Thursday 13 December 2018

Cabo de Gata with the Arboleas BG

Wednesday 12 December

Just received the following report from my friend Dave Elliott-Binns and after almost two months back in the UK it looks as if we are all returning to our Spanish homes in time for Christmas birding!  Wednesday saw Dave back in routine as he made his first Arboleas Birding Group visit for a long time and must have been well pleased to see what was on offer at beautiful Cabo de Gata.  Trumpeter Finch, Crane, Spectacled Warbler and Stone Curlew to really whet the appetite.  Me thinks I may visit the area and relatively nearby Roquetas de Mar before the end of the year rather than the long drive down to Tarifa.

Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales: Wednesday 12th December 2018

Well it's so good to be back to blue skies and some warming sun after 7 weeks in Blighty!  Only three of us today which meant we were all able to squeeze into my trusty 4x4 giving us more options.  I picked up Peter in Arboleas and then Alan in Los Gallardos before heading south to Cabo de Gata.  A pair of Jackdaws greeted us as we got into the bird count zone coming off the motorway.  We added Spotless Starling, Collared Dove and a Hoopoe, the latter distracting me as I whizzed past the speed camera....double drat!  After a coffee in the Pujaire cafe we had a leisurely drive along the beachside road.  Checking the low wooden railings for finches we first saw House Sparrows, but then spotted some Trumpeter Finches.  Also seen were Greenfinch, Thekla Lark and a Kestrel.  Alan also saw Gannets out to sea and a Eurasian Curlew over the savannah.
Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
We then commenced our drive round the rear of the reserve.  We immediately saw the first of many Stonechats, a Black Redstart and a pair of Meadow Pipits.  I briefly saw a Dartford Warbler.  Moving on to the first salina, we added Little Stint, Dunlin and Kentish Plover.  We detoured up to the ruined buildings where you have great views over the salinas towards the church.  I spotted a distant Raven atop an agave stalk.  A Iberian Shrike was perched on a bush as was a Sardinian Warbler.  Surveying the salinas below, Alan reeled off Audouin's Gull, Avocet, Black Winged Stilt, Greater Flamingo and Redshank.  As we were about to leave I just spotted the head of a female Blue Rock Thrush on top of the building.  A search found it perched on a shrub nearby.  A Crag Martin flew over.
Returning to the track we clocked Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Greenshank and a Ruff as well as Slender-billed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, but the star was a Spectacled Warbler.  There were small numbers of Chiffchaff plus a flight of Shelduck.

Ruff Philomachus pugnax with Dunlin Calidris alpina below (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
We then went to the first hide, but it was quite disappointing due to the sun partially blinding us until Alan spotted a distant flight of Spoonbill.  He also found a Black-tailed Godwit. 

Slender-billed Gull Larus genei (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
We carried on to the second hide, again seeing Trumpeter Finch and Greenfinch en route.  An adult Gannet was fishing close to the beach.  From the hide I spotted a very elusive Stone Curlew which Alan and Peter eventually saw.  Alan the trumped my sighting by finding 6 Common Crane the other side of the central causeway.  Only head and necks on view!  We also saw Cormorant, Mallard, Little Egret, Iberian Shrike, Kestrel and, yes, many more Stonechats!

Spot the 4 Common Crane Grus grus in with the 7 Flamingo Phenicopterus roseus (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
At the public hide we were surprised NOT to see Black Necked Grebes, but Alan did find a pair of Common Tern amongst the Sandwich Terns and gulls on the causeway. We also found the Spoonbills. There were 16 in total.
Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
We then made our way along the beachside track towards Rambla Morales.  We astonished to find a mixed flock of waders feeding on the scrubland.  Ringed and Kentish Plovers together with Sanderling.  Also feeding in the same area was a small flock of Lesser Short-toed Lark and Trumpeter Finches, the first time I'd seen them in this area.  Once we reached the Rambla we checked out to sea and only saw gulls.  At the estuary, I spotted a White-headed Duck, a Shoveler and some Coot.  The lake produced a pair of Black-necked Grebe and more Shoveler.  A flight of Stone Curlew flew over.  We heard a Cetti's Warbler.  Peter completed the days list with a Kingfisher flypast!
Flight of Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus (not bad photo with a bridging camera!)
(PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
A brilliant days birding in good weather and company. 55 species in all.
I'd like to take this opportunity to wish Jesus, Ann and Tony a speedy recovery from their various illnesses/injuries.
One hungry Dunlin Calidris alpina (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

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