeding Audouin’s Gulls, a colony that seems to have come out of no-where to be one of the largest colonies in Spain after the Delta del Ebro and southern Alicante.

I also asked about Flamingos, as having passed by San Pedro the previous week, I had seen 3 ‘juvenile’ Flamingos, but on asking people from various places where they breed in Spain (Laguna de Fuente Piedra; Pétrola; Delta del Ebro), none of the young have yet reached being able to fly.  Normally I don’t see juvenile Flamingos until the end of August, so wondered if it were possible that they may have bred at San Pedro for the first time, and the juveniles that I saw were local birds.  While talking about the flamingos, looking through my ‘scope I saw another group of 10 juveniles, some of which looked suspiciously dark to me – unfortunately they were far too distant to be able to photograph.  Although the people manning the desk didn’t know if they have bred here this year, they said they would find out and let me know.

Photos of the juvenile Flamingos taken last weekend

Apart from that, things are still pretty quiet, although over the next few weeks I would expect terns and gulls to start moving, and towards the end of the month we should have the first waders (hopefully including Red-necked Phalaropes which are seen at San Pedro regularly towards the end of July).

And keep an eye out for swifts – what with the rarities (Needletailed and Pacific Swifts) having been seen in the UK and a Pacific Swift in Galicia last week, we had a report of up to 3 Little Swifts having been seen locally last week along the Mar Menor in Los Urrutias.  Although they couldn't be re-located, it's always worth checking any swifts out just in case there may be a strange one amongst them!