Monday, 29 November 2010

Garden Beauty

Black Wheatear

I had to stay in today and catch up with some much overdue paperwork, but the day was made so much better when the above Black Wheatear decided it would come into the garden! This is only the second time I have seen one in the garden since we moved to our new house 3 months ago, so I was very happy that this beautiful species decided to grace our balcony again!

I will be off to Gibraltar tomorrow to do some ringing and birding for the next 5 days, so watch this space for some interesting posts and pictures (fingers crossed!!).

Friday 26th - Delores and Hondo south.

I went to the south edge of Hondo today to look for flooded fields again and did manage to find some, but i manged to loose something as well - my digi-scoping kit!!! So having decided in my wisdom to leave the DSLR at home I have no images for this post today!

The field I found had obviously been flooded some time ago as you could see that the pool which had been created had shrunk significantly, leaving a very muddy field full of wagtails. There were some other things amongst the White Wagtails however, including - Glossy Ibis (7), Wood Sandpiper (3), Green Sandpiper (2), Ruff (2) and Water Pipit (20+). The surrounding fields were constantly being attended to by a couple of Marsh Harrier but we also managed to find a female Hen Harrier which hung around for 15 minutes, shortly followed by a male which did not stop to show off. Perhaps the best moment of the day was when a Merlin sat on a post less than 30m away from me for at least 10 minutes, sods law that this would happen shortly after loosing my digi-scoping gear!

I spent about half an hour looking for the Greater Spotted Eagles from the road at the back of Hondo and managed to find an un-tagged 3rd winter individual and the juv which has been around for a number of weeks now. New camera ordered but for the next week or so it will be DSLR images only, so hopefully everything will stay at close range for me!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Wednesday 24th - Mar Menor

Today I ventured into Murcia for a walk around the Mar Menor, a very overcast day which didn't really produce the rain which had threatend in occasional showers. The star birds of the day included a juv Short-tord Eagle and 4 Richards Pipit pictured below, although the pipits showed well in the scope, they wouldn't really let me close enough to photograph them, hence the poor picture!

Slender-billed Gull

Richards Pipit
Other species recorded today included,
Slender-billed Gull (12, see above), Black-necked Grebe (86 in a single group, 100+ in total), Great-crested Grebe (200+), Shovelar (21), Sandwich Tern (20+), Turnstone (13), Stone Curlew (18), Dunlin (42), Little Stint (17), Redshank (6), Spotted Redshank (1), Greater Flamingo (9), Avocet (14), Black-tailed Godwit (4), Greenshank (1) and Kentish Plover (12).

Monday, 22 November 2010

The Good, The Bad and The Lucky!

The Good

I recieved an E-mail last night from my friend and follow birder Ray Marsh, informing me that he had found a Red-necked Phalarope at San Pedro Salinas, Murcia! So after breakfast we set off down to San Pedro in the hope that it was still there, it was and so was Ray! It was great to get some pictures of the 1st winter Red-necked Phalarope (see pictures below) whilst having a good catch up with Ray. There were a number of other bits and bobs on the pool including; Ruff (3), Dunlin (8), Little Stint (4), Sanderling (19) and numerous Greater Flamingo, Black-winged Stilt, Black-necked Grebe and Avocet.

The Bad

The bad part of the day was after walking back to our car we discovered that the window was smashed. My Mum had her handbang stolen from the boot of the car which was covered and locked. This should serve as a stern warning to birders visiting this site, that they must be vigillant, especially as this type of behaviour is not frequent, as the myths of Spain would suggest. Indeed this is the first time it has ever happend to me and my car is left in remote public car parks on a daily basis.

The Lucky

I had decided to take the camera with me to see the Phalarope and not my scope, which thieves were good enough to leave in the boot of the car!!

Red-necked Phalarope (including below 3 images)

A flood above the rest

Most of the farmers in the local area will prepare their field for a new crop by flooding it; allowing the water to soak into the ground which not only makes planting easier but also gives the seeds something to live on for the first few days after planting. When this happens it usually attracts lots of White Wagtails, Cattle Egrets and occasionally something slightly more obscure - such as the White Stork we found earlier in the year. Yesterday this trend was well and truly changed when we discovered 2 large fields near Dolores which were covered in birds.

During the 3 hours we spent here we recorded the following excellent array of species. Glossy Ibis (23), Common Crane (1, see below), Purple Heron (1 juv, see below), Little Bittern, Cattle Egret (50+), White Wagtail (1000+), Yellow Wagtail (5), Black-headed Gull (500+), Slender-billed Gull (2), Yellow-legged Gull (10+), Med Gull (1), Lapwing (60+), Kentish Plover (8), Little Stint (14), Dunlin (15+), Ruff (5), Grey Plover (4), Green Sandpiper (2), Greenshank (1), Black-tailed Godwit (3), Buzzard (3), Marsh Harrier (6+) and a single rintail Hen Harrier.

