Wednesday 12 January 2022

Cabo de Gata with the Arboleas Birding Group

 Wednesday 11 January

What a day for friend Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group.  Not just all those Trumpeter Finches but two lifers, probably for all present, as they recorded first a Bonaparte's Gull and then a visiting Blue-winged Teal.  And whilst Dave was pondering the rain or no rain at the start of the day, we were setting odd from Portsmouth to Santander on our way back to Spain.  Thick fog from daybreak and never mind birds, we could only identify the Navy's warships by shape rather than detail as we slowly sailed past.  We did see about half a dozen very close Black-headed Gulls but that was it all day.  Come this morning clear blue skies and blazing sunshine - but not a single bird in sight.  Such is birding!

Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales: Wednesday 12th January

Health warning....Those of a nervous disposition please read no further!

The weather forecast was a bit dodgy, but hey ho, are we fairweather birders?  No! I started early and headed south on the A7/E15 towards Almeria.  At around Sorbas there were a few drops of rain, but ahead of me I could see clear skies with patchy clouds.  I'd arranged with Kevin, who stayed overnight in his campervan, to meet me at the first hide at 8.15hrs.  He arrived just before me, then got in my truck for a trip round the rear of the reserve before the others were scheduled to arrive at 9.30hrs.  As we drove towards the beach a flight of Cattle Egret flew over.  On the beach itself we saw three Eurasian Curlew plus Stonechats and Thekla Larks on the fence posts. No sign of any Dotterel.  Further on Kevin added a Yellow-legged Gull.  We also saw a Raven.

We started down the bumpy, but dry track.  There was a flotilla of 17 Shelduck on one of the first salinas.  A few small waders were seen on our shoreline.  Dunlin, Little Stint and Kentish Plover.  In the water there were Greater Flamingos and Black Tailed Godwits.  On the pylons there were a large number of Northern Starlings.  Nearing the end of the track I spotted a flight of 20 Stone Curlew whilst Kevin found another two on his side of the track.  Also seen were House Sparrows and a Collared Dove.  Back on the road again, a Hoopoe flew over.

We stopped at the first hide and scanned the view in front of us.  An Eurasian Curlew flew noisily over. There were 3 Little Egrets along the left hand bank, but a long line of Spoonbill down the far end. Kevin counted 49 individuals.  He later found two more in a different location.  He spotted some Mallard and I found a few Wigeon.  About this time we'd been joined by Peter, Carolyn and her boyfriend, Steve.  Kevin identified some distant Slender-billed Gulls and I found an Iberian Grey Shrike on the power lines behind us.

It was time for a coffee so we stopped off in a Cabo village cafe.  From there, with Kevin and Peter in my 4x4 and the other two following in theirs, we headed along the beachside track to the Rambla Morales.  The last time we ventured along there, someone, mentioning no names, got his car stuck in the soft sand!  This time there was very little of the soft stuff.  We checked for waders on the savannah, but nothing was seen.  We parked up.  Kevin said there were some waders and grebes at the closed estuary mouth.  Sure enough there were 6 Black-necked Grebes, a Sanderling, Dunlin and Ringed Plover.  There was also a medium-sized gull there, on its own, doing a Slender-billed Gull feeding action.  It had a black beak and a spot behind the ear.  I suspected it was the Bonaparte's Gull seen the previous week there.  I checked Collins and it looked good for it.  I thought I'd check with a higher authority before publishing my report.  I got some distant photos, not wanting to spook it.  Peter saw a female duck in the opposite reed line which turned out to be a Teal.  We wandered down to the hump, hearing a Cetti's Warbler on the way.  Kevin, who'd got there before us, had already logged Purple Swamphen, Coot, White-headed Duck, Shoveler and Common Pochard.  There was a Dutch or Flemish birder there with his scope.  He said, "Look in my scope.  It's the Blue-winged Teal (female).  It's half hidden in the reeds!  " Wow!  Then he said, " Was the Bonaparte's Gull still there when you arrived?", which confirmed my suspicions!  Two lifers in 15 minutes for me!

Bonaparte's Gull Larus philadelphia (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Duly elated we retraced our steps and headed for the public hide.  My sciatic nerve was playing up so we missed out the second and middle hides.  The first thing we saw as we drove down the track towards the parking circle were three Eurasian Curlews and close by a flock of about 12 Trumpeter finches! Kevin found a line of a dozen or more Sandwich Terns on the rocky causeway to the right.  Kevin also spotted a couple of Avocet.  Also seen were Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls.  We exited via the church track, hoping to see the Trumpeter Finches again, but only saw Greenfinches.
After a snack lunch I added a Magpie en route to the motorway. 

We ended up with 44 species. A cracking day. Great birds, weather and company.

Despite all my attempts I failed to get a decent photo of the Blue Winged Teal, so you'll have to be satisfied with the Bonaparte's Gull!

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