Thursday, 25 April 2019

Las Norias & Roquetas - Bob

First Curlew Sanpiper Calidris ferruginea of year
Thursday 25 April

The weather seemed to promise rain everywhere local today so I was out of house extra early and up to Las Norias in Almeria in the hope that I could catch up with some of the excellent birds seen by friend Dave Elliott-Binns yesterday.  I might not have topped seventy but I was pleased with eventual morning's total of 53 species , especially given the ever-increasing strong winds that seemed to almost wipe out any chance of seeing and/or hearing the passerines and, like Dave yesterday, I, too, could not find a Collared Pratincole.

Dark for most of the journey but dry and basically calm and as the morning awoke It looked as if I might be in for a cloudy morning.  Approaching the first causeway at Las Norias I had some rough ground with puddles on my left showing a core or more Cattle Egrets opening up their sleepy eyes and, of course, local House Sparrows and Spotless Starlings to be seen.  Turning towards the "lake" I had a lovely view of a Linnet sat on the fence to my right.  The water looked quite choppy as I parked my car and opening the door the drizzle started, more of a damp rather than wet outlet so no deterrent to checking both sides of the roads as scores of both Common and Pallid Swifts fed over the water and verges.  Also present were a good number of Barn Swallows but far out-numbered by the swifts.  Reed Warblers and Nightingales were calling and on the water itself mainly Great Crested Grebes, at least a dozen, but also a pair of Gadwall.  Only the occasional Lesser Black-backed Gull but a good handful of Whiskered Terns were noted.  Finally, also a Moorhen and a few Coots were seen.

Continuing along the road to approach the far end of the water at the back I made my first stop at the far end (from the main road) and immediately picked up my first pair of Red-crested Pochard and a single roosting Night Heron.

Then back towards the main road to park near the bridge but first a stop near the meadow where I found a lone Turtle Dove seeking some shelter from the damp.

Distant record shot of Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur through car window

The waters from the bridge produced more Great Crested Grebes and another pair of Red-crested Pochard along with a couple of Mallard and a handful of Common Pochard.  Sheltering close to the island a pair of Shoveler and then  plenty of Collared Doves near the shepherd's muddy home field.  The path alongside had been cleared so I was able to reach the main lake and added Greenfinch, Hoopoe and Blackbird on my walk back to the car.  Lovely to see the maintenance work that has been done on the small water to clear away all the tipped rubbish but, I suspect, more for the benefit of fishermen rather than birders - but it works.  With the weather looking much brighter and the possibility of some sun I decided to carry on over to Roquetas de Mar and then call back at Las Norias on my way home.  (Must make sure not to be late home as we have tickets for this evening's performance of Verdi's Aida.)  And as I left to take the turn to San Agustin a Gull-billed Tern seemed to keep me company over and at the side of the car.

Male Red-crested Pochard pato Colorado Netta rufina

First call on arriving was to check out the track down to the lighthouse where I could see many Flamingos to my left and close at hand the Mediterranean Gull breeding colony, although not that many, and a quartet of Slender-billed Gulls.  To my left the first of the very many-to-be-seen Black-winged Stilts, a pair of Avocet and on the track in front of me a single Iberian Blue-headed Yellow Wagtail.

Avocet Avoceta Comun Recurvirostra avosetta

Continuing on round I found a small flock of Common Pochard and, almost in front of me, a Marsh Harrier rose from its hidden place in the tall grass and moved slowly away to continue quartering for its breakfast.  Just a few Coots on the water and some distant large gulls so nothing to add so I started my return journey to the road then stopped when I saw a yellow "blob" on the far side of the water to my left.  I thought so and use of the bins confirm the presence of  Squacco Heron but the little so-and-so refused to turn and smile for the camera!

Rear view of Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides
I did try to reach the "hidden lake" just off the sharp bend towards the west, passing both a pair of Crested Larks and Magpie and another Hoopoe on the way, but with only a 4 x 2 and no other person seen anywhere near the area if things went wrong, I decided not to risk finding out the depth of the huge lake across the track.  It was bad enough last time I visited this site and this morning was decidedly worse!

