Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Mar Menor roundup

Hi all.  Here is a roundup of what’s been seen in and around the Mar Menor during the last week.  The weather this last week has been fairly stable, a bit windy at the beginning, but otherwise sunny and warm (up to 24ºC) during the day every day.  Perfect birding weather in fact!

On Tuesday, 11th November, an early morning visit to the lighthouse gardens was quite productive, with a fair number of winter visitors being seen.  On the sea, there were Gannets, Cormorants, a single Shag, and Balearic and Cory’s Shearwaters heading south.  In the gardens themselves, Starlings, Sardinian Warblers, Robins, Meadow Pipits, Black Redstarts, Goldfinches, Linnets, Greenfinches, Stonechats, Blackbirds, single Blackcap and Chiffchaff, and flying overhead, Crag Martins.

The following day also early in the morning, at the Arenal at Los Nietos, on the Mar Menor, good numbers of both Great Crested and Black Necked Grebes (more than 20 of each), and my first two Common Scoter of the year.  In nearby fields was a flock of 36 Stone Curlews keeping themselves well hidden (as they do).

 Stone Curlews on an abandoned field

From there I went to the old EDAR (swage farm) of El Algar, where the flock of Lapwing had now built up to 10 birds, and there was also Grey Wagtail, Hoopoe, Chiffchaff, with a Booted Eagle flying around and Common Buzzard perched on a post.  In the afternoon on the Mar Menor beach at the ‘marina de Carmoli’ some friends had the first Short-eared Owl of the autumn.

 Hoopoe, not an infrequent sight in winter

On Thursday, 13th November at first light, while driving along the road between Los Nietos and Los Urrutias, I came across the Osprey that has been hanging around the area recently.  I tried for a photo, but the Osprey was off before I got a chance.  When I got to my destination, the marina de Carmoli, of interest were a female Sparrowhawk, a couple of Marsh Harriers hunting, a couple of Curlews and three Skylarks flew through.

This was our monthly ‘duck-count’ day at the EDAR (sewage farm) in Beaza (Cartagena), and setting off early in the afternoon, I once again went via the Mar Menor, where in the water I had a group of four Shoveler, and stopping at the parking at the ‘desembocadura de la rambla de Albujon’ beyond Los Urrutias to scan over the Mar Menor, I had for the second time this day, the Osprey fly along the Mar Menor, and over to investigate me.  This time I was ready with my camera!

The Osprey that seems to have taken up winter residence

Carrying on along towards Cartagena, I stopped off in the industrial park of Los Camachos where there is a large farm reservoir that can be seen over from the side of the road.  Although the nearby EDAR is private with restricted access, this reservoir is like a miniature version of it, and you quite often see the same species on it, although in smaller numbers.  Here, of note were a single male Pochard, four White-headed Ducks and eight Black-necked Grebes.

Moving on to the EDAR itself, although we haven’t had the official numbers back yet, what stood out were a couple of male Tufted Ducks (rare here in Murcia) and a total of 334 White-headed Ducks (not a bad number for a species that only a few years back was considered to be on the edge of worldwide extinction).

Friday 14th November, at first light I was back at the Cabo de Palos lighthouse gardens again.  Here there were much the same birds as on my previous trip here, with of note, Chiffchaffs up to six, also a flock of six Meadow Pipits around the base of the lighthouse, five Black Redstarts, and there were definitely more finches around (Serins, Linnets and Greenfinches). 

On my way back from the lighthouse, I called into the Salinas at Marchamalo where there were 16 Greater Flamingos, a couple of Spotted Redshanks, Greenshanks, Slender-billed Gulls, and round at the Playa Paraiso urbanization side, four Little Ringed Plovers, a couple of Little Stints and seven Dunlin, plus around the bushes Fan-tailed Warblers (Zitting Cisticola), Black Redstarts, Chiffchaffs and a flock of around 70 Serins.

 Once again, typical sights for the time of year - here Greater Flamingo ...
 ... and winter plumaged Spotted Redshank

On the morning of Saturday 15th November, I resumed my search up in ‘monte Cenizas’, Atamaria (towards Portman, behind the golf course) for the Yellow-browed Warbler and a few other species (Goldcrest, Wren), spending just over four hours there.  But of these I only found one – Wren, which is a winter visitor to this part of Spain.  In total I saw three birds and heard another two.    Other birds of interest seen were plenty of Chaffinches, Robins, Black Redstarts, Crested Tit, Firecrest, Dartford and Sardinian Warblers and Black Redstarts.

