Monday, 14 March 2016

Andalucia Bird Society Field Meeting at Cabo de Gata

Saturday 12 March

Thirty-seven members present for the march field meeting of the Andalucia Bird Society of whom all bar four spent at least one night at the neighbouring Blanca Brisa Hotel.  A beautiful, warm sunny day and the party split into at least five groups of varying sizes to make the day both enjoyable and profitable, in birding terms, for all concerned.  As the day progressed some parties seemed to lose a car then gather another and most met up with each day on the restricted area that we covering including the five hides around the lagunas, the lighthouse area, mountain road and rambler with its truncated river slightly to the west of the village.  By the time we had all gathered together again at the end of the day almost 80 species had been recorded by the group as a whole and, I am sure, no one group recording less than 55 birds.

Black Wheatear  Oenanthe leucura (PHOTO: Steve Powell)
One or two managed a quick sortie before our 8.30 breakfast and it certainly paid dividends for John and Jenny Wainwright as they managed to record the only Shag seen during the day.  W had set out with three "special" target birds and a lot of other great birds that might be seen.  The Wainwrights had seen the Shag, John Brooks and Margot managed to be the only couple to find a Trumpeter Finch but most got a brief glimpse of the couple of Dotterel that seemed to have taken up residence with a small flock of Golden Plover.  On the other hand, many of us had great views of the Dotterel on the way up yesterday and Luis Alberto and Elaine Wallace were taken to the site at the end of the day on their way back to Malaga and not only saw the target bird but, along with Derek Etherton, even got a quick sight of Black-bellied Sandgrouse; lucky them.

Dotterels Charadrius morinallus (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
Most saw Common Kestrel and other raptors seen included Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk and Peregrine Falcon along with Little Owl, Iberian and Woodchat Shrikes.  The six gull species included Slender-billed, Audouin's and Mediterranean plus Balearic Shearwater, Sandwich Tern, Gannet and Cormorants so sea birds were well represented.  On the other hand, ducks were limited to Shelduck, Mallard and Shoveler.  Just the single Grey Heron and a very small number of Little Egret plus a single Cattle Egret that was following the goat herd.  Not the same problem with Flamingos as there were scores to be seen.
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

There were wades a plenty with Avocet being the dominant bird but also, of the small waders, Kentish Plover being the most obvious.  Just a few Ringed Plovers and a similar number of Redshanks and even fewer Black-tailed GodwitsDunlin, Sanderling, a Turnstone, Common Sandpiper and Little Stint were also recorded and of the larger waders it was good to see observations of Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Stone Curlew and, of course, a small number of Black-winged Stilts.  (Many of us stopped at the first (meeting point) hide on the way home the next day to get a good look at one of the two Knot that arrived very late in the day.)  And we must not forget the handful of Coot albeit no Moorhen was seen on the day.

Record shot of a very distant Little Stint Calidris minuta
With the arrival of Spring a number of summer visitors had arrived including Northern Wheatear, a lone Pied Flycatcher and a Bonelli's Warbler.  Other warblers included Cetti's, Dartford and Sardinian Warbler along with Chiffchaff and Zitting Cisticola.  Hirundines were represented by Barn and Red-rumped Swallow plus House Martin and both White and the Iberian sub-species of Yellow Wagtail were seen by most.  A good selection of chats including Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat plus Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird and Song Thrush.  Similarly, larks were well represented with both Lesser and Greater Short-toed Lark, Wood Lark and Crested Lark.

Wood Lark Lullula arborea (PHOTO: Steve Powell)
Now it is just a question of adding the missing birds such as Hoopoe, Collared Dove and Rock Dove plus the three finches of Green, Gold and Linnet along with a pair of Rock Buntings, both House and Spanish Sparrow and three corvids represented by Magpie, Jackdaw and Raven.  Did I mention Spotless Starling?

The very local endemic plant the pink Cabo de Gata Snapdragon Antirrhinum charidemi (known locally as "Dragoncillo del Cabo") found at the top of the mountain road overlooking the sea. 

All in all a wonderful day's birding with great company.


Birds seen by the group:
Shelduck, Mallard, Shoveler, Balearic  Shearwater, Gannet, Shag, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Stone Curlew, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Dotterel, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Knot, Sanderling,  Little Stint, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Audouin’s Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern , Black-bellied Sandgrouse,  Rock Dove, Collared Dove,  Little Owl, Hoopoe, Short-toed Lark, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Wood Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Cetti’s Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler,  Bonelli’s Warbler, Chiffchaff, Pied Flycatcher, Iberian Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Magpie, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Rock Bunting

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