New Jersey connection – Mar Menor (Murcia)

TRIP REPORT

TOUR LEADER: Paul Sparkes & José Manuel Escarabajal

PARTICIPANTS: Jimmy & Susan Lee

CHECKLIST:

Spotless Starling, Yellow-legged Gull, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Common Buzzard, Crag Martin, Greataer Flamingo, Black-winged Stilt, Blackbird, Reed Warbler, Robin, Green Sandpiper, Common Moorhen, Little Egret, Little Grebe, Kingfisher, Common Chaffinch,  White Wagtail, Willow Warbler, Water Pipit, Curlew, Kestrel, Osprey, Sardinian Warbler, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Jackdaw, Marsh Harrier,, Laughing Gull, Common redshank , Avocet, Black-necked Grebe,  Greenfinch, Linnet, Serin, Shelduck, Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Gannet, Green  Sandpiper, Sanderling Sandpiper, Grey Shrike, Little Owl, Audouin’s Gull, Red legged Partridge, Sparrowhawk, Collard Dove.

From New Jersey America, Jimmy and Susan chose to spend a day observing birds with us, knowing some of the most favorable and interesting birds at this time of year and their habitats. We start in the port of Cartagena, and after a quick chat on the culture and architecture of this historic  area, we took our car and headed to your destination: The Mar Menor  (the largest salt lake in Europe). While driving on the highway from the coast we saw the first flocks of  Starlings, some Cattle Egrets and Cormorants and even a Buzzard perched on power lines.

Our guests showed great interest in everything in sight at all times, from the agriculture and tourism development of the area, to local customs and of course, birds. Upon arrival at our first observation point, a wetland situated between the Mar Menor and the Mediterranean Sea, Jimmy proved to be an experienced birder and although most species were new to them soon became aware of the presence of a good number of birds in the first ponds and canals: Black-winged stilt, Green Sandpiper, Common Moorhen, Little Grebe and Little Egret were the first birds sighted. We were also fortunate to locate a Kingfisher among the reeds that caused astonishment among the group. Before continuing the search of the water we move into the fields and wastelands surrounding the lagoon. Here are some small birds typical of the countryside such as Goldfinch, Black Redstart, White Wagtail, Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler, Common Kestrel and Curlew, plus Crag Martin flying around us while an Osprey fly’s by in the distance. Back at the lake discovered in the dense vegetation of the shores are Willow Warblers, Robin, Common Blackbird and  Reed Warbler and a fly by of a Marsh Harrier crossing in front of us while scanning the waters in search of prey.
Now we have the salt ponds on both sides of the road which allows us to meet a large flock of Flamingos (true bird emblematic of the Park) and some of them flying near our position, which is always a show. Near the Flamingos swim some Black-necked Grebes and we observed several  Avocet, Stilt and Redshank. On the shores of another  pond we see Sanderling Sandpiper foraging between silt and reeds. In other ponds rest Yellow-legged Gulls and a small flock of Shelducks that are liked by our guests. It’s time we get into the secluded sandy Mediterranean beaches  these are covered by a blanket of algae remnants of oceanic Poseidonia left by sea on the shore .. But before we cross a small strip of dunes teeming with several groups of Greenfinch, Linnet and Serin. From the beach we observe the plovers and Turnstone on the coastline and offshore cormorants and gannets. The Kestrels hunting over the dunes are another spectacle before making a stop for some tapas in a typical local restaurant.

In our vehicle we cross the vast plain that borders the great lake to head to one of the best preserved sites of this territory and rush the last hours of our journey. On the way Cattle Egrets, Starlings, Kestrels  again become a constant sighting until we reached our next destination: a picturesque landscape of low hills covered with small palms (the palm species native servives in these latitudes its sole European distribution) and dotted with palm trees and some old salt mines that produce some amazing reflections of light in the water really beautiful. And to end the evening, a plus, we observe a European Little Owl, a Sparrowhawk or Buzzard perched on a nearby mountain top, among other species, three magnificent birds posed in front of our telescope and binoculars: a new flock of Flamingo, another sighting of an Osprey hovering over the tops of the nearby hills and a great view of the scarce and rare Audouin’s Gull resting on one of the walls of the saltlake. It was a fitting end to an excellent day of birdwatching in pleasant company of our new friends Jimmy and Susan. Thanks for joining us!

