Thursday 26 December 2019

Christmas on the Hamble River

26 December 2019

The tiny harbour at the mouth of the Meon with Titchfield Haven Nature Reserve in the background
Back at our little house in Stamford, Lincolnshire but Christmas being spent with family "down south" between Southampton at Portsmouth.  We arrived in that sailing hotspot called Warsash at the mouth of the Hamble river where it meets Southampton Water to stay with brother-in-law, Chris which gives the opportunity to walk the shores of both the river itself and Southampton Water.  Christmas Eve was pleasant enough so we were able to get out for an afternoon walk on the river shore whereas Christmas Day was absolutely fabulous; no wind, no cloud and lots of sun and blue skies.  So come Christmas Day and the promise of good weather I was away by 9 o'clock to visit the relatively nearby Titchfield Haven reserve at Meon.  What a disaster!  Whereas I had expected the reserve to be shut I did think there would be some way of seeing some of the reserve other than using my bins form the shore car park.  Back home before mid-morning I awaited the return of Jenny and Chris before we took a longer walk along the main shore as far as the Warsash lakes just inland from Southampton Water but, like a fool, decided not to take ether binoculars or camera on our 6km walk.  The less said about Boxing Day the better given that we only had a hour's dull relief from the continuous rain.  The only good news was an away win for the Saints at Chelsea and West Ham losing once again!

An interesting drive south from Stamford to Warsash on Southampton Water at the mouth of the Hamble river on Monday where we found both Dunnock and Robin in the garden. Six Red Kites along with both Buzzard and Kestrel recorded on the journey but most impressive was the covey of 8 feeding Grey Partridge on the grass verge alongside the A43 as we drove past Deene Park just north of Corby.  Lots of Rooks and Carrion Crows seen along with Wood Pigeons and Magpies.

Greenshank Tringa nebularia

The Christmas Eve stroll alongside the Hamble  River the water approaching low tide was rewarding as we recorded 5 Brent Geese, a score of Wigeon, a Greenshank and a couple of Redshank with the occasional Turnstone and both Black-headed and Herring Gulls. Back to the house, noting the passing Cormorant, to upload photos and discovered I did not have a suitable lead with me; how frustrating is that?

Brent Goose Branta bernicla
Christmas Day started disappointingly as I could not access the Titchfield Haven reserve but with the tide well in it meant that both the Sanderling and Turnstones were very close.  Even closer when I approached the tiny harbour at the mouth of the Meon where I found a dozen more Turnstone in addition to Mute Swans, Mallard and Black-headed Gulls.

Turnstones Arenaria interpres at Titchwell Haven, Meon
The "free" hide near the Visitors Centre was locked but I did discover a single Chaffinch and then off to the viewing area overlooking the pool nearest the shore.  A few Coots and lots of Black-headed Gulls along with a pair of sleeping Oystercatchers.  The river itself held a handful of Gadwall and in the next pool upstream I could see a large flock of Canada Geese along with Shelduck.

The longer late morning walk along the shore from Warsash was far more productive even if we had neither bins nor camera.  No sooner had we reached the shore proper, even with still a high tide, that we had good views of Wigeon and Teal along with a number of Oystercatchers and Redshank.  No sooner had we stopped to admire the close-by Black-necked Grebe that I saw the head of a Seal looking at me and whilst we watched it "fishing" Jenny even managed to catch sight of a fish in the animal's mouth.  Indeed, walking on and looking back at the enclosed water the Seal had moved even closer to us.
Redshank Tringa totanus
Approaching the marsh we were able to watch a quartering Marsh Harrier working its way inland and then, approaching the small lake, we had first a number of Lapwing and then the site of a few Mute Swans.  Once nearer we also added Mallard and Gadwall along with many Canada Geese, a couple of Shelduck, a trio of Brent Geese and a few Pintail, not to mention the ever-present Coot. We even managed to identify a lone Avocet at rest.

