Thursday 30 January 2014

Dave Elliott-Binns and his Arboleas Bird Group

Thursday 30 January

For those of you, like me, who enjoy reading about David and his Arboleas Bird Group up on the other side of Almeria you will, I would imagine, be beginning to think what has become of this band of nomadic birders as they wander the wastes and wilds of Almeria Province.  With Andy Paterson in New Zealand, I think he actually arrives this week-end, unles you are actually on David's mailing list you may have missed the past two outings so, in Andy's absence, I have great pleasure in bringing you all the latest news from Dave.  Indeed, if I play my cards right I might even be able to continue top provide readers with the latest updates whilst I, too, am down in NZ.  At the moment back in the UK prior to departure and suffering the wet, wet, wet followed by the white stuff!  

Two great reports and, as far as I know, all photographs by Dave unless Gilly has once again got her hands on the camera!

Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales  -  Wednesday 29th January 2014

The weather forecast on the TV was predicting rain coming in from the west as 16 of us hardy birdwatchers drank coffee in Pujaire before heading for the first hide on the Cabo de Gata nature reserve.  We already had 6 species in the bag, the most notable being a Southern Grey Shrike spotted by Phil. It was cloudy & a bit windy.  There were at least 3 large rafts of Black Necked Grebes to be seen, each containing between 40-50 birds. To the left in the more sheltered bay was a small group of Black Tailed Godwit and a Redshank . Paul later spotted a Greenshank there as well. On the narrow rocky causeway numerous birds were hunkered down sheltering from the wind.  An Audouin's Gull, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Kentish & Ringed Plover, a pair of Avocet and some more Godwit, one of which Gilly noted was different and was identified as a Bar Tailed. Checking the water edges I came across a single Spoonbill near some Little Egret. On the wildfowl front we saw Shelduck & Mallard, then Kevin spotted a single Brent Goose, a remarkable find so far south!
We then drove to the second hide, parking up adjacent to the beach.  Considerably windier here with good sized waves crashing on to the beach. We disturbed a group of maybe 25 Eurasian Curlew on the savannah.  I noted at least one Whimbrel amongst them as they landed on the beach. Out to sea a couple of Gannet were seen as were small flypasts of Balearic Shearwater.

Brent Goose  Branta bernicla  (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Sanderling  Calidris alba  (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Lesser Black Backed Gulls patrolled up & down. I was hoping the Brent Goose was still close to the hide, but it had moved away so was only able to get a "record" shot.  A Slender Billed Gull was swimming in the ditch to our right. On the scrubland there was very little to be seen, just Sardinian Warbler, House Sparrow, Serin & Stonechat. Gilly counted 290 Greater Flamingos.
We moved on to the public hide. Colin spotted some Linnet. More Serin were seen and a Thekla Lark. Nothing new was added to the list from the hide. As we left some Greenfinch flew over.  We headed for Cabo de Gata village for a coffee, noting Sanderling and a passing Cormorant. 
Wind increasing now as we drove along the beach track towards the Rambla de Morales.  As we parked a low flying Greater Flamingo struggled against the wind. At the beach end of the brackish lake, numerous Sanderling were feeding together with a few Kentish Plovers.  Above the reeds we saw Crag Martins.  We added White Headed Duck to the day list. As Gilly was feeling increasingly unwell with an overnight hacking cough I decided enough was enough and left.  I suspect the others followed shortly afterwards. We returned via the campsite route adding Common Pochard & Shoveler on the water & a pair of Cattle Egret near the visitors centre.
44 species for the day, the bright star being the Brent Goose.  The weather god was also kind considering the forecast.

Rambla de Almanzora & Vera   -   Wednesday 22nd January 2014

I travelled on my own to the Rambla de Almanzora as Gilly had a Christmas Lunch to go to.....yeah, don't go there!  There, above the "ford", I met up with 13 other members and two guests of Les & Lynn's, Eileen & Dolores...see, I did remember your names!  It was good to see returning holiday makers Phil & Sue again.  Checking on the birds in the pools opposite, we saw Black Winged Stilt, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Green Sandpiper, Ringed Plover & Little Stint. Also seen were Black Headed Gull, White Wagtail, Moorhen, Chiffchaff & Crested Lark.  We then walked up towards the desalination plant. Brian spotted the first Snipe of the day.  A Southern Grey Shrike showed well on the power line crossing the rambla whilst a Kestrel perched in a similar position but further away.  I spotted a Meadow Pipit and a Grey Wagtail was also seen. Lagging behind, Phil was lucky enough to spot his first ever Bluethroat, but it disappear into the shrubbery never to be seen again.   Near to the weir I added a Water Pipit & Les spotted a Dunlin with a pair of Little Stint.
After our usual coffee break in Villaricos village we headed for the beach.  On the harbour rocks were a couple of Audouin's Gulls, Cormorants, a Yellow Legged Gull, a Grey Heron and later a Little Egret.
The rocks closer to us eventually revealed a Kentish Plover & a Turnstone.  Out to sea at least 4 Black Necked Grebes were seen.  We then walked over to the estuary.  More Grey Herons were seen. Also Coot, Little Grebe and distant but good views of at least two Kingfishers.  A female Marsh Harrier came over, putting the flock of Black Headed Gulls to flight. A Sanderling was also seen.  The walk back to the vehicles along the beach added Grey Plover, Sandwich Tern, Lesser Black Backed Gull and a well spotted Mediterranean Gull sitting out to sea by sharp eyed Les.
We then convoyed to the dual carriageway above the pools at Vera.  We saw more Teal and at least two female Red Crested Pochard. In the pool opposite the Consum supermarket we added Common Pochard & White Headed Duck. A Cetti's Warbler was heard.  The star was an Adult Booted Eagle soaring above us. A large number of Crag Martins were feeding over the reeds & water.   We met up with Colin Harrison, who lives nearby. Interested in birds, especially photography, so hopefully he'll join us on our trips.
Ended up with 51 species for the day. Good to be back on my local patch. On a personal note, had to take Gilly to A&E last Thursday.  Her heart kept missing a beat. She's been put on beta-blockers and has an appointment with the cardiologist in February.........which reminds me.........I had my annual heart check up in an Almeria hospital yesterday...all ok....but on the way down the E15, between the prison & Almeria Airport, 8am, Eagle Owl flew across in front of us.  Cardiologist wondered why my blood pressure was slightly up....that could explain it!
Chiffchaff  Phylloscopus collybita  (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Southern Grey Shrike  Lanius meridionalis  (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)


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