Alert Dotterel

PLOVERS LOOKING AT Guadalentín Valley

After receiving our notice about the presence of a group of Dotterels in one of our usual foraging areas, on October 17th we had the pleasure of accompanying the prestigious birder Richard Howard in search of these rare birds. We met with Richard early, after lunch, ready to enjoy a good afternoon of birding and offer our support to locate Dotterels, a bird very rare and difficult to see in these lands. After the preliminary survey of the terrain, we finally got our objective and Richard could see his coveted Dotterels although we also do other interesting observations throughout the afternoon. Richard tells us in his own words in the following article, extracted directly from his own blog (BIRDING IN MURCIA):

Birds seen

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis); Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus); Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos); Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus); Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa); Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus); Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis); Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus); Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus); Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos); Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis); Crested Lark (Galerida cristata);  Skylark (Alauda arvensis); Swallow (Hirundo rustica); Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus); Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe); Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata); Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis); Jackdaw (Corvus monedula).

“Although I have seen Dotterel in various places in Spain, up until now I have never seen them in the province of Murcia.  This is not due to lack of trying – in fact this autumn I have made a special effort to try to find them but without success.  The Dotterel, although not a rarity in Murcia, can definitely be considered as ‘scarce’.  Unlike in the surrounding provinces of Alicante, Albacete and Almeria, there is no regular spot to see them.  (In Alicante they are normally seen from the end of August in the fields surrounding ‘El Hondo’ near Crevillente; in Albacete there are several flocks seen close to the border with Murcia again from the end of August onwards until October/November and also in the Spring, and in Almeria they winter in the southern coastal dunes to the east of Almeria city).

Recent recorded sightings in the region of Murcia are normally single records per year of single birds although two years ago a flock of 36 was seen.

Therefore apart from being one of my favourite birds to see, I was very interested to receive a message that two had been seen last Sunday in the Guadalentín valley, and that by Tuesday the number had increased to 8.  I arranged to go with the finder, Paul Sparkes, on Wednesday afternoon to view them.  Arriving at 3 p.m., we went straight to the area he had last seen them the day before, but they were nowhere to be seen, but we did have a Golden Eagle go over us quite close.

However, checking nearby likely fields, Paul noticed movement that wasn’t Stone Curlew – yes, it was the Dotterel.  To begin with we only saw five, but eventually saw the whole group of eight.  From the coloration, 2 appeared to be adults as they were quite dark on the breast.

We watched them from a safe distance so as not to disturb them, for about ¾ of an hour, and then had a look around the rest of the ZEPA.  Other birds of note seen were a group of 5 Black-bellied Sandgrouse that flew over, and a ringtail Hen Harrier.” (Richard Howard)

Birding Murcia (Southeast Alive)

CYCLING & BIRDING

PILOT EXPERIENCE IN THE REGIONAL PARK OF “Salina de San Pedro”

Guides: Jose M. Escarabajal (Birding Murcia) & Juan F º Garcia (Rental Bikes)
Participants: P.S., M.L., M.M.., V.H.

Checklist:
Slender-billed gull, Black-necked grebe, Yellow-legged Gull, Flamingo, Common Sandpiper, Sanderling, Grey Heron, Mallard, Little Egret, Spoonbill, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Greenshank, Godwit, Curlew, Little Stint, Kingfisher, Great Egret, Turnstone, Great Cormorant, Laughing Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Kestrel, Shelduck, Great Crested Grebe, Avocet, Common Redshank, Common Redshank and Sandwich Tern.

