Thursday 13 May 2021

Las Norias and Roquetas de Mar

Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris

 Wednesday 12 May

A wonderful long morning's birding up in Almeria province with friend Dave Elliott-Binns and a couple of his Arboleas Birding Group members, Neville Colegate and Kevin Borman.  Beautiful, clear, sunny day and almost perfectly calm until well into the early afternoon.  Not having to meet until 10 o'clock at the industrial-looking irrigation lake at Las Norias, I left home early enough to make a slight diversion and visit the vega area adjacent to the Charca de Suarez in Motril to check out a recent report of a large Common Waxbill flock feeding in the area. I found the site with no problem and was pleased to observe the large mixed flock feeding in the dense vegetation.  

Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild (bottom) with Red Avadavat Amandava amandava

These are not easy birds to photograph at this time of the year as the flock seemed to be constantly on the move; up and for a few metres then dropping straight below the cover.  However, I was able to confirm that the flock was mainly Common Waxbill and Red Avadavat with a few Goldfinch and Linnet.  Closer inspection also detected at least a quartet of the local Black-rumped Waxbills and, on checking a couple of small birds that briefly landed on the nearby fence, also a Tree Sparrow. As I approached the site along the narrow country lane I noted Blackbird, House Sparrow and Spotless Starling and whilst watching the small finches also noted both Collared Dove and Wood Pigeon.  Leaving to continue on through Motril and pick up the eastbound motorway again, as I drove along Turtle dove Alley more Waxbills and overhead feeding Pallid Swifts.

Tree Sparrow Passer montanus (above) with Red Avadavat

Barn Swallows as I approached Las Norias and once introductions completed settle down with Dave and friends for some great birding in lovely company.  Lovely to see the very close Red-crested Pochard and three ducklings with a nearby Mallard with also three, more advanced, ducklings.  Night Heron overhead and then the sight of the Great Reed Warbler and I knew I was in for some very positive sightings as outlined by Dave in his following report.

Mainly distant Slender-billed Gulls Larus genei

Well, what a day we've had.  Good birding in good company.  Las Norias, followed by Roquetas were today's locations.  I picked up Neville from Los Gallardos and we headed south on the A7/E15 to junction 420 where we had a coffee waiting for Kevin to arrive. Once he'd had his, we headed for the first causeway at Las Norias.  The sun was out and no noticeable wind so the water was reasonably flat.  There wasn't a lot on the water.  Great Crested Grebes, a pair of Gadwall and the usual Coot, Moorhen and Mallard.  We were joined by Bob Wright.  I spotted a Grey Heron down the far end.  There was a male Red-crested Pochard down there as well.  Bob found a female plus ducklings just below us.  A Great Reed Warbler was loudly exercising its repertoire.  Luckily it was perched on top of a reed and I managed to locate it.  Meanwhile Kevin had popped over the road to view the other lake.  He located an adult Night Heron at the end of the reeds.  Also seen were a Little Grebe and a Black-headed Gull.  Bob then found a Purple Swamphen that obligingly flew a short distance before belly flopping in the water.  He also spotted a Cattle Egret and Barn Swallow.  A Common Sandpiper flew low over the water.  Little birds included a male Sardinian Warbler and some Spotless Starlings.  The odd Night Heron flew over.

Female Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We moved round to the next stop and gingerly picked our way through the rubbish to get to the viewing area.  Disappointed that there were two illegal anglers below us.  A couple of Turtle Doves flew over.  Kevin found a Yellow-legged Gull.  A Common Tern was identified, closely followed by some Little Terns.  Also seen were Common Swift and a Little Egret.

Little Tern Sterna albifrons with Turnstones Arenaria interpres

We drove to the bottom end of the small lake, but with nothing of interest visible we quickly moved to near the bridge at the plastic recycling centre end.  I spotted both Greenfinch and Serin plus some Jackdaw.  Bob went to check out the trees by the goat (?) compound.  He came back having seen both Collared and Turtle Dove. Unfortunately he missed Kevin spotting a Little Bittern which disappeared into the reeds before Neville and I had a chance to see it.  Luckily for us it did another short flight in full view!