Common Crane

Glossy Ibis

Purple Heron

The most suprising find on the flood was a total of 9 Wood Sandpiper which were scattered around the edge of the field, normally feeding independantly rarther than associating with each other.

Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

Friday, 19 November 2010

Spotted Eagle Mystery Tour

With it set to be bright and warm we spent the day skirting the perimeter of El Hondo, in the hope of establishing exactly how many Greater Spotted Eagles were wintering on site. The answer to this question is that we are still unsure!! However we can confirm that there are a minimum of 4! We had numerous views of Tonn the Estonian radio tagged 3rd year bird as well as the 1st/2nd year bird with a ring on the right leg. We also had views later in the day of a second more "spotted" 1st year bird (can not confirm if this bird is ringed) and the other sub-adult which looks very similar to Tonn.

Greater Spotted Eagle

During the Eagle quest we saw a number of other raptors including; Peregrine Falcon (1), Marsh Harrier (12+), Booted Eagle (5+) and Kestrel (10). There seems to be more water around today and of particular interest is an area near the visitor centre which is currently being flooded. Within an hour of water being introduced this area had attracted 2 Great White Egret (below), 16 Little Egret, 4 Cattle Egret and 11 Water Pipit! Also recorded of note during the day were the following species - Iberian Grey Shrike (7, below), Red-crested Pochard (9), Whinchat (8) and similar numbers of wildfowl and waders as our last visit (see previous post).

Great White Egret
Marsh Harrier

Iberian Grey Shrike

Sardinian Warbler

I finally managed to photograph the male Sardinian Warbler that has taken up residence in our garden recently, hopefully even better images of this little cracker will follow shortly.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Wildfowl and Waders

Grey Plover - El Hondo

Today we visited the southern side of all El Hondo NP in search of waders and wildfowl. Much of the reserve is dry at the moment, however there is a large area of shallow water overlooked by a hide at this southern extremity of the site, which is currently at a perfect level for waders. We spent a couple of hours at the hide as things were constantly dropping in and moving off. Lots of waders were present including the Grey Plover pictured above which was one of 11 feeding on the waters edge. Other species recorded were; Mallard (1000+), Shoveler (300+), Teal (7), Little Stint (14), Dunlin (35), Black-tailed Godwit (2), Golden Plover (9), Green Sandpiper (2), Lapwing (16), Kentish Plover (3), Avocet (2) and Water Rail (3).
As usual this part of the reserve holds many of the raptors which can be seen in the area, today we managed to find - Osprey (1), Booted Eagle (3), Spotted Eagle (3, 2 3rd year birds and a juvenile), Common Buzzard (2), Kestrel (4) and Marsh Harrier (7).

One of the most enjoyable parts of the day was watching 2 Purple Swamphen feeding out in the open during a light rain shower, the above video clip is of one of the birds feeding actively. Whilst walking back to the car a Fan-tailed Warbler decided to perch out in the open only a few feet away, I managed to get a few shots but the light wasn't good at all. Why do they never sit out like that when its sunny!?? The Grey Phalarope is still present in La, Manga and so I couldn't resist putting up another shot of this superb little bird (see below).

Fan-tailed Warbler - El Hondo

Fan-tailed Warbler - El Hondo

Grey Phalarope - La Manga Salinas, Murcia

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

El Hondo – Ringing and Raptors

Ignacio greeted us at the North Gate of El Hondo this morning for a couple of hours ringing in the reedbeds. With the wind set to increase during the morning we were fighting against the clock, but no sooner had we put the nets up than a flock of Bearded Tits flew past our nets, 7 of which got caught! A great start and the morning light allowed the excellent pictures below to be taken.

Bearded Tit - female

Bearded Tit - male.
Just as our excitement of the previous catch began to subside, something ran towards the nets and fell into the lower panel, it could only have been one of 2 species and to our amazement it was the much scarcer of the two – an adult Water Rail! (See below). During the remainder of the hour we managed to catch a few other species before the wind increased to the point that the nets needed to be lowered; these included – Robin (4), Cetti's Warbler (3, below) and a female Blackcap. Before leaving the North end of the reserve we spent an hour or so walking to a few of the viewing platforms recording; Marbled Teal (20), Teal (numerous), Pintail (40+), Great Reed Warbler (1), Wryneck (1), Booted Eagle (2), Greater Spotted Eagle (1 adult) and 2 singing Moustached Warblers.