We met at the entrance to the Regional Park of San Pedro Salinas for an experience that starts our new Cycling & Birding trips. The goal was to enjoy a nice bike ride and walk in comfort to see all of the  natural area while we identified its avifauna. We wanted to join two healthy activities such as cycling and bird watching.
We started our tour at the old salt mill, San Quentin after a brief introduction on the itinerary from our guide José Manuel and a technical explanation of the bikes from Juan Francisco (Rental Bikes) after which we began pedaling toward the area of “Weirs “. We past along the  promenade for pedestrians and cyclist between the salt ponds and across the calm waters of the Mar Menor.
We looked at the  traditional salt mills along the way and past over wooden walkways to the mud baths, as we observed the landscape and the first groups of flamingos (emblematic bird park), some tridactyle Sandpiper and a large group of Black-necked grebes often hibernate in these lakes every year.

Passing another salt mill to the area most habitated by birds in the park: the area called “weirs” (so named because an ancient art of fishing is still practiced in this area of Murcia). We have before us a beautiful landscape of marshes where lie many birds. We look through our telescopes at the many Grey Herons and Little Egrets on show. The most interesting observation of the day not long in coming: a group of Common Spoonbills are flying over the marsh. Curlews, Mallards, stilts, plovers, Godwhits, Redshank and a fast cruising Kingfisher before our binoculars pleasing to participants.
We continue on our path as a Great Egret passes overhead offering good views of its plumage. Now, the route runs between dunes and white sand beaches where Turnstone and cormorants are the new stars. It’s time to stop for a quick picnic in front of the sunny Mediterranean waters.

We start off again  pedaling towrds the factory which makes the salt  and with it a change in the landscape, with  mountains of salt ready to be taken away. It is now the turn of the Gulls (reidoras, yellow-legged, Gulls)  here they are owners of ponds. The twisted pines, permanently exposed to the wind to hold the dune encroachment adorn the path before reaching the last stretch of the route. We are now at another of the hot spots of the Regional Park, again we view with the telescopes the salty lagoons where there are grouped several Common Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, black-tailed godwit, black-necked grebe, Shelduck and Great Crested Grebe, and as usual, a large flock of flamingos that provoke astonishment from the  observers when flying cross showing their  spectacular plumage. They are an excellent finish that leaves the group wanting to repeat the experience soon.

Birding Murcia (Southeast Live) & Rental Bikes

EAST WETLANDS

ITINERARY ORNITHOLOGICAL SOUTH OF ALICANTE (SPAIN)

Leader: José Manuel Escarabajal

Participants: PS, JC, MLP, VH, ML, DLM

Checklist:

Montagu’s Harrier, Jackdaw, Swallow, Blackbird, Grey Heron, Mallard, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Egret, Common Swift, Reed Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler, Cattle Egret, Shelduck, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Moorhen, Coot, Glossy Ibis, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Stone Curlew, Common Buzzard, Whiskered Tern, White-headed Duck, Great Crested Grebe, Little Bittern, Woodpigeon, Purple Heron, Night Heron, Pochard, Greater Flamingo, Squacco Heron, Bee-eater, Kestrel, Grey Shrike, Common Tern, Little Tern, Yellow Wagtail, Kentish Plover, Greenshank, Red-crested Pochard, Black-tailed Godwit, Crested Coot, Purple Gallinule, Melodious Warbler, Collared Pranticole, House Sparrow, Sardinian Warbler, Crested Lark.

As part of the first group of “Tours of Introduction to Ornithology” it was time to learn about the wetlands  in the southeast. So we met very early to visit arguably the best wet area of the Southeast.
Every  gap was filled with wildlife and numerous flocks of waterfowl were distributed here and there. Even before parking our vehicle a Montagu’s Harrier with a newly captured prey in its talons, made a close fly by.

The first lagoons were filled with mallard, Stilt, Avocet, Shelduck, Coot, Laughing Gull, Yellow-legged Gull and … as an omen of what the day had in store for us, a flock of Glossy Ibis crossed in front of us. In the distance a Common Buzzard, perched on a large dead tree, peering from its perch waiting for prey.
We changed to another lake which continued with surprises: first observations of White-headed duck and Whiskered Tern (which would be a constant throughout the day). And soon we began dancing with the Little Bittern and Purple Heron as special guests, perhaps the two species, together with the Glossy Ibis, most aroused the interest of the participants. Abundance of birds everywhere and a spectacular Flamenco concentration in the  next lagoon.