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
Making our way inland for the return journey home we quickly added Wood Pigeon followed by Magpie, Carrion Crow and Common Starlings.  All very good but I could kick myself (and probably fallen over!) for not taking at least the binoculars.

Birds seen:
Brent Goose, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Shelduck, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Teal, Pintail, Grey Partridge, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Coot, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Lapwing, Sanderling, Redshank, Greenshank, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Dunnock, Robin, Magpie, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, Chaffinch.

Two sleeping Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus with a hiding Redshank Tringa totanus and Black-headed Gulls

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Sunday 22 December 2019

Rutland Water

Sunday 22 December

Rutland Water seen from the Visitors Centre with Lagoon 2 to the left
Nothing but rain, rain and yet more rain since arriving back in the UK on Wednesday evening.  Might, perhaps, be classed as the "reign of the rain" for want of a better description.  But today the forecast suggests that we could get a dry spell by mid-morning and even a glimpse of the sun so, naturally, I took the opportunity to pop over to my local patch at Rutland Water.  And my word was it wet underfoot wherever you looked.  So, rather than get covered in mud I concentrated on first the North Arm where I could use the scope on the Burley Fishponds, followed by a stop at the Visitors Centre to check out the feeding station and Lagoon 1 and 75 minutes later I was off to check out the winter-closed Lyndon Centre.  Seeing the nearby birds on the water as I drove home I also made a fifteen minute stop to check out the birds on the water at the dam and was well rewarded.

Approaching the Burley Fishponds I saw the first Carrion Crow of the day and immediately noticed the number of Mute Swans on the water itself.  Not that many birds about and the ducks were mainly Wigeon and Tufted Duck along with the occasional Mallard. Just a handful of Cormorant and Great Crested Grebes plus a few Black-headed Gulls.  On the far side I noticed a single Great White Egret which also drew my attention to the nearby handful of Teal.  On the nearby main water I also picked up both Canada and Greylag Geese at the water's edge.  Also present a couple of Redshank resting on a twig poking up from the water near the bank.

Female Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs

As I departed I noticed the large number of Black-headed Gulls and Jackdaw feeding in the nearby sodden field along with a couple of male Pheasants.  Once at the Visitors Centre I went immediately to the feeding station and soon became aware of the many Blue and Great Tits making good use of the full feeders along with a couple of Rats picking up the dropped seed below.  Very quickly the tits were joined by both Chaffinch and Goldfinch and Robin came to visit along with a pair of Dunnock.  A few Blackbirds were active at the back and a single Moorhen was on the small pond watched over by a quartet of Collared Doves with Wood Pigeons in the nearby trees.

Robin Erithacus rubecula - all puffed up in the cold

Time to enter the Centre itself and check out the water in front and immediately aware of the large number of Lapwing present.  Ducks were mainly Shoveler but the white of a male Smew soon caught my attention and also revealed a couple of females.  Loads of Coot on the water along with a number of Cormorant and then the Pochard flock sailed into view.  Just when I thought I had recorded everything a lovely Pintail came into view.  Returning to the feeding station on my way back to the car I also manged to record both Coal Tit and House Sparrow.

Smew Mergellus albellus - seen form the Visitors Centre

My intended final stop of the morning was the Lyndon Centre where I spent a most enjoyable twenty minutes or so watching the activity around the feeders next the the small pond.  In addition to the half-dozen Mallard on the water there were also three Egyptian Geese and a Moorhen present and then the small birds put in an appearance. 

Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus

Lots of Blue and Great Tits with the occasional visit of a Marsh Tit.  Mainly Chaffinch and Goldfinches but also a good representation of Greenfinches before both Robin and Dunnock put in an appearance and even a female Yellowhammer.

Female Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella

Making my way home  as I left Edith Weston I had a Magpie in the field on the right and immediately a small number of Rooks crossed the road towards the water.  Seeing the number of birds on the water I pulled in to the closed drive down to the dam to check out what was present.  Apart form the number of Tufted Duck I also picked out both Little and Great Crested Grebe along with a couple of male and accompanying Goosander.  Lovely.  To the left a pair of Little Egrets had landed and to my right I also found a couple of Gadwall so giving a final tally of 44 species in just under two hours birding.

