Monday, 31 January 2011

Tour Day 2

After a hectic first day to the tour, today was slightly more relaxed hence me having time to do a more substantial post. Before going into detail about today, as promised I will quickly give a little more detail on yesterday.

The entire day was spent local visiting El Hondo, Santa Pola, El Pinet and a couple of other sights we have, recording in total an impressive 108 species. Obviously the views of Greater Spotted Eagle were the highlight of our first day, however some other interesting species were noted, including - Jack Snipe (1 on the Segura River), Temminck's Stint (2 at Santa Pola), White-headed Duck (7 at El Hondo from the new hide near visitor centre), Black-winged Kite (1 near San Miguel Salinas), 10 species of Raptor and other lifers for the group such as; Lesser Short-toed Lark, Slender-billed Gull and Little Bittern.

Booted Eagle

Today we visited some nearby farmland in search of some new species and had great success from the offset with 12 Black-bellied Sandgrouse and a handful of Thekla Lark. An enjoyable day in the field eventually resulted in another 20 species being added to the tour list including another early House Martin!
The above Booted Eagle enjoying its hard fought lunch was one of the days highlights as was the Chiffchaff pictured below which on closer inspection had been ringed. The bird (which was one of at least 30 feeding in a river mouth) eventually came close enough to see that the ring was indeed a BTO English ring! Tomorrow we will be targeting some more lifers for the group and will hopefully have some good pictures for the evening post.


Chiffchaff - note BTO ring on right leg.

Little Egret

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Tour Day 1 - Eagles

Having picked up our tour guests for this week yesterday evening, today we focussed on the Greater Spotted Eagles and all the other species to be found around the El Hondo area. As internet is still a problem I will do a more comprehensive post toomorrow detailing what was seen. Needless to say all 4 eagles were seen very well , viewed from the south gate. As I hope you can tell, I also have my real camera back at last!!

Greater Spotted Eagle - Tonn (note tag and ring)

Greater Spotted Eagle - Tonn

Greater Spotted Eagle - juv

Greater Spotted Eagle - Tonn and Adult engaged in display and "talon grabbing"

Greater Spotted Eagle - Adult

Black-winged Stilt


Thursday, 27 January 2011

La Mata in the rain

Ok, no pictures again but this problem will hopefully be fixed tomorrow, at last. I arrived at La Mata at 08.45 and having only been there for 10 minutes, it began to rain. The rain was only light and I put up with it for 3 hours before giving up soaked and ready for some brunch!
I managed to record a lot despite the poor conditions, the best of which included the following; Hen Harrier (1 male), Cirl Bunting (6), Wryneck (1), Stone Curlew (57), Booted Eagle (3), Lesser Short-toed Lark (20+), Osprey (1), Thekla Lark (3), Kentish Plover (8), Grey Plover (14), Whimbrel (2) and 16 Med Gulls.
More updates tomorrow and hopefully some pictures and dry conditions!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Sunday 23rd - Late News El Hondo

I arrived at El Hondo at 07.30 with the temperature on the dash of the car reading -6, I could have been back in the UK. After just a few minutes however I was reminded exactly where I was when 2 Penduline Tits flew in calling and showed well in the reeds for 5 minutes. Raptor wise there was plenty to see - Booted Eagle (5), Hen Harrier (2), Marsh Harrier (4), Osprey (2) and the adult Greater Spotted Eagle.

There were also (as usual) lots of waders around, including - Lapwing (300+), Black-winged Stilt (numerous, below), Avocet (numerous), Little Stint (50+), Dunlin (200+) and a single Grey Plover.

Black-winged Stilt

Wildfowl was numerous on the reserve and the group of 25 White-headed Duck I found (18 male, 7 female) were a joy to watch, the males displaying and being very vocal, see below. Other wildfowl on site included, Teal (numerous), Wigeon (8), Pintail (34), Shoveler (2000+), Shelduck (3000+) and a single Ruddy Duck, the first I have seen on site and I'm glad to say well away from the displaying White-headed Duck.

The highlight of the day was a Spotted Crake from the hide on the Vistabella Road which showed well on and off in between the reeds and occasionally in the open.

White-headed Duck

White-headed Duck

Despite still having internet problems, I will continue to update as frequently as possible. Only digi-scoped pictures for the next few days though, still there not too bad!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Raptor Survey - El Hondo

Booted Eagle - El Hondo

A change in my work schedule has resulted in me being able to stay in Spain for a couple of weeks longer. I made the most of not having to spend the day packing for a trip by meeting up with Juanma from the University of Elche, to conduct a raptor survey at El Hondo.

