Wednesday 29 March 2017

Cabo de Gata with the Arboleas Birdwatching Group

Wednesday 29 March

To celebrate the presentation of the six-page letter to the EU announcing the UK's imminent departure, Dave and his merry band of mainly ex-pats that make up the Arboleas Birdwatching Group spent the day at Cabo de Gata and nearby Ramble Morales where they seem to have a marvellous day's birding away from all the political nonsense going on to the north of the continent.  Sanity returns and even my friend Steve Powell was able to confirm that our resident Dippers are once more back on their traditional nesting site, a location that has most probably been in use for at least the past twenty years.

Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales
Wednesday 29th March

John picked me up from Los Gallardos & we headed towards Cabo de Gata.   Our bird log begins once we come off the motorway heading for Retamar Sur. By the time we'd reached Pujaire we'd already logged 9 species, the best being a Common Buzzard near the Visitor Centre.  Others included Kestrel, Jackdaw and some Barn Swallows. We had a coffee before making our way to the first hide. Colin & Sandra were due to catch up with us once they'd dropped friends off at the airport.  As we arrived we saw lots of Pallid Swifts flying above us.  We were delighted to see 18 Spoonbill on and around the rocky causeway.  Also there were a couple of Little Egrets and a selection of gulls :- Black-headed, Slender-billed and Yellow-legged.  On the wader front we spotted numerous Avocet, about 6 Grey Plover, a few Kentish Plover and Black-winged Stilt and a Redshank.  Apart from the Mallards, John spotted a different one.  It was some distance away and obviously female.  It eventually flew.  We believe it was a Garganey.  Smaller birds included " Iberian" Yellow Wagtails and a Thekla Lark.  Oh yes, forgot to mention the Greater Flamingos!  At this point a coach arrived. John said, " A coach load of children.  That's all we need!"  Thankfully these "children" were a group of British birdwatchers being led by Jesus Contreras, a local guide.  Thankful we were indeed as one of them found a Collared Pratincole on the rocky causeway that we'd missed.  Our first of the year.

Distant Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
I spotted a Blackcap, followed by an Iberian Grey Shrike on the power line behind us.  At this point Colin and Sandra joined us.  We showed them the Spoonbill, Pratincole and others before we all headed for the second hide.
Some of the Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia flock (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
The beach sea-watch proved disappointing.  As we walked to the hide I could hear  a Corn Bunting. Eventually I spotted it on top of a shrub.  The only other bird we added to the list was a Cormorant which flew over.  Got back to the vehicles and I spotted two duck far out to sea.  They were at least 5-700 metres out.  Got excited anticipating some good birds.  Got the scope on them.  What were they?  Mallard!
Thinking the British birders were now in the Public hide we headed to the lighthouse.  En route we saw a Sandwich Tern flying close to the beach, a  pair of Audouin's Gulls on the shoreline and a Black Wheatear flew across in front of us.  From next to the lighthouse I spotted what appeared to be a Cory's Shearwater way out to sea.  If so, it would be a very early arrival!  The British birding group were actually up by the mobile mast behind us.  We trudged up there for a scan, but heard only a Corn Bunting.

Colin and John near the lighthouse (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We retraced our steps to the Public hide.  Here we added Lesser Black Backed Gull, a flotilla of about 18 Black Necked Grebe and some Shelduck spotted by John.  More Sandwich Tern were on the rocky causeway to the right.
We adjourned to Cabo village for a bite to eat.  Some House Martins flew by.  We then drove along the beach-side track to the Rambla Morales.  Bird-wise, things had improved.  Last time there were only Moorhen and Coot.  This time there were also Avocet, Black Winged Stilt, Kentish Plover and a flitty flight of Sanderling.  I found a distant Kestrel.  We heard Zitting Cisticola.  John spotted what he thought was a Raven flying along the beach.  This was confirmed on our drive back.  In fact we saw two.  Our final bird was a Red-rumped Swallow as we headed through the short cut by the plastic greenhouses.
Record shot of the Raven Corvus corax (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We ended with a respectable 44 species.  Slightly disappointed by the lack of expected migrants though.
Regards, Dave
Interesting report and especially the mention of local guide Jesus Contreras who I last met at least seven or more years ago.  A fortnight ago we recorded a pair of Garganey near the first hide as you approach Cabo de Gata and again on the lower Rambla Morales.  Given that our bird seemed to be always on the move, then I certainly expect that you were correct in identifying your bird as such. 

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