Thursday, 2 February 2023

Avalon Marshes, Somerset Levels

 Wednesday 1 February

Glastonbury Tor seen from Ham Wall

A lovely, sunny start to the day as I departed Sand Bay for the Avalon Marshes on the Somerset Levels.  First stop, arriving before 10 o'clock, was the RSPB reserve at Ham Wall. Suitably dressed with boots to cater for the potential muddy tracks was the feeding station which produced both Great and Blue Tits along with Robin, Dunnock, Reed Bunting, Chaffinch and Blackbird. Then off to follow an anti-clockwise circuit of he reserve including all adjacent pools and tracks leading to hides. Starlings and Magpies as I started and at the first watch point immediately recorded Mute Swan and an assorted of ducks including Mallard, Teal, Wigeon plus a couple of Cormorant and a flypast of a small flock of Lapwing.

Blue Tit Parus caerulus

A little further on I stopped at the first hide and screens overlooking the pools on my right.  Most obvious of sightings was the lovely Great White Egret and a visiting Glossy Ibis.  Also present more of the already seen ducks plus both Moorhen and Little Grebe.

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus
Great White Egret Ardea alba

Continuing on down to Viewing Point 2 I had a view of many resting Teal and Lapwing whilst in the distance at least four quartering Marsh Harriers including a magnificent distant male. Walking these paths it was obvious that the smaller birds were used to being fed by visitors to the site as every time you stopped within seconds at least one Robin would be as near to you as possible.. Even the Great Tits were visitor friendly and I suspect given the appropriate food the Robins would feed from your hand.  In the nearby trees both a small number of Goldfinch and a handful of Long-tailed Tits. The occasional Dunnock along with Reed Bunting would regularly put in an appearance.

Record shot of distant male Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus

In addition to the many Wigeon and Shoveler the final pool also held a number of Pochard. And walking back to the car park I recorded Blackbird and Heron along with a couple of Carrion Crows.

Leaving the site I crossed the road to enter the Shapwick Heath Nature Reserve. A Mute Swan on the canal and reaching the Tower Hide I was bale to get an aerial view of the large pool on my right.  Very many Wigeon, Gadwall, Shoveler, Tufted Duck and Teal plus a number of Mallard. But at this time, no matter how I looked at every Wigeon in sight, I could not find the reported American Wigeon that arrived last week. In the distance more Marsh Harriers and a couple of Carrion Crows. Nearer to me, the charm of 40 Goldfinches had settled into the tree on the other side of the canal.

            Mainly Wigeon Anas penelope with Gadwall A.strepera and Shoveler A.clypeata

Continuing on down to the bridge over the canal I took the track to my left to visit the next two hides.  On the way to the first a Great White Egret was resting in the stream to my right and a number of Mute Swans could be seen further off in the same direction.  By now the sun had gone and the wind grew stronger by the hour but, at least, it remained dry. Nothing extra to be seen so made my way across to the neighbouring hide and was rewarded by a visiting Great Spotted Woodpecker.  Nothing else from that hide so back to the can and across to the small spinney on the other side,  A Blackbird seen as I entered the trees and at least a little temporary shelter from the now strong, cold breeze.

Great White Egret Ardea alba

Time to head back to the car park and seek ventures new coming across a Heron on the way.  Stopping to check the original pool once again, a passing couple of local birders asked if I'd seen the American Wigeon to which I replied in the negative.  They had seen the bird, with scope, from the Tower Hide and directed me towards the dam bank in front.  Evidently this had been where they had first seen the bird last week and were able to point me in the right direction.  The bird was close to the shore and not so far away but well concealed by both vegetation and boulders.  Finally, the green head of the bird was seen and, as I watched, the bird slightly raised its head and turned so presenting the white stripe across the crown to view.  Sadly, very difficult to get a clear photograph of the bird but if you screw your eyes up you can just about make out the head of the American Wigeon in the photograph.  Leaving the site to cross back into the Ham Wall car park I noticed the Jackdaw sitting atop a nearby pole.

American Wigeon Anas americana.   Look immediately right of the male Wigeon Anas penelope and you can just make out the green head almost next to the upright post.

My final, short, visit of the day was to the relatively nearby Catcutt Reserve. Collared Dove, Herring Gull and Kestrel as I approached the site and once parked up a couple of Great White Egrets in the company of a single Little Egret. A walk to the nearest hide produced a Blackbird on the way and outside the building a handful of feeding Long-tailed Tits. Frome the hide a view across the flooded meadow to the single Mute Swan and a flock of 58 Canada Geese.  Further away to my extreme right a trio of Greylag Geese and a Robin as I walked back to the car.

