Monday, 4 November 2013

Local area catch-up – 18th Oct. to 3rd November

Hi all,

It’s been a while since I last wrote, so here is a catch-up on my outings over the last couple of weeks.

In my last report, I mentioned about going ringing on the 18th at the wagtail roost in Los Nietos.  Well we spent a few hours there but there were no sign of any wagtails!  However, we (myself and the ANSE ringing group) did manage to catch a few birds, including a few Fan-tailed Warblers (or Zitting Cisticolas if you prefer), a Bluethroat, Sardinian Warblers, a Chiffchaff and four very late Reed Warblers, so although we didn’t get the numbers, we did get a variety of birds, and for Mick and Darren who came along to see their first ringing session, a good introduction.  I also had time to have a look for Richard’s Pipits, but there was no sign – the weather was probably still not ‘wintery’ enough for them.

A couple of the birds ringed - here a Reed Warbler...
... and a Fan-tailed Warbler (or Zitting Cisticola if you prefer) - photos by Darren Brewer
The following day I went with Mick and Darren to El Hondo in the neighboring region of Alicante.  I hadn’t been there since the spring and was hoping to see some winter birds.  We hadn’t booked in to do the ornithological walk from the North gate, and so just kept to around the information centre area.  There are several hides around here now, so unless you’re particularly looking for a Spotted Eagle, there isn’t so much need to go into the ‘by appointment only’ area at this time of year.  Arriving at the information centre just after 9 am., we found that due to lack of funds, the information centre is no longer open on a Saturday!  We had a look in the pool at the side of the centre, where the ‘tame’ Crested Coots are, and saw four Purple Gallinules there (it has to be the easiest place in Spain to see them), plus Common Coots and Moorhens, Little Grebes, and had about 50 Swallows flying about over the area, and we also had a flock of ten Glossy Ibises go over.  Continuing our walk to the ‘new’ hides, we were impressed by the numbers of Bluethroats many of which were perching and calling from a fence dividing the reserve from some farmland.  Too far to photograph, but seen through the ‘scopes, there were several bright males on the fence.  Other birds seen were a single Lapwing, Stonechats, Hoopoes, Fan-tailed Warblers, Southern Grey Shrikes and Meadow Pipits.

 A plan of the park

 Picnic area and hide overlooking the small lake at the side of the information centre

 The small lake at the side of the information centre

 Two of the most emblematic birds on the lake, a colour-ringed Crested Coot...
... and a Purple Gallinule (or Swamphen)

A flypast by a group of ten Glossy Ibises
Both the ‘new’ hides overlook lakes, one facing east and the other west.  Due to the sun, light conditions on the east facing one weren’t too good – we could see Mallard, Pochard, Little and Black-necked Grebes, a few Flamingos, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper and could hear Cetti’s Warblers, but could make out very little else.  From the west facing hide however, there was a much greater variety of ducks, including Shoveler, Gadwall, Red-Crested Pochard, and quite a surprise considering the mild weather, four Wigeon.

 One of the more recently added hides...

 ... and the view from within - Coots, Gadwall, Red Crested Pochards and Wigeon

Walking back to the information centre, I heard some Penduline Tits calling and so we waited, and eventually they showed themselves.  A minimum of four birds, two males and two females which we watched for about five minutes.

Back at the centre, we had our ‘elevenses’ in the picnic area, and had a Great White Egret fly over.  After eating, with things warming up and our time now limited, we went round to the South gate where birds of interest were a Sparrowhawk and a Squacco Heron skulking in the reedbed.  From the South gate we took a little driving safari looking for flooded fields, which we didn’t find, but did see a few more raptors – three Booted Eagles and a single Common Buzzard which was chased off by one of the Booted’s.

 At the South Gate, a Sparrowhawk was circling higher and higher...

 ... and a Booted Eagle was keeping watch

 Meanwhile in the reedbed by the gate itself, this Squacco Heron showed itself momentarily


 Sequence of the Booted Eagle driving off a Common Buzzard

We drove through to our last stop of the day, the salinas at El Pinet (La Marina) where there are good numbers of breeding birds in the summer (Little, Common, Sandwich, Gull-billed and Whiskered Terns, Slender-billed Gulls, Collared Pratincoles, Black Winged Stilts, Kentish Plovers and Avocets), but at this time of year there’s much less around and we saw just a half a dozen Black Winged Stilts, Redshank, two Shelducks and a dozen or so Flamingos!

