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)

Looking raptors inside Murcia

TRIP REPORT

GUIDES: Paul Sparkes & J. M. Escarabajal

PARTICIPANTS: Ray Wright, Chris Keep & John Hodgkins

CHECKLIST:

Jackdaw, Greenfinch, Stonechat, Magpie, Wheatear, Southern Grey Shrike, Crested Lark, Dartford Warbler, Red-legged Partridge, Curlew, Rock Dove, Greenshank,  Moorhen, Green Sandpiper, Crow, Sparrowhawk, Little Owl, Blackbird, Yellow-legged Gull, Common Tern, Rock Sparrow, Cattle Egret, Little Grebe, Peregrine Falcon, Short-toed Lark, Spotless Starling, Green Woodpecker, Jay, Crossbill,  Short-toed Treecreeper, Chough, Kestrel, Golden Eagle, Hoopoe, Bonelli’s Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Osprey.

We met our friends at an afternoon’s  birding in the wetlands of southern Alicante, after chatting  we agreed on a  guided tour in the Murcia region for another day.

As agreed we met on Saturday October 13 at a gas station on the road halfway between Murcia and Alicante and headed for the interior plains in search of Murcia’s raptors often in these ecosystems for food during this season.

We did not have much luck with birds of prey in the early hours of the morning but other birds stopped to pose in front of our telescopes: several Stonechats, Warblers and Crested Larks began cheering the day followed by several views of Grey Shrike, Jackdaw, Magpie, Red-legged Partridge and numerous flocks of Greenfinch. We continue the morning with good observations of a flock of Stone curlews (Ray’s favorite) and a Little Owl on the road to the slopes of one of the junctions that crosses this natural landscape, we made several stops at some of the irrigation ponds that are in area, their we could see aquatic species such as Greenshank, Green Sandpiper and  Little Grebe.

We approach the slopes of sandstone and from a distance we see a harrier attacking a flock of Jackdaws then disaperse. Raptors begin to appear as we start a short walk along the river bed, here there are several rock doves, more Jackdaws, kestrel and a pair of Ravens. And a few minutes later, in an area close to the look-out ponit we see one of the stars of the day: a small group of Rock Sparrows  Spotted by Ray while a little further away is a peregrine falcon on the plain.

We decided to try our luck in the nearby mountains to continue  tracking birds of prey. So we drive our car up the steep slopes of the mountain range between dense green pines. It was time to make a stop for a light snack, a typical mountain restaurant where John had a friendly meeting with a group of wild boars that usually come to eat the leftovers from the restaurant. After lunch we left very satisfied. We continue our search in the heart of the forest. During the short ride we could locate the Crossbill, Jay, Green Woodpecker, and after a great deal of Twitter Search to a fleeting and elusive Short-toed Treecreeper (another star of the day), but in the rugged mountain tops the  birds on show were more lively with the presence of a Peregrine Falcon, a couple of crows and several choughs.

As large raptors didn’t appear we headed back to the  plains to end the evening. And our decision was correct because on the way back, and out of the mountains, Jose spotted a copy of Golden eagles circling on  the low hills. It was the beginning of a promising end, as usual for itineraries with Birding Murcia, the late hours of the evening are one of the best times of day. Indeed, again Jose discovered a female subadult Bonelli’s eagle perched on power line its crop crammed with food. We were able to watch her  with our telescopes until she decided to move away in search of its roost. Just a few minutes later a female marsh harrier flew by our observation point and almost simultaneously an osprey took flight from a nearby pole doing a flyby over our heads to the satisfaction of the whole group. A dramatic end that left us all a big smile …

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