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,



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