Robin Erithacus rubecula

Leaving the site to start my homeward journey a Heron, Buzzard and a large flock of Starlings. Not just a couple of Woodpigeon but in the first farmed field a very large flock of Rooks. A very rewarding day with over 40 species recorded and the weather improving as I journeyed back.

Male Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula

Birds seen:

Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Wigeon, European Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Glossy Ibis, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Woodpigeon, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting.

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus

Goldfinches Carduelis carduelis

Great Tit Parus major

Great White Egret Ardea alba

Great White Egret Ardea alba

Little Egret Egretta garzetta

Common Pochard Aythya ferina

Jackdaw Corvus monedula

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Wednesday, 1 February 2023

Rambla de Almanzora & Vera Playa

 Wednesday 1 February

So everybody out birding in the first day of the month and the first House Martin of the year already back in Andalucia thanks o the sharp-eyed members of the Arboleas Birding Group.  Lots of familiar friends recorded on the list and my special of the day was an American Wigeon on Somerset Levels at the Shapwick Heath reserve.  Set off for Santander this Friday evening for ten days with son in Valencia so how many Spanish birds can I record in the short time?  No doubt I'll be able to compare when I see the Arboleas report for next week.

Rambla de Almanzora & Vera Playa  Wednesday 1st February

It was a cold morning when I set off from home, thinking how stupid I was to be wearing shorts!  I picked Juda up from the La Alfoquia petrol station as there's major roadworks on the E15/A7 southbound.  We made our way to the ramble de Almanzora, joining it at the Desert Springs golf complex end.  There was actually a small amount of water present albeit only large puddles which hadn't attracted any birds.  A couple of Magpies flew over and some Starling flocks were seen.  Getting nearer to the ford crossing I found a group of 4 Teal on a larger puddle.  The ford pond didn't have any birds that I could see but I did hear a Cetti's Warbler.  Juda saw a Moorhen to the right.

Peter, Richard, Kevin, Val and Trevor joined us as did a new member, Peter S.  Richard had seen a Black Redstart and a Yellow-l Legged Gull.  A group of Shoveler flew into the ford.  Also seen were Woodpigeon and White Wagtail.  As we were about to leave for the beach Richard saw a Stonechat.

Val had already arrived at the beach and had logged Mediterranean Gull, Turnstone, Sanderling and Cormorant.  Some House Sparrows were flitting about.  Kevin and I were searching out to sea in an attempt to see a Gannet.  I said, " We need John here to find one".  Within seconds I found one.  How eyrie is that?

We drove round to the far side of the estuary.  The sun was a problem, but we managed to see Mallard, 4 Shelduck, Little Egret and Black Headed Gull.  Kevin found some Sandwich Terns and an Audouin's Gull on the beach.  Peter S saw a Little Grebe while the other Peter logged a Grey Heron.  Also seen were Chiffchaff and Little Stint.

After a refreshing coffee in Villaricos village where Kevin added a Collared Dove, we made our way to the dual carriageway opposite the Consum supermarket behind Vera Playa.  In the water shrub area to the right I counted 42 Moorhen.  We could see a number of Greater Flamingos, Black-winged Stilts, Shovelers and the odd Teal.  There were numerous Crag Martins flying around.  Both Kevin and I thought we'd glimpsed a House Martin which we confirmed later on.  Also seen were Shelduck, Coot, Kentish and Little Ringed Plovers and 5 Little Stints.  Kevin then found a pair of Ruff (or should that be a Ruff and a Reeve?)

Common Coot (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We moved round to the elevated viewing platform opposite the Acuaparc.  Lots of Black-headed Gulls interspersed with a few Mediterranean Gulls.  Lots of Coot.  Trevor spotted the Western Swamphen in the opposite reed line.

Western Swamphen (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Thankfully the weather warmed up for my cold knees.  We ended with 39 species.  Thank you all for attending, making it a good day.
Regards, Dave

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Steart Marshes and Sandy Point, Somerset

Tuesday 31 January

Last day of January and it's started dull and damp with some light drizzle and the threat of increasing wind as the day progresses.  Nevertheless I was away by 9 for the drive down the M5 to Bridgwater and then on to the coast to reach the Steart Marshes Reserve, just on an hour later.  At least the rain had stopped and a break in the cloud was most promising as, indeed, the sun came out for an unexpected pleasant morning.  Very much a case of more quality than quantity with a total of only 29 species but what species did I see! 

