Wednesday 8 March 2017

Cabo de Gata with the Arboleas Bird Group

Wednesday 8 March

Whilst I was down at the Guadalhorce in Malaga, Dave and friends were visiting Cabo de Gata, where I shall be with the Andalucia Bird Society for their march field visit in just over a week's time.  Reading Dave's report, something to look forward to.

Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales
Wednesday 8th March 2017
Well, here in the east of Andalusia, Spain, spring appears to have sprung.  Last week Gilly and I were in Villaricos village having a coffee whilst above us two newly arrived Barn Swallows were preening themselves.
Newly-arrive Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica
Today Gilly was having a girlie day with her visiting sister, so I took the opportunity to have a days birding with the group.  I met up with John at Los Gallardos and he kindly chauffeured me down to Pujaire where we met up with Kevin, Val, Les and Alan for a coffee before making our way to the first hide where we were joined by Jacky.  We'd already logged a few Barn Swallow and here there were some more, but not in great numbers.  There were also numerous Crag Martin and one or two House and Sand Martin. A Thekla Lark showed well on the stone wall.  The water level was still high in the salina in front of us.  There were the usual Greater Flamingo, together with Avocet and Slender-billed Gulls.  A single Little Egret was to our left.  I spotted a distant Great White Egret flying away and disappearing into an unseen pool.  Les spotted a quarrel between a White and Grey Wagtail.  Other smaller birds included Stonechats (we only saw females today?), Greenfinch and Iberian Shrikes.  On the wader side we had a good number of species but not in amounts.  There were Black Tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Greenshank, Black Winged Stilt, Spotted and Common Redshank.  Also seen was a Cormorant, Mallard and some Shelduck.  Kevin found a Spoonbill.

We drove round to the second hide. There was nothing on the beach and very little on the reasonably flat sea.  From the hide we added Yellow Legged Gull.  Above the savannah we saw a Kestrel.  Les spotted a Raven flying in and landing where it was joined by a second one.  The previously spotted Spoonbill was on the water's edge in front of us but only showed fleetingly between the shrubs.  Managed to get a record shot, hampered by heat haze!
Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
Les spotted a well hidden Stone Curlew, but was trumped by Kevin who found one then two examples in full view.  Les countered by finding a Skylark.  A Sandwich Tern was also seen.
We made our way to the Public hide. As we walked towards the hide itself I heard the distinctive sound of a Corn Bunting.  A scan of the tops of the shrubs found the culprit quite easily.  Along the rocky causeway were numerous Lesser Black-backed Gulls together with about a dozen more Sandwich Terns.  On the water there were some Black-necked Grebe plus a raft of distant unidentified wildfowl.  There were about 25 Spoonbill on one of the dividing causeways.
We adjourned to the beach-side cafe in Cabo village.  A flock of Sanderling flew fast and low along the shoreline, landing close to us but out of view.  As we were "refreshing" a puppy was yapping from next doors flat roof.  It occasionally showed its head above the parapet.  It was 4 metres above the pavement.  All of a sudden there was a thump as it fell. We thought it at least it had broken a leg or two as it slumped there motionless and squealing.  Val got the owner out of his house and showed him the result.  At which point the puppy got up and walked off, its only "injury" was that it pee'd itself.  Think I'd have done a No.2 !  As we were about to leave an adult and juvenile Gannet showed themselves out to sea.
We said our goodbyes to Jacky before we traveled the beach-side track to Rambla Morales.  If you remember the last time we were here it was very disappointing.  Not a lot had changed!  One Moorhen plus an arriving male Mallard.  At the estuary there were some small waders, probably Dunlin, Kentish and possibly Ringed Plover, but heat haze and distance was a problem plus the fact John had found a pod of Dolphin off the coast. We guessed there must have been about 20 of them.  Also out to sea was a group of distant fast flying birds which kept landing and disappearing.   We returned to the vehicles which gave us better but not good views.  We eventually ID them as Shoveler. None of us can remember ever seeing Shoveler on the sea!
Up to that point we'd seen 46 species. We added Jackdaws going through the greenhouse diversion.  As a bonus, on the way home, about 10km south of Los Gallardos, we saw a Golden Eagle flying low above the motorway.
A great day out with good birding and company.
Regards, Dave

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