Saturday 10 February 2018

Cabo de Gata

Thursday 8 February

Following a very enjoyable day's birding and much bonhomie over an evening meal at the Blanca Brisa Hotel in Cabo de Gata, this morning, whilst still clear and sunny, was somewhat colder duel to the strong wind.  (But much better when in the lees of the hills and quite warm.)  Olly drove over from Roquetas to join us and, again, we were somewhat surprised by the lack of bird about but, having said that, as yesterday we certainly had some good sightings.

Bob Ashford had a couple of Cattle Egrets on the way to the first hide and then time was spent checking out the top end of the water along with the wires behind us where we picked up Stonechat and Iberian Grey Shrike to add to the Raven already seen by John and Jenny.  Almost a dozen Black-tailed Godwits in front of the hide and a couple of Dartford Warblers that were determined to be seen by all.  The lone Curlew was foraging the spit in front and both a Hoopoe then small flocks of Serin and Linnet flew over.  We even had a pair of Jackdaw put in an appearance.  After seeing a single Redshank we then took note of the Flamingo working the water itself.

Lots of early excitement as we thought we had found a couple of Shag.  But not to be as when scoped they turned out to be Cormorant Cormoran Grande Phalacrocorax carbo
Wanting to check out the far end and search for the local Trumpeter Finches before the tourist buses arrived, we headed straight for the lighthouse and parked on the hill road at the back next to the abandoned building.  House Sparrows and Black Wheatears along with a Sardinian Warbler and the small local flock of Spotless Starlings.  After much searching and a walk along the road Bob Ashford and Lisette thought they had a small party of of five fly up an over the rise.  Meanwhile, nearer the cars, John and I watched a solitary sparrow fly down in what had previously been a favourite feeding spot for Trumpeter Finch and using the scope confirmed that it was indeed of target bird and immediately joined by a second so that we could try for some distant photographs.  A sighting achieved we thought that would be it but more, and closer, excitement was to follow on our way home.  A drive to the top of the road produced the expected fabulous coastal views but no birds other than another Black Wheatear, single Black Redstart and a number of Stonechats.

A rather sleepy female Trumpeter Finch Camachuelo Trompetero Bucanetes githagineus
Next it was back to the salinas and a first stop at the pubic hide where we had most birds including Black-headed, Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls but no terns on this occasion.  Much searching eventually found a couple of Audouin's and a similar number of Slender-billed Gulls.  On the water a reasonable number of Flamingos but only a dozen or fewer Avocets and just the one Moorhen. There were resting Cormorants and with such little beach, waders were restricted to small numbers of Redshank, Dunlin and Little Stint.  A single Grey Plover was found on the distant island and then a pair of Kentish Plovers to our right.  A few Shelduck and then looking inland we had both Crested and Sky Lark along with Greenfinch and a Corn Bunting.

With all looking quiet and time pushing on, we made our way back through the village and stopped for a coffee before heading along the beach to the rambla.  Whilst here we watched a couple of Gannets diving out at sea and then on the drive to the rambla picked up a small flock of Meadow Pipits along with the occasional Crested Lark and at least one Thekla Lark.  Lots of water in the end pool and a good number of Flamingos, mainly youngsters.  The ducks on view were limited to abut a dozen Shoveler and a handful of Mallard.  Then a quartet of Common Pochard along with two Coot.  But three "strangers" concealed behind the Coot turned out to be Black-tailed Godwits.

A selection of Flamingos Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus
Behind us Bob was first to pick up the small flock of Stone Curlew that took to the skies and remained long enough to be seen by the rest of the party.  Both Kestrel and Iberian Grey Shrike were recorded along with regular Chiffchaff sightings.  Even a lovely Hoopoe paid us a visit.

Juvenile Flamingos Phoenicopterus roseus with both Mallard Anade Azulon and Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris behind.  But look closer and you will find our three Black-tailed Godwits Aguja Colinegra Limosa limosa near the reeds
That was just about it so we said our goodbyes to John and Jenny who, I think, went off in search of the Dottterel along the track from KM4 whist we took the concrete road down to the shore from KM2.  Much searching did not reveal any Dotterel but we did have a flock of eleven Black-bellied Sandrouse fly over.  And then at the top of a small rise so that we could check out the area, we found a resting/feeding party of seventeen Golden Plover looking very handsome with the sun shining on their golden feathers.

Golden Plover ChorlitoDorado Europeo Pluvius apricaria
On the way back a telephone call from Mick Richardson to inform me about the Iceland Gull close to home at Caleta and he mentioned his favourite, nearby, spot for finding the Dotterel.  Whilst we took the track and were unsuccessful, we did find a small party of Trumpeter Finches, so all not wasted.  In addition, we recorded another Kestrel, a rather high Booted Eagle and, finally for me, another Magpie to bring the day's total up to 54 species.

A few of the 17 Golden Plover ChorlitoDorado Europeo Pluvius apricaria (PHOTO: Bob Ashford)
Looking back on our two days in Almeria, Las Norias was very quiet and with out the usual number of duck and, other than a single Sand martin, no summer hirundines.  The new pool shown to us by Ollie is a place to visit on future journeys to the area and produced the almost hundred Golden Plover resting on this hidden gem of a pool with a number of small waders.  The main salinas at Roquetas held plenty of water in the main lagoons and hundreds of Shoveler and a very large flock of Pintail but only a handful of Avocets.  The big disappointment was that the scrapes on the left driving down the track were almost dry and not a single wader recorded.  Also, the favourite track between two of the main lagoons has not been fenced off to, presumably, protect the Collared Pratincole breeding area.  As for Cabo de Gata here we found too much water so very disappointing in terms of waders.  But we did record our first Barn Swallow of the year and it is such a beautiful site that who would not want to visit on a regular basis.

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Mallard, Shover, Pochard, Gannet, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Flamingo, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Avocet, Stone Curlew, Kentish Plover, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Little Stint, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Sky Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Iberian Grey Shrike, Magpie, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

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