10 December, Morales with the Arboleas Birding Group,

Another offering from Almería by the active Arboleas Birding Group with this report from Dave. The photos are Dave's, of course. The Virgin of the Sea (Virgen del Mar) chapel to which Dave refers is that rather Byzantine looking little buildingwith its onion domed roof which looks as though it should be somewhere in eastern Europe and is a useful reference point for starting the seaward side of Las Almoladeras. Interesting the comment on the lack of White-headed Ducks as this is something we are also missing at the Guadalhorce and on whioch I commented in my last blog from there.

Today seven members of the group headed toMorales, near Cabo de Gata. The weather was wonderful, sunny with a slight breeze. Having left the seafront at Retamar South, we headed towards the Virgin of the Sea chapel. Along the route we saw the first of our many Chiffchaffs and Greenfinches. Once there, birds on the land were scarce, but out to sea we saw a single Razorbill and a couple of distant Gannets. On the beach were a small flock of Turnstones, numerous Sanderlings, a solitary Ringed Plover and a few Kentish Plovers. A single Cormorant flew past.

4x4s were needed for the bumpy track across the steppes towards the large pool. The expected flock of Golden Plover never materialised, but numerous Stonechats were spotted with a few Southern Grey Shrikes and a sole Corn Bunting.

At the pool we walked across the Playa del Charco (beach) and I managed to secret myself close to the water's edge to get some photos. Sanderling, Dunlin, Little Stint and Black-winged Stilt all came within camera range. Also present were Little Egret, Redshank and on the way back a Greenshank. Out to sea were a further 4 Razorbills. As we were about to walk along the far side of the pool, a female Marsh Harrier was flying low over the reeds at the far end.
On the water itself we expected to see the resident White-headed Ducks and over-wintering Shovelers, but no. Only a few Coot and a Dabchick were seen. The water level was just right. It had dropped a couple of feet leaving muddy scrapes with stumps of cut reeds. Dave Green and I wandered down to the far end. On a scrape about 3/4 the way down I spotted the bird of the day, a Water Rail. It soon disappeared into the bushes. The only duck we saw were a couple of pairs of Mallard and Teal. A total of 43 species seen. Well pleased with the numbers, the Razorbill and the Water Rail.

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