Tuesday, 20 August 2013

20th August 2013 - local area update

Hi all,

My apologies for no reports over the past 12 days, but to be honest, there’s been nothing much to report about.

Nationally, birds of note have nearly all been gulls, terns or waders, with Cadiz being the place to be, having Elegant, Lesser Crested and last weekend a first winter Forster’s Tern all in the same place, plus a pair of Common Bulbul being seen feeding two young in Tarifa. 

As is traditional in the second fortnight of August, Dotterel have started putting in an appearance with birds in Albacete and Almeria provinces (information from Rafa Torralba and Raimundo Martin respectively) and it can’t be that long before they put in an appearance at another traditional passage stopping place, south of the El Hondo reserve near Crevillente in Alicante province.  Here in Murcia there is no known regular site for them, although they have been seen in two of the last three years at the ‘Saladares del Guadalentín’ in the triangle between Alhama de Murcia, Totana and Mazarron, so it’s always worth checking local fields. 

Locally, there has just been more of the same, with a decent passage of Curlew Sandpipers (up to 60) through Marchamalo Salinas and numbers of both Dunlin and Little Stint building up well.  The water here is evaporating fast. At the moment the best place to see waders is still the first pool behind the go-kart track, and in the pool behind that one I had a good gathering of Little Egrets one morning.
At the other side of the Salinas, next to the Playa Paraiso urbanization, gulls and terns are gathering most afternoons, with good numbers of Mediterranean, Black-headed and Audouin’s Gulls, Common and Sandwich Terns as well as the normal Yellow-legged Gulls, being seen recently.

 On one morning recently, a good group of Little Egrets

 Curlew Sandpipers have been passing through well, and a few Dunlin have started to be seen

 A general view from the 'lay-by' behind the go-kart track
 The salinas hold a good mix of waders - here Little Stint and adult Dunlin...
 ... Ringed Plover...

 ... and more of Little Stint

 Numbers of Slender-billed Gulls are building up...

 ... mainly adults in moult, as can be seen with this individual

At the Salinas at San Pedro del Pinatar, birds seen are much the same as in my last report – plenty of Black Winged Stilts, Avocets and Kentish Plovers, a few Curlew Sandpipers, Sanderling, Little Stints, Dunlin and Common Sandpipers, Redshank and Greenshank and the occasional Spotted Redshank.  Adult Black Terns continue to pass through, either sitting on posts in the third pool on the right or feeding over the first pool on the left as you enter, some looking quite tatty as they moult their primaries.  Numbers of Black Necked Grebes are also steadily building up, and I would expect there to be a good sized moulting flock visible from the ‘Mota’ (the path that takes you out to the ‘encañizadas’ from the windmill) – I’ve not had a chance to check this out, but there’s normally a good 3-500 flock at this time of year.

The Little Bitterns continue to be seen first thing (you need to be there by 8 o’clock) in the reed area in the first pool on the right, and there have been a reasonable number of Ruff around.

 A locally raised Black Winged Stilt...

 ... male Ruff and Redshank...

 ... another very pale looking male Ruff

 All the Curlew Sandpipers passing through at the moment are adults, some in stunning plumage

 The Dunlins are also all adults, mainly in breeding plumage

Other places of interest that I’ve visited recently have been the farm reservoirs along the road from the AP-7 to San Javier airport, where I’ve seen Night Herons and Black and Gull-billed Terns regularly, and on the 10th August I had an immature Purple Heron.

 Black Terns continue to pass through, again mainly adults

 Easily spooked, there's normally a Night Heron or two around...

 ... and on the electric cables around the orange groves, still plenty of Turtle Doves

 Quite a rarity, an immature Purple Heron out in the open

 Another moulting adult Black Tern...

... and a couple of Gull-billed Terns

Finally, on another visit to the ‘Encañizadas’ at the end of La Manga strip on the 17th August, I finally got to see my first Murcian Bar-tailed Godwit of the year, a stunning adult in breeding plumage.

