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!

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