Goosander Mergus merganser seen nearthe dam

 Birds seen:
Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Egyptian Goose, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Pintail, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Smew, Goosander, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit,  Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Yellowhammer.

Record shot of Marsh Tit Parus palustris
Great White Egret Egretta alba

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An hour at El Fondo

21 December 2019

Good to see that when visiting Alicante to collect his friends from the airport friend Dave Elliott-Binns still managed to find an hour to visit that great birding site at El Fondo near Elche and, whilst based at the Visitors Centre, still hoped to find one of the wintering eagles.

El Fondo, Elche  -  Saturday 21st December

Was up early today to pick up Paul & Reyna from Alicante airport, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity to pop into the El Fondo bird reserve for an hour. Due to the time constraint I wasn't able to do the North Gate, but headed straight towards the Information Centre. En route I spotted a large bird of prey on one of the abandoned buildings by the football ground, but by the time I'd turned around it had gone! Was it one of the wintering Estonian Spotted Eagles?
I did see a Black Redstart. I carried on and parked up by the Information Centre. There was loads of birds on the shallow pool adjacent to the car park. Moorhen, Coot, Teal, Shoveler, Mallard and Purple Swamphen. The waders included Black Winged Stilt & Snipe. Also seen were White Wagtail, House Sparrow, Chiffchaff, Sardinian Warbler, Stonechat and Water Pipit.

Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
I moved on to the enclosed pool overlooked by the picnic area. There were loads of Moorhen, but the stars were at least 12 Marbled Duck and a couple of untagged Red Knobbed Coots. I then began to walk along the raised wooden walkway. I spotted two small waders on the far bank. Even though I hadn't bought my scope I could easily see light yellow legs. Temminck's Stints. On the water were Little Grebe, Black Necked Grebe and a pair of Gadwall amongst the Shoveler, Coot & Moorhen. Also seen was another Purple Swamphen. I heard a Cetti's Warbler.

Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
I carried on to the first hide. I only added a flying Cormorant. I began to walk back when I saw two 1st winter Bluethroats and a Little Egret. A Marsh Harrier flew by. A Magpie was sitting on a post. Time was running out so I headed back to the car. As I drove back towards the North Gate I spotted a Little Owl perched on the previously mention abandoned buildings. Stopped the car to confirm my sighting when I picked out a distant bird of prey sitting in a tree. I headed in it's direction, but discovered the track had a chain across it. I got a distant record shot. All I can say it was perched exactly like a Spotted Eagle would!

Distant Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina/clanga?   (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
So between 08.15 & 09.15hrs I managed 33 species and some not bad ones in there! Two weeks time I'm taking Paul & Reyna back to the airport. Might have to pop in on the way back, me thinks!
Regards, Dave

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Thursday 19 December 2019

Roquetas de Mar with the Arboleas Birding Group

Wednesday 18 December

One week after my visit and Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group were also visiting Las Norias and Roquetas de Mar.  Reading through Dave's report all seemed very similar, apart for the sighting of a Black Tern, until they reached the fresh water pool outside the salinas at Roquetas de Mar.  Not just a Pintail but also  a small group of Marbled Ducks were sighted in the the large, mixed duck population.  Well done the group but, like me, they seem to have found a distinct lack of waders.

Las Norias & Roquetas  Wednesday 18th December

For our last trip of 2019 I decided we'd go to Las Norias and Roquetas, hoping for a better result than Bob Wright had last week!  I picked up new member, Iain, from Los Gallardos and headed south to Jct 420 where we met up with John and Les.  After a cup of coffee we made our way to the first causeway, Iain and I seeing Cattle Egret on the way.  Les had already logged all three Grebes on the right hand lake.  Great Crested, Black Necked and Little.  Above us was a steady stream of passing Crag Martins, but alas no Barn Swallows today.  Little birds included White Wagtail, House Sparrow, Chiffchaff and Spotless Starling.  We heard both Cetti's and Sardinian Warbler, seeing some of the latter later!  Gulls seen included Yellow-legged, Audouin's and Black-headed.  Les spotted a couple of Black Terns, whilst I was first to see the low flying Little Bittern.  Also seen were Grey Heron and Little Egret.