Distant, but a very smart bird - Bar-tailed Godwit

Happy birding,


Thursday, 8 August 2013

Another local roundup

From my recent reports it probably seems that I only go to the local salinas - and at this time of year this is pretty much correct - too early for the passage of raptors around this area, too dry to get anything of passerines passing through, out at sea the occasional Gannet and (from Cabo de Palos at least) Shag and on a good day a few Cory's Shearwaters moving south.  Which leaves the salinas and other 'watery' places with the the possibility of passage birds.

On a national level, not a lot has been seen so far, with just a couple of Broad-billed Sandpipers and Red-necked Phalaropes near Barcelona and the first Pectoral Sandpiper in Valencia, all in the last week or so.

So when you start to get the movements of waders coming through, it's worth a good look almost on a daily basis. At Marchamalo, there has been some obvious movement with good numbers of Curlew Sandpipers and numbers of Dunlin, Little Stints, a single Ruff, Greenshank and Redshank all in the past week, and yesterday (Wednesday 7th August) for just a couple of hours around midday, a flock of 15 Oystercatchers.  Also in Marchamalo, the water level is gradually dropping due to evaporation, as it appears that whoever is in charge of pumping the water into the salinas must now be on holiday as since the 1st August no water has been pumped in.  This is having the effect of drawing the small waders to the first lagoon behind the go-karts, and if you approach carefully, you can get quite close to them (and in the morning with the sun behind you, they are perfect for photographing).

Waders at the side of the road, at Marchamalo...

... and some more the following day

 From Playa Paraiso, you can see the gulls (and a few terns) gathering

And for one day only, a group of Oystercatchers seen from the beach

In San Pedro del Pinatar, the water levels are still high (too high even to read Flamingo colour rings), and things are fairly quiet there, with waders around (Curlew Sandpipers, Ruff, Dunlin, Little Stints, Black-tailed Godwits) but not particularly high numbers of them.  For me, the most interesting birds in my couple of visits in the last week have been Little Bitterns.  These seem to have been in very short supply this year up until about a month ago, but by going there early in the morning I have seen a few, and my last visit early yesterday morning, I had at least 2 adult males, an adult female and a juvenile, all in the reedbeds at the entrance to the salinas on the right of the road.  Smart birds!

 Male Little Bittern - they're being quite showy at the moment

The only other place that I've been to in the last week are the 'encañizadas' at the end of the La Manga strip (overlooking San Pedro).  Not somewhere I normally go at this time of year mainly because of the amount of traffic around, I was tempted as I was told that there were Bar-tailed Godwits there (which surprisingly I haven't seen yet this year) and an Oystercatcher had been hanging around there (which although I'd already seen, they aren't that common in this area).  So getting there at 7-45am (and with surprisingly clear roads), the Oystercatcher was one of the first birds I saw, but no sign of Bar-tailed's - typical!  Other birds there were the typical more 'maritine' waders - Curlews, a single Grey Plover, Ringed Plovers, Kentish Plovers, Turnstones and Redshanks and Greenshanks, and something of a surprise, a group of 8 Collared Pratincoles roosting on the masses of seaweed.  Also there was a good selection of terns, with Common, Little, Sandwich and Gull-billed all roosting, and a couple of groups of Black Terns flew through.

And that's been my week!

Happy birding,



Thursday, 1 August 2013

1st August 2013 – Let the passage commence!

As in my last blog entry, I have been visiting principally the nearby Salinas and sewage farms.  There are definitely more passage birds around now but we are still waiting for the ‘heavy’ entrance of some of the waders.  There has been a lot of visible movement of swifts (mainly Common but also a few Alpines) and hirundines, and this morning when I went down to the Salinas at Marchamalo, there was a distinct lack of swifts around, when normally they are screeching all over.

There is also a distinct lack of passerines locally, apart from Greenfinches, Serins, Spotless Starlings and House Sparrows, but this is normal for here at this time of year with the heat and most of the adult birds going through their moults - hence why I tend to go first thing to look for waders and water birds.