So, retrace my steps and drive back towards Roquetas to make a stop at the large fresh water lake.  Again, lots of Coots and a good number of Common Pochard but only a handful at most of Mallard.  However, just like Dave yesterday, scoping the far side of the water found a number of Little Egrets and a singe Grey Heron resting on the edges.

So, finally, on to the end of the road to take the sandy track through the old salinas.  The little picnic pool provided another pair of Red-crested Pochard and a single Little Grebe along with the Mallards.  It must have been some kind of omen as from that point onwards it seem that whenever larger birds put in appearance they were nearly always Red-crested Pochards and I would estimate, on the whole in total, the Red-crested far outnumbered the Common Pochards.

Kentish Plover Chorlitejo Patinegro Charadrius alexandrinus
Very few birds on the main scrapes to the left other than Black-winged Stilts, they were everywhere, apart from a few Kentish Plover.  I had been used to seeing the many Whiskered Terns and they were once again present but now also larger Gull-billed Terns.  Then, in a very short distance, I not only had a trio of Little Tern but also a couple of Common Tern.  To seem them fly pass with their distinctive forked tails as well as red beaks one can well-understand why their scientific name is Sterno hirundo - compared with the Barn Swallow's Hirundo rustica.

Dunlin  Correlimos Comun Calidris alpina with Curlew Sandpiper and Kentish Plover in the middle
A little later I picked up my first Black-headed Gulls of the morning and then it was time to "ignore" the very many Flamingo and concentrate on those very few pools that actually held waders and resting terns.  The first produced a very healthy group of Dunlin and Ringed Plover along with a few Kentish Plover and possibly as many as a handful of Curlew Sandpipers.  It was whilst checking this pool out on my return drive that I witnessed the arrival of a score of Sanderling to join the mixed wader flock but the Gull-billed Terns that I hoped to take from a different angle had mainly moved on.

Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica with Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula and Curlew Sandiper in water
As I turned to drive down the tack to the old pumping station a Woodchat Shrike sat proudly on top of a bush keeping a beady eye on what might become available for an early lunch and once at the end of the road I had lovely views of the close group of Flamingos in the company of both Coots and a number of Avocet.  A single Black-necked Grebe was recorded as was a were a couple of Little Stint and resting Common Tern.

Small goup of the hundreds of Flamingos Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus present on the waters
Working my way back not only a couple of Common Kestrel overhead but I could see that there were still a good number of Shelduck in the area.  I also stopped to take a close look at a pair of Slender-billed Gulls and a feeding Redshank that seemed quite oblivious to the car - I remained inside. Also present on one of the pools was a trio of Cattle Egret but, again, difficult to try and get a good view for photographing.

Two of many Slender-billed Gulls Gaviota Picofina Larus genei
So with the temperature creeping up and some blue skies and sunshine I made my way back to Las Norias to revisit the site from the opposite direction.  Amazingly, just approaching the plastic recycling turn I had a Great Spotted Cuckoo fly over the road in front of me but with traffic behind unable to stop.  Getting out of the car it was not so much the scarcity of birds on the water other than Great Crested Grebes but the wind that had really picked up a pace.  So on to the end to find that the Night Heron had departed but happily sitting at the edge watching the very many Red-rumped Swallows and, not so many, House Martins, eating my sandwiches I noticed the Red-crested Pochards sitting on the stone bank just across the water and, close by, a pair of Shoveler.  Had I not been looking in that direction and at that specific time I would not have seen the Little Bittern that flew across the small gap in the reed right in front of me.  What a lovely bird to end on.

Lots of Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus to be seen at Las Norias

I did call again at the main causeway where I had started and whilst the swifts and swallows were still very active the wind was blowing like a gale producing very choppy waters and almost impossible to use the scope, both hands being needed just to stop everything falling over.  I had had a good morning so I took the opportunity to head off home for a rest before the evening's opera.

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Night Heron, Squacco Heron, Grey Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Sanderling, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Redshank, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Common Tern, Little Tern, Whiskered Tern, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Nightingale, Blackbird, Reed Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Linnet

Woodchat Shrike Alcaudon Comun Lanius senator
Common Redshank Archibebe Comun Tringa erythropus
Avocets with Coot, Black-winged Stilts Himantopus himantopus, Common Terns Sterno hirundo and a Gull-billed Tern




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