This afternoon (Wednesday, 26th Feb.) I arranged to go out birding with Mick Brewer. He returns to the UK on Friday, and there were some local birds he wanted to see before he went.
We started off at the Arenal, Los Nietos (the area of beach between Los Nietos and Los Urrutias on the Mar Menor). We were hoping to see Richards Pipit there, and it was the right sort of day to see them (i.e. no wind). Walking along the Mar Menor, we soon heard one calling overhead and tracked it to where it dropped down. We managed to get the ‘scopes on it on the ground, and saw it joined by a second bird. We watched the two of them until they disappeared into some long grass. We carried on walking for a while, but the sky started to look very threatening so we decided to go back to the car. On the way back, the two pipits got up again, and watching where they dropped, we got second views on them for a time, until large spots of rain started to drop!
Richards Pipit at the Arenal
We sat out the shower in the car, and then had a quick look over the Mar Menor which was now quite calm. Apart from numbers of Great Crested Grebes (c.40) and Black Necked Grebes (c.50), we had three Red-breasted Mergansers on the water (a male and two ‘redheads’) – these must be starting on their journey north now as every day there are less of them.
From here we went over to Calblanque, primarily to read rings on Audouins Gulls, but also in the hope of at least hearing Eagle Owl as one has been reported there over the last week or so. At the ‘Salinas de Rasall’, there were 143 Audouins Gulls resting on the lagoon walls, of which we managed to read 8 rings. Also there, was a very smart adult Mediterranean Gull in breeding plumage.
A very sleepy Mediterranean Gull in amongst the Audouins
We went from here to the other end of the Salinas in the hope of maybe seeing Water Rail from the hide, but we didn’t make the hide. Parking up the car, we could hear a Scops Owl calling from a group of pine trees on the hills. We approached in the hope of catching up with it, but no luck – either because of our approach, or because there were a couple of hill walkers on the peaks of the hills, the owl became silent and we had no chance of finding it.
By now the light was starting to go – the sun had dropped behind the hills, and at about 7-10pm we started to hear the ‘booom booom’ that we had wanted to hear – a male Eagle Owl calling. Scanning the skyline for all we were worth, we eventually located the owl, typical with its ‘ears’ vertical and tail slightly cocked, calling in all directions. We watched it for a while, but when it flew off we gave up for the evening and went home.
Sunset over Calblanque
And when it got dark, an Eagle Owl (the blob in the middle!) showed itself