Steart Marshes with the the construction of the new Hinckley Nuclear Power Station in the background

Magpie, Woodpigeon and Blackbird recorded on the lane immediately outside the reserve's car park and then off to the Quantock Hide.  No sooner had I set off along the track than a pair of Grey Partridge crossed immediately on front of me. In the distance I could see hundreds of waders, Lapwings and Golden Plover, up in the sky having, no doubt been flushed by a passing raptor.  Once in the hide, and in the company of two local birders, the Lapwings and Golden Plover must have totalled at least 500 each, hence a reference to quantity.  

Resting Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria

Strange to look at these massed resting waders with the construction work of the new Hinkley Point nuclear power station being constructed on the background and, out of interest, one of my companions took it upon himself to count the number of cranes on the building site; 42!

Mainly Lapwing Vanellus vanellus

Apart from the above waders the next job was trying to accurately count the 90+ Shelduck.  Duly completed then on with identifying the remaining birds.  Surprisingly few Redshanks but good numbers of both Teal and Shoveler until I found a large flock of Wigeon way off to the back of the lagoon.  Near at hand a lone Heron.  It was whilst all this was going on that all the waders took to the air once more and ere long the culprit was found as a passing Merlin came into sight.

Now where's the Merlin that put up the Lapwing and Golden Plover?

Time to move to the adjacent hide and check a different view of this water.  More Shelduck but at the very back a large resting flock of mixed gulls.  Mainly Herring but also a number of Black-headed and at least two Common Gulls.  And then more excitement as a Peregrine Falcon flew past the hide.

Time to move on and I took my self off to the Mendip Hide overlooking a grassy meadow.  As I moved  towards the hide looking at the Hinkley building site I noticed the quartet of Mute Swans flying low over the site.  Here a quartet of Carrion Crow and then the first Marsh Harrier.  Hardly had the bird moved on than we watched a male Hen Harrier come drifting across the back from left to right.  Meanwhile a single Little Egret was moving across the vegetation to our left. 

Moving on down towards the river to visit the Parrett Hide I recorded a Kestrel in front of me and then was able to see a second Marsh Harrier from within the hide before one of the local birders found an unexpected visitor on the banks of the river; a Bar-headed Goose which, no doubt, had probably escaped from not too distant Slimbridge Wildlife Reserve. Just before departing I watched a couple of Meadow Pipits drop in below the hide.  Then, making my way back to the car park, both Blue Tit and Chaffinch were observed.

Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus (From the Internet)

As if not content with already recording five raptors I stopped about a mile on from the reserve to change from boots to trainers for driving back to Sand Bay and was rewarded by the visit of a Buzzard.

Arriving back at Sand Bay I continued up the narrow lane to visit Sandy Point.  Making my way up the steep path to the summit I had close views of Robin, Dunnock, Magpie and Carrion Crow.  Once on the summit lovely view looking back across the bay to Sand Bay and by using the the spotting scope I could make out the bird life on the shore below as the receding tide edged further away.  In addition to a number of Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit there was in excess of 100 Shelduck.

Sand Bay and the beach with scores of feeding Shelduck as seen from the summit of Sandy Point

A lone Herring Gull passed overhead as I started my descent and once at the bottom added Great Tit, Wood Pigeon and Blackbird before setting off to Sand Bay and a small number of House Sparrows as I reached the not too distant first house.

Birds seen:

Bar-headed Goose, Mute Swan, Shelduck, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Grey Partridge, Little Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Woodpigeon, Meadow Pipit, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch.

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Monday, 30 January 2023

Westward Travel to Weston Super Mare

Monday 30 January

Off from home just after 8 to drive westwards to Weston Super Mare in Somerset for four nights.  In theory it is to attend a dance theme stay at Pontins but at the silly price of £75 for four nights full board why waste the opportunity to try and discover some Somerset birding sites; both for this week and possible future visits.  Again, why take the motorway when good sites to visit on the way and birds to find before the end of the month.

First stop Fishlake Meadows for a quick walk through the site, approximately three kms.  One species needed to male it a century for the month so the real possibilities would be Cetti's Warbler, Fieldfare, Pheasant and Red Kite.  However, no luck at the first stop albeit a lovely Buzzard and no less than three Wrens along with both Greylag and Canada Geese, Mute Swan, Pochard and Teal.

