Thursday 10 January 2019

Bluethroat Luscinia svecica (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
9 January 2019

Not just a day out at Cabo de Gata with the Arboleas Birding Group but an extended visit to take in a visit to the Charca de Suarez reserve on the western outskirts of Motril.  Ant it would appear that the visiting Spotted Crake is still about so something to look forward to when I visit on Saturday morning.  Nevertheless, some good bids seen at both visited sites.

Cabo de Gata walking & Charca de Suarez:Tuesday 8th January
Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales: Wednesday 9th January

I left Arboleas early on Tuesday morning and headed to Cabo de Gata.  After the indulgences of our pre - Christmas visit to the UK and over-eating during the festive period, I needed to get back on the diet and fitness horse!  I parked up near the lighthouse and began to walk up to the top of Vela Blanca, the small mountain/large hill heading towards San Jose. 
Thekla Lark Galerida theklae (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
I soon saw White Wagtail, Stonechat and Black Redstart.  A bit further up I added Black Wheatear and Thekla Lark.  Chiffchaffs were also in abundance.  After about an hour I reached the highest point on the road, passed the chain barrier and began my descent on the rough track.  I added Red-legged Partridge, Crag Martin and Rock Bunting before I reached the gates at the bottom.  As I turned round a Dartford Warbler flew between two shrubs.   So it was back up to the top and back down to the truck.  The only new bird I saw was a Sardinian Warbler.  A round trip of 12 kilometres.
I then drove down the rear of the bird reserve.  I have to say I've never seen it so deserted.  I logged one Shelduck, some Greater Flamingos and Slender Billed Gulls, but not one wader! (16 species in total)
I then checked into the Hotel Blanca Brisa in Cabo de Gata village, my overnight accommodation.  I left there at about 14.00hrs and headed for the Charca de Suarez bird reserve at Motril.  I had to hang around for about half an hour before the gate was opened by the ranger at 4pm.  I'd already logged Blackbird, Black Redstart and Yellow-legged Gull before entering.  The first hide only added Mallard ducks, so I moved on.  The next hide was reeded up, so onto the third.  Lots of birds on the water...Coot, Moorhen, Shoveler, Common Pochard, Teal and Little Grebe.  Also saw Grey Heron, Little Egret and Cormorant.  The star birds were the half dozen or so Ferruginous Ducks and the Red-knobbed Coots.  The latter were very interested in the wooden nesting platform directly in front of the hide.  Littler birds included White and Grey Wagtails, Stonechat, Robin and, of course, Chiffchaffs by the 10's!  A Hoopoe flew past.
Teal Annas creca (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
I saved the 4th hide till last. Only one Spanish photographer was there.  I'd only seen one other person wandering around, who definitely wasn't a birder.  I scanned the pool and reeds. All the usual suspects were present. Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Teal and Stonechats. I spotted a Great Tit. The resident White Stork was curled up resting. I then saw movement in the far reeds.  Sure enough, unbelievably, the Spotted Crake was still here.   It eventually showed well distantly and then flew into the reeds to our left.  My companion left me to it.  He missed the 1st winter Bluethroat feeding just in front of the hide!  Ended up with 25 species.
Spotted Crake Porzana porzana (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
I left the reserve 20 minutes before the exit time of 6pm.  I headed back to my hotel a satisfied but very tired man.
Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Next morning, after a hearty breakfast in the hotel (included in the €31.50 price!), I met up with Val, Alan, John, Kevin and Troy at the Pujaire cafe. Suitably coffee and tostada'd up (not me!) we made our way to the first hide.  Kevin and Troy had already been woken up by a calling Chiffchaff outside their van and we'd logged Collared Dove, Kestrel and Spotless Starling before secretary for the day, Val (Thanks) put Greater Flamingo down.  24 Black-tailed Godwits were feeding next to the rocky causeway on which a Mallard sat.  Slender-billed Gulls dip fed amongst the flamingos.  Alan scanned the small number of waders to our right.  Redshank, Little Stint and Dunlin.  A bit further round I found a Little Egret.
Driving round towards the 2nd hide we added Black Redstart and Cormorant.  A check out to sea, we saw flying Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed and Audouin's Gulls plus Sandwich Terns and Gannet.  As we walked to the hide a couple of us thought we heard a Raven and some heard a Crested Lark.  We saw Thekla Larks.  At the hide a Sardinian Warbler was spotted.   John found a Black-winged Stilt and some distant Shelduck.  Alan eventually found a lone Stone Curlew on the steppes.  Also seen were Greenfinch, Corn Bunting and Meadow Pipit.  Six or so Spoonbill suddenly showed themselves on or beside the little island opposite.  At least two were ringed.  I spotted a Dartford Warbler which gave good, but very brief, views.
Driving on from there, me leading, I noted the others had stopped.  I came across a small flock of Trumpeter Finch on the beach side of the road.  I kept my distance for the others to catch up, only to discover they'd also seen other  Trumpeter Finch.  At the public hide we added Sanderling, Kentish Plover, Greenshank and Avocet to the list.  Seventeen more Spoonbill and 35 Shelduck were noted. Lots of Lesser Black-backed Gulls both in front of the hide and on the rocky causeway to the right.
Not being able to find an open cafe for a coffee, we made our way along the beach side track towards the Rambla Morales.  I spotted 3 Kentish Plover on the savannah, the others find a flock of Meadow Pipits.  At the estuary there were some Coots.  Troy found a Little Grebe.  Val spotted a Shoveler and some flying Crag Martins.  We headed for the "hump".  Kevin scanned the opposite reed line and rolled off Shoveler, White Headed Duck, Coot and a Wigeon.
Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Way in the distance I spotted a large flock of flying wader type birds which I thought must be Golden Plover.  We heard Cetti's Warbler.  John the spotted a flying Oystercatcher.  Alan then confirmed my suspicions by finding a small number of walking Golden Plover together with some Spotless Starling. A Trumpeter Finch flew over.  Troy had seen a White Wagtail.  A medium-sized flock of Lesser Short-toed Larks flew up concluding our list for the day.  We all noticed that some of the Shovelers were diving, a behaviour we hadn't seen before.  Alan check up and this is what he discovered :-

I looked in Collins, online at Wikipedia and RSPB and there is no mention of Shoveler diving.  In fact, all sites make much of the dabbling feeding action with emphasis on the large, spatulate bill. Only one site, Audubon, said that it rarely dives so we were treated to something special today! 
We ended up with 51 species. As usual we had good birding in good company.

Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
A very sleepy White Stork Ciconia ciconia (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
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