Over the last week, winter finally and definitively seems to have set in! Single figure temperatures overnight and only reaching 15 - 20º during the day - for us that's cold - the shorts are stowed away for next year!
So what impact has this had on the birdlife in Murcia? Well, just over a week ago, after heavy NW winds, a couple of people had the magnificent sight of a group of 48 Common Cranes flying over their heads. Although not mega-rare in Murcia (ones and twos are seen most years), to see such a large flock IS. Presumably they were on their way south from over the Pyrenees and got blown off course.
More regular birds are the Common and Jack Snipes that get into the 'rambla de Albujon'. Last winter a special effort was made by the ringers of ANSE (Associación de Naturalistas del SurEste) to catch and ring them but also putting special location devices on them, and over the last couple of weeks, one of the Jack Snipe has been re-captured. The device has been changed for another, and we are now waiting with much interest for the information to be downloaded, as it should give details of where the bird has been during the summer.
Other winter birds seen locally (Sierra Espuña) have been groups of Ring Ouzels, that spend their winters here. These seem to be of both sub-species, coming from both the north of Europe (UK, Scandinavia), and also the Alps. The first Alpine Accentors have also been seen, in the area of Peñas Blancas, between Cartagena and Mazarron.
There have also been reports of auks and scoters streaming into the Mediterranean through the straits of Gibraltar, and this weekend a single Common Scoter was reported in the Mar Menor, towards the Tomás Maestre port area.
In the way of small birds, Black Redstarts and White Wagtails seem to be everywhere, and there's hardly a bush that doesn't seem to have the 'tack-tack'ing of a Robin coming from it first thing in the morning. (OK, that's a slight exaggeration, but there ARE a lot about).
Over the last weekend (Saturday, 9th November to be precise), I thought it was time to have a look at some woodland. Normally when I think of that, I head for Espuña, but I decided on this day to have a look at the area behind the La Manga Club west course, towards Portman (Monte de las Cenizas). Here there is a very popular walk up to the guns (not pop-guns, but 15 inch guns which were capable of shooting a 1,000kg shell up to 35 km!), but by keeping off the main trail, it is actually possible to walk around without cycles zooming past, and people and children shouting. The birds I was particularly looking for here were crests - I wasn't fussed, they could be Gold or Firecrests and a Yellow-browed Warbler wouldn't go amiss either. Of course, it didn't happen, and the most numerous bird seen was Long-tailed Tit followed by Wren! A little note about the Wren - living here in the S.E. of Spain, I can totally appreciate why it is now called Winter Wren, as it's the only time of year to see it here, if at all. So to hear half a dozen in the space of a few hundred metres is quite something (although you do have to be careful not to confuse the alarm call of Sardinian Warblers for Wren).
The most commonly seen bird, Long-tailed Tit
Normally very secretive, this Wren showed itself for a few seconds
In the more open areas, there are both Dartford ...
... and Sardinian Warblers
The best I could manage of one of the Richard's Pipits
Also common in the winter, Stonechat
Some of the birds seen during the morning at San Pedro
Grey Wagtail ...
... and another of the same bird
... and a different Ruff
Winter plumage adult Slender-billed Gull
Flock of Serins
Part of the same flock
Record shot of the colour ringed Little Stint
Mixed group of Sanderling and Little Stint
More Little Stints
Sanderling with a Little Stint that seemed to have its tail permanently stuck up in the air ...
... as these photos show ...
... and again
San Pedro wouldn't be San Pedro without its Flamingos! ...
... or indeed its Black Winged Stilts - here a juvenile
At the moment there's a fair smattering of Ruffs
Sunday I kept a little more local, having a look in some farm reservoirs, the old sewage farm at El Algar and having a wander along the 'rambla de Albujon' to see if the cold weather had done anything to the local birds. Farm reservoirs (if accessible) are worth a look in at this time of year for the ducks they might contain, and indeed one I looked at had a flock of 110 Common Pochard, 3 male Ferruginous Ducks and a male Pochard/Ferruginous hybrid in it, so I felt I'd hit the jackpot.
Part of the flock of Common Pochard ...
... which also held three of these very smart male Ferruginous Ducks ...
... plus a smart looking male Pochard/Ferruginous hybrid, seen here with a female Common Pochard ...
... and here with a male Common Pochard
The old sewage farm was much quieter - no waders although there was still a little bit of water in it from the last rains, a couple of Booted Eagles circling in the distance, a couple of Skylarks flew over, a single Hoopoe and a couple of Southern Grey Shrikes.
My main reason for the walk up the 'rambla de Albujon' was to see if I could find any Penduline Tits, and to try and photograph Bluethroats. Well there was no luck with the Penduline's although I did have a couple of Reed Buntings (sound very similar), plus the Cetti's and Fan-tailed Warblers, and I drew a blank with the Bluethroats, but that may have had something to do with the 4 trials bikes that were noisily all over the area.
Out on the Mar Menor, I checked for scoter, but just had Cormorants, Great Crested and Black Necked Grebes.
And that's about it for the moment, so until my next report, good birding!!