Tuesday, 10 September 2013

September 10th - local update

Hi all,

Since my last report on the 1st September, apart from there being various periods of rain and the weather in general cooling down, not much has been happening on the bird front locally.

My two normal places for viewing waders, San Pedro Salinas and Marchamalo Salinas have both got high water levels, either intentionally from water being pumped in, or from the rain, and apart from Avocets and Black Winged Stilts, waders have pretty much totally disappeared from Marchamalo.  There are still some around at San Pedro, but still in small numbers.  In San Pedro, the young of this year of Greater Flamingos have finally arrived in numbers, some forming their own flocks.

 In San Pedro, few waders - here a Black Winged Stilt,
a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper and a Kentish Plover all taking their siesta
 New arrivals at San Pedro are the juvenile Greater Flamingos...
 ... some forming their own small flocks

Returning from San Pedro salinas, I've still been calling into the farm reservoirs at San Javier, near to the airport, where there are still plenty of Black Terns passing through (but still no sign of White-winged Black!).

 During the week, up to 35 Black Terns have been present

 Adult birds have almost completely moulted out their breeding plumage
As the tourists have now left, it’s been worthwhile having a look at some of the beaches around the Mar Menor (checking out for waders, but also the first Spoonbills and Great White Egrets of the Autumn).  Of the latter two species there’s been no sign so far (although I haven’t got as far as the ‘Encañizadas’ at the end of La Manga Strip yet), but there have been a few Whimbrel and plenty of Ringed Plover through, and a friend had a juvenile Knot last week at the Los Urrutias Club Nautico – a species that doesn’t get seen too often in the region of Murcia.  All of these are waders that you’re more likely to see on the seashore rather than on the local ‘salinas’.

 A selection of waders seen at Los Urrutias last week - here an adult male Ringed Plover...

 ... winter plumaged Turnstone ...

 ... and a breeding plumaged Turnstone ...
 ... a confiding Whimbrel ...

 ... even closer ...

 ... and a moulting Common Sandpiper 

 Not all the birds on the shoreline are waders
 - here an adult male 'Yellow' Wagtail of the iberian race -
note the white chin

This is also the time of year when raptors start to be seen, and a group of us have started a regular raptor watch at some of the local coastal watchpoints (Roldan – Tentagorra, just to the west of Cartagena; Cabo Tiñosa, down towards Mazarron, and Monte Carmolí which is just to the west of Los Urrutias).  Since we started (3 weekends ago), the raptors have been few and far between, but we have high hopes for the last two weeks of September and beginning of October.  Migrant raptors seen so far have been Kestrel, Hobby, Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, Marsh Harrier, Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Short-toed Eagle and Booted Eagle – which isn’t a bad species list, but the quantity of birds hasn’t been that high.

Tentagorra, where we do our raptor watching, with Monte Roldan in the background

 In three hours watching, our only raptor!  Well, there's always next week

Another of my favourite places that has been worth a look at recently are the ‘Saladares del Guadalentín’, the triangle of farmland between Alhama de Murcia, Totana and Mazarron.  Now that the weather’s cooled down a little from the summer highs with temperatures up to 40º+ centigrade, this is a place worth a morning or afternoon’s visit as long as it hasn’t been raining recently, (as many of the tracks are clay and it’s easy to get bogged down in it) – also you need to get the right day when there’s not too much being planted in the fields, and no hunting going on (i.e. not too much disturbance).  If you DO get the right day though, you can see plenty of raptors, with Marsh and Montagu’s Harriers, Golden, Short-toed, Bonelli’s and Booted Eagles, Honey Buzzards, Peregrine, Kestrel and Lesser Kestrel all having been seen recently, and it can’t be long before the first Common Buzzards, Hen Harriers and Ospreys show themselves. And over the last couple of weeks, there has been a mobile flock of Dotterel with up to 30 birds being seen, but you really have to chase around the fields for these.  I called in there last Wednesday together with Mick Brewer, and met up with Paul Sparkes who had located a flock of 12 Dotterel, which were very confiding, allowing a very close approach to them.  Raptors seen there were Booted Eagle, a couple of Marsh Harriers, a juvenile Montagu’s Harrier and Common Kestrels, and other birds of interest seen were a distant flock of 5 Black-bellied Sandgrouse, and flocks of Short-toed, Lesser Short-toed and Calandra Larks.

 Saladares del Guadalentín - typical Dotterel terrain

Same terrain - this time with the birds in question...

 ... and a couple of closer shots

 And now for something completely different! Green Woodpecker on a concrete post

Another place I visited this week was the EDAR (sewage farm) of Molina de Segura, known as Campotejar, just to the northwest of the city of Murcia.  I had been told that there was a juvenile White-winged Black Tern there with the Whiskered Terns the day before, but when I got there, there was no sign of it.  To make up for it though, I had six Whiskered Terns, five Squacco Herons, a single Little Bittern, three juvenile Night Herons, a female or juvenile Red Crested Pochard, and three male Ferruginous Ducks.

Last Saturday, being the first Saturday of the month, we had our monthly seawatch from the cliffs at Cabo de Palos.  Starting at 7-30 a.m., in theory the watch is for three hours, but passage was really slow and as it started raining heavily at around 9 o’clock, we gave up (not something you’d do in the U.K., but here in the southeast of Spain, we’re not used to birding in the wet!).  In the hour and a half spent watching, we only had around 20 Sandwich Terns, 15 Cory’s Shearwaters and a couple of Balearic Shearwaters, plus a Marsh Harrier a long way out to sea slowly flying south, and on the rocks where we watch from, a couple of female or immature Northern Wheatears.

On Sunday, after the 3 hours spent at Tentagorra with Diego Zamora looking for raptors (and seeing just a single Peregrine, plus a flock of 13 Night Herons!), on the way back home I called into EDAR at El Algar to see how the water levels were doing.  Although the gates were padlocked, looking through them I could see that there was quite a bit of water there from the recent rains, so it’ll be worth keeping an eye the place over the next few weeks as when there’s water there, it’s a good place for waders.  Coming away from there I saw a Gull-billed Tern which was flying around a farm reservoir, and I could hear a young one calling for food, so I presume they’d bred there.  The majority of the Gull-billed’s have gone but I suppose this is just a late nester (or second brood).

 Gull-billed Tern doing a circuit of a reservoir

I've also made a couple of early morning trips to the lighthouse garden at Cabo de Palos, but with very little to show for it.  On the sea, Sandwich Terns, Audouin's Gulls and Shag, and the only migratory passerines have been Red-rumped Swallows and a single Spotted Flycatcher.

On the fence at the lighthouse garden, a solitary Spotted Flycatcher

And that’s all for now.

Should you wish to keep more up to date with what’s being seen, look me up on ‘facebook’ under ‘Richard Howard’.



  1. Buenos ratos de pajareo, como siempre. Este fin de semana bajaré al final. Apetece el sábado un asomo a los saladares del Guadalentín?

    Un saludo


    1. Hola Gabriel, si me apetece, salvo si el tiempo va en contra! De momento da mal tiempo - vamos a ver que dice el viernes.
      Un saludo,

    2. Pues sí, esperaremos al viernes y decidimos. Gracias.
      Un saludo,