Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Cabo de Gata with the Arboleas Bird Group

Thursday 7 September


Now safely back in Spain and all ready for the autumn birding rush -both literally and figuratively.  As I prepare for the coming week-end down to Tarifa to enjoy the autumn raptor migration, my friend David Elliott Binns and his Arboleas Birding Group held their first meet of the autumn season with a visit to Cabo de Gata and it seems there are birds o be seen - and water in the salinas.  One question answered, the Pied Flycatchers are on their way south so, hopefully, one for me to see come the week-end.

Cabo de Gata and Rambla Morales
Wednesday 6th September

This was our first official trip out after the summer break. I'd like to formally welcome Frans and Marga, a Dutch couple, to the group.  Today we were heading to Cabo de Gata.  John picked me up at Los Gallardos and we headed down to Pujaire.  Having left the motorway, we were "in the zone"!  We first saw some Jackdaw.  They seem to be flocking now.  I saw at least 75 together near my house this morning.  John and I saw the usual common species on the way to the cafe, the best being an Iberian Grey Shrike.  Having got there early, we were on our second coffee when Barrie joined us. Jan was just getting up in their motorhome.  We were soon joined by Frans and Marga.  Suitably refreshed we headed towards the first hide, John and I were some way ahead of the others.  As we came round the bend after leaving the houses, there was a female Montagu's Harrier just to our left.  It flew over the car and headed north.  Sadly the others behind missed it! 
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquara (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
There was plenty of water in the lake before us.  There were plenty of Slender-billed Gulls on the water and more resting with Black-headed Gulls on the causeway.  John also found some Mediterranean Gulls there as well.   All of us were distracted by some terns sat there.  What with the heat haze and glare we had problems identifying them.  One showed definite signs of being a Black Tern, but the others were Little Terns as confirmed later at the second hide when we saw them fishing.  Meanwhile there were lots of Little Egret and a single Great White Egret, seen by Barrie, on the waters edge.  John found 4 Eurasian Curlew over to the right.  Also seen was a Greenshank and a Green Sandpiper and some Black-winged Stilt.  Barrie saw a Little Grebe and the only ducks around were Mallard.  Many Greater Flamingo of course!

White Storks in the sky Ciconia ciconia (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We moved on to the second hide.  I was the first to get there.  I immediately found two groups of White Stork on the far side of the salinas.  The first group contained 11 individuals, the second 35 +. There were obviously more unseen as later they all took off.  There must have been 70+ circling east over the Michelin Tyre testing area and beyond.  I've seen the odd one or two in our area, so 70 is unprecedented!  To the right of these two groups I spotted two Raven sitting on fence posts.  Frans found a female Sardinian Warbler in the shrubs in front of us.  It was joined by a Spectacled Warbler. Frans also heard what he thought was an Olivacious Warbler to the right.  We also added Crested Lark and Avocet.

Raven Corvus corax (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We convoyed to the public hide.  As well as the numerous Avocet and Greater Flamingos, there was a good splattering of Black-necked Grebes and a few Redshank.  A Eurasian Curlew was on one of the islands.  John meanwhile was checking out the right hand salina where the rocky causeway is.  He found Dunlin and some Ringed Plover plus many Sandwich Tern and a Lesser Black-backed Gull.  I found an obliging female Northern Wheatear on the power line above the enclosure.  The two Ravens were now perched atop a closer pylon as was a Kestrel.  As we were about to leave, John spotted a Pied Flycatcher hunting from a fence.  Above us was a Skylark.

Female Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We were joined by Jan at the Cabo village beach-side cafe where we had lunch.  Still lots of sunbathers so the only birds we saw was a resting Sandwich Tern on a buoy and a passing flight of Barn Swallow.  We then headed towards the brackish lake at Rambla Morales.  I spotted a White Wagtail near the beach end and a Cattle Egret a bit further down.  A Moorhen was seen as was a Grey Heron.  There was a swimming raft of Black-headed Gulls and a good number of Greater Flamingo. From the sandy mound further along we saw 2 males and a single female White-headed Duck. Amongst the Mallard John found some Shoveler and Frans a female Teal.  I spotted our only Coot of the day!  A larger wader flew off which I later identified as a Ruff.  We said our goodbyes.  We added Red-rumped Swallow on the way to the motorway.
A good day in good company.  45 species in all. I apologise in advance for the photographs!  What with the heat haze, distance, sun glare and poor operating I really only got record shots!
Regards, Dave

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