Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Weekly roundup, to 15th April

On the days I have been able to get out this last week, there has certainly been a lot of movement of small birds, with last Friday and Saturday being especially active.

Wednesday, 9th April.  I started the day with a couple of hours at Calblanque, around the ‘arboretum’ area, migrants seen being Hoopoe, male Common Redstart and Woodchat Shrike.  Returning there at midday, there must have been further movement during the morning as this time I came across 2 Woodchats, Blackcaps, a Willow/Chiff, female Redstart, Hoopoe, Bonelli’s Warbler and male Black-eared Wheatear.

  Some of the migrants seen on the 9th April - male Redstart ...

... Woodchat Shrike ...
... male Black-eared Wheatear
You know it's warmed up when you start seeing these Ocellated Lizards - about half a metre long

Thursday, 10th April. I started the day at the lighthouse gardens together with Mick Brewer who’s back for another few weeks, and on our almost two hour amble about the area, birds of note were male Common Redstart, a couple of definite Willow Warblers (my first of the year) and a single Willow/Chiff, and finally a Northern Wheatear found by Mick on on of the rocky islets as we wandered around the cliffs.

Common Redstart - but they haven't been that common this year

In the afternoon I had a look at the Los Urrutias club nautico beach area as I was down that way.  There’s still very few waders about here (just a few Kentish Plovers), but I did see a couple of breeding plumaged Whiskered Terns together with some Sandwich Terns resting on what looked like a plank of wood floating on the water.

Not that common on the Mar Menor, two Whiskered Terns

Friday 11th April was a local Cartagena public holiday, so I had the day off – a whole day to go birding, so I had arranged with Mick Brewer to start at the ‘encanizadas’ at the far end of La Manga strip.  Weatherwise, it was the sort of day that migration watchers dream about – totally overcast skies with drizzle and no wind.  We started off with 40+ Common Terns and another 30+ Sandwich Terns making a hell of a racket, some fighting and others display feeding with small fishes caught.  We couldn’t identify much in the way of small waders as the majority of these were too far away, but could see that there were Dunlin, Little Stints, Sanderling, Turnstones, Kentish, Ringed and Grey Plovers about, and of the larger waders, a few Curlew, a flock of eight Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Greenshank, and singles of Whimbrel and Oystercatcher.  The heron family was represented by just a couple of Grey Herons, 5 Little Egrets and a single breeding plumaged Cattle Egret looking almost orange in colour!  Seabirds have almost all gone – we just saw a single Cormorant, and on the Mar Menor a pair of Great Crested and a group of five Black Necked Grebes.

 A couple of record shots - here Oystercatcher and Common Tern ...
... and here Oystercatcher and Whimbrel

It was with the smaller birds (passerines) that the movement was really noticeable, although not obvious at first.  We had Red-rumped’s and ordinary Swallows flying around the saltings, and I picked up a group of three Tree Pipits flying over.  Unfortunately, due to a hearing problem, Mick couldn’t get onto the thin high-pitched call of the pipits, so just saw the birds as three dark pipit-like silhouettes flying over – not a satisfactory sighting for a new bird for him for Spain!  Finishing there at around 11am, we were driving away when I noticed a Pied Flycatcher in a bush.  We parked up so that I could try to photograph it, and that is when we realised that there WERE birds about.  We spent about half an hour in that very small area of gardens and bushes, and had excellent views of the Pied Flycatcher, a Woodchat Shrike, two further Tree Pipits which were flying around the area in the bushes and on the ground, (unfortunately never for long enough in open view to get a decent photo of them – the only ones I got were lucky distant shots against the light), a male Blackcap singing its heart out, and a couple of Bonelli’s Warblers.

 On our way out of the 'encañizadas' we came across several passerine migrants
- here a record shot of one of the Tree Pipits ...

... and a Pied Flycatcher

Dropping Mick off back home in Playa Paraiso, I decided to take a walk along the footpath on the south side of the Salinas, there all the tamarisk bushes are.  In the very corner of the first lagoon from Playa Paraiso, I flushed up a Night Heron which flew across to the opposite wall, and then dropped back into the first small group of reeds.  I got the impression it wanted to come back to the corner of the lagoon where water enters in.

 Night Heron at the Marchamalo salinas

Apart from the Night Heron, walking alongside the Salinas I had another two Tree Pipits fly over, Bonelli’s Warbler, Willow Warbler, and a good sized group of around 30 Red-rumped Swallows and a couple of Common Swifts flying around overhead.