A stop for a snack and cool off in one of the observatorys, which is equipped in this natural park. We were ready and waiting  for three of the best observations of the day: Purple Gallinule (two chickens), Collared Pratincole and Crested Coot,  (two couples reintroduced to the park). The excitement among the group could not be higher.
In the heat of midday we went to the last observation point of the route. More copies of ruddy duck, cormorant, egret, terns, coots, and that Heron perched on a stick protruding from the water at one end of the lake in full plumage displayed to the delight of the participants. We were definitely lucky today! To complete the route from the last observation we counted numerous waterfowl and waders, examples of Kentish Plover, Colorado Duck  and, finally, (changing of the guard) a pair of Avocets changing over in their nest, leaving a nice farewell picture.
Many lessons learned in one day absolutely fantastic!!!!!

ITINERARY OF INTRODUCTION TO ORNITHOLOGY

“Salinas Steppes”

Leader: Jose Manuel Escarabajal
Participants: Paul Sparkes, Santi, May and Juan Carlos.

CHECKLIST:
Spotless Starling, Black-winged Stilt, Jackdaw, Common Swift , Rock Pigeon,  Woodpigeon, ,  Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Little Owl,   European Bee-eater, Roller, Hoopoe, Green Woodpecker,  Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Blackbird, Common Warbler, Sardinian warbler, Common Shrike, Magpie,   House Sparrow, Serin, Little Egret, Little Grebe,  Mallard,  Red Partridge, Common Moorhen,    Ringed PloverLittle Bustard, Crested Lark, Lark Common, Short-toed Lark, Stone Curlew, Grey Heron, Nightjar.

We are promoting our bussiness on the open road with these great short trips. After a few refreshing drinks to lessen the rigors of hot it was early afternoon and after a short introductory talk by our guide José Manuel we joined a bird feeder road that led directly into the bed of a watercourse.
This area would be the first leg of our journey into  “Introduction to Ornithology.” The small group of participants showed great enthusiasm from the beginning when the first set of stilts came to greet us (more like trying to get us away from their nests with their constant screaming and flying over our heads). We continue to move among many Jackdaws, Common Swallows, Common Swifts and several flocks of rock doves and pigeons, soon we enjoyed the first prize in the afternoon … A perfect view of a Booted Eagle flying at low altitude close to our position leaving us to enjoy, with great detail, the striking contrast of its plumage.

The first stop was the perfect excuse to introduce some knowledge on species identification, note taking and use of the field guide. Taking advantage of the high point of the viewing area I was able to explain some concepts on the salt marsh ecosystem that stretched before us. We continued on foot to the next leg of the itinerary to see the slopes of sandstone inhabited by bee-eaters, jackdaws, rollers, owls and kestrels. It’s time for another snack (drink) which is used to exchange ideas and answer some questions from participants.
The next goal, before getting into the saltlands, was looking at some distributed irrigation ponds in the area and learn about the ecological role they play as micro-wetlands in the ecosystem. Other species were observed stilts, common grebes, sandpipers, plovers and fascinating spectacle of bee-eaters catching insects on the shallow waters of a reservoir.Quite a show of color!

It was time we get into the plains and steppes, just across the first fallow fields, the second prize of the day: two male Little Bustards took off ahead of us with there very specific flight. But later we see them next to the larks, short-toed, Commons and marshy, Partridges and stone curlews in abundance were distributed throughout the area. At the start of nightfall and grey herons return to their roosts, the curlews increase their activity and the fields are full of rabbits and hares. A Nightjar out to see us off, and we started on our way back home with the satisfaction of a good afternoon’s birding and alot of new things learned.

Guadalentín Valley and Mountains of Mazarron

“River walk & Mountain lunch”

Leader: José Manuel Escarabajal
Participants: P.S., M.L.M., V.H, I. G., F. M., J.V.