We moved round to the second stop.  The water level being high, there were no small waders on the rocky beach.  We had more Grey Heron and hundreds of Cormorants.  I found a pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a distant Shoveler.  Also seen were Mallard, Magpie and Northern Starling.
Driving round to the near end of the little lake John saw a Red-crested Pochard.  Visibility was hampered by the growing reeds.  We moved to the meadow area.  On there we saw a White Wagtail.  I spotted a Stonechat and Les, a Blackbird.  John walked down the track and saw a small flock of Shoveler plus a Collared Dove.  Nearer to the Plastic Recycling depot we added a Coot!

Common Coot Fulica atra (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
En route to our coffee break Les and John saw a Kestrel. As we left the cafe, there was a female Black Redstart in the carpark.  Iain and I added a Jackdaw on our way to Roquetas.
The first stop was the track leading to the lighthouse. We flushed a Redshank.  Les and John saw a Kingfisher.  On the water were Greater Flamingos, Little Grebe, Yellow-legged Gulls and a Little Egret.  As we departed Iain and I saw the Kingfisher hovering then diving for a fish.

As we approached the next stop there were two Iberian Grey Shrikes on the power line.  Les Spotted a distant Marsh Harrier.  Also seen were Coot, Cormorant and Greater Flamingos.  A Greenfinch showed well.  Also seen was a Crested Lark.

Selection of wildfowl on the fresh water lake (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We stopped in the usual place by the big lake.  The water was full of birds, but Les and John were first to identify the half dozen or so Marbled Duck.  Loads of wildfowl.  Mostly Common Pochard but enclaves of Red-crested Pochard, small numbers of Wigeon, Gadwall and Pintail (spotted by John).  Another Marsh Harrier flew by.  I spotted a male and two female White-headed Ducks.  Our final bird of the day was a passing Common Sandpiper.

Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
With 45 species, I think we did a bit better than Bob (Sorry!).
It was a great day in good company. Wishing you all a lovely Christmas &and a Happy New Year.
Regards, Dave
Gadwall Anas strepera (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

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Monday 16 December 2019

Charca de Suarez, Motril

Sunday 15 December

This moth's Axarquia Bird Group meet was held at the Charca de Suarez on the western edge of Motril and lovely to see eight members join me for a most enjoyable morning; good birding in good company and between us over 40 species recorded. Barrie and Jan Avis travelled all the way west from Mercia and Lindsey Pheasant and Mike Kinchington had come up almost as fore from Marbella.  Good to see "Axarquians" Marcus and Liz Rootes join me and I was able to bring Dutch birding visitor Lisette Heikoop with me.  Finally, but not least, also lovey to see Adriana Pizzato from nearby Salobrena once again.

Arriving in good time we came across a field of Cattle Egret once under the old N340 and entering "Turtle Dove Alley" soon added Collared Dove, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow and the first of a few Stonechat.  All very quiet as we drove the extensive crop of pampas grass to the old ruin where we came across a small flock of Tree Sparrows and the first Blackbird.  It was towards the end of the narrow concrete road that we spotted the movement low down in the grasses near the road edge and quickly identified the flock of Common Waxbill.  Watching these delightful little birds we then also had a male Red Avadavat and as we approached the next group of waxbills even managed to pick out a few of the local Black-rumped Waxbills.  Certainly a good start to the morning as we made our way round to the reserve's entrance, passing a small group of Serin, where the gates opened promptly on time at 9 o'clock.

