Wednesday 19 September 2018

Cabo de Gata with the Arboleas Birding Group

Wednesday 19 September

A wonderful day out in Cabo de Gata by the Arboleas Birding Group and evidence that the Honey Buzzards are still making their way south.  I thought migration started a little earlier this year and yet here we are in mid-September and still the raptors keep coming in good numbers.  Some excellent birds seen and it just goes to show what a birding hot spot Cabo de Gata can be at almost any time of the year.

Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales: Wednesday 19th September

Well folks, what a good day we had! Us Arboleas lot, me driving Alec followed by Mike, Diane and Richard behind in their 4x4 left a little bit earlier than usual so we could check out the Dotterel spot once more.  We arrived at the north end of the Cabo de Gata reserve and duly had a look around. No Dotterels seen, but we started our day list with Greenfinch, Thekla Lark, Hoopoe and Barn Swallow.
We headed for the Pujaire cafe where Barrie & Beryl were waiting for us. We were joined by Kevin, Troy and new member, Peter.
After a cup of coffee we made our way to the first hide.  First thing I noticed was that the single Oystercatcher was still here, but Kevin had seen 6 Spoonbill at the other end of the rocky causeway. Apart from the usual plethora of Greater Flamingos, there were in the wader department, Kentish and Ringed Plover, Black Winged Stilt, Black Tailed Godwit and Redshank.  There were lots of Slender Billed Gulls plus a few Mallard. Barrie spotted a Little Grebe and an Iberian Grey Shrike.  Troy then found a Kestrel but trumped her sighting with a Honey Buzzard head south against the wind direction.  Eventually we saw 11 of them.  Kevin then spotted some Eurasian Curlew, 6 in all.  Behind them on the savannah, Barrie had a fleeting view of a flying Stone Curlew. Richard spotted what turned out to be a Glossy Ibis.  A Grey Heron flew over.
Moving on to the beach opposite the second hide.  The sea was as flat as a tack so everything was on view.  Around the various fishing vessels were at least a thousand gulls, but too far out to give a definite ID.  However, amongst them were smaller black looking birds, some occasionally flying. Balearic Shearwaters!  We walked to the hide and were pleased to see two juvenile Woodchat Shrikes plus another Iberian Grey Shrike.  Suddenly a flock of large black birds took to the air on the far side of the salina.  15 Black Stork accompanied by two smaller Glossy Ibis.  They headed towards the lighthouse but soon returned as the wind was against them.  No chance of reaching North Africa today.  Richard was first to notice a yellowish warbler in a shrub in front of the hide.  A Melodious Warbler.  A tired looking juvenile Barn Swallow posed well on the fence.
Juvenile Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Moving onto the public hide, the first birds we spotted was a pair of Northern Wheatear on a fence who were joined by some Thekla Larks.  Just beyond the wire gates to the right of the hide was a Spotted Flycatcher first seen by Diane, I believe.   In the water to the right were some Avocet and a Redshank.  Amongst the gulls on the rocky causeway were some Sandwich Terns.  On the left hand side the shallow waters brought in the smaller waders.  Dunlin, Kentish and Ringed Plover and later Barrie found a Little Stint.  He also found a large raft of Black-necked Grebes and some Shelduck.  I found a Greenshank on one of the islands.
Spotted Flycather Muscipapa striata (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We then made our way to the Rambla Morales.  I was leading the convoy along the beachside track. As I was failing to get a photo of one of the half dozen Yellow Wagtails, Barrie behind me in his car spotted a Marsh Harrier.  A Short-toed Lark species flew over.  Arriving at the car park, Keven found a Greenshank at the estuary end with some Coot.  There were hundreds of Sand Martins flying around.  We heard Cetti's Warblers as we walked to the "hump".  On the far side of the water were at least 6 White-headed Duck plus two or three very young ducklings.  There was also a female Teal and Shoveler with some Mallard.  Barrie spotted a Reed Warbler and some distant Magpie.  Another Glossy Ibis was seen.  Barrie's Marsh Harrier was seen near the desalination plant and a female flew over the opposite reeds.  We could hear a helicopter high above.  If I hadn't been scanning the sky for it, I'd have never seen the first 4 Honey Buzzards heading south.  Then more kept coming.  In total we counted 23 and a Kestrel.  Feeling well pleased we retreated to the Cabo beach side cafe for lunch.  I only had a coke before having to leave for a meeting.  After their lunch Barrie and Beryl drove up to the lighthouse where they saw 12 Honey Buzzards heading south plus two Booted Eagles circling.  Incredibly on their way back they counted a further 68 Honey Buzzards over Pujaire!
We ended with 55 species in total, but what a cracking days birding in great company.  The weather gods were kind to us as well!
Regards, Dave
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