Friday, 3 January 2014

A new year and new yearlist to start!

Happy New Year everyone!!

I ended 2013 with 227 species seen in the region of Murcia, with some quite reasonable ones (Short-Billed Dowitcher – 1st for Spain; Goosander – 1st for the region of Murcia) and some notable misses (White-winged Black Tern; Red-necked Nightjar; Common Rosefinch and Red-breasted Flycatcher spring to mind).

As in previous years, I started the New Year with a personal ‘maratón’ (birdrace) for the day.  In the past when I have been in Spain on the first of a new year, I have always started from Sierra Espuña and have spent far too long there and so have not managed to cover all the other places I wanted to check.  This year I decided to try something different and aimed to END at Sierra Espuña.  The problem with doing a birdrace at this time of year is not a lack of birds, but a lack of daylight hours to see them all in – effectively there are only 10 hours, from 8am to 6pm unless you want to get into looking for owls, and I don’t take it that seriously!  For those who ask why I do it, there is nothing scientific about it, it’s just a bit of fun and a good kickstart to the yearlist.  This is an account of how the day went – hardly any photos I’m afraid – no time for that!

I started the day at the ‘Encañizadas’ at the end of La Manga strip, arriving there at 7:50am.  There was just a sliver of light from the eastern horizon through the heavy clouds.  It was just about possible to make out the larger birds, my first one there being Yellow-legged Gull (actually my 5th species of the day, as on the way there I’d already had Stone Curlew on call, and Black Redstart, Blackbird and Robin under streetlights en route).  As it got lighter, more birds were visible and I finished there at 9am with 37 species under the belt, including such goodies as 8 Spoonbills, 2 Great White Egrets, a Kingfisher and Pintail, plus most of the common waders (at the end of this report I’ve put a full list in the order of seeing them).

Early morning Spoonbills feeding

My next stop was a short sea-watch at Cabo de Palos and quick look around the lighthouse.  Arriving there at 9:20am, I picked up Gannet, Balearic Shearwater and Audouin’s Gull, but there was no sign of Shag or Great Skua which I thought might put in an appearance.  A bonus in the lighthouse garden though, was a male Blue Rock Thrush, and the total up to 41.

Common off Cabo de Palos at this time of year, an adult Gannet

I hadn’t planned my next stop (this is where timings go kaput), but I thought I’d have a quick look at Cala Reona in Cabo de Palos as Shags often sit on the rocks just offshore there.  No Shag, but I did pick up another 6 common species, most of which I would expect to find in my travels, but the Hoopoe was good as it’s been a bird I’ve missed in previous years (although by the end of the day I’d seen a total of about six of them).

 Ticked off at Cala Reona, Stonechat

I moved on, to the Marchamalo Salinas arriving at 10:30am, where I bumped into Tomás Garcia and Conry Requena who were also out birding, but just for the morning.  Here I picked up another 7 species including a group of 50+ Golden Plovers and Dartford Warbler, and moving round to the other side of the Salinas (Playa Paraiso), I had a totally unexpected bird in the form of a Little Ringed Plover (a few normally winter but I’d not seen one on my preparations for the day).  Whilst in the area, I had a quick look over the Mar Menor but only picked up Great Crested Grebe and Sandwich Tern – no sign of mergansers or Goosander!   
So, with the total at 57, I headed back west along the Mar Menor, to the Arenal at Los Nietos, arriving at 11:40am.  I’d debated about making this stop to look for Richard’s Pipits – they can be a bit hit and miss, and it would be a long time for just a single bird.  But in the end I thought I’d do it.  So, stopping for another look over the Mar Menor before the walk over the Arenal, in the distance I picked out a flock of 22 Red-breasted Mergansers (all females/immatures except a single adult male).  Bumping into Gabriel Lorenzo there, he told me he had earlier seen a Richard’s Pipit, so pointing out the flock of mergansers to him, I left him with my ‘scope and tripod (the sky had cleared by now and there was no wind, so it was actually beginning to feel HOT!) and went in search of the bird.  Half an hours walk and no luck, but coming back to collect my ‘scope – what was that call – not one but two Richard’s Pipits.  Now it was just a case of finding where they’d dropped.  Luckily Gabriel had seen, and I got the two in the same bins view!  A lot of time but three new species (I also picked up various Crested Larks which was new, and also saw another couple of Hoopoes).