 The 'El Pinet' salinas area in La Marina
On monday, 21st October I went down to the sailing club at Los Urrutias as I'd noticed that although most of the bigger waders (such as Bar-tailed's) had gone, there was still a Common Sandpiper hanging around close to the road, so I thought I'd try to photograph it.   It turned out to be the only wader there, and I managed a few photos of it before it was scared off by a dog.

 With the beach all to itself (apart from a dog), a Common Sandpiper

Tuesday 22nd October started with heavy fog around Los Belones, so I thought the lighthouse garden at Cabo de Palos might be worth a look at.  Once I got there though, there was very little to see, just a couple of Crested Larks, four Sardinian Warblers, a Robin, plus the usual Collared Doves and Spotless Starlings.  Slightly unusual was to hear a Dartford Warbler.

Having heard of so many Yellow-browed Warblers in various parts of Spain over the last week, on Wednesday 23rd I specifically went out in the afternoon to see if I could find any of these ‘sprites’, checking the Tamarisks and Pines in Calblanque, and later at the Salinas at Marchamalo.  Although I couldn’t find any, at Calblanque there were signs of movement still, with a ringtail female/juvenile distant harrier, a Short-toed Eagle, Sparrowhawk and Dartford Warbler, and at the Salinas at Marchamalo, in the Salinas themselves a group of about 50 Avocets, and in the Tamarisk bushes, a large group of around 60 Serins.

 En route to Calblanque, this Short-toed Eagle passed over, still enjoying its meal!

A view of the first hide at the salinas de Rasall, Calblanque

On Saturday, 26th October I went once again out to the Salinas at San Pedro del Pinatar, starting at El Mojon.  Hoping for decent numbers of waders, there had been a definite arrival of Spotted Redshanks (13 of them), but very little else.  On the beach at El Mojon, there was a good number of Turnstones (25+) and Sanderlings (50+), and once again the colour ringed Sanderling seen on my last visit was present.  This bird was originally ringed on the southwest coast of Iceland as an adult on the 27th May 2011, returning there on the 26th May 2012, then being seen at the beach in Torre de la Horadada (Alicante, Spain) on the 10th November 2012, again on the 27th January 2013 on the beach at San Pedro del Pinatar, in Denneville-Plage, Manche (France) on the 6th May 2013 before being seen by me on the 13th October and again the 26th October 2013 at El Mojon.  Clearly a well travelled bird!

 On the beach at El Mojon, a group of Sanderling and Turnstones, including the colour marked bird

Other birds of interest were a group of around 30 Swallows passing through, and a Grey Wagtail.  At San Pedro itself there were more Spotted Redshanks, Little Stint, and a couple of Reed Buntings – obviously the winter birds are finally arriving.

 The single Little Stint seen at the San Pedro salinas

On my way back from San Pedro I called in at the Marina de Carmoli on the Mar Menor, where the (now usual) group of waders was present, with Grey Plovers, Ruff, Knot, Ringed Plovers, Turnstones and 5 Curlews.

 On the Mar Menor by the Marina de Carmoli, the group of always flighty Curlew...

 ... and a juvenile Grey Plover which unusually, didn't fly off

On Tuesday 29th October, together with Diego Zamora and Antonio Fernandez-Caro, we did our monthly count at the EDAR (sewage farm) at Beaza, Cartagena.  Apart from the usual birds, the most interesting ducks were White-headed Ducks and female/juvenile Pintails, and we had a couple of Songthrushes, Meadow Pipits and Black Redstarts – a sure sign of winter (although we also had a rather late Northern Wheatear).  Also, in a group of around 25 Starlings, only two were Spotless, the rest being ‘Spotties’.  We finished the count just in time as in the evening locally we had the first decent rain (plus thunder, lightning and hail) since the spring, and the following morning many of the local roads were flooded.

 Quite a late bird, this juvenile Northern Wheatear at the EDAR Beaza

That was just about it for the month, apart from another visit to the sailing club at Los Urrutias on the 31st, where once again the Common Sandpiper was the only wader to be seen.

 A couple more shots of the Common Sandpiper at Los Urrutias

I began November with a walk on Saturday 2nd from the old hovercraft station by Punta Brava on the Mar Menor, west to the 'desembocadura' of the rambla de Albujon.  Again, the usual waders were there (Curlews, Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Turnstones, Ringed Plovers, Greenshanks, Grey Plovers, Dunlins, Ringed Plovers and Little Stints), and also good numbers of Black Redstarts, Stonechats, Fan-tailed Warblers and Meadow Pipits.