Although normally in the afternoons there seems to be very little movement, and this afternoon the sun had come out, I thought it might be worthwhile a look at the ‘arboretum’ over at Calblanque, and here I struck it lucky with a couple of Woodchats, a Pied Flycatcher and a couple of Bonelli’s Warblers.

 One of the residents at Calblanque - Thekla Lark ...

 Not easy to photograph, Bonelli's Warbler ...
 ... and another
 Woodchat Shrike which are in in strength now
 Spiny-footed (Red-tailed) lizard 

I then had a late look at the lighthouse gardens, which were very busy with people.  I bumped into a couple of friends, Tomas and Conry who had just done the main garden area, so I accompanied them to some of the other gardens I know, where we had male Common Redstart, male Northern Wheatear and three WillowWarblers. 

They had also been over to Calblanque in the afternoon, but a different area, and had seen Western Orphean and Melodious Warblers there.  As Western Orphean is a particularly difficult bird to see in Murcia, I doubled back there for the last hour of daylight, but had no luck – the only bird I saw was another Willow Warbler.

Saturday, 12th April.  As noted in my previous blog, Saturday is normally my day for going off into the interior and this Saturday I had arranged to do so with Mick.  However, due to a problem with the car (burnt out clutch), all the plans had to be cancelled, and I decided to have a ‘catching up with jobs in the house’ day. My house is surrounded by a number of overgrown building plots and small park areas, and venturing out around midday, I noticed a Pied Flycatcher flitting around.  Rushing back indoors I got my camera to take a few shots.

Not quite a garden tick, but just 30m metres from my front door - Pied Flycatcher

Realising that there was still some movement although the sky was sunny with a few clouds, I rushed down to the lighthouse gardens, where I had at least 9 Northern Wheatears, a Woodchat and Subalpine Warbler.  Returning via Marchamalo Salinas, I had a female Pied Flycatcher, a couple of male Common Redstarts, a Woodchat, 3 Willow Warblers, 3 Bee-eaters perched in a dead tree (not for long though!), and overhear, Swallows, Red-rumped Swallows, House Martins and Swifts/Pallid Swifts.

At the lighthouse gardens, one of nine Northern Wheatears ...
 ... a Cormorant that seems to be staying ...
... and a Barn Swallow that's gone up-market (a House Swallow I suppose)

 At Marchamalo salinas, a Pied Flycatcher ...

 ... and Willow Warbler

Actually IN the salinas, a group of Greater Flamingos and pair of Shelduck

On Sunday, 13th April, I only had a few hours in the morning available for birding, due to a hospital appointment in the afternoon, so I spent the early part together with Mick Brewer at the lighthouse gardens again, where we had at least four Northern Wheatears, a smart male Black-eared Wheatear, four Subalpine Warblers, four Willow Warblers, a Robin, a Bee-eater heard, and for the first time in a long while there, a Fan-tailed Warbler (or Zitting Cisticola if you prefer).

 Trying to stay hidden, a male Subalpine Warbler ...

 ... and in contrast, the Sardinian Warblers are very showy at the moment

 Another resident at the gardens, Spotless Starling ...

 ... and a couple of migrants, here Black-eared Wheatear ...

 ... and its more northerly cousin, Northern Wheatear

On my way home, calling into Marchamalo Salinas, I had a female Redstart and another Tree Pipit flying over, three Willow Warblers, Turtle Dove and a couple of Hoopoes.  Overhead was a constant movement of Swallows, House Martins, Red-rumped Swallows and Swifts/Pallid Swifts.  Out on the Salinas themselves, 21 Greater Flamingos, 6 Shelduck, 16 Avocets, 6 Black-winged Stilts, 12 Little Stints, and single Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Grey Heron and Little Egret were the only birds seen.

Another Willow Warbler seen over the weekend ...

And actually in the salinas, Little Ringed Plover
Bad timing, but Sunday afternoon, Monday and Tuesday morning I was out of action due to a hospital visit (not the best time of the year for that, but you can’t pick and choose!), but on Tuesday afternoon (15th April) I was back in the field and over at Calblanque.  In the last couple of days, some Western Orphean Warblers have been seen locally, so I thought I’d try my luck at Calblanque.  Well, no Orpheans, but I did have a few Woodchats, Northern Wheatears, Willow Warblers, Pied Flycatchers, Hoopoes and my first Whinchat of the year.
 On my way out of Calblanque, I came across this Pied Flycatcher in a garden

And that’s it for the last week, so till my next report, good birding!!


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