In that vein, at the Marchamalo Salinas at Cabo de Palos, there has been a constant movement of Greater Flamingos, with my maximum count over the last week of 161 birds.  The Shelducks are also still hanging around, at least 3 pairs of adults with 5, 6 and 4 ducklings.  Black Winged Stilt numbers are peaking at the moment, with around 50 – 60 birds there, fairly dispersed but in the afternoons they can be seen well from the Playa Paraiso side of the Salinas as they congregate in the first pool.  Numbers of Avocets have dropped dramatically to the extent that it is sometimes difficult to see them there.  On Monday, 29th July, a surprise visitor was a single Oystercatcher sat on one of the lagoon walls.  Curlew Sandpipers are showing themselves well (although distantly) with maximum counts this week of 34 on the 28th, and 33 on the 31st.  All have been adults in moult, with some still retaining their red breeding plumage.
Also adult Little Stints are beginning to show, with 3 seen this morning (1st August), and there are a few Green and Redshanks around.

 Adult Shelduck with four of its five offspring

 Greater Flamingos are putting in quite an appearance at the moment

 Slightly larger 'baby' Shelducks

The lagoons are getting full of water and Flamingos

 In the afternoons, from the Playa Paraiso side of Marchamalo, gulls and terns gather...

... as do Black Winged Stilts
Other birds in obvious passage here have been the heron family, with varying numbers of Grey Herons (maximum 5) and Little Egrets (maximum 4), and the gull and tern family, (Black-headed, Mediterranean, Audouins, Slender-billed and Yellow-legged Gulls, and Sandwich, Common and Little Terns), and the first juvenile Mediterranean Gulls are starting to put in an appearance.

On Saturday (27th July) I went with Mick Brewer up to the San Pedro salinas in the morning.  The water levels there are now very high (which may have some bearing on whey there are so few small waders around), but we did manage to see amongst the ‘normal’ birds, around 40 Black Terns, a single Whiskered Tern, 22 Curlew Sandpipers, my first ‘autumn’ Kingfisher, and for about 2 seconds a male Little Bittern in flight.

On the way back from there we called in to the farm lagoons near to San Javier airport where there were the usual birds – 8 adult Black Terns, 5 Gull-billed Terns, Little Grebes, Coots, Moorhens, Little Ringed Plover, Black Winged Stilt, a Cattle Egret and a Squacco Heron, and at least half a dozen Turtle Doves on wires.

As we were nearby, we also called into the San Javier EDAR (sewage farm) which is just opposite the airport.  This is normally pretty quiet, but this morning there was quite a lot about – a couple of young Gull-billed Terns begging to be fed, six adult Black Terns, at least two female Mallard with ducklings, a young Ringed Plover (quite unusually early this), at least a dozen Little Ringed Plovers, two Common Sandpipers, a couple of Coot and five adult Little Grebes with two of them on a nest.  And all of this seen from the gate of the EDAR.

I paid another visit to the Salinas at San Pedro yesterday afternoon (Wednesday, 31st July – still trying to find a Phalarope or Broad-billed Sand.).  I called in again first at the San Javier airport road farm reservoirs, where there were exactly the same birds as on Saturday morning, although the group of Little Ringed Plovers had increased to 15.

 As always, on the fence, Squacco Heron

 Over one of the reservoirs, a group of Black Terns

 Adult Gull-billed Tern...

 ... and a juvenile

One of several Turtle Doves seen over the orange orchards

At the San Pedro Salinas there were a few decent sized groups (of 20+) Black Terns going from one side to the other of the main road into the Salinas, but apart from that things were very quiet (e.g. just a single Curlew Sandpiper, just a single Ruff).

Passing from one side of the road to the other, groups of Black Terns

And that’s about it for the week.  Things are obviously moving, but not in great numbers yet.

Happy birding,