CHECK LIST:
Roller, Swift, Yellow-legged Gull, Swallow, Crested Lark, Great Grey Shrike, Magpie, Stone Curlew, Wheatear, House Sparrow, Mallard, Bee-eater, Booted Eagle, Black-winged Stilt, Rock Dove, Jackdaw, Sardinian Warbler, Buzzard, Hen Harrier, Reed warbler, Moorhen, Night Heron, Tree Sparrow, Turtle Dove, Corn Bunting, Kestrel, Blackbird, Kentish Plover, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Nightingale, Short-toed Eagle, Spotless Starling, Woodchat Shrike, Red-rumped Swallow, Hoopoe, House Martin, Serin, Red-legged Partridge, Woodpigeon, Golden Oriole, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Coal Tit,  Green Woodpecker, Great Tit, Dartford Warbler, Golden Eagle, Rock Bunting, Black-eared Wheatear, Crag Martin, Little Owl.

As normal we meet at a bar for a quick coffee and sort out who is going with who. We are not traveling far today but expect to see alot! On our way to the river we stop to admire a Roller sat ontop of a road sign, this is the same place we spotted it during the week with other clients. After snapping off a few photo’s we move on to the river, as we slowly walk along the path Bee-eaters fly above us feeding, Its not long before we see a Moorhen then some warblers and up out of the bank on the other side a Hen harrier takes off. On the other side from us is the wall of  the rambler full of holes, here nesting are Jackdaw’s and the odd Roller.
We move off the normal path and set up the scopes under some almonde trees to give us abit of shade, through the scopes we can see into some of the holes to see the nest of the Jackdaws, and get close ups of the warblers on the reeds in the river. We get a quick fly past from a Bittern, this is a lucky spot as they are very rare here. One of the group also spots a eagle coming our way high up, as time passes it comes closer and lower, now we can see it is a Booted Eagle with its big wings open wide we can see the  black edge to them.
Moving away from the river in the cars we drive through an area of scrub land, here there are Red-legged Partrige, Stone Curlew, Woodchat Shrike, and kestrel’s, we drive slowly to keep an eye out for anything moving. As we pass a bit of scrub the land changes to a strip of plouged soil, at it’s edge something catches my eye so we stop and out with camera’s, feeding on the ground is a Short-toed Eagle no more than 100 meters away, this bird is stunning with its brown mantle blending in with the terrain, she takes off with big swings of her broad wings when high enough she circles round for a while then fly’s off into the distance, amazing!!
A short distance down the road are two Golden Eagles flying high on the winds, but back on ground level a Hoopoe fly’s along side us and stops on a road sign. We make our way up the mountain track to the top where we stop for lunch, here the views are fantastic and the wind is welcome to cool us off. While tucking into our sandwiches someone see’s a Golden Oriole fly past, a few minutes later we see it again and get the scopes on it so we can all get a good look at this bright yellow bird. After lunch we move round the mountain and spot another Golden Eagle this time much closer, as we watch this massive bird above us it fly’s up to a peck close by and stops on the rocks, it must be 200 meters away but we can see it very clearly. A short break here and the eagle is off again, as are we. Back in the cars moving slowly down the mountain track a Partrigde with its chicks move’s quickly across the track, but for one chick not quick enough as a Kestrel comes out of now where and plucks it off the path, this is a real life tour and all the animals and birds have to eat, even if it is a bit sad and spectacular to see all at the same time. Just a bit futher down the track a fox cub climbs the bank, it must be very young as it is grey and no bigger than a small cat it finds it’s den in a group of rocks and disapears into a hole. This has cheered the group up and we move off to the bottom of the mountain.
Time has run out again so we make our way back to the meeting point and pick up our cars and move off to a nearby bar for a cold beer and talk about the days adventures.

Raptor spotting – South-west Murcia

Leader: Jose Manuel Escarabajal
Participants: PS, Kate, Dick, Bertie, Judy,

CHECK LIST:
Roller, Crested Lark, Golden Eagle, Alpine Swallow, Swallow, Red-rumped Swalow, Woodchat Shrike, Spotless Starlin, Green woodpecker, Bonelli’s Eagle, Craig Martin, Kestrel,  Short-toed Eagle,  Wood Pigeon, Sardinian Warbler, Serin, Long-eared Owl.