My next stop was another place I’d debated over – a farm reservoir for some ducks, but as it happened it didn’t take too long (just the time walking from the car and back) and I’d got another 6 species, including a group of 4 male Ferruginous Ducks.

From here I went to the old El Algar sewage farm (EDAR).  This has been very quiet of late although there’s a little water in it, but is probably the most regular place for Common Buzzard at this time of the year, and I managed two of them, plus Green Sandpiper.

By now it was 13:30, and this is where I went totally wrong.  Driving back along the Mar Menor coast road to pick up the pair of Little Owls perched on ‘their’ hut, then on to the ‘club nautico’ at Los Urrutias.  There were plenty of birds here, including another Great White Egret, but nothing new for the day.  Then I decided to go along the ‘rambla de Albujon’ looking for Snipe and/or Jack Snipe, Bluethroat and Water Pipit, and where I DID manage to pick up another 4 species (and saw another Hoopoe), but over the last week they 
have been cutting the reeds, so none of the more usual species were there, and I’d just done-in 50 minutes.

I then um’ed and ar’ed about my next stop, the Salinas at San Pedro del Pinatar.  I knew I was guaranteed 4 species there but it was quite a drive especially as I’d have to come back the same way.  In the end I gave in to the thought of the four species – of which I got three (where have all the Ruff gone!) plus another couple of bonus birds and got back to Cartagena by 4pm, so can’t complain.  Another farm reservoir followed by the main Cartagena sewage-farm (EDAR Beaza – where Tomás and Conry had seen Tufted Duck in the morning) gave me another 5 species (83 now), although I had no luck with the Tufted.  Then it was decision time – I still had two places to visit, the Saladares del Guadalentín and Sierra Espuña, but there was no way I could do them both.  In the end I decided on the saladares and after a 30 minute belt up the motorway towards Alhama de Murcia, I got to the saladares at five to five and guessed I’d got about an hour to search for Chaffinch and Greenfinch, three species of lark (Skylark; Calandra and Lesser Short-toed); Corn Bunting; Tree Sparrow; Cattle Egret; Magpie; Spectacled Warbler; Jackdaw; Carrion Crow; Green Woodpecker; Booted and Golden Eagle and Hen Harrier!  As it happened, apart from Crested Lark (which I’d already got), all the larks must go to bed early as I didn’t get a sniff of them.  Greenfinch was easy, as was Magpie, Jackdaw and Corn Bunting (and also Red-legged Partridge and Stone Curlews which I didn’t need), but of the rest not a sign!  I did pick up a bonus though, in the form of a Lapwing in one of the small reservoirs there, and having given the day up as finished, passing through the village of Los Muñoces, I came upon a farm reservoir with 6 Cattle Egrets on the banks in the almost dark.

So that was it – 89 species total of which 88 seen plus one heard only (Cetti’s Warbler), and no woodland birds (Ring Ouzel, Mistle Thrush, corvids, tits, Short-toed Treecreeper, Rock and Cirl Buntings, crests etc.) which I might have seen in Sierra Espuña.  Oh well, there’s always next year!!

Birds seen/heard in the order of their sighting:

En route to Encañizadas, La Manga
1     1)    Stone Curlew – (Burhinus oedicnemus) - Alcaraván
2     2)    Black Redstart – Phoenicurus ochruros) – Colirrojo tizon
3     3)    Blackbird – (Turdus merula) - Mirlo
4     4)    Robin – (Erithacus rubecula) - Petirrojo