We then travelled towards San Augustin where we stopped for coffee.  Bob led the way to a shallow pool beyond the Roquetas lighthouse.  Never been here before.  It was great.  Had good, reasonably close views of the numerous birds feeding there.  There were a lot of Slender-billed Gull as well as a smaller number of Audouin's Gull and a couple of Shelduck.  Later Bob and Kevin simultaneously found a Mediterranean Gull on the beach.  En route we'd seen a Hoopoe. Waders included Kentish and Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt and Avocet.  I spotted our first Gull-billed Tern of the day.   As we left a flight of Greater Flamingos was seen in the distance.  A Crested Lark flew behind my truck but in front of Bob's car. 

En route to the freshwater lake by the hotels we spotted a Magpie on the road side power line.  We stopped in the usual place by the vegetation gap.  To the left on the leafless tree in the water was a Cormorant.  On the little spit was both Red-crested and Common Pochard.  I found a pair of Black-necked Grebes in the middle of the lake as Kevin found about half a dozen more to the left.  I spotted a distant flying Collared Pratincole, a good omen for later! Bob found a Whiskered Tern perched on a post.  He was also happy to add Little Grebe to his personal list as he'd miss the Las Norias one.  A couple of House Martins flew over. 

Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We then entered the reserve itself.  I led the way with Neville whilst Bob had Kevin as passenger.  We bypassed the  little pool and made for a shallow pool to the right of the track. There were lots of Collared Pratincoles around, some resting, others hawking for insects.  About 40 in total my wild guess would be.  Feeding in and around the water were Dunlin, Little Stint, Ringed, Little Ringed and Kentish Plover.  There was the odd Sanderling, a group of Turnstone and some Curlew Sandpipers not to mention the Black-winged Stilts. Some of the Collared Pratincoles were only a few metres from the vehicles.  We were glad to see various rangers keeping an eye on the area. 

Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Moving further on we all saw some Redshank.  Neville and I were lucky to see a Roller.  We met up with Bob and Kevin at the old pump house.  The water level was quite high but Bob found some Greenshank on a sandy spit.  There were numerous Gull-billed Terns quartering the shrub filled areas.  Neville and I left first.  We missed the Kestrel seen by Bob and Kevin.  Getting closer to the little pool I noticed some pale ducks to my left.  They were 5 Marbled Duck.  Two flew off and landed near to where Bob and Kevin were.  At the little pool we only saw Mallard and House Sparrows.

Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We ended up with 58 species.  As I said at the start of this report, a brilliant day!  Thank you all.  I was asked last week where the name "pratincole" came from.  Here is Google's answer :- 
The name "pratincole" comes from the term "pratincola" coined by German naturalist Wilhelm Heinrich Kramer from the Latin words prātum meadow and incola resident.
Well there you go!
Best regards, Dave

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata
Drat and double-drat as I think about the missed Little Bittern and the distant Roller as both would, for me, have been new sightings for the year.  The only consolation being that the bare tree I visited near the farm not only held very many Collared but also a single Turtle Dove.  

Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax

But having said our goodbyes, I returned to Las Noris to eat my picnic and just, perhaps just, catch up with the Little Bittern.  It was not to be but, nevertheless, lovely to find a Night Heron posing nicely opposite the bridge and a walk round the back near the adjacent farm did produce a Spotted Flycatcher.  Time to move off  and on the waste ground beyond the lake as I turned left towards the plastic greenhouses three Cattle Egrets in full breeding colour, a single Glossy Ibis and a few more Crested Larks.

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus

Now it was on to Velez de Benaudalla in Granada province where I needed to deliver a letter and, upon leaving for home, took the track alongside the Rio Guadalfeo and on down past the picnic area. In addition to both House Martin and Common Swifts I also picked up Chaffinch, Serin and Hoopoe and whilst at the above picnic site found a trio of White Wagtail and a couple of Great TitGoldfinches and Serins as I continued and once back on the main road a very brief stop at the water control centre on the river duly found not only Coot but also both White and Grey Wagtails along with a pair of Little Ringed Plover in the drainage channel.

Very pleased when home at last to discover that I had actually recorded 72 species for the day including four new sightings for the year.

Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola

Birds seen by me:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Marbled Duck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Glossy Ibis, Flamingo, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Collared Pratincole, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Sanderling, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Turnstone, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Common Tern, Little Tern, Whiskered Tern, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Turtle Dove, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Blackbird, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Great Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Common Waxbill, Black-rumped waxbill, Red Avadavat, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet.

Distant Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

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