We met our group of keen birders at El Molino where they have stayed for the past two years, after a brief run-down of what we would hopefully see in this afternoons trip we set off for the South-west of Murcia. After only 20 minutes we spot a Roller in a tree at the road side, so we pull off the road and have a look at this fantastic bird with its bright blue chest making it stand out in the tree. As normal on our tours we like to show our guests all the birds possible in the time we have together so even though this is a raptor trip we cant pass by without stopping when possible.
At our first stop we park up and take in the great views of the mountain range, while we are setting up the telescopes we get our first sighting of a Golden Eagle gracefully gliding over the mountain top and giving us a superb view of  its markings. The group gets to track its flight along the ridge then over the top to the other side. While we wait to see if it will return to our side we spot other birds in the area like Alpine Swallows and Crested Larks. Within ten minutes the Golden Eagle is back and to our delight stops on the top of the mountain giving us a magnificent profile view through the scopes.
We move on after the group has had its fill of the Golden Eagle, on the way to the next stop we see Spotless Starlings, a pair of Green Woodpeckers, Woodchat Shrike and a few Wood Pigeons. After parking the cars we have a short walk to our next view point. Again we set up the scopes and bang on que a Bonell’s Eagle fly’s our way,  passing over head to show off to us, we scan the sky’s for more birds, and not far behind the first Bonelli’s is its partner gliding on the winds. The pair stop on the mountain face behind us giving all a great view. After a while they take to the sky’s again and pass over the mountain out of sight. Our guest have come well prepared and tuck into some sandwiches as we wait to see if the Bonelli’s return. A lone Eagle comes into sight and after a few minutes is close enough to be identified as a Short-toed Eagle, it passes in front of us and fly’s off into the distance.
As the day light starts to fade we pack up and make our way to the cars and home, on the way we have an added bonus Jose spots a Long-eared Owl on top of a telephone pole so we pull off the road and have a look, when out of the cars we here more in the trees and spot that they are young and being watched over by the parent on the pole. The adult owl is not bothered by us being there no more than  15 meters away which allows us to have a good look and with the light fading behind it the silhouette is fantastic and a great ending to the trip.

Birding Murcia in the UK

(WWT Arundel wetlands)

Leader: Paul Sparkes
Participants: PS, JS, GS, MLS, CS.

CHECK LIST:

Moorhen, Coot, Mallard, Mute Swan, Puna Teal, Red-crested Pochard, Smew, Mandarin Duck, Common Eider, Magpie Goose, Falcated Duck, White-faced Whistling Duck, Chestnut Teal, Red Shoveler, Rosybill, Coscoroba Swan, Philippine Duck, Chiloe Wigeon, Hooded Merganser, Hawaiian Goose, Eurasian Common Scoter, Canvasback, Buttlehead, Buzzard, Kestrel, Sparrow Hawk, Little Grebe, Pheasant, Lapwing, Sedge Warblers, Reed Buntings, Swallows, House and Sand Martins, Green Woodpecker.

The day starts with a nice drive through the country-side in the south of England, we reach Arundel by 11am and park the car near the castle. A slow walk along the stream gives us plenty to photo, here there are Mallards with there chicks and also in the middle of the stream a nest with three moorhen chicks being fed by there mother. Further along above the trees we see a Buzzard soaring in the wind.
The wetlands are full of many variety’s of ducks and geese the colors are fantastic, we walk slowly through the paths in and out of the reeds, as we do so ducks appear from everywhere. The weather is kind to us today nice and sunny to show off the birds and the surrounding flora, the trees are all different colors of greens and browns and so tall, one thing we miss living in our part of Spain!
We pass a small group of people and chat for a while, a lady tells us that there is a nest of  Little Grebe on the Lilly’s ahead of us if we look hard we should see it, also she tells us how the Little Grebe has suffered here in the past two years because of the Coots, so she is happy to see the nest this year. We pass on deep into the wetlands and come across a nesting Swan, as we pass slowly she stands to reveal six eggs, after she moves them a little see sits and watches us move on. Ahead of us in the path no more than ten meters is a female Pheasant she kindly stands still long enough for us to take a few pic’s then of f into the grass she goes.
After a short walk we come to an open area of water and grass beds with plenty of birds to look at, we take a seat in the hide and watch as the birds come and go. Our next stop is a small wooded area to one side of the wetlands here we see a Green Woodpecker climbing up a tree.  Time is passing on so we make our way back to the car but first stop in the town for tea and a sandwich.
On our way home we pass many wooded areas their floors covered in Bluebells and with the sun shinning through the trees it makes a great end to the day.