We managed to record a number of species, the highlights being - Greater Spotted Eagle (1 adult), Hen Harrier (1 male, 1 female), Merlin (1) and a minimum of 9 Booted Eagle, two of which can be seen above. Sections of El Hondo, including the main North/South road, are sadly not open for public access at the moment. All of the raptors seen today can however be seen from areas that are open to members of the public.

After completing our survey we moved over to Santa Pola for some general birding. A large congregation of waders was the main attraction, feeding in an area which has only recently become flooded. Species recorded here included, Great Egret (2, below), Little Stint (30+), Dunlin (100+), Greenshank (5), Redshank (15+), Spotted Redshank (8), Turnstone (10+), Grey Plover (1), Mediteranean Gull (1 ad) and numerous Slender-billed and Black-headed Gulls.

On the way home I called in at El Pinet, the Black-tailed Godwit flock is still strong with at least 150 birds present. Other species of note here were - Golden Plover (38), Stone Curlew (19), Greenshank (4) and a single House Martin which was feeding with a large amount of Crag Martin, my first of the year.

Great Egret

Sunday, 16 January 2011

La Mata

Firstly, due to internet problems at the moment I´m having to update using an internet cafe and as a result will have no pictures on this post (hopefully this will change tomorrow). Secondly I will be flying back to the UK on friday for business and will be there for a while, depending on how long the job takes.

Ok, housekeeping out of the way, I will get back to the birds! It was fairly quiet around La Mata today, despite this I still managed to see a fair number of species with an unexcpected Yellow Wagtail being the cream of the crop.

The Golden Plover flock has grown in numbers and is now pushing 500, other species of note included. Stone Curlew (12), Iberian Green Woodpecker (numerous), Lesser Short-toed Lark (20+), Booted Eagle (2), Osprey (1), Kentish Plover (20+), Iberian Grey Shrike (5), Cirl Bunting (4) and 8 Corn Bunting.

I will be heading to a cafe tomorrow that has wireless and being able to use my own laptop will mean I can get some pictures online including the great Red Squirrel pictures from last week - watch this space!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Velvet Scoter!!

Velvet Scoter

Velvet Scoter

Velvet Scoter

We started today on the Sigura river where this smart female Velvet Scoter posed well for us at times and even allowed me to make a short video (see bottom of this post). Velvet Scoter are annual on the Spanish coast, nearly all the records are from the Atlantic coast and a Med bird is a rare occurrence.

The rest of the day was spent making the most of the good light, trying to get some pictures. Sighting highlights included - 150+ Golden Plover and a single Red Knot at El Pinet and 3 White-headed Duck at Clot. Enjoy the pictures, some have come out ok, others were a little distant. Click on the pictures to make them bigger.

Kentish Plover - Segura River

Kentish Plover - Segura River

Sanderling - Segura River

Water Rail - El Pinet

Teal - Clot de Galveney

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Superb Steppe Species!

Yesterday I drove out into the vast Murcian countryside, in search of new area's for steppe species. The huge area of foothills in Murcia were once all areas of steppe habitat, however the landscape is now dominated by agriculture of one form or another. Whilst farming practises mean that agricultural activities are much less intense than in the UK, the land used has obviously resulted in all the Steppe habitat becoming more and more fragmented and smaller and smaller in size.

Despite my last trip out into this area being largely un-productive, this trip was the complete opposite. An area of perfect habitat was found, consisting of many unbroken rubble fields and some dry un-intensive vineyards. What a place! The first species of interested I recorded was Great Bustard (see below), during the day I recorded many individuals with a conservative estimate of 60 probably being too low. The largest single group recorded was 39 birds in flight.

Great Bustard

Great Bustard

During the day all of the typical steppe species were eventually pinned down and good views were made even better by the superb light conditions. The following are my totals for the day - Little Bustard (9), Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (18), Black bellied Sandgrouse (40+, see below), Calandra Lark (500+, see below), Thekla Lark (numerous, see below), Lesser Short-toed Lark (numerous) and Golden Eagle (1). Click on the pictures to enlarge them, hope you enjoy these great species at some point, they really are something special!

Black-bellied Sandgrouse
Black-bellied Sandgrouse

Thekla Lark

Calandra Lark

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Ringing at El Hondo

Hen Harrier

Today we met Ray Marsh for some birding around El Hondo with the view of meeting Ignacio in the afternoon to do some ringing in the centre of the reserve, which is currently off limits to the general public. As to not tempt anyone into jumping the fence and entering the site, all the sightings on here are from the morning and viewed in areas of the reserve with general access. Out of interest we caught 11 Chiffchaff in the afternoon so not our best day but by no means a disaster.

