Thursday, 10 October 2013

Of raptors, waders and rarities

Hi all,

As summer FINALLY seems to be coming to an end (equals not having to have the air-con on at night to sleep) and we have a few clouds in the sky and the occasional shower, the last of the passage raptors seem to be coming through the region, bringing with them a surprise in the form of another possible Pallid Harrier, this time a second year female at the marina de Carmoli west of Los Urrutias alongside the Mar Menor.  First seen and photographed by José Navarro on the 28th September, what appears to be the same bird was again seen at the same place on 1st October.

Female possible Pallid Harrier seen at the Marina de Carmoli,
photos courtesy and copyright of Jóse Navarro

Other raptors being seen, principally from the coastal mountain range to the west of Cartagena (Roldan and Cabo Tiñoso) but also from Mt. Carmoli by the Mar Menor, are reasonable numbers of Booted Eagles, Marsh Harriers, Honey Buzzards, Montagu’s Harriers, Sparrowhawks and Kestrels, and over the last couple of days, early morning sightings of Hobbys.  On the 4th October, while chatting to someone at the door of my office in Los Belones at around 11 o’clock, looking up, there were 6 Booted Eagles going over, headed south!

Apart from the raptors, birds of interest locally have been waders.  Nothing too rare, but birds not commonly seen in these parts, and which are not too camera shy!  I’m talking about Bar-tailed Godwits, Knot and Ruff.  The Bar-tailed’s (up to 5 birds) have been along the beach by the sailing club at Los Urrutias, whilst the Knot and Ruff (3 birds of each, but not quite so easy to photograph) have been on the beach opposite the Marina de Carmoli.  With a supporting cast of Greenshank, Ringed Plovers and Turnstones, and one day last week a small group of 4 Whimbrel, they have been something to look at while up at the western end of the Mar Menor.  As was, this last Saturday, a couple of Caspian Terns feeding at the ‘desembocadura de la rambla de Albujon’, and in the same place on Sunday, a single Wood Sandpiper.

Ringed Plover patrolling the beach

While the floats for the anti-jellyfish nets have been there,
so have the terns

Three of the up to five Bar-tailed Godwits on the beach at Los Urrutias

Further west along the Mar Menor, More waders - Ruff, Knot, Black Winged Stilts, Turnstones and Dunlin

Back at Los Urrutias, more of the Bar-tailed Godwits

Another Ringed Plover on beach patrol
Later in the week, the anti-jellyfish nets had been removed, and the terns had to roost wherever they could

More beach patrollers, this time Greenshank ...

... and Turnstone
At Marchamalo Salinas in Cabo de Palos, water isn’t being pumped in at the moment and the water level at the first lagoon behind the go-karks is gradually going down, leaving a good muddy area for waders.  There aren’t that many waders there at present but there is a good mix of species, with Avocets, Black Winged Stilts, Black-tailed Godwits, Redshank, Greenshank, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Dunlin and Little Stints, and I’m still hoping for a Pectoral Sandpiper one day soon (they’re still being seen in the rest of Spain!).

I’ve paid a couple of visits to the encañizadas at the end of La Manga strip over the past week or so, but there’s nothing to get exited about there – best birds being Marsh Harrier, Grey Herons, Little Egrets, Kingfisher and the first of the winter Cormorants beginning to arrive.  There have also been a good number of small waders there, but so far out that with the heat haze there’s been, it’s been impossible to i.d. or count the birds.

On the 1st October, I paid an afternoon visit to the Salinas at San Pedro, but things seemed very quiet there.  There were all the usual waders - Avocet, Black Winged Stilt, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Ruff, Turnstone, Sanderling, Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Dunlin and Little Stints, and still 4 Little Terns, although these must go soon.  In amongst the 25 or so Black-tailed Godwits, there was 1 with colour combination rings, which if I read correctly, it will be interesting to see where it comes from.  Black-necked Grebes were also quite numerous, and there was a constant movement of Red-rumped Swallows overhead.