Southwest Murcia – Hell’s Canyon

Leader: José Manuel Escarabajal
Participantes: PS, ML, MLM, DLM, IC., VH, AE.

CHECK LIST:
Roller, Swift, Mallard, Swallow, Bee-eater, Stone Curlew, Rock Dove, Jackdaw, Booted Eagle, Griffon Vulture, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Moorhen, Coot, House Martin, Sandpiper, Chough, Golden Oriole, Little Egret, Magpie, Short-toed Eagle, Red-legged Partridge, Nightingale, Black-eared Wheatear, Green Woodpecker, Rock Martin, Kestrel, Carrion Crow, Golden Eagle, Hoopoe, Spotless Starling, Spotted Flycatcher, Cattle Egret, Little Owl.

  The day starts at 8.30 with a quick coffee then an hours drive down to the southwest of Murcia. Our first stop on the way to the canyon is un-scheduled, we spot a Roller sitting on a cable with its bright blue chest shinning in the sun, also flying around are Swifts and Bee-eaters, colours everywhere! Back in the car we set off down counrty lanes to the first scheduled stop at a reservoir. As we unload our telescopes and cameras Jose spots a Booted eagle hunting for food, and above circling high in the sky are 12 Griffon vultures. Looking down from the high walls of the dame we can see Great Crested Grebe , Coots, Moorhens and Little Grebe fishing for there breakfast.  On the other side of the dame are House martins, Rock Dove, Chough and a fantastic looking Golden Oriole, sitting in the same group of trees is a Little Egret.
We move away from the dame down a tack following the out-skirts of the reservoir, here the weather changes and the clouds roll in bringing a light shower with them, as we turn a corner we spot a Short-toed eagle looking for prey.  At the other end of the reservoir we join a road again and head off for the canyon, on the short drive there we see Nightingale,Black-Eared Wheatear and on the roof of a farm shed Cattle Egrets.
Turning off the road on to a track are two Griffon vultures quite close so we stop and watch them, to our surprise they slowly get closer to the ground and disapear behind a hill, so we walk in that direction, when we reach the top they take off no more than 100 meters away, these birds are impressive with there massive wingspan.  Ten minutes more in the car and we reach the track for the canyon, we unload our backpacks and head off.  The track is easy waliking with breath-taking views of the pine clad mountains, we come to a stream with insects skimming about  in pools at its edge, and in the trees around us birds are singing.  We stop at an old house for a packed lunch in the shade of a big pine tree as another short shower passes.  After our lunch we head off  up the track which leads us to the canyon, here the high cliffs close in on us, and the trees growing on its steep faces make for a spectacular site. After a steady walk of half an hour we come to a bend in the canyon, we stop and set up our telescopes to look at a cliff face high above, on its ledges trying to keep out of the rain are Griffon vultures dotted everywhere.  The rain starts to get abit heavyer so we pack up and head for the car.
In a nearby village we stop for a quick coffee and deside to stop at one more place before we head home, on a quite road side we park the car and search the moutain for any sign of life, we spot some wild goats( Muflone) grazing under pine trees, and also high on a cliff face two Griffon Vultures shaking off the rain that has now stopped.  Shortly a Golden eagle appears above glidding around majesticly, while we watch its flight along the cliff it lunges at one of the vultures chassing it away, then it returnes and does the same to the second one, when the vultures are gone it takes a purch on a high ledge and keeps an eye on the area.  As we pack up and head for home a rainbow appears.
On the drive home we see Little owls along the road side sitting on posts and cables, with the daylight slowly fadeing away we spot a Golden eagle purched on a electric tower no more than 80 meters away, this has been a fantastic day even with a little rain.