Water Rail

Cetti's Warbler
The afternoon was spent in the south of the reserve where raptors appeared abundant yet frustratingly too distant for the camera. Raptor totals included – Greater Spotted Eagles (3!), Golden Eagle (2 adults), Booted Eagle (5), Bonelli's Eagle (1), Buzzard (2), Marsh Harrier (5+), Hen Harrier (1 male, 1 ringtail), Kestrel (7) and a single Sparrowhawk – certainly a memorable day for raptors! Other species recorded at the south included; Whinchat (20+), Iberian Grey Shrike (4), House Martin (15+), Sand Martin (100+), Swallow (10)and an abundance of Chiffchaff.

Greater Spotted Eagle - Adult

Late News - 15th November

With a a 25 km per hour north westerly wind forcast for the day, we decided to try a seawatch from Cabo de Palos lighthouse in Murcia. The best wind conditions for sea-watching here are without doubt strong north easterlies, however we were still optimistic that something may be pushed close into the shore with the northern element in the wind today. As we approached the lighthouse things looked good, the sea was choppy and there was a steady trickle of Gannets passing very close inshore.

During the 2 hours we spent sea-watching the following species were noted - Gannet (40+), Sandwich Tern (23), Cory's Shearwater (21), Balearic Shearwater (2), Black-headed Gull (4) and Peregrine Falcon (1 in off the sea!). A number of passerines were also present around the lighthouse including; Black Redstart (25+), Meadow Pipit (8), Greenfinch (4), Chaffinch (2) and numerous Sardinian Warblers. We also recorded 6 Plain Tiger Butterflies (see below).

Plain Tiger / African Monach

After finishing our morning at Cabo de Palos we moved on towards La Manga Salina's a few kilometres down the road. The Red (Grey) Phalarope which was found a few days ago was still feeding very activley in the corner of the first roadside pool (see below), which also still held the Marsh Sandpiper from a few days ago; the latter of these species proving very elusive at times. We scanned the various pools and during the time spent here recorded the following species; Little Stint (20+, see below), Dunlin (16), Ringed Plover (7), Green Sandpiper (1), Redshank (11), Greenshank (1), Stone Curlew (2), Black-winged Stilt (12) and 23 Greater Flamingo. The day was rounded off nicely with a new addition to the Garden list when 2 Monk Parakeet's flew over the house in the evening heading to roost.

Little Stint

Red (Grey) Phalarope

Friday, 12 November 2010

San Pedro on the 11th and an Exploration on the 12th!

From left to right: Dad (Mark), Mum (Tracy), Scruffy (the dog), Nan (Val) and Grandad (Roy)

11th - San Pedro, Murcia
My Grandparents are over at the moment visiting from the UK and so the order of the day was for the family to spend a bit of time together and despite the focus not being on birds, we still managed to do a bit of birding whilst having a walk around the Harbour at San Pedro, Murcia. Amongst the many Greater Flamingo, Black-winged Stilts and Avocet were a few other interesting species including, Ruff (3), Dunlin (16), Sandwich Tern (5), Peregrine Falcon (1 Juv) and 22 Black-necked Grebe (see below). A nice day was had by all and with it being my Grandfathers 77 birthday tomorrow, I'm sure there will be a little bit of celebrating going on!

Black-necked Grebe

Glossy Ibis

12th - Murcia and Castille le Mancha

Today was an exploration day to try and find other sites for Pin-tailed Sandgrouse and Great Bustard. Unfortunetley we didn't succeed, its a good job the sites we have are already so reliable!! The day was not a complete failure though and we still recorded some excellent species including; Black Wheatear, Thekla Lark, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Calandra Lark, Chough, Stone Curlew, Peregrine Falcon, Marsh Harrier and the Glossy Ibis pictured above, to name but a few!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010


Today we headed into Murcia to see a Grey Phalarope that was found this morning by Richard Howard. This superb bird which is potentially a first for Murcia showed very well, at times down to less than 15 feet. Other species recorded included: Marsh Sandpiper (also found by Richard Howard), Curlew Sandpiper (1), Little Stint (numerous). Dunlin (numerous), Stone Curlew (7), Greenshank (4), Grey Plover (2), Marsh Harrier (1) and 3 Richard's Pipit.

Grey Phalarope

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Sierra De Espuna - Day Trip

Today we ventured into the Sierra De Espuna's, Murcia for Matt Owen's seconed full day trip, targeting some of our favoured area's in this vast landscape. The day started well at our first stop when a female Goshawk circled above us at close range sending the many Crossbill and Chaffinch into whatever cover they could find! Our seconed stop was an area of mature pine forest with large clearings where we recorded; Short-toed Treecreeper (2), Firecrest (10+), Crested Tit (5), Crossbill (numerous), Mistle Thrush (6), Cirl Bunting (9), Rock Bunting (3 including the beautiful male pictured below) and arguably the highlight of this area - 3 extremley confiding Woodlark.

