Wednesday 21 December 2022

Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales

 Wednesday 21 December

I see that Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group were at the Cabo de Gata in Almeria, one of my favourite and most beautiful birding sites in Spain.  Looking at the birds seen I see a few that will be sadly missed in the coming months and years unless back in Spain.  What's not to like with recording White-headed Duck, Trumpeter Finch, Sardinian Warbler and Iberian Grey Shrike.  Takes great pleasure to wish Dave and all his Arboleas Birding Group a peaceful Christmas and a most happy and healthy New Year.

Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales:  Wednesday 21st December

For our last official trip of the year I was persuaded to give the Rambla de Morales a try as previously Alan and Peter had seen 32 species there.  I picked Peter up from the Overa hotel and we headed south on the A5/E17.  About 20km to go we encountered a bank of fog, but luckily by the time we reached junction 762 it had been cleared by the shining sun.

As we headed towards Retamar Sur we saw a flight of half a dozen Cattle Egret.  In the town we added Collared Dove and Northern Starling.  As we passed one of the plastic greenhouses a female Black Redstart flew across our path.  As we were a tad early we stopped at the Cabo de Gata bird reserves first hide.  We were pleasantly surprised to see, in the distance, that in front of the second hide there was water and there were Yellow-legged Gulls standing in it.  For those not in the know, the water from the reserve had been lost due to a disruption to the water supply from the sea supplying both the reserve and the salt works.  As far as I know the powers that be agree that supply should be reinstated as soon as possible but who was to pay for it was a stumbling block.

A watery view from the Second Hide

Before we departed Peter spotted a Stonechat perched on a distant shrub.

We met Trevor for a coffee in the " roundabout" cafe.  Instead of just going to the Rambla Morales we decided to drive up to the public hide to check the scrubland for Dotterel and then pay a visit to the second hide.  Sadly no Dotterel were seen but we did add Greenfinch and Thekla Lark.  We did a U-turn at the public hide and stopped at the approach to the second hide.  We crossed the road to scan the sea, hoping for the reported Razorbills.  Alas no but I did spot a Shearwater.  Checking my old Collins which I keep in the car, I decided it was a Mediterranean Shearwater, but I knew there had been a split. When I got home I checked my newer edition of Collins and the "Pelagic Birds of the North Atlantic" by Andy Paterson (ISBN 978-1-78009-228-7) and I came to the conclusion it was a Yelkouan Shearwater.  Trevor spotted an immature Gannet shearing over the waves.  As we walked towards the hide a couple of Stone Curlews took to the air.  We only saw the Yellow-legged Gulls, a 3rd year winter with the black spot on the bill confused me for a bit.  A male Sardinian Warbler made an appearance. There was more water in the adjacent salinas but no birds.

Hoping for better things, we made our way along the beachside track towards the Rambla Morales.  We saw a small group of Thekla Larks together with an unidentified pipit.  We were gutted when we got to the parking area to find that there were five dogs loitering around, three with their owners by the birdless estuary end.  We walked along the track towards the hump.  From there we saw some Mallard, a flotilla of White-headed Ducks and a Coot.  A Black-necked Grebe was next to be spotted followed by a Goldfinch on a reed on the opposite bank.  We walked a bit further along to the bend, but only saw more Mallard and White-headed Ducks.  Somewhat dejected, we walked back towards the vehicles. Trevor found an Iberian Grey Shrike on a distant bush. 

Male White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephalus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We said our goodbyes and headed back along the track.  Nearing the end we saw a small flock of finch sized birds flitting to our right.  Some landed on a wooden rail.  Success!  Trumpeter Finches!  Much happier, we made our way back towards the motorway adding House Sparrow, Hoopoe, Jackdaw, Woodpigeon and Magpie.

Trumpeter Finches Bucanetes githagineus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

It was an up and down day, but I really enjoyed the company and some very good birds! 24 species seen.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Regards, Dave & Gilly

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