Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Weekly Mar Menor area roundup - 16th - 24th September

Hi all,

Although I say that this is a roundup, I personally haven't been out as much this week, so this could be a short report!  No reports from the salinas at Marchamalo this entry, as the only times I've been past there, the water level's been too high for small waders - the only birds seen have been up to 12 Greater Flamingoes and 22 Grey Herons on the Cabo de Palos side, and on the Playa Paraiso side, the usual afternoon flock of gulls (Audouin's, Mediterranean, Black-headed and Slender-billed) and terns (Sandwich).

On Wednesday, 18th I managed an afternoon trip down to the 'saladares del Guadalentín'.  Things were much quieter there than of late, but I did manage to once again tie up with the three 'steppe' species of lark, with a flock of about 35 Calandras, plus other flocks of Short-toed and Lesser Short-toed's.  The Short-toed's are gathering together for their movement south, so anyone having problems with i.d.'ing the Lessers, give it another month and there shouldn't be a problem - there´ll only be Lessers there!  Other small birds seen were up to 8 Northern Wheatears, and a couple of Whinchats.

In the way of raptors, there was a group of 4 Marsh Harriers sat in a field, which lazily flew up as I approached to settle in other fields behind me.  I presume the hunt must have been successful that day, as all they were interested in was their after lunch siesta!  Not so for the group of 7 Lesser Kestrels seen, which were all over the place hunting dragonflies.

One of the Lesser Kestrels that were zapping about

I returned back to the Mar Menor area at about 6-30 (not because of the lack of birds, but because there appeared to be some very high storm clouds forming to the south and moving up to the saladares).  As there was still plenty of light, I had a look around the fields in El Algar and Los Urrutias, but only had a single female Marsh Harrier and heard a couple of Bee-eaters going over - possibly my last ones locally this year.

On saturday 21st, I had an early look at the salinas de San Pedro del Pinatar, but down at the 'El Mojon' area (where the Short-billed Dowitcher had been in the spring).  I thought that now that things have cooled down a bit, and there isn't so much disturbance, it was possible that there might be some waders about.  I was quite right, but the waders were a group of 12 Spotted Redshanks and 3 Common Redshanks, which on seeing me, were off to the opposite corner on the lagoon.  Other birds seen there were 3 Sanderling, 4 Greenshank and 4 Black Winged Stilts, and actually in the lagoon, around 300 Greater Flamingos and more than 20 Black Necked Grebes, plus Black-headed and Slender-billed Gulls.

One of the relatively common Spotted Redshanks seen that day

Round at the other side of the salinas, on the main road from the information centre, after watching a Kingfisher for a while, I bumped into a spanish birdwatching friend, Antonio Fernandez-Caro, and we checked out the lagoons along the road together. Again, nothing stunning, about 20 Black-tailed Godwits, 25 Dunlin, 3 juvenile Curlew Sandpipers, 9 Little Stints, 20 Sanderling plus the normal Ringed and Kentish Plovers and a Common Sandpiper.  Little Terns have obviously made their move south as we only saw 3 of them remaining on the walls of the lagoons, and nothing in the way of Black Terns.

Kingfisher, waiting for its breakfast to pass by

It was while we were along that road that I got a message from another birdwatcher who was at the encañizadas at the end of La Manga. He'd heard a strange wader calling in flight, and had managed to rattle off some photos of it, which he sent to me.  Although looking at the photos on my phone with all the glare wasn't ideal, I could see what he was getting at when he said what he thought it was.  I forwarded the photo on to various people who all came back saying they agreed - a Pectoral Sandpiper.  Well, that was where to go tomorrow decided!

 Seen, heard and photographed by Isidro Bartolomé,
only the second Pectoral Sandpiper for the region of Murcia

Antonio and I decided to have a look at the other side of the salinas, 'La Mota', where everyone goes and covers themselves in mud, but getting partway down there and seeing the number of people around disturbing the birds, we decided to give up and return.  We got far enough down to see the main flock of Black Necked Grebes, which I calculated at around 400 birds, but the only wader we saw was a single Little Stint!

On my way home from there, I called in to the beach at the 'Club Nautico'  in Los Urrutias on the Mar Menor, but here again there was a lot of disturbance, although there were 2 Bar-tailed Godwits there for a while, and on each of the anti-jellyfish net floaters, there seemed to be a tern.

