Thursday, 9 October 2014

Recent local outings

After the rains of the last week, some of the smaller birds have been a lot more in evidence, as have young birds in dispersal, and raptors are still passing through.

 Pale morph Booted Eagle, seen from my office doorway, on it's way to Calblanque

On  Tuesday 30th September, in the morning, I called into Marchamalo salinas, but this time on the Playa Paraiso side.  There were a few waders and gulls there - Black Winged Stilt, Avocets, Greenshank, Black-headed, Slender-billed, Mediterranean, Audouin's and Yellow-legged Gulls.

Black-headed, Mediterranean and Slender-billed Gulls

In the afternoon, I took part in the monthly census at the Cartagena sewage farm (EDAR Cabeza Beaza).  Apart from the normal water birds there (Little & Black Necked Grebes, Shelduck, Mallard, Pochard, Shoveler, Teal, White-headed Duck, Coot, Moorhen) there were a few surprises, such as two Ferruginous Ducks, three Pintail, still 10 Turtle Doves on overhead wires, Blue-headed Wagtail, around 80 Swallows feeding over the lagoons, and a juvenile Goshawk around the ‘cipresa’ trees that surround the lagoons.

 On the way there, I called in briefly at the farm reservoir at the ‘Los Camachos’ industrial park, where I was surprised to see the Marbled Duck/Teal that has been there for a couple of months now.  The last time I went there a week ago, it couldn’t be located, and I assumed it had gone, but no, there it was, surrounded by Mallard and Coots on the right hand bank of the reservoir.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, 1st October, I went with Tomás Garcia to have a look in the bushes at the Salinas at Marchamalo (Cabo de Palos), where we had singles of Common Whitethroat, Northern Wheatear and Chiffchaff.  On the Salinas themselves (where the water level is now very high) we only had a group of 12 Greater Flamingos and 13 Little Egrets.

Calling in afterwards at Cala Reona (Cabo de Palos), birds of note were the number of Blackbirds (at least 10), a Southern Grey Shrike, a couple of Crag Martins flying around low and a group of 13 Alpine Swifts very high up.  In the surrounding hill, we had a young Golden Eagle (the first I’ve seen in this area for many a year) and a pair of Peregrines.

An early morning visit to the lighthouse gardens at Cabo de Palos on Saturday 4th October produced a relative abundance of migrants.  A Grey Wagtail flying over, 5 Robins, 12+ Blackbirds, a Songthrush, Southern Grey Shrike, 6+ Sardinian Warblers (although these are residents, numbers are augmented by passage birds Spring and Autumn), 4 Subalpine Warblers, two Northern Wheatears, two Common Redstarts (one a stunning male), a group of 6 Goldfinches (also on passage) and a couple of Kestrels.  Singing from the lighthouse building itself was a male Blue Rock Thrush.

 Getting late now, a Common Redstart

 Giving an autumnal feel, Songthrush

 A regular visitor, question is, will it stay? Male Blue Rock Thrush

A look at Cala Reona (Cabo de Palos) afterwards, produced 15+ Blackbirds, another male Redstart, a couple of Blackcaps, AT LAST a Garden Warbler, and three Robins, with plenty of Swallows (30+) going through.  In fact that day there was a major passage of Swallows, as later in the day from the ‘desembocadura de la Rambla de Albujon’ (west of Los Urrutias)I had 500+ in half an hour, and in the old ‘EDAR El Algar’ (now renamed ‘Humedales de El Algar’) another 300+ in half an hour.  Other birds seen at the EDAR, now finally with some water in after the recent rains, 17 Black Winged Stilts, a couple of Green Sandpipers, Mallard and a Grey Heron, while on wires was a single Turtle Dove, and in surrounding fields Blue-headed Wagtails and a single Meadow Pipit (my first of the autumn).

Most impressive creature at Cala Reona was not a bird, but this butterfly - any ideas?
Calling in to the ‘encañizadas’ at the very end of La Manga strip the following day there was a definite autumn feel to the air, and in the birds seen.  Getting here before the dog walkers, cyclists and other general noise makers, apart from the usual birds, I had a couple of Great (White) Egrets, 5 Spoonbill, 13 Pintail, a couple of Gadwall, 12 Curlew, 9 Bar-tailed Godwits, 15 Little Stints, a couple of Kingfishers and a single Richard’s Pipit fly over calling, again my first of the autumn.

