Birding Autumn Tour with “Walking With Wildlife”

TRIP REPORT

(September 30-October 5) ORNITHOLOGICAL TOUR IN SOUTHEAST IBERIAN

LOCAL GUIDES: J. M. Escarabajal; Paul Sparkes

PARTICIPANTS: Mandy West, Steve Harford, Jean McKell, Paul Coombes and Cedric Coombes.

CHECKLIST (115):

Poster autumn Trip (for web)Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Little Bittern, Squacco Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Glossy Ibis, Greater Flamingo, Shelduck, Gadwall , Mallard, Pintail, Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Black Kite, Red Kite, Griffon Vulture, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk , Buzzard, Honey Buzzard, Golden Eagle, Iberian Imperial Eagle, Booted Eagle, Osprey, Kestrel, Lesser Kestrel, Merlin, Hobby, Peregrine, Red-legged Partridge, Moorhen, Coot, Crested Coot, Great Bustard, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Stone Curlew, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Lapwing , Little Stint, Dunlin, Ruff, Bar-tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank , Redshank , Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Audouin’s Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Whiskered Tern, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Rock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Eagle Owl, Kingfisher, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Green Woodpecker, Skylark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Crag Martin, Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Whinchat, Stonechat, Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Blackbird, Cetti’s Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Spectacled Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff , Firecrest, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Southern Grey Shrike,  Great Grey Shrike, Jay, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Raven, Jackdaw, Red-billed Chough, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Crossbill , Corn Bunting.

______________________________________________________________

Last year we had the pleasure to welcome Mandy West (tour leader in Walking With Wildlife) who visited our region for our ornithological tourism project and the potential for bird watching in the southeast Iberian. As a result of this first visit we organized a trip for 2013, Birdwatching and photography through the Region of Murcia and some of its neighboring provinces. Here we have the report of an interesting and busy week in southeast region of Spanish  with a group of British birders.

The first day, after picking up our guests at the airport we made our way to the rural accommodation “The Perez B & B,” a nice house in the middle of the countryside in the Campo de Cartagena, on the way stopping at a local bar for tapas and a cold beer! In the afternoon we had our first contact with some of the birds of Murcia (Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Sardinian Warbler …) and also in a lonely valley at sunset, with got to see an Eagle Owl.

The second day was pretty intense and helped us to meet the extensive Iberian steppes in the south of La Mancha, in an unknown place, where the plains are mixed with small and medium gaps. There you can see a number of different birds, both aquatic and steppe, and also the area is used by many raptors as hunting ground. Thus we enjoyed watching several species, such as Little Owl,  Great Bustard, Black-bellied sand grouse and pin tailed sand grouse, Stone curlew, Flamenco, White-headed duck, Black-necked Grebe and up to 8 different species of raptors, highlighting a small group of Black Kites and at the end of the afternoon, two juvenile Imperial Eagles and a magnificent specimen of Golden Eagle that flew over our heads for several minutes.

The third day it was the turn of wetlands, in a beautiful natural park near the Costa Blanca, where there is an abundance of waterfowl and, at this time of year, migration occurs and the start of the wintering of various birds of prey (this time, again, another 8 different species in a single day). The group was able to enjoy, despite the hot day with good observations, Squacco heron, Glossy Ibis,  Red-crested pochard, Osprey, Booted eagle, Southern grey Shrike, Little owl and Bee-eater, the later probably the stars of the day. A gastronomic delight  in a rustic restaurant where we enjoyed the excellent local cuisine was the perfect end to a wonderful day.

The fourth day was reserved to visit a colony of Griffon Vultures ( throughout the morning these flew close to the rock faces) in the interior mountains of southwest Murcia, an unknown area that retains some of the best and most lonely landscapes of this region, with a variety of habitats (forests, crags, rivers, canyons, plains, reservoirs) which allow the presence of a variety of birds. Herons, grebes, cormorants, larks, crows, raptors, small forest birds, shrikes, wheatear, woodpeckers and owls came out to greet us. For example, it was a good day to learn the differences between Crested and Thekla larks and to get good observations of the Black Wheatear. Again at sunset, we had a second meeting with the Eagle Owl.

The fifth day began with a visit to a saline steppe zone in the central sector of the Region of Murcia. Although we saw some interesting birds like the Hoopoe and Spectacled Warbler , the number of species was not abundant and decided to change our route to the mountains, rising in the east in search of the Crested tit , Steve’s favorite species, and also for other members of the group that had never observed it. Between spectacular peaks and dense forests of Pines , we went up through the pine forest where, in addition to our main goal ( the crested tit ) We could see other species, such as Common Treecreeper , Peregrine Falcon and Red-billed Chough … In the afternoon , after crossing , again , the salt steppes we observed lesser kestrels. We then headed to the coastal range in search of prey on migratory passage : Booted Eagle , Common Buzzard , Eurasian Hobby , Marsh Harrier and a great sunset over the cliffs and the Mediterranean Sea .

On the sixth and last day with time to devote half a day of birding we went to the saltpans around the Mar Menor (the largest salt lake in the Mediterranean). This was one of the days our guest appreciated the most for observing very closely several species of wading birds and other waterfowl which made a good  photographic oppertunity. Black-winged Stilt, Knot, Audouin’s Gull, Black-necked Grebe, Avocet, Redshank and the flight of the flamingos very impressive passing over our heads.

In short, a lovely and enthusiastic group, with a fun atmosphere and as warm as the good weather that accompanied us throughout the trip, we also enjoyed the delicious local cuisine, the breathtaking landscapes and birds as spectacular as the Golden Eagle, Imperial Eagle, Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle, Eagle Owl (up to 18 species of raptors), Great bustard,  Flamingo, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Little Owls and Crested tit.
Thanks for your visit and for your contribution to the protection of birds of southeastern Spain! We’re waiting for our friends at Walking With Wildlife for there next trip in spring!
(And thanks to our dear friends Rafa Torralba and Guillermo Garcia-Elder for there invaluable assistance).
Cheers guys!

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