Winter plumaged Black-necked Grebe in San Pedro
Black-tailed Godwits on one of the lagoon banks ...
... and both Ruff and Reeve

Saturday 5th October, being the first Saturday of the month, was RAM census day, counting seabirds from the cliffs at Cabo de Palos.  It’s normally 3 hours, now from 8-30 am, but I couldn’t get there till 10 o’clock.  It was fairly quiet, with a group of about 75 Cory’s Shearwaters moving around, sometimes quite close in, but other birds being very sparse with only 6 Balearic Shearwaters, 3 Sandwich Terns and singleton Shag and Audouin’s Gulls in the 1 ½ hours I was there.  I have been told that there’s been Cory’s close in in the afternoon which is much better for seeing the birds as you’ve got the sun behind you.

Small birds have been pretty much absent – we still need the temperature to drop or a good storm!  I’ve made a couple of morning visits to the lighthouse gardens at Cabo de Palos on the 6th and 8th , but had very little to show for it.  A few Northern Wheatears and Sardinian Warblers, a couple of Robins and a single male Common Redstart, and on the 6th, my first two Crag Martins of the ‘winter’.  All the summer hirundines seem to have disappeared in the last week -  on the 4th October again at the Marina de Carmoli, there were plenty of Swallows (50+) flying around, with 7 Sand Martins in amongst them, and at Punta Brava (Los Urrutias) still plenty of Red-Rumped Swallows, but three days later almost none.

Just a general view of the lighthouse

A way to gauge small bird passage is to catch and ring them, and that is exactly what is happening at the moment on Isla Grosa, the island just of the La Manga strip in the Mediterranean.  Although I haven’t got full details of all the birds caught during the first week, on the 6th Oct. in the early morning, 7 European Nightjars were caught, and during the day Reed Warblers, Common Redstart, Black Redstart (the first of the winter), Blue-headed Wagtail, Pied Flycatcher, Garden Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Hoopoe, Sardinian Warblers, Blackcaps and Robins were caught and ringed, and they had the first Meadow Pipits and Songthrushes of the autumn on the island, and on the 7th they ringed 5 Scops Owls, 2 European Nightjars, Common Redstarts, Willow Warblers, 2 Iberian Chiffchaffs and the first Common Chiffchaff of the autumn.  Not a bad mix of birds!  On the 8th, things got even better, with a juvenile or female Common Rosefinch, the first for the region of Murcia – bet it’ll be quiet for the rest of the week as I’m going on the island!

One of seven Nightjars caught on the 6th
... and five Scops Owls the following day
But the star bird was this Common Rosefinch - first ever seen in the region of Murcia
The last three photos on Isla Grosa taken by and copyright of Tomas Garcia
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. Hola me encanta tu pagina, pero podrias poner la posibilidad de verla es español para los que no sabemos ingles. gracias y saludos.

  2. Hola Iguel!
    Como su pongo que sabes, soy Ingles y este blog esta direjido principalmente a los extranjeros que estan visitando la región para saber donde ir para ver las aves. Pero mi problema en hacerlo en español no es uno del idiomas, sino (falta de) tiempo que puedo dedicarme por hacerlo. Te explico, no tengo internet en casa, entonces tengo que utilizarlo de mi trabajo, y al mismo tiempo hacer mi trabajo. Tengo el lujo en que solo trabajo 3 horas en mi oficina por dia, pero aparte del blog, tengo que hacer mi trabajo tambien! Y mucho del resto del tiempo estoy fuera en el campo. Entonces me falta tiempo para hacerlo tambien en Español. No sé como sale, pero lo que puedes hacer es utilizar el 'traductor' de Google, y yo por mi parte cuando pongo un nombre de ave, intentaré recordar poner su nombre en castellano tambien.
    Un saludo, y gracias por leer (o al menos intentar leer) mi blog!