Robin Petirrojo Europeo Erithacus rubecula

Once inside it was straight to the bamboo hide overlooking the Laguna del Taraje and recording many Chiffchaff, a Blackcap and Cetti's Warbler on the way.  Once inside we could see both Moorhen and Red-knobbed Coot immediately in front of the hide and these were joined very quickly by a lone Purple Swampnen.  A good number of Mallard on the water along with a Little Grebe and a couple of Common Coot which were soon driven off by their red-knobbed cousins.  A Heron drifted over whilst Chiffchaff fed in the tree to our right and a Robin posed to our left.  Before we looked up to record the feeding Crag Martins we also had our first of two Great Tits.

Red-knobbed Coot

Walking on to the large hide overlooking the Laguna Del Alamo Blanco we picked up a Black Redstart and once inside immediately recognised the resident White Stork.  The water was very quiet with just a quartet of Teal albeit we had visits from Moorhen and both White and Grey Wagtails.  However, there were two rather exciting sightings.

Female Common Teal Cerceta Comun Anas crecca

 A very small looking Booted Eagle remained perched in a tree at the back of the water and Lindsey was in time to spot the Spotted Crake that put in a very brief appearance at the water's edge right at the back - but not before most of us had also had a chance for a brief sighting.  Finally, a Marsh Harrier suddenly appeared low at the back and dropped into the reeds and a single Kingfisher flashed across the water.

What appeared to be a very small Booted Eagle Aguililla Calzada Hieraaetus pennatus

Moving on to the main hide overlooking the Laguna de las Aneas we found the large flock of Common Coot plus a smaller number of Red-knobbed Coot.  A couple of herons were resting on the island and a further half-dozen on either side.  A couple of Cormorant were sunbathing towards the back and then, apart form the Moorhens, there was a good selection of ducks.  Mainly Shoveler but also a small number of Mallard and about a score of Common Pochard.  Right at the back of the water we finally found a single Ferruginous Duck and Lindsey manage to sight the Gadwall at the far back on the left.  A couple of the group were fortunate to spot the trio of Snipe that suddenly flew away low below the hide and in addition we had White Wagtail, Chiffchaff an a small number of Little Grebe.  Eventually the two Yellow-legged Gulls were joined by a mixed flock of the same and Black-headed Gulls but they only remained for a few minutes.  Meanwhile, Mike had found a Common Starling amidst the small flock at the back of the reserve near the apartment blocks.

One of very many Chiffchaff Mosquitero Comun Phylloscopus collybita

Once we reached the northern hide overlooking the Laguna del Trebol we had superb close views of a Bluethroat, Yellow Wagtail and a few Chiffchaffs feeding on insects attracted to the rotting weeds that had been dredged up from the water and now lying immediately below the hide.  A few Crag Martins made occasional feeding sorties over the water and on the water itself mainly Red-knobbed Coots along with a single Purple Swamphen and a number of Moorhens and Mallards.  Eventually, Lindsey managed to find a single Snipe and whilst trying to locate with his scope Mike added a second.

Bluethroat Ruisenor Pechiazul Luscinia svecica

On reaching the southern hide on the other side of the laguna, Barrie and Jan being the first to arrive managed to see the Water Rail that was feeding below the hide before disappearing off into the nearby reeds.  No birds were seen at the final water, the Laguna del Lirio but there were many Chifchaff as well as more Red-knobbed Coots and so we made our way back to the main gate in time for the closing of same at 1pm.  With the others following I took them back via Turtle Dove Alley where we not only found a good number of Common Waxbill but also a small charm of Goldfinches and a couple of Kestrel, so ending a lovely morning in splendid company.

Grey Wagtail lavandera Cascadena Motacilla cinerea
Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Spotted Crake, Water Rail, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Red-knobbed Coot, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull,  Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Robin, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Common Starling, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Common Waxbill, Black-rumped Waxbill, Red Avadavat, Serin, Goldfinch.