Buzzard Buteo buteo

One hour's driving by another to take me to Langford Nature Reserve west of Salisbury on the A36.  Most surprised to see the amount of flooding still in evidence, not just the meadows but many minor roads through beautiful old fashion villages.  A number of birders present but limited birds apart from the scores of Canada Geese.  A couple of Chaffinches then the usual Blue and Great Tits, Robin and Wren before finding both Tufted Duck and Gadwall.

Female Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula

Sitting in the hide and looking at the resting Cormorants in the tops of the trees on the opposite bank I was delighted to see a Red Kite drift over the hill behind the birds. Most of the corvids recorded here including Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook and Carrion Crow and then, as I made my way back to the car, not just the calling but the very brief sighting of a single Cetti's Warbler. So, two of the potential target birds seen and things were to get even better five minutes after leaving the site.  No sooner back on the A36 and driving westwards when, not a Pheasant but a lone Grey Partridge, pit in an appearance on the left as it casually strolled along the verge.  Now that was most unexpected.

Another hour's driving brought me to Chew Valley and its very large lake.  The first stop at Herring Bridge bought numerous Mute Swans and Mallards along with Black-headed Gulls and a Moorhen.  No shortage of Tufted Ducks and on the far side of the water I was in time to see the (true) pair of Goosander swim in front of the reed bed before disappearing out of sight.

Distant record shot of Goosander pair Mergus merganser

Moving round in a clockwise direction I next stopped at the bottom of Stratford Lane and the small spinney here produced both Blue and Great Tit along with a Tree-creeper.  But even more impressive were the two Cetti's Warblers going about their business and quite undeterred by my presence. Continuing on to the causeway over the water at Herons Green Bay I stopped to find even more Mute Swans and Mallards resting below me.  Out on the water more Tufted Duck along with Pochard and a few Pintails.  Also present a couple of pairs of Great Crested Grebes.


Birds seen:

Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Gadwall, Mallard, Teal, Pintail, Pochard, Goosander, Grey Partridge, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Red Kite, Buzzard, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Woodpigeon, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Tree-creeper, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, Chaffinch.

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Sunday, 29 January 2023

Farlington marsh & Hayling Island

Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus

 Sunday 29 January

The intention was to join the HOS meeting at Farlington Marshes but having arrived over thirty minutes early I decided to start off on the anti-clockwise circuit before catching cold and whilst there were also less people about.  If it was not for the hundreds of Brent (mainly) and Canada Geese then, especially with the tide almost fully out, there were relatively few birds about.  Dry, calm and overcast with a distinct chill in the air as I set off having already recorded both Magpie and Buzzard as I approached the reserve.  Very quickly a handful of Woodpigeons were observed and walking to the sea wall both a Blue Tit and five Greenfinches.  Once on the sea wall a few Carrion Crows, the first of very many Moorhen and a couple of Teal.  Continuing on I soon found a pair of Mallard along with a Coot and off on the mudflats  the first Curlew of the morning.

The pool to my left held not only Brent Geese but scores of resting Pintail and then dozens of Lapwing on the opposite side of the water. It was whilst I was counting the Shelduck that I saw the passing, the hovering Kestrel, and two more were to be seen ere my visit ended.  Naturally, always a few Black-headed Gulls to be seen but no Herring Gulls until I reached the far side of the peninsular.

Male Kestrel Falco tinnunculus

Continuing o I came across another flock of Canada Geese and this group also included the long-staying Barnacle Goose.  Whilst checking the group a Stonechat arrive to perch on a small twig below me on the opposite side on the dyke. A few more Mallards and the first of many Wigeon were next recorded. Once on the far side near the small pools I found more lapwing, Wigeon and Pintails along with the Shoveler contingent whilst on the shore a Redshank and Turnstone plus over a hundred foraging Dunlin.  On the running water a trio of Great Crested Grebes and more Oystercatchers and Shelduck. A Little Egret was feeding on the far bank.

Male Pintail Anas acuta

So on to the always closed Visitors Centre passing more Canada and Brent Geese and once arrived a pair of Mute Swans were observed on the water in front.  A Robin was singing and posing in the tree next to the building and also found in the area were Great Tit, Starling and Blackbird.

Having finished earlier than anticipated I drove on over to Hayling Island to check the entrance to the oyster beds behind the Esso petrol station.  A walk along the shore revealed more Brent Geese along with a number of Carrion Crows and Oystercatchers.  A single Little Egret was feeding near the sea bank and in front of me a couple of Rock Pipits were disturbed by a dog running loose along the shore and under no control from its accompanying owners.  Moving on to the main pool I found a trio of Black-heeded and single Herring, Great Black-backed and Mediterranean Gulls.  At the back of the water three Little Grebes were observed.  Looking out into the main channel I was fortunate to be able to locate the presently resident trio of Red-breasted Mergansers, a female and two males.

