Normally by this time in the year, the Spring passage is in full swing, but presumably due to the persistent winds from the NW and fronts crossing the Iberian peninsula, although some migrants are coming in, they are not in anything like their normal numbers for the time of year.
On Wednesday 20th March, I took a morning look at the lighthouse gardens at Cabo de Palos, more than anything to see if the Hoopoes I’d seen the previous evening were still there. However, I only saw two of them, which may well have been new birds in, as there were a few other birds actually entering from the sea, such as a couple of Chiff/Willows (out of a total of 6 seen) and another couple of Swallows. Apart from these, there were no obvious migrants around, and calling in to the Marchamalo Salinas on the way back from Cabo de Palos, where the water levels are quite high at the moment, the only birds of note were a high-ish number (21) of Shelduck and a small group of 5 Little Stints.
In the morning of Thursday, 21st March, I had another go at the lighthouse garden. This time there was a bit more movement, with a single Woodchat Shrike, a couple of Red-rumped Swallows, a female Blackcap and 3 Robins all being new.
Woodchat Shrike - now that they're on the move, they should be seen frequently
At this time of the year with the Audouins moving north, they're not infrequent either
In the afternoon, I called over to El Mojón to the north of the Salinas of San Pedro del Pinatar to check if the Short-billed Dowitcher was still there, which it was, but again in the far corner of the lagoon, so views were not particularly good. Other birds of interest there were Ruff, Redshank, Spotted Redshank and Greenshank, Little Stint, Dunlin, Sanderling, Avocet, Black Winged Stilt and Kentish Plover. I went from the lagoon to the beach pine area where of interest were a couple of Subalpine Warblers, and on my way back to the car a Rose-ringed Parakeet flew over, which according to my records is the first one I’ve ever seen in Spain – normally the parakeets I see commonly in Los Belones and around La Manga and Cartagena are Monk Parakeets.
Friday 22nd March, being a local holiday, I had the whole day for birdwatching, and I started the day at Calblanque. On the way from Las Jordanas down to the information centre I had a single Woodchat Shrike (this is one of their favourite areas when they first come in), and in the arboretum next to the beach carpark down from the information centre, a male Common Redstart. Calling round at the Salinas (de Rasall), I counted 208 Audouin’s Gulls on the walls of the lagoons and around 60 Yellow-legged Gulls, and a single adult Lesser Black-backed Gull.
The owl most likely to be seen at Calblanque, Little Owl
Also commonly seen, Black Wheatear
From here I called into the Cabo de Palos lighthouse garden again, and today there was definitely more movement. 4 Swallows flying around, 4 Robins, 6 Hoopoes, singletons of Subalpine Warbler and Woodchat Shrike, a couple of stunning looking male Black-eared Wheatears, one with just the black mask and the other with a black chin, a male Blue Rock Thrush and a Whimbrel.
...this shot showing its black underwing coverts
A bird that's been quite numerous over the last few days, Hoopoe
Another bird that's been frequent over the last couple of weeks, Whimbrel...
... and the same bird in flight
The other variant of Black-eared Wheatear, this one having a black chin
Here a pair of White-headed Ducks, female on left and male on right
For the breeding period the adult males bill turns this bright blue, and no prizes for guessing why it's part of the stifftail family of ducks
Our last stop before lunch in Bolnuevo was the lake at the EDAR Mazarron (at the bottom of the rambla de las Moreras). Here we had more of the same ducks, and a couple of Purple Gallinules, but no sign of the Garganey that I had hoped for. Other interesting birds seen were a group of 4 Red-billed Chough, one of which appeared to be carrying nesting material to another on top of an electricity pylon. Other birds seen and/or heard were Swallow, House and Sand Martins, Reed Warbler and Hoopoe.
After lunch, I left the group and carried on down to Cabo Cope (as I was already halfway there from home), where a Wallcreeper had been seen a few days ago. I spent a couple of hours there looking for it, but there are a lot of cliffs there and Wallcreeper is a small bird to find on your own, so I wasn’t really surprised that I didn’t see it. Still, it was worth a try.
I admitted defeat - too much cliffs to search for such a small bird on my own!
Another Woodchat, this time a female
And another Audouin's Gull
I went on to El Mojon (San Pedro del Pinatar) as I hadn’t heard any news on the Short-billed Dowitcher for a couple of days, but when I got there, there were a couple of people watching it in the same corner of the lagoon as in my last few sightings. The wind had picked up quite strongly, so after a quick count of the other waders there (of which there were almost all the waders you could expect to see at this time of year – Black Winged Stilt, Avocet, Sanderling, Greenshank, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Dunlin, Little Stint, Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Common Sandpiper, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Turnstone), I carried on to the beach pine area in the hope that there may have been some small birds around. On the way there, in the lagoon were a quite big group of around 40 Slender-billed Gulls with a single Mediterranean Gull feeding along the edge and a couple of Sand Martins braving the wind, but when I got to the pine area there was absolutely nothing moving.
The pristine adult breeding plumaged Mediterranean Gull...
... and another shot of it in flight
Another flight shot - this time an adult Slender-billed Gull
Another couple of Slender-billed Gulls - note the pink flush on the breast, ruby eyes and bill, denoting adults
This photo tickled me - a Black-necked Grebe with the golden facial feathers being blown out by the wind
Another photo of Slender-billed Gulls, with a bird of last year in the foreground.
Note the grey eye and orange/brown bill
Finally, a couple of waders seen commonly at the moment - here a Turnstone...
... and here an Avocet
On my way home I called in briefly at the Rambla de Albujon and the Mar Menor opposite the Marina de Carmoli. At the rambla de Albujon, there was nothing too stunning – best bird being a Water Pipit coming into breeding plumage, and at the Mar Menor, a Great White Egret, and a group of 6 Common Scoter still there, 2 males and 4 females.
And that’s it for now, so until my next report