The resident White Stork Ciguena Blanca Ciconia ciconia

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Sunday 15 December 2019

Sierra Loja Thrushes

Saturday 14 December

Following my dismal visit to the Sierra Loja yesterday, I have just received a couple of photos from John and Jenny wainwright following their visit to the Sierra Loja two days earlier.   John reported at least 27 Ring Ouzel along with a small number of Redwing and even a Fieldfare or two.  Below are a couple of the photos of same taken by John through the car windscreen.  Well done, John and many thanks for sharing these lovely record shots.

Redwing Turdus iliacus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Blackbird Turdus merula, Fieldfare Turdus pilaris and Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

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Friday 13 December 2019

Sierra Loja and Home via Zafarraya

Friday 13 December

What a day!  How many Ring Ouzels did I see?  By the time I had reached the top of the Sierra Loja the low, damp, thick cloud meant it was difficult to see the track ten metres in front of me nevernind a rock face or trees to actually find birds.  But I travelled on in hope but, regretfully, without success so had to make my long way down and then decided to head off home via Salar which would take me through the well-known sites near Ventas de Zafarraya.  My journey up the Sierra started with a quintet of Wood Pigeons at the bottom and the occasional Crested followed by Thekla Lark as I drove to the summit.  The only birds that really stood out were the number of Red-legged Partridges, too big to miss as they either moved across the track or fed in the field outside the lambing shelter at Charco de Negro.

Red-legged Partridge Perdiz Roja Alectoris rufa
Leaving Salar where I recorded House Sparrow the length of the following country lane produced Greenfinch and Goldfinch along with a Blackbird.  Passing through the wooded section an Azure-winged Magpie took off from the road and a little further on an Iberian Grey Shrike looked down on me as I passed.  next up the occasional Corn Bunting on the wires.  A pair of Mistle Thrushes on the wires was a delight and then I was heading down towards the growing fields beyond the "Magpie Woods."  Stopping to observe a number of feeding Chaffinches on the road I was pleasantly surprised that their number included a fine-looking male Brambling.

Once at the bottom of the hill a dozen or so Magpies were recorded in the usual area for these birds and then a Sparrowhawk drifted past to my left.  Serins feeding at the side of the road along with a charm of Goldfinches and then the feeding small Calandra Lark flock.  Many Spotless Starlings and then a female Sardinian Warbler as I entered the road through the magpie woods.

Very distant Black Redstart Colirrojo Tizon Phoenicurus ochruros
Leaving the woods I drove through the growing fields to the small pond where I found the local Mallards and, in Ventas de Zafarraya itself a single Grey Wagtail.  A field being harrowed contained a score or more of White Wagtails following the tractor.A brief stop at the old railway track produced Chough, Black Wheatear and Black Redstart.

Red-billed Chough Chova Piquirroja Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax

At least the sun was shining and much warmer when I returned to the coast and in time for a late lunch and that after I had refuelled the car and completed a good wash of same at the local garage.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Red-legged Partridge, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Wood Pigeon, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Black Wheatear, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Sardinian Warbler, Iberian Grey Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Chough, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Brambling, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.

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Cabo de Gata

Thursday 12 December

Might be general Election day back in the UK but my dear friend Dave Elliott-Binns was able to join me for a coffee at my overnight hotel in readiness for a good morning's birding around Cabo de Gata, a sort of follow-on from our respective day's birding of yesterday.  And we both did better, finally passing 50 species for the morning!

Raven Cuervo Corvus corax
leaving the hotel in Dave's car, very necessary given the ground conditions at the back of the salinas following last week's heavy rain, we headed straight towards the middle on the beach straight where Dotterels had been recorded a fortnight ago.  Approaching the area we recorded Black Redstart, Crested Lark, Greenfinch and House Sparrows on or near to the low wooden fence to our right, sea side of the road.  Whilst we slowly crawled along the gravel area between road and fence checking each of these areas between road and sea a Raven passed over before the slight movement quickly drew our attention to the first of the Dotterel.  Within seconds we had identified at least ten individuals as they moved quickly from cover to further back from the road.  Sitting quietly the birds gradually edged back a little closer, never really in the open but an opportunity to get a few photographs.

