Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Almeria Day 1: Roquetas de Mar

Tuesday 5 December

Beautiful, clear and sunny day as I set off towards Almeria Province with visiting Australian birder, Bob Ashford.  By 10.45 we had reached Las Norias amid all the plastic greenhouses and its extensive reservoir.  Passing many Cattle Egret and a number of House Sparrows and Spotless Starlings we were soon at the the first causeway where we found surprisingly few water birds.  Hundreds of Crag Martins fading low over the water and a score or more Cormorant to our left.  Closer observation with the scope revealed a number of Great Crested Grebe and a handful of Shoveler hiding at the end of a stretch of reeds away to our right.  Again, closer inspection also revealed a trio of Red-crested Pochard.

Black-necked Grebe Zampullin Cuellinegro Podiceps nigricollis

A number of White Wagtails were foraging along the road and the first Linnet of the day passed over.    Having found a small group of six Black-necked Grebe we then had a single Little Grebe right in front of us and, when standing at the water's edge, a juvenile Night Heron took off from its cover to our left.  There were a few Black-headed Gulls and a single Little Egret was found right at the far end of the water,  Just a few Coot and a Moorhen waddled out to add to our observations.  Close by a Grey Wagtail landed briefly on the rocks to our left and made a rapid departure whilst a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls flew over.

Just two of the hundreds of Crag Martins Avion Roquero Phyonoprogne rupestris

On next to the plastic recovery plant and parked at the bridge to discover how low the water really was; no wonder there was a shortage of ducks in this area.  The small pool at the end produced a few Shoveler and a Heron the our only Purple Swamphen of the day.  Both Zitting Cisticola and Serin were seen as we walked down to the grassy field on the left a the end of the fence.  here we found both Meadow Pipit, Serin and Chiffchaff before finding a gap in the fence so that we could get down to the disgusting beach with all its accumulated rubbish.  Bob saw the flash of a Green Sandpiper as it darted away and with the help of scope and binoculars we soon relocated the bird further along the rocks.  At this point we were suddenly surprised as we watched a Short-eared Owl take off from the bushes to our right and glide away and over the small bank in front.  Wonderful! A Common Sandpiper came to join us and then we made our way back tote car and drove to the crossroads further lawn to take a right-turn and check out the small pool from the far end.  Apart from the small number of Shoveler already seen we were able to add a flock of about a dozen Mallard.

Greenshank Archibebe Claro Tringa nebularia
Time to move on and we made our way across towards Roquetas de Mar via San Augustin.  Near here we took the small track towards the lighthouse.  From the causeway we saw our first Flamingos and then a Greenshank feeding at the water's edge.  A little further along a Little Egret took off from the path and then the sight of another Meadow Pipit.  At the far end a single Slender-billed Gull was on the water to our left.

Slender-billed Gull gaviota Picofina Larus genei
Parking at the far end of the water we were able to find the flock of Shoveler and closer inspection also revealed a handful of Teal and at least a quartet of White-headed Ducks long with a number of Common Pochard.  Not many gulls present but we did record both Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gull.  A couple of Black-winged Stilts were working the small island and above us a female Kestrel was hovering.  Then, as promised, the sight of our first Marsh Harrier as an adult female quartered the reeds on the far side in front of us.

Black-winged Stilt Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus
Working our way back to the main road the Greenshank was still to be found along with a Redshank and pair of Black-winged Stilts.  At the bend to the causeway we finally found our first Stonechat and they were to become very regular sightings over the next hour or so.  But watching this first individual also revealed the Water Pipit feeding in the water close by.  Having had a long look at a female Reed Bunting a Sky Lark ascended in front of us and another Zitting Cisticola flew across the track to a new set of reeds.  As we approached the road we had a Robin on the track to our left.

Just to prove that Greenshank and Black-winged Stilt are hapy to feed in close proximity
Next it was to the old Salinas but first a stop a the fresh water lake before we joined the sandy track.  Here we found hundreds of Coot and probably as many duck, all close to the road side of the water which appeared to give more shelter.  Mainly Common but we did find a pair of Red-crested Pochard.  In with the flock were a handful of Gadwall and a small number of Wigeon a little further away.  It was whilst looking at the latter that I found the pair of resting Pintail to add to the number of duck species seen.  In addition to the mainly Black-headed and a few Yellow-legged Gulls we also found a very small flock of Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the water.

A few of the hundreds of Common Pochard Porron Europeo Aythya ferina
And so to the salinas themselves where, again, the water level was down and many of the shallower pools had completely dried.  Small waders seen were mainly Ringed and Kentish Plover along with  Dunlin and a couple of Turnstone.  On the opposite of the track the main pools provided many Flamingoes and then a large flock of Shelduck, probably well in excess of an hundred.  More Mallards, hundreds of Shoveler and then a small number of Sanderling feeding at the edge immediately in front of us.

Observations completed we made our way via the motorway towards Cabo de Gata with the sight of a passing Hoopoe as we approached the exit.  Taking the concrete track at about KM2 on the Cabo road  we made our way to the end so that we might follow the track to our left in search of the wintering Dotterel after crossing the dry arroyo.  A number of Crested Larks were seen and our first productive stop produced an Iberian Grey Shrike on a fence post.  Similarly, a female Kestrel occupied an isolated post away to our right and, in between the two, a small number of Rock Doves were feeding on the ground.

Female Common Kestrel Cernicalo Vulgar Falco tinnunculus

A good-sized flock of Linnets passed over along with Serin and the sighting of more Meadow Pipits whilst, out at sea, Bob noticed the first Gannet of the day.  Eventually turning to return in the same direction Bob caught sight of a large distant bird.  A little further on we found the bird resting in a tree top and it proved to be a lovely male Marsh Harrier.  The bird took off and flew across the track n front of us and disappeared but not before disturbing the Merlin that flashed past us low to the left travelling about a metre above the ground.  No wonder Rolls-Royce named their famous engine after this bird and it was used to power both Hawker Hurricanes and Spitfires during the World War II.  Our final sightings includedMagpie, Greenfinch and Thekla Lark but no Dotterel before we continued on to Cabo de Gata itself.


Arriving in good time I took Bob son a quick visit the lighthouse by way of whetting the appetite for the morning and we found not only a resting Cormorant but a fishing Sandwich Tern.  A female Black Redstart was on the grass above the kiosk and on the roof of the yet as unopened Visitors Centre we found a sentinel Black Wheatear.  Now what will Wednesday bring - apart from a national holiday?


Birds seen:
Shelduck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Pintail, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Merlin, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Green Sandpiper,  Common Sandpiper, Greenshank, Redshank, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Short-eared Owl, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Sky Lark, Crag Martin, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Zitting Cisticola, Chiffchaff, Iberian Grey Shrike, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Linnet, Reed Bunting.


Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs  and additional information

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