 Alongside the Mar Menor, a Fan-tailed Warbler (Zitting Cisticola) ...

 ... Chiffchaff ...

 ... one of a group (family?) of five Common Kestrels hunting insects ...
 ... and a sure sign of winter, Black Redstart

On Sunday 3rd November, just for a change, I paid a visit to the ‘encañizadas’ at the end of La Manga strip.  This brought a few new winter birds, (a Great White Egret, Water Pipit and several Crag Martins in the skies instead of Swallows and House Martins).
Having heard that on friday an Alpine Accentor was seen at Peñas Blancas just south of Cartagena, the winter birds are definitely arriving.

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’.


Birds mentioned in the blog:
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis - Zampullín Común)
Black-necked Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis - Zampullín Cuellinegro)
Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna - Tarro Blanco)
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos - Ánade Azulón)
Pochard (Aythya ferina - Porrón Europea)
Red Crested Pochard (Netta rufina - Pato Colorado)
Gadwall (Anas strepera - Ánade Friso)
Wigeon (Anas penelope - Silbón Europeo)
White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala - Malvasía Cabeciblanca)
Pintail (Anas acuta - Ánade rabudo)
Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo – Cormorán Grande)
Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus – Flamenco Común)
Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus - Morito Común)
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta – Garceta Común)
Great (White) Egret (Egretta alba - Garceta Grande)
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea – Garza Real)
Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides - Garcilla Cangrejera)
Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga - Aguila Moteada)
Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus - Culebrera Europea)
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo – Ratonero)
Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus – Aguililla Calzada)
Sparrowhawk (Accipiter gentilis - Gavilán)
Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus - Cernícalo Vulgar)
Coot (Fulica atra - Focha Común)
Crested Coot (Fulica cristata - Focha Moruna)
Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus - Gallineta Común)
Purple Gallinule (Swamphen) (Porphyrio porphyrio - Calamón Común)
Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta – Avoceta)
Black Winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus – Cigüeñuela)
Collared Pratincole (Glareola pratincola - Canastera Común)
Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus - Avefría)
Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola - Chorlito Gris)
Ruff (Philomachus pugnax - Combatiente)
Knot (Calidris canutus - Correlimos Gordo)
Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula - Chorlitejo Grande)
Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus - Chorlitejo Patinegro)
Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos - Andarríos Chico)
Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus - Andarríos Grande)
Redshank (Tringa totanus - Archibebe Común)
Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus - Archibebe Oscuro)
Greenshank (Tringa nebularia - Archibebe Claro)
Sanderling (Calidris alba – Correlimos Tridáctilo)
Turnstone (Arenaria interpres – Vuelvepiedras)
Dunlin (Calidris alpine – Correlimos Común)
Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica – Aguja Colipinta)
Knot (Calidris canutus – Correlimos Gordo)
Curlew (Numenius arquata – Zarapito Real)
Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis - Charrán Patinegro)
Common Tern (Sterna hirundo - Charrán Común)
Little Tern (Sterna albifrons - Charrancito)
Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida - Fumarel Cariblanco)
Gull-billed Tern (Sterna nilotica - Pagaza Piconegra)
Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto - Tórtula Turca)
Hoopoe (Upupa epops - Abubilla)
Crested Lark (Galerida cristata - Cogujada Común)
Swallow (Hirundo rustica - Golondrina Común)
Crag Martin (Ptyonoprogne rupeatris - Avión Roquero)
House Martin (Delichon urbicum - Avión Común)
Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus - Carricero Común)
Iberian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus ibericus – Mosquitero Ibérico)
Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus - Mosquitero Bilistado)
Cetti’s Warbler - Cettia cetti - Ruiseñor Bastardo)
Fan-tailed Warbler (Zitting Cisticola) (Cisticol juncidis - Buitrón)
Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata - Curruca Rabilarga)
Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala – Curruca Cabecinegra)
Penduline Tit (Remiz pendulinus - Pájaro Moscón)
Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica - Ruiseñor Pechiazul)
Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe – Collalba Gris)
Robin (Erithacus rubecula – Petirrojo)
Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros - Colirrojo Tizón)
Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus – Tarabilla Común)
Richard’s Pipit (Anthus richardi - Bisbita de Richard)
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis - Bisbita Pratense)
Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea - Lavandera Cascadeña)
Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis - Alcaudón Real)
Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor - Estornino Negro)
Starling (Sturnus vulgaris - Estornino Pinto)
Serin (Serinus serinus - Verdecillo)
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus - Escribano Palustre)

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