A trio or more of the Dotterel Chorlito Carambolo Charadrius morinellus
Then it was straight to the end of the road, round the roundabout and a start on the very muddy track at the back of the salinas.  The first pool provided a host of gulls including Black-headed, Yellow-legged and Audouin's Gulls.  nearer to us a number of Redshank and then a few Dunlin and Sanderling.  To our right regular sightings of Meadow Pipit, Thekla Lark and Spotless Starlings.  Indeed, one large flock also contained a score of more Common Starling, all sitting tight on the wires as a separate unit.  Then again, we counted eighteen Shelduck on the water to our left.

Working our way along the track we then added Sardinian Warbler, White Wagtail, more Black Redstarts and Thekla Larks and a Red-legged Partridge.  A small number of Slender-billed Gulls on the next water and the first of a three Kestrels on the land side.   By now we were regularly recording Little Egret and a Collared Dove and soon we were back on the main road and made our way to the first hide as we approached the village.

From the hide we had Iberian Grey Shrike both near the water and behind us along and, apart from the many Flamingos on view, we started to take our scopes to see what else might be identified.  With a few Crag Martins flying around above us we managed to find both European Curlew and a Stone Curlew "hiding" in the shrubs to our front-right.  On a far bank on the right  Dave managed to track a group of four large waders.  Much work completing the identification of what eventually turned out to be a single Whimbrel along with three Bar-tailed Godwit.

Iberian Grey Shrike Alcaudon Real Lanius meridionalis

As we approached the first hide leaving the village a couple of Cormorant flew in to the water and way to our left with the use of the scope we found another trio of Stone Curlew.  On the water itself, in addition to the many Flamingo, we recorded Shoveler, Wigeon, Mallard and a sleeping flock of about 25 tightly packed Spoonbill.

The sleeping flock of Spoonbill Espatula Comun Platalea leucorodia
On to the large hide at the end from where we had a better view of the Spoonbill and also added Chiffchaff. resting among the many gulls Dave also managed to find a trio of Sandwich Tern.  But it was as we returned to the car and the pleasure of talking to a visiting British couple who informed us that yesterday they had found a large flock of Trumpeter Finches that a single individual flew in and alighted on a fence not five metres away and proceeded to remain for the rest of our time on site.

The most obliging Trumpeter Finch Camachuelo Trompetero Bucanetes githagineus
Our next destination was the lighthouse where we sighted a Black Wheatear as we climbed up from the roundabout but nothing else to record.  So back to the village for a coffee before driving through Cabo de Gata itself to take the shore track across to the Arroyo Morales.  On the way a lovely charm of Goldfinches plus a further three Trumpeter Finches.  parking the car at the end of the long straight we spent a little time watching the feeding Meadow Pipits and a handful of Short-toed Larks before walking to the arroyo which now had a large lagoon.  All to be seen was a single Black-necked Grebe but with a little patience we then added both Moorhen and Coot further upstream along with a single Little Grebe.

Just as we were about to say nothing else was to be seen when I found a Kingfisher sitting on the low, sandy bank on the far side of the water.  then it was a gentle walk to the "bump" where we saw a single Cattle Egret fly over and heard at least one Cetti's Warbler calling.

Back to the hotel to say our goodbyes and festive greetings to respective spouses before heading back, for Dave, to Arboleas 100 kilometres to the east and for me the almost 200 kilometre drive back to Mezquitilla.  Seemed a shame that we had not seen a Blackbird so, as I approached the San Jose junction, decided to take the short drive down to the large camping site on the off-chance that I might find the bird.  No such luck but carrying on down to the river, which was now a very large lake, I was delighted to find a lone feeding Common Sandpiper so topping the 50 species for the day.  Excellent weather, birds and, of course, the special pleasure of Dave's company.

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Stone Curlew, Dotterel, Sanderling, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Curlew, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Black Wheatear, Cetti's Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Iberian Grey Shrike, Raven, Common Starling, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Trumpeter Finch.

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