Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Wadering around the Mar Menor

My apologies for the lack of posts over the last month or so.  This has been in part due to a visit back to the UK for 3 weeks at the end of July and beginning of August for family reasons.  I had hoped to be able to post some details of birding experiences there, but not only did I not get out birding as much as I had expected, I also managed to forget to copy the photos taken onto a memory stick to bring back to Spain, so those articles will have to wait until after my next visit back to the UK in mid-September!

Since I returned to Spain, my trips out have been just local.  Apart from a visit to the EDAR Beaza (Cartagena sewerage farm) last Thursday in particular to try to see a Lesser Yellowlegs that had been seen there for around 10 days (which in the event I didn’t see – it had gone!), all my visits have been around the Mar Menor.

Apart from NOT seeing the Lesser Yellowlegs on Thursday, I DID manage to see rather a large number of Black-necked Grebes (on the census taken 2 weeks previously, more than 1,000 were counted).  There were also good numbers of ducks, mainly Pochard, Mallard, White-headed Ducks, Shovelers, a single Teal, plus some more interesting ones such as 3 Ferruginous Ducks, 3 Red Crested Pochards and a single Marbled Teal (or Marbled Duck if you prefer), this latter the first I had seen this year.  Amongst the waders were many Black Winged Stilts, 3 Common Sandpipers, and singletons of Green Sandpiper and Wood Sandpiper (the Lesser ´Legs had been keeping in company with up to 25 Wood Sandpipers the previous week, so I presume that when they went, it went with them).  Other birds of interest were a couple of Mediterranean Gulls, and an adult Gull Billed Tern continually feeding a single offspring.

 Record shot of the Marbled Teal (Duck), top centre

Around the Mar Menor, as can be expected at this time of year, the main interest has been in waders, gulls and terns.

On Saturday, 9th August I called in early to the Salinas at San Pedro.  Normally at this time of year there are good numbers of waders, so I was a little disappointed with what I saw.  There WERE Redshank, Greenshank, Black Winged Stilts, Avocets, Little Stints, a couple of Ruff, 3 Curlew Sandpipers, Ringed and Kentish Plovers, but not in the numbers I would have expected, and the only notable birds were a Kingfisher at the entrance to the Salinas (earlier than in previous years) and 96 Black Terns, distantly perched on the wooden posts in the 3rd lagoon on the right going down to the port.

 Male Ruff at the salinas at San Pedro

I left here just after 9 as there were just too many people around, and I decided to call in at the ´Lagunas de Lo Monte’ which are about 15 minutes up the motorway in Alicante province, at Pilar de la Horadada.  Again things were quiet although in the farm reservoir opposite the lagoons there were a few Black Winged Stilts, plus single Common and Green Sandpipers.  From the hides in the lagoons themselves, there were a few Pochard and Mallard visible, plus Moorhens, Coots and the inevitable Little Grebes.  While trying to photograph a Little Grebe, a Squacco Heron came out of nowhere, and landed in the reedbed directly in front of the hide I was in.  I waited in expectantly for it to reappear, but it never did, and my only photo was a snatched photo as it came into the reedbed.  While I waited for it, I did have an immature Great Reed Warbler pose reasonably close for a while.

 One of the resident birds, Coot

 Record shot of a Squacco Heron seen for less than 30 seconds

 Another resident, adult Little Grebe

 While waiting in vain for the Squacco, this Great Reed Warbler showed itself...

 ... probably a local breeder

 Another of the residents, another Little Grebe

My last stop of the morning before it got too hot for me, was at some farm reservoirs that I visit regularly, close to the airport at San Javier.  As expected, there were a few adult Black Terns in various stages of moult, but little else at the reservoirs, but on my way out I came across a Green Woodpecker with a fixation for telegraph poles!  As I drove along, it bounced from one to the next.  Even though it was directly into the sun, I couldn't resist taking some photos.

 As usual at this time of year, adult Black Terns in moult ...

 ... can be found ...

... at some of the local reservoirs

 On my way back, I came across this Green Woodpecker ...

... which 'bounced' from post to post
On Sunday 10th, I decided to risk going to the end of the La Manga strip, to have a look at the ‘encañizadas’.  Once again I´m not sure it was worthwhile – fighting through all the traffic, and when I got to the end there were people wandering around in the water (collecting cockles I think), plus the usual cyclists, dog walkers and joggers all doing their best to make sure no birds were seen.  Not my best time of year July and August!!

Birds that I DID see there included Grey, Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Curlews, Bar-tailed Godwits, Greenshanks, a single Turnstone, a good number of Greater Flamingos, Mallard, Grey Herons, a few Little Egrets plus Black-headed and Slender-billed Gulls and a few Sandwich Terns, and the bird of note was a colour ringed Black-Headed Gull, whose ring I was able to read.  It´ll be interesting to see where it came from, with all the Black-headed Gulls around at the moment. 

On the way back home I called into the Salinas at Marchamalo (Cabo de Palos).  I had actually called in there briefly on my way TO the éncañizadas´ but hadn’t stopped too long as I wanted to get to the end of the ‘strip’ before there was too much traffic.  Now, on my return, I had as long as I wanted.  These unworked Salinas seem to be the best place locally for waders at the moment – on that visit I had 30 Little Stints, 9 Dunlin, 88 Curlew Sandpipers, 6 Greenshanks, 3 Redshanks, 46 Black Winged Stilts, 9 Avocets plus Ringed and Kentish Plovers, all in the two lagoons closest to the road, and on some of the more distant stone walls separating the individual lagoons, Little, Common and Sandwich Terns, plus Black-headed, Slender-billed, Mediterranean, Audouins and Yellow-legged Gulls.

Calling into Marchamalo again first thing Monday morning, the species and numbers of birds were pretty much the same as on Sunday, and calling in there again this morning (Tuesday, 12th) it was equally as busy, with slightly fewer Curlew Sandpipers but more Little Stints and Ringed and Kentish Plovers, and a total of 85 Avocets and the first Spotted Redshank for a while.  The birds seem to be continually changing there, and I think it’s the best place for the bird I´m particularly looking out for – Red Necked Phalarope!

Some of the birds seen on Tuesday, 12th August at Marchamalo

And that’s all for now folks, so till my next post, happy birding!!


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