29 July, Cabo de Gata and some rarity news

Cabo de Gata
Dave Elliott-Binns, in an act of extreme bravery above and beyond the call of duty, ventured forth to Cabo de Gata and the salinas early this morning, before even the sun had risen and there must have been only a faint light in the sky. Here is his account, the brave chap, but I would remind him that to all intent and purpose the Andalusian Hemipode (forget calling it a Buttonquail) is allegedly extinct in Andalucía and that we would miss his accounts from Almería.

Yesterday evening I thought " That's it. I'm not skulking away from the sun like a cowardly Andalucian Hemipode any more. I'm craving for some birding!" So at 0600 hrs I left the house, a sleeping Gilly and headed south towards Cabo de Gata. After a cafe stop at Pujaire I went to the first hide. As I entered I was very happy that the sun and heat had dried up and made odourless what some desperate individual had left on one of the benches!! The water level was quite low so a lot of waders were on the salty mudflats, but were quite a distance away. I counted over 150 Black-tailed Godwits. There were even more Avocets. A Gull-billed Tern tried to hide amongst the small flock of Black-headed Gulls, but the best bird there was a Stone Curlew on the dried up causeway. Before reaching the second hide I checked out to sea. Flat as a tack, but no birds. About 100 Yellow-legged Gulls were on the beach. At the hide one could see over 1,000 Greater Flamingos, some in large tight groups. Numerous Little Terns were diving in. Shelduck and Mallard were the only wildfowl together with a few Slender-billed Gulls. At the public hide there were 100's of waders. I managed to identify Little Stint, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Redshank and Kentish Plover with more Godwits. I was desperately missing my telescope, which is awaiting repairs after being blown over by a gust of wind. I even forked out €1 and used the static one in the hide......would've done better with a couple of Coop milk bottles!! Pretty sure I saw Sandwich and Common Terns amongst the Little Terns. A trip to the lighthouse was not rewarding! I expect I could see 75 sq miles of flat sea, but only saw 5 Yellow-Legged Gulls on the rocks! However did see a couple of small pods of Dolphins. Round the back of the reserve a flock of 60 Audouin's Gull were resting. Unfortunately the steady stream of Mountain Bikers weren't! Did manage Red-rumped Swallow, Little Owl and Zitting Cisticola before hitting the tarmac again. A respectable 37 species and the sun was just breaking through the slight sea mist as I was leaving at 10 o'clock.

Rarity news
These are bits of information that I have gleaned through contacts this past week.

Long-legged Buzzard - Busardo Moro - has bred in the La Janda area of Cádiz and raised two young to flying stage, this is the first breeding in Spain. Last time I was down there with Bob Wright we had a probable one.

Little Swift - Vencejo Moro - is now well settled in as a breeding species, with nests at three well spaced out sites, with anything up to a total of 17 birds being seen in this past week (young will be on the wing now).

Rüppell's Vulture - Buitre Moteado - again something to keep an open for anywhere where there are concentrations, but especially in the Strait area. No less than 15 have been seen coming in from Morocco this spring-summer so it might just turn out to be the year that I see one! Generally they hear of me before me of them and shove off at high speed.

White-backed Vulture - one was wiped out by one of those many damned aeolic windmills that stand around on La Janda. Albeit a very dead and mangled one, this is only the third Iberian record.

If anyone is birding in the Chipiona (Cádiz) area, keep an eye on the beach and rocks at low tide as Roseate Tern has been seen, waders are frequent and also Little Swifts overfly. Further south, the first returning Lesser Crested Tern has been seen resting on the beach at Los Lances, Tarifa.

And finally, if anyone is passing through La Mancha and deviates to any of the lagunas in Ciudad Real province to do some birding, do keep an eye pen for Lesser Flamingos as 3 are knocking around the area, two are wearing colour rings and I would be most interested, as a member of the IUCN Flamingo Working Group, to have any news of them, when and where and if any rings were visible. A good way to see is to take a photograph if there is any sort of telephoto capability and then enlarge it to the maximum. Ain't digital wonderful? Many thanks.

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