So in the morning we walked the circuit from the visitor centre, round to the green hide and back to the visitor centre. During this time we recorded the following species of note; Red-crested Pochard (numerous), Gadwall (numerous), Purple Swamphen (2), Bluethroat (10+), Hen Harrier (1 male, above), Spotted Redshank (1), Marsh Sandpiper (1, from the green hide), Kingfisher (1), Green Sandpiper (numerous), Chiffchaff (100+), Fan-tailed Warbler (numerous, see below) and finally 2 Greater Spotted Eagles, Tonn - the Estonian Satellite tagged bird and the 1st year Estonian ringed bird, see below record shots.

Greater Spotted Eagle - 1st year bird (note white flash and double spotted wing bars)

Greater Spotted Eagle - Tonn

Also of interest, yesterday we found a flock of Siskin near Algorfa, an uncommon bird in this area, occuring in winter months only.

Fan-tailed Warbler - video

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Tonn has left the reserve!

Having had little success over the past 4 days in seeing any of the Spotted Eagles at El Hondo, other than the bird referred to as "Not Tonn"; we decided to try a new area today, 16km (by road) East of El Hondo.

This area which is a transition between agricultural and salt marsh habitats, proved very successful. Crested, Sky and Lesser Short-toed Lark were all present in good numbers, as were Reed and Corn Bunting. Marsh Harrier were abundant with a minimum of 15 birds seen in the air together; whilst watching this spectacular sight we noticed that 4 of the Marsh Harriers had started mobbing something that was sat on the floor, to our surprise this transpired to be Tonn - The Estonian satellite tagged Spotted Eagle.

Having been moved on by the Marsh Harrier we followed Tonn deeper into the agricultural land and to our amazement noticed that he was also being followed by the adult Greater Spotted Eagle! Having got to a point were the Eagles were directly overhead we stopped and witnessed some very interesting behaviour. The birds were engaging in certain aspects of a display flight, including parallel flying and mirrored movements. This would suggest that the adult bird is in fact female and that Tonn has possibly drawn her away from the reserve in order to reduce competition from the other 3 year bird "Not Tonn"? Please see below pictures and very shaky video of Tonn sat on the floor, click the pictures to enlarge them.

Greater Spotted Eagle - Tonn

Greater Spotted Eagle - Tonn

Greater Spotted Eagle - Adult, presumed female

Video of Greater Spotted Eagle - Tonn

We also managed to find a few small lakes or pools which held good numbers of waders. All the usual suspects were present such as, Avocet (6), Black-winged Stilt (9), Dunlin (30+), Little Stint (10+), Redshank (6), Greenshank (2), Snipe (numerous) and Kentish Plover (2); the presence of a single Marsh Sandpiper and 2 Temmincks Stint certainly added even more excitement to a fantastic days birding.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Happy New Year

Happy new year to all! My year started slowly on the 1st and before any conclusions are drawn, this was not due to drinking a stupid amount of beer but down to a cold or man flu as I keep being told that it is! Nevertheless I managed 4 hours out in the field recording a respectable 68 species. Highlights of the opening day were - Hen Harrier (1 male), Kingfisher (1), Great Egret (6) and a gull fest which included; Yellow-legged Gull (numerous), Lesser Black-backed Gull (15+), Slender-billed Gull (numerous), Audouins Gull (11), Black-headed Gull (numerous), Med Gull (6) and an adult Little Gull at El Hondo!

We spent the 2nd at Hondo again but this time we walked the canal that cuts west - east along the southern edge of the reserve, despite it being very quiet we did manage to find a few new birds for the year including the below Osprey and Marsh Harrier. Other highlights included; Glossy Ibis (2), Pintail (15), Common Crane (9) and 2 Woodlark on the way home whilst checking one of our regular sparrow flocks. These crackin birds were feeding alongside 3 Skylark and a handful of Lesser Short-toed Lark. A video of the Osprey eating its fish is also available below.

Today (3rd) we had a couple of hours at Santa Pola in which time we recorded the following species of note; Great Egret (4), Spoonbill (6), Mute Swan (1), Whimbrel (3), Greater Flamingo (350+), Avocet (numerous), Little Stint (numerous), Dunlin (numerous), Kentish Plover (numerous) and single Greenshank.

Osprey, El Hondo

Marsh Harrier, El Hondo