Great black-backed Gull Larus marinus

Finally, a drive down to the end of the island and along the shore road to the ferry terminal produced Woodpigeons, Starlings and House Sparrows in addition to the many Black-headed Gulls on the water itself.

Male and female Pintail Anas acuta with male Teal Anas crecca in background

Birds seen:

Canada Goose, Barnacle Goose, Brent Goose, Mute Swan, Shelduck, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pintail, Red-breasted Merganser, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Little Egret, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Dunlin, Curlew, Redshank, Turnstone, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Woodpigeon, Rock Pipit, Robin, Stonechat, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Greenfinch.

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Friday, 27 January 2023

Eyeworth and Blashord Lakes

Robin Erithacus rubecula

Friday 27 January

A little on the overcast side as, with friend Richard Osman, we set off for the New Forest.  No rain, very still and signs that the sun would break through once we had started birding.  With Richard new to our birding world I hope for a range of ducks with target bird for Eyeworth being the "flashy" Mandarin Duck and the hope that we would find Goldeneye along with Brambling and Siskin at Blashford. Well, I suppose 1 out of three is better than none out of three!

The big surprise at Eyeworth was nevermind no Mandarin, there was not even one of the usual score or more Mallard on site as a result of the water still being frozen solid; now that was certainly not expected, the temperature having risen in these past two or three days. However, with distant Carrion Crows and Woodpigeons resting in the tops of the bae trees opposite we did manage to find the usual crop of small birds.  Lovely, for a change, to see so many House Sparrows and a handful of Blackbirds rather than the usual one or less.  Lots of Blue and Great Tits plus a single Marsh Tit accompanied by a good number of Chaffinches before the lone Nuthatch arrived on site.  Similarly, no shortage of either Robin or Dunnock along with a couple of Pied Wagtail and a skating Moorhen.

Nuthatch Sitta europaea

So on to Blashford Lakes picking up both Magpie and Rook as we approached the last turn off the main road onto the site entrance.  Immediately it was evident that numbers on Ibsley Water seemed to be down on last week's visit albeit still many Coots to be seen.  Much fewer Tufted Duck on the open water but well over a hundred Pintail which was certainly the dominant species of the morning.  Still lots of Wigeon and a good number of Shoveler along with many Gadwall and a handful of Pochard.  Just the eight Canada Geese and neither Mute Swan nor Egyptian Goose.  Yes, plenty of Herring and a couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls along with a dozen Cormorant but much searching to find the pair of Goosander.

Female Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula

Noting both Carrion Crow and Jackdaw as we moved across the road to the main reserve to discover that the preferred path from the entrance car park was closed due to the remaining ice.  Reaching Ivy North Hide we found the northern end still ice bound upon which rested scores of both Wigeon and Teal.  On the open water more of the same, but fewer in number, along with a few Herring Gulls, Cormorant and Gadwall. A Great White Egret flew past the pair of Mute Swans immediately in front of the hide and well-spotted by Richard.   On the far side a lone Green Sandpiper was foraging along the water's edge.

Male Gadwall Anas strepera

Moving off through the trees to the Woodland Hide we quickly encountered both Blackbird and Blue Tit and once inside the hide the immediate appearance of a Nuthatch.  Very many Blue and Great Tits but just the one, male, Siskin.  The usual supply of Chaffinches, Robins and Dunnocks but many more Blackbirds than usually seen here.  However, always good to see the arrival of those lovely little Long-tailed Tits.

Male Siskin Carduelis spinus

Finally, off down to the Ivy South Hide where the duck population was mainly the very large flock of Wigeon and much closer to the hide itself.  Also a good number of both Shoveler and Teal and then more Gadwall.  Just the one Great Crested Grebe observed and only a handful of Black-headed but a few more Herring Gulls.  Just before our departure a Heron flew over the reeds to our left and we also found a single male Pochard.  Meanwhile, on the trees to our left, resting Cormorants with more looking for resting places on the floating platforms.

Wigeon Anas penelope

Making our way back to the car we stopped to look at the Kingfisher well concealed in the branches of a low bush on the opposite side of the pool to our left and, calling in for a final look from the Woodland Hide, discovered a couple of foraging Redwing working their way through the ground leaves.  Even a ting Bank Vole had come out to see what all the activity was about as it made short, darted runs to where it might find food.