Encañizadas, La Manga (07:50 – 09:00)
5     5)    Yellow-legged Gull – (Larusmichahellis) – Gaviota patiamarilla
6     6)    Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) - Cormorán
7     7)    Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) - Flamenco
8     8)    Mallard – (Anas platyrhynchos) – Ánade azulón
9     9)    Shelduck – (Tadorna tadorna)  - Tarro blanco
1   10)   Little Egret – (Egretta garzetta) – Garceta común
1   11)   Curlew – (Numenius arquata) – Zarapito real
1   12)   Spoonbill – (Platalea leucorodia) - Espátula
1   13)   Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) – Garza real
1   14)   Great White Egret – (Egretta alba) – Garceta grande
1   15)   Sardinian Warbler – (Sylvia melanocephala) – Carruca cabecinegra)
1   16)   Grey Plover – (Pluvialis squatarola) – Chorlito gris
1   17)   Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) – Chorlitejo grande
1   18)   Dunlin – (Calidris alpina) – Correlimos común
1   19)   Turnstone – (Arenaria interpres) - Vuelvepiedras
2   20)   Sanderling – (Calidris alba) – Correlimos tridáctilo
2   21)   Slender-billed Gull (Larus genei) – Gaviota picofina
2   22)   Bar-tailed Godwit – (Limosa lapponica) – Aguja colinegra
2   23)   Black-headed Gull – (Larus ridibundus) – Gaviota reidora
2   24)   Greenshank – (Tringa nebuaria) – Archibebe claro
2   25)   Spotless Starling – (Sturnus unicolor) – Estornino negro
2   26)   Little Stint –(Calidris minuta) – Correlimos menudo
2   27)   Kentish Plover - (Charadrius alexandrinus) – Chorlitejo patinegro
2   28)   Black Necked Grebe – (Podiceps nigricollis) – Zampullín cuellinegro
2   29)   Pintail - (Anas acuta) – Anade rabudo
3   30)   Kestrel – (Falco tinnunculus) - Cernícalo
3   31)   Meadow Pipit – (Anthus pratensis) – Bisbita común
3   32)   Kingfisher – (Alcedo atthis) – Martín pescador
3   33)   Goldfinch – (Carduelis carduelis) - Jilguero
3   34)   Starling – (Sturnus vulgaris) – Estornino pinto
3   35)   Collared Dove – (Streptopelia decaocto) – Tórtola turca
3   36)   White Wagtail – (Motacilla alba alba) – Lavandera blanca
3   37)   House Sparrow – (Passer domesticus)  - Gorrión común

Cabo de Palos (09:20 – 10:00)
3   38)   Gannet – (Morus bassanus) - Alcatraz
3   39)   Balearic Shearwater - (Puffinus mauretanicus) – Pardela balear
4   40)   Audouin’s Gull – (Larus audouinii) – Gaviota de Audouin
4   41)   Blue Rock Thrush – (Monticola soliarius) – Roquero solitario

Cala Reona, Cabo de Palos (10:10 – 10:30)
4   42)   Hoopoe - (Upupa epops) - Abubilla
4   43)   Serin – (Serinus serinus) - Verdecillo
4   44)   Linnet – (Carduelis cannabina) – Pardillo común
4   45)   Red-legged Partridge – (Alectoris rufa) – Perdiz roja
4   46)   Stonechat – (Saxicola torquata) – Tarabilla común
4   47)   Southern Grey Shrike – (Lanius meridionalis) – Alcaudón real 

Marchamalo Salinas (10:35 – 11:10)
4   48)   Avocet – (Recurvirostra avosetta) - Avoceta
4   49)   Golden Plover – (Pluvialis apricaria) – Chorlito dorado europeo
5   50)   Monk Parakeet – (Myiopsitta monachus) – Cotorra argentina
5   51)   Redshank – (Tringa totanus) – Archibebe común
5   52)   Black Winged Stilt – (Himantopus himantopus) - Cigüeñuela
5   53)   Dartford Warbler – (Sylvia undata) – Curruca rabilarga
5   54)   Chiffchaff – (Phylloscopus collybita) – Mosquitero común
5   55)   Little Ringed Plover – (Charadrius dubius) – Chorlitejo chico

Mar Menor – Playa Honda (11:15 – 11:20)
5   56)   Great Crested Grebe – (Podiceps cristatus) – Somormujo lavanco
5   57)   Sandwich Tern – (Sterna sandvicensis) – Charrán patinegro

