I had intended to go out to the saladares last Saturday, but was put off by the weather forecast, so provisionally made arrangements to go this Saturday. However, once again, the weather forecast was not good but as Mick Brewer had never been there and it was his last opportunity this trip and I enjoy going out there anyway, we set off from Los Belones at 8 am. There had been rain again overnight and the sky was heavily cloudy as we set out. We called by Los Urrutias just in case the Roller I’d seen there the previous evening was still around, but no luck. It started spitting and then as we got closer to Alhama the rain started to come down quite heavily (to the extent that we did consider turning back but decided against it). We decided that maybe it would be a good idea to go to the sewage farm (EDAR) at Alhama just to see what the weather was going to do, so we went into the industrial park and round to the EDAR. The only way I know of entering the EDAR is through the hole in the fence (if you’ve been there before, you’ll know what I mean) and to do this you have to use a mud/clay track which is a bit bumpy to say the least! This is where we had a problem – driving along this track, because of the rain, the car started sliding sideways. I decided it wasn’t a good idea to drive there, but because of the state of the track and the fact that we only had sandals on we didn’t particularly want to walk there either. (Plus one of the reasons for going there was to build up Mick’s Spanish year-list, and I knew of another pool where we could get much the same species). So we turned round and crossed the motorway to the ‘saladares’. We had already decided that we could only do the tarmac’d roads (the saladares are criss-crossed by tracks, the majority of which are just clay, and not the best things to be driving on after all the recent rain, as we’d already found out). This was going to restrict some of the birds we could see, in particular Little Bustard and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, but hey, a good excuse for another trip out here later in the year!
So entering the saladares at around 9-20am, we spent about 5 hours there, and were very lucky in that the weather just kept improving, from almost totally overcast to almost totally clear and no further rain, no wind and quite pleasantly warm (with the heat-haze starting to be bothersome at around 1pm).
So with Short-toed Larks virtually running around our feet (until they see a camera), our first bird of note was a Peregrine dissecting some avian prey on top of an electricity pylon. We saw it pulling the intestines of the bird out, and then strangely enough dropping them to the ground. I had always thought that they eat just about everything apart from the bones and feathers, but in this case no. Maybe there’s just a surfeit of food for them here. Behind us, but too distant to see very well, was another raptor on the top of a pylon, this time a Golden Eagle, which hopefully would still be there when we came back.
Peregrine with its prey
It's a hard life trudging around in all this mud!
Almost at the bank of the Guadalentín, we had a Pied Flycatcher (male) and at the road along the bank of the river, as always there were plenty of Jackdaws, a few Magpies and the birds we specifically wanted to see here, a pair of Rollers and (only) 3 Bee-eaters. It’s a shame there weren’t more Rollers as it might have induced them to do more displaying, but the male of the pair did do a couple of rolls and stoops for us (or maybe for his mate!). Always good value to see.
While watching these, Mick almost tripped over a Montagu’s Harrier which had perched in a treetop below us (the actual river is about 30 metres below the road and has quite a lot of vegetation on either side of it). It was a female with a broad white rump and very dark chestnut coloured wings (and once again while my camera was whirring back and forth trying to autofocus, the harrier was flying off and around a bend and out of view!).
Once we had had enough of the Rollers (not an easy thing to do), we carried on around the saladares, stopping at a couple of places to have a scan around. At one of them we were lucky enough to have a Great Spotted Cuckoo, and 3 Gull-billed Terns and a Golden Eagle flew over, and at another while looking for Spectacled Warbler (which we found), I heard a song superficially similar to a Blackbird which I knew wasn’t a Blackbird as it was a bit ‘thinner’ and shorter. I had an idea as to what it was, so we set up scopes and searched around until we found the culprit sat in the top of a bush – Rufous Bushchat (or Bush Robin, if you prefer). A class bird, and a lot earlier than I’m used to seeing them. We decided to have a sandwich lunch here while watching and listening to the Bushchat, and had some more migrants in the form of a couple of Turtle Doves, Red-rumped Swallows and a Pied Flycatcher.
Some of the Bee-eaters seen
One of at least two Golden Eagles seen
One of several Turtle Doves
The Rufous Bushchat (Robin)
One of many Short-toed Larks seen
A second Golden Eagle
Finishing here, we drove back into the saladares to search for larks, and had good views of Short-toed, Crested and finally several Calandras. We went on along a mud track (one that seemed solid) to look for Little Bustards, but probably due to the lateness of the morning, had no luck with these, but did have another Golden Eagle fly over.
Leaving the saladares at around 2:30pm, we went down to some more pools close to Bolnuevo where I hoped we would make up for the birds we hadn’t seen at the Alhama sewage farm in the morning. We did well here, the only bird we didn’t see/hear was Cetti’s Warbler, but we got White-headed Duck, Pochard, Purple Gallinule (Swamphen), more Bee-eaters, Chough, Hoopoes, Green and Common Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover and another male Pied Flycatcher, our third of the day.
We left the EDAR Mazarron at around 4pm, arriving back at Playa Paraiso where I dropped Mick off at 5, and Before going home I had a quick look at the Marchamalo Salinas from his urbanisation (well, as I was there, it’d be a shame not to). I didn’t see much, just a group of Slender-billed Gulls and a single Black-headed Gull, plus my forth Pied Flycatcher (another male) of the day. Obviously there had been quite a fall of these.
Species seen/heard during the day
Little Grebe; Cattle Egret; Little Egret; Mallard; Pochard; White-headed Duck; Marsh Harrier; Montagu’s Harrier; Short-toed Eagle; Golden Eagle; Kestrel; Peregrine; Red-legged Partridge; Purple Gallinule; Moorhen; Coot; Black Winged Stilt; Stone Curlew; Little Ringed Plover; Greenshank; Green Sandpiper; Common Sandpiper; Yellow-legged Gull; Gull-billed Tern; Rock Dove; Woodpigeon; Turtle Dove; Great Spotted Cuckoo; Little Owl; Swift; Roller; Hoopoe; Crested Lark; Calandra Lark; Short-toed Lark; Swallow; Red-rumped Swallow; House Martin; Iberian (Yellow) Wagtail; White Wagtail; Rufous Bushchat; Whinchat; Northern Wheatear; Blackbird; Fan-tailed Warbler (Zitting Cisticola); Reed Warbler; Spectacled Warbler; Sardinian Warbler; Pied Flycatcher; Great Tit; Woodchat Shrike; Southern Grey Shrike; Magpie; Jackdaw; Chough; Spotless Starling; House Sparrow; Serin; Greenfinch; Goldfinch; Linnet; Corn Bunting.