The beach by the 'Club Nautico' at Los Urrutias

The next morning, Sunday 22nd, guess where I was.  Yes, you're right, at the encañizadas.  To birdwatch the encañizadas, you have to be there early, for a couple of reasons.  One is the doggy walkers who let their dogs off the lead which then proceed to flush everything in sight, and the other is that first thing, you have the sun behind you and no heat haze.  By about 11 there is a heavy heat haze making distant birds very difficult to see well.  I was hoping that the big flock of waders there might be on my side of the encañizadas.  But no, they were in the middle, just too far to be able to identify the smaller ones on an individual basis.  There were some over on my side (a couple of Dunlins and Little Stints) together with plently of larger waders - Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, at least a dozen Curlew and a single Whimbrel, Grey Plovers and Turnstones - and a minimum of 50 Little Egrets and 40 Grey Herons.  By now I'd been joined by more local birdwatchers, Antonio Fernandez-Caro, Isidro Bartolomé and Javi Palacios, and while going through the distant herons in the heat haze, I noticed some Spoonbills.  I couldn't see exactly how many, but eventually the group got up and started flying.  They did two or three circles over the encañizadas, and then headed off high south, towards Cartagena and beyond, ten birds in all.

 A couple of shots of the Spoonbills, on their way to shores further south

The only other birds we saw of note were a couple of adult Mediterranean Gulls in amongst a mixed group of Black-headed and Slender-billed Gulls, one of which had a red colour ring with white lettering on it, but again it was too far and the heat haze by now too strong to be able to read it.

Also of note was at first one, then a second, Kingfishers which perched on the overhead H.T. cables, occasionally dropping down to the pools beneath, and having the occasional arguement.

In the evening, the ANSE bird ringing group had arranged a roost ringing attempt for the Yellow Wagtail roost in the 'Arenal' on the Mar Menor next to Los Nietos.  I had gone down there the evening before to see how the roost was doing, and had seen 'only' around 300 birds, normally too small an amount to make the ringing effort worthwhile.  However, the ringing had been put off on several previous occasions for various reasons, so this time it was going ahead, come what may!

 Apart from 'only' 300 'flava' Wagtails, one of the few other birds seen the night before, a Whinchat

Well, as it happened things didn't turn out too badly.  Starting at 5-30 in the afternoon, three lines of nets were set up, and we started seeing  a few wagtails fly over from about a quarter to seven onwards.  Sunset was at just after 8, so we had the tape lures in place at 7 and decided to wait till all the movement had stopped, in the dark at about 8-30 before checking the nets.  Well, from where we had the ringing table set up we could see the birds coming into the roost, wave after wave.  In the end I estimated about 800, of which quite a few seemed to be going into the nets.  We started emptying the nets at around 8-30, and it took us until at least 10pm before they were empty.  With 4 people ringing continuously plus another two people scribing, it was just before 12 that the ringing finished - with 3 species ringed, 2 Sardinian Warblers, a single Fan-tailed Warbler and 288 'flava' Wagtails!  As is normal for the time of the year, the majority of these were juveniles, and so impossible to subscribe to a sub-species, but of the adults, the majority were 'flava' (Blue-headed) with a few 'flavissima' (UK Yellows).  Other birds seen there was a good passage of Red-rumped Swallows, with fewer Swallows, a couple of Swifts/Pallid Swifts  and while we were extracting birds, a Red Necked Nightjar flew around us, and a Night Heron was heard flying over.

 Sunset, and time to relax, with the nets by now set up.  
Time for beer and homemade lemonade (excellent stuff - thanks Angel!)
Later on, and ringing by now in full swing.  291 birds ringed in total

Finally, this morning, Tuesday 24th, before work I took a trip down to the encañizadas again. There were a few more small waders close, just Dunlin, Little Stint, Ringed and Kentish Plovers, plus 3 Black-tailed Godwits, a single juvenile Curlew Sandpiper, 15 Curlew and more than 40 Grey Herons.  Other noteworthy birds were a group of around 12 Red-rumped Swallows resting on the terrace wall of a house making the most of the early morning sun, and around 15 Cormorants in small groups, the first of the winter.

 Red-rumped Swallows early morning sun-bathing

Four of the Dunlin close enough to see well

And that's about it - this weekend I'm off for my annual visit to Tarifa and associated areas, so hopefully I'll have lots to tell in my next report.


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