Mar Menor – Arenal de Los Nietos (11:40 – 12:30)
5   58)   Red-breasted Merganser – (Mergus serrator) – Serreta mediana
5   59)   Richard’s Pipit – (Anthus richardi) – Bisbita de Richard
6   60)   Crested Lark – (Galerida cristata) – Cogujada común

Farm reservoir, Campo de Cartagena (12:50 – 13:05)
6   61)   Little Grebe – (Tachybaptus ruficollis) – Zampullín chico
6   62)   Pochard – (Aythya ferina) – Porrón común
6   63)   Coot – (Fulica atra) – Focha común
6   64)   Ferruginous Duck – (Aythya nyroca) – Porrón pardo
6   65)   Fan-tailed Warbler – (Cisticola  juncidis) - Buitrón
6   66)   Rock Dove (Domestic Pigeon) – (Columba livia)  - Paloma bravía

EDAR, El Algar (13:15 – 13:30)
6   67)   Common Buzzard – (Buteo buteo) – Busardo ratonero
6   68)   Green Sandpiper – (Tringa ochropus) – Andarrios grande
Los Urrutias (13:40)
6   69)   Little Owl – (Athene noctua) - Mochuelo

Rambla de Albujon (14:00 – 14:50)
7   70)   Reed Bunting – (Emberiza schoeniclus) – Escribano palustre
7   71)   Songthrush – (Turdus philomelos) – Zorzal común
7   72)   Moorhen – (Gallinula chloropus) – Gallineta
7   73)   Marsh Harrier – (Circus aeruginosus) – Aguilucho lagunero

Salinas de San Pedro del Pinatar (15:10 – 15:30)
7   74)   Black-tailed Godwit – (Limosa limosa) – Aguja colinegra
7   75)   Spotted Redshank – (Tringa erythropus) – Archibebe oscuro
7   76)   Cetti’s Warbler (heard) – (Cettia cetti) – Ruiseñor bastardo
7   77)   Grey Wagtail - (Motacilla citreola) – Lavandera cascadeña
7   78)   Woodpigeon – (Columba palumbus) – Paloma torcaz

Farm reservoir, Los Camachos (Cartagena) (15:55 – 16:10)
7   79)   Shoveler – (Anas clypeata) - Cuchara

EDAR, Beaza (Cartagena) (16:15 – 16:25)
8   80)   Teal – (Anas crecca) – Cerceta común
8   81)   White-headed Duck – (Oxyura leucocephala) – Malvasia cabeciblanca
8   82)   Common Sandpiper – (Actitis hypoleucos) – Andarrios chico
8   83)   Common Snipe – (Gallinago gallinago) – Agachadiza común

Saladares del Guadalentín (16:55- 17:55)
8   84)   Magpie – (Pica pica) - Urraca
8   85)   Jackdaw – (Corvus monedula) - Grajilla
8   86)   Corn Bunting – (Miliaria calandra) - Triguero
8   87)   Lapwing – (Vanellus vanellus) - Avefría
8   88)   Greenfinch – (Carduelis chloris) - Verderón
8   89)   Cattle Egret – (Bubulcus ibis) – Garcilla bueyera

As I say, nothing too exceptional, but this give you an idea of the birds that ARE currently about locally. 

So, until my next report, happy birding!



  1. Hi Richard, impressive list especially with so little around at the moment. I was down at SanPedro Salinas this morning and photographed a Slender Billed Gull with rings. It was an adult with a totally white tail. On it's left leg was a white band with the code 5JR in black letters read from the foot up. On the right leg was a silver ring I think without a code. Hope this is of interest. Wishing you good birds for 2014.

  2. Sorry Richard , that code should read 5RJ.

  3. Hey mate, well done and Happy New Year


  4. Hi Geoff,
    Thanks for the record. I'll put the ring into the Spanish ringing system as soon as I can, but at the moment they seem to have a computer problem and I can't get into the system (it may just be that they close down until Christmas - i.e. reyes, 6th January) is over. I'll let you know details as soon as I hear anything.

    All the best,


  5. Thanks Mark, and the same to you. Catch up with you when you're over.

  6. Great day by the sounds of it .. 6 weeks until I return :-)