Rock Bunting - Sierra De Espuna

Having had lunch in the pine forest whilst watching many of the aforementioned species we headed to the lower elevations of the area which during the three hours birding here proved very productive. Species recorded included; Iberian Grey Shrike (12), Lesser Short-toed Lark (20+), Iberian Green Woodpecker (3), Hen Harrier (1 male), Little Owl (1), Crag Martin (20+), Marsh Harrier (1 adult female), Rock Sparrow (4), Green Sandpiper (1), Black-bellied Sandgrouse (17), Little Bustard (7) and a sub adult Golden Eagle. By far and away the best part of the day was finding a flock of 36 Dotterel (see below), some of which were still in breeding plumage. These beautiful birds showed well until we were ready to leave and at times came within 30 feet of our position. As a new bird for our guest Matt, this impressive flock will be a memorable moment for a long time to come!

Dotterel - Sierra De Espuna's (including below three images)

8 of the 36 birds

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Day Trip - Santa Pola, La Mata and Algorfa

Today was the first of two day trips booked by Matt Owen from Llysfaen, North Wales. Our objective was simple, Matt wanted to see above all else - Greater Flamingo, Black-winged Stilt, Hoopoe, Osprey, Slender-billed Gull and Eagle Owl.

Hoopoe - La Mata

We began the day at Santa Pola where Matt managed to obtain great views of three of his target birds - Greater Flamingo, Black-winged Stilt and Slender-billed Gull. Other species recorded here included, Little Stint (12), Dunlin (30+), Sanderling (18), Marsh Harrier (2), Water Pipit (2) and a single Richards Pipit.
Next stop was La Mata where almost instantly we managed to connect with the long staying Osprey which as usual was sat on its favourite perch with a large fish! A walk around the surrounding fields and lake edge also produced; Iberian Green Woodpecker (2), Kingfisher (1), Water Rail (1), Hoopoe (6+), Serin (numerous), Greater Short-toed Lark (3), Cirl Bunting (10+ below), Iberian Grey Shrike (3) and a female Hen Harrier.
Cirl Bunting - La Mata

Eagle Owl - near Algorfa

The day ended at a site near to Algorfa which I found a few months ago and is very reliable for Eagle Owls. Whilst waiting for some Owl activity we recorded Firecrest, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit and numerous Kestrel. As the sun began to drop behined the pine covered hill side, true to form the resident male Eagle Owl began to call and it wasn't long before it perched out nicely for us all to enjoy in the scope. Ok the above picture is a silhouette but it certainly shows this amazing Owl's size! We have had such a good day that Matt has decided he has a few more target species! Lets see what tomorrow brings!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Yesterday - Santa Pola and El Hondo

Santa Pola

Lots of Greater Flamingo's and Black-winged Stilts around as usual (below) along with Avocets and Yellow-legged Gulls. Also recorded in the 2 hours birding here included; Marsh Harrier (2), Booted Eagle (1), Dunlin (20+), Little Stint (15+), Sandwich Tern (7), Red-rumped Swallow (2), Ruff (2), Sanderling (12), Greenshank (3), Common Sandpiper (1), Stone Curlew (1), Spotted Redshank (4), Redshank (15+) and the highlight, a single Richards Pipit which showed well on and off for 15 minutes.

Black-winged Stilt - Santa Pola

Greater Flamingo - Santa Pola
El Hondo

I did the regular walk around the perimeter of the pools from the visitor centre which again produced very good numbers of Bluethroat, Stonechat, Chiffchaff and Fan-tailed Warbler. Other resident birds which showed well throughout the walk included; Purple Swamphen (1), Cetti's Warbler (7), Marsh Harrier (4), Snipe (3), Green Sandpiper (1), Red-crested Pochard (7) and Whinchat (1). A few less common species were also seen in the form of Grey Plover (2), Spoonbill (3) and best of all Black Kite, a species which I had previously not recorded at this site.

Sat 30th - El Hondo - Tour Day 6

Chiffchaff - Photo by Bob Thomson
With the final morning of the tour upon us El Hondo was decided on as one of the favourite areas visited throughout the tour and a good destination to enjoy the morning/early afternoon. The 2km circular walk from the visitor centre provided excellent views of Bluethroat with at least 25 individuals seen. Great photographic oppertunities of Chiffchaff were also available due to an obvious arrival of birds with 100 - 150 seen during the walk (see above photo by tour member Bob Thomson). Other highlights included - Marsh Harrier (5), Whiskered Tern (2), Common Crane (14), Booted Eagle (2) and Melodious Warbler (1). An excellent final day to a very enjoyable weeks birding with over 130 species recorded.