 Record shot of the Gadwall and one of the Pintail

 Bar-tailed Godwit kindly showing its tail ...

 ... and now waving hello!

 Winter plumaged Grey Plover

The same bird again
A visit to Cala Reona (Cabo de Palos) on the morning of Monday 6th October produced nothing new (just Blackbirds, Robins and Blackcaps), although a flock of 40+ Monk Parakeets feeding noisily added some colour to the visit.

 Monk Parakeets having a noisy pre-breakfast chat in the tree-tops
 Male Sardinian Warbler - numbers are increased by passage birds

 Also moving at the moment, Blackcaps
 Feeding time!  On the ground at least 40 noisy birds
 Normally quite timid, Sardinian Warblers are quite easy to see at this time of year

In the afternoon, I thought I’d have a look at the Rasall salinas in Calblanque as there should by now be water there.  Apart from good numbers of Swallows feeding over the lagoons, I had 20 Black Winged Stilts, three Greenshanks and two Redshanks in the lagoons, and at least six Stonechats and a single Wryneck on the surrounding fences.

Looking directly into the sun, a record shot of the Wryneck
A further visit to Calblanque on Tuesday 7th October, this time to the ‘Arboretum’ didn’t produce a lot in the way of small birds (just Stonechats, Robins, a Songthrush and Blackbirds) but in the surrounding hills was a Sparrowhawk, and presumably the same Golden Eagle that I’d seen from Cala Reona a few days previously.  At first I thought it was injured, as it was hopping up some rocks, but seeing it later this time in flight, with its crop bulging, I think it was actually after some prey (probably a rabbit), which it eventually got hold of.

 Now I know breakfast's around here somewhere ...
 ... just a matter of getting up the next step ...
 ... this'll do! ...
 ... now where was it ...

... there it is ...

 ... think I'll stay around here a while - food's good!

Later the same day, I went with Tomás Garcia to the sewage farm (EDAR) at Alhama de Murcia, and later, on to the Saladares del Guadalentín.  En route, we had about 10 Kestrels and a couple of Common Buzzards, and arriving, the EDAR was alive with small birds – Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Reed Warblers, Robins, Cetti’s Warblers, Bluethroat.  Water birds were sparse of variety however, with just Mallard, Teal, Coots, Moorhens and Little Grebes, and single Grey Heron and Greater Flamingo.  Through the valley to the west of the EDAR, a very nice adult male Marsh Harrier went through.

In the Saladares we had a good variety of birds, including a young Golden Eagle in a palm tree (I think the first time I have ever seen one in a tree); 12 Northern Wheatears, Calandra, Crested, Sky and Lesser Short-toed Larks, a late Whinchat, plenty of Stonechats, a field full of Blue-headed Wagtails (at least 50 birds), plus all the other usual birds you’d expect to see there.  On the way home, we called in at Corvera as there have been recent reports of Black-shouldered Kite around there, but we were a little too late as it was almost dark by the time we got there.  We did have 4 Little Owls on wires on the way there though.  And to round the day off, as I came home along the Mar Menor, a Barn Owl perched on a fencepost at the Marina de Carmoli.

 Record shot of the Golden Eagle in a Palm tree

 A late Whinchat

 Crested Lark singing its heart out

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




  1. Excellent write-up and bird sightings
    looks like a Dark green fritillary type butterfly . . .

  2. Thanks Brian. I've finally had a chance to look in a very old 'Collins Field Guide to the Butterflies of Europe', and I don't think it's a Dark Green Fritillary for a few reasons: 1) Flight - June, early July; 2) Habitat - Forest clearings at 5-6,000 feet; 3) Size.
    I'm more inclined towards Cardinal (Pandoriana pandora in my book, but Argynnis pandora according to Wikipedia), which in N.Africa has a second flight, August/September; Habitat - lowlands to 6,000 ft. I could easily be wrong though! I'll try on 'facebook' and see what people think.