Spot the Kingfisher Alcedo atthis

No sooner had we left the main site than we found a large flock of passing Rooks and a couple more Magpies. Then, out of the New Forest and passing the flooded River Test, a Buzzard crossed the motorway and there were a few Starlings resting on the wires too our right, so giving a final total of 42 species of the morning.

Dunnock Prunella modularis

Birds seen:

Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Wigeon, Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal, Pintail, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goosander, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Great White Egret, Heron, Buzzard, Moorhen, Coot, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Woodpigeon, Kingfisher, Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Redwing, Long-tailed Tit, Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Siskin.

Female Blackbird Turdus merula

Long-tailed Tit 

This Robin Erithacus rubecula is checking all is OK above!

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Caba de Gata with the Arboleas Birding Group

 Wednesday 25 January

So, the Arboleas Birding Group meets again at one of my favourite Almeria sites and get to meet the severe cold weather; just like being back in Britain!  Not many birds in terms of quantity but quality certainly provided by the Stone Curlews and Golden Plover.  Indeed, many back here in the UK would have been delighted to add both Kentish Plover and White-headed Duck to the their day's listing.  It seems, if not too careful, we take so much for granted in our birding. Like you and your group Dave, you just have to enjoy what you see.

Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales: Wednesday 25th January

Boy, was it cold this morning!  I had to scrape the ice off the truck and detach the windscreen wipers that were frozen on to the glass!  I only just made it in time to pick Peter up from the Overa hotel before heading south towards Cabo de Gata.  There was snow on Mojacar's Cabrera mountains as well as the mountains to the north of Almeria city, which we could see when we egressed the truck by the first hide.

Snow on the mountains behind Almeria city (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

As Kevin had reported last week, the water has returned but unfortunately the avian masses had not received the news!  I scanned the shallow salina in front of us and all I could see on the vast expanse was a single Shelduck and a Yellow-legged Gull.  There was a Kentish Plover on the muddy beach to our right.  We were joined by Trevor and Kevin.  In the far distance I could see a small flock of Greater Flamingos.  We'd get a better view of them from the second hide.  The first of numerous Stonechats was spotted alternating between shrub perching and chasing insects along the ground.  A flight of Mallard flew over.  A chattering female Sardinian Warbler eventually showed herself below us.  Kevin had already seen Northern Starling and White Wagtail near to the Guardia Civil tower plus some Jackdaws. The latter were still flying around there as we passed by after our warming cup of coffee in Cabo village.

We parked up opposite the second hide and did a scan over the sea.  Not a chorizo!  We walked towards the hide, seeing more Stonechats. We were closer to the Greater Flamingos. They were all adults in a tight group.  I estimated there were about 60, which is 59 more than had been present last week when Kevin was here.  The only other birds on or around the water were numerous Yellow-legged Gulls.  I scanned the savannah to the left and was pleased to spot two sunbathing Stone Curlews.  They were joined by another pair.  As we were walking back to the vehicles I spotted a hovering Kestrel to our right.  Also seen was a Thekla Lark.

Sunbathing Stone Curlews Burhinus oedicnemus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We drove to the public hide, checking the savannah for wintering Dotterels as we went along, but to no avail.  We only added some four Cormorants visible from the hide.  On the far side we saw more Mallard and Shelduck.  The salina to the right was still not full of water.

We then drove along the track to the church only seeing the odd Stonechat.  As we made our way back along the beach straight a wader flew across the road in front of us.  A Grey Plover showing off its black wing pits.  Kevin who was following behind Trevor and I spotted 5 Eurasian Curlews on the savannah.

We drove along the beach side track towards the Rambla Morales.  I spotted movement on the ground to our right.  It was a mixed flock of feeding birds.  There were 5 Golden Plovers,  Northern Starlings and some Skylarks.  One Kentish Plover was amongst them.  Kevin was first out of his vehicle at the Morales "car park".  He spotted a Coot by the "estuary".  I found a single Audouin's Gull.  We headed for the hump.  From there we added Little Egret, a Shoveler and a female White-headed Duck.  We made our way back to the vehicles, said our goodbyes and headed home.  I stopped by the Golden Plovers to get a record shot.  En route to the motorway we added two Iberian Grey Shrikes, one on a power line, the other in the plastic greenhouse area going along the short cut.

Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We ended up with 25 species.  Not yet up to Cabo's usual amount but the numbers are progressively getting better after the enforced "drought"!  A lovely morning's birding albeit somewhat chilly.  Good to be out and about with friends.
Regards,
Dave


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