 Only found in the winter in this part of Spain, Wren

  Also a winter visitor, Firecrest ...

 ... and another which can commonly be heard singing, Chiffchaff

 One of the woodland residents - Long-tailed Tit ...

 ... and another.  Here we don't get Blue Tits, just this Crested variety

 Also in the woodland glades flying in the warm sun, plenty of Red Admirals

From there I made my way over to the Mar Menor, stopping off at some farm reservoirs ‘en route’, picking up a group of three Ferruginous Ducks, Southern Grey Shrike and Booted Eagle.   

On a farm reservoir were three of these little treasures - Ferruginous Ducks
I called in once again at the old EDAR Elgar, but this time drew a blank - the only bird there was a single White Wagtail
Carrying on to the Mar Menor, on the sea were a group of three adult Mediterranean Gulls, plus plenty of Great Crested and Black-necked Grebes, the large flock (of about 400 birds) of Cormorants and a single Sandwich Tern.   
Wandering along the beach back towards Los Urrutias (just in case there may be a Short-eared Owl in the saltings) I had a group of nine Curlew, a couple of Slender-billed Gulls and three Fan-tailed Warblers (Zitting Cisticolas).  Eventually reaching the sailing club at Los Urrutias at about 4 in the afternoon, I had a rapid sighting of the Kingfisher that has taken up winter residence, and looking down the beach towards Los Nietos, at Lo Poyo I could see the Oystercatcher which also seems to have taken up winter residence.

My last call of the day was to spend the last hour of light watching over the harrier roost at the marina de Carmoli, to count the harriers as they came in.  This time numbers were small with only four Marsh Harriers, but also flying around briefly were a ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier, and another smaller ‘ringtail’ with an orange-brown body!  This would normally be put down as ‘Montagu’s/Pallid’ – but considering the general paucity of records of Montagu’s in this part of Murcia, and considering the date and the fact that an immature Pallid overwintered here last winter, I would say it’s more likely to have been a Pallid.  Maybe the coming weeks will tell.

Also seen on the Saturday morning, was a Griffon Vulture sat on a traffic sign close to the ‘marina de Carmoli’.  I didn’t get to hear about it till the evening, but it seems like it may have been one blown east by the winds of previous weeks, and be looking out for something dead to eat!  Definitely a bird to keep an eye out for.

 Griffon Vulture watching the traffic!
Photo copyright Antonio Fernandez-Caro Gomez
Sunday 16th I made an early morning visit to the ‘Arenal’ at Los Nietos in the hope of coming across a Short-eared Owl.  In this I was unlucky, but I DID come across a group of five Richard’s Pipits, which promptly flew off towards Los Urrutias, never to be seen again.  I presume they were a migrating group, as another one stayed and actually allowed me to get reasonably close!
 In 8 winters of trying, probably the best photo I've got of Richard's Pipit

Other birds seen here were Stonechat, Fan-tailed Warbler (Zitting Cisticola), plenty of Crested Larks, Skylarks, Slender-billed Gulls, Sandwich Terns, Serins, Greenfinches, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Monk Parakeets and Crag Martins.  

 Another coastal common winter visitor, although more often heard than seen, Dartford Warbler

I walked as far as Lo Poyo where there were a number of waders feeding, including the Oystercatcher I had seen the previous day, Grey and Ringed PloversDunlin, Turnstones, and single Little Stint and Kentish Plover.

 Normally quite a rarity in Murcia, this year Oystercatchers have been very visible

From the Arenal, I went to the furthest extreme of La Manga, the Encañizadas.  Although arriving quite late in the morning for this location (i.e. when there are plenty of walkers, cyclists and general noise-makers about), I still managed to see a good variety of birds, including 35 Sandwich Terns, 2 Great (White) Egrets, 3 Spoonbills, a group of 8 Pintail asleep on the water, Dartford Warblers, Southern Grey Shrike singing in the sunshine, Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits, and in amongst all the Yellow-legged Gulls, at least two Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

 The best place to see Bar-tailed Godwit - at the Encañizadas at the end of La Manga

Also the best place for Black-headed Gulls and Sandwich Terns

My last trip out of the last week was yesterday evening, when as I found myself close to the ‘marina de Carmoli’ about half an hour before dusk, I thought I’d stop for a while and see what entered the harrier roost.  In the half an hour I waited, I had Sparrowhawk, Booted Eagle, 8 Marsh Harriers and a single ringtail Hen Harrier, but no sign of the ‘Montagu’s/Pallid’ of the couple of days before.

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


1 comment:

  1. Great write up and full of information as usual. Thanks