29 December, Arboleas Birding GRoup, Cabo de Gata

After a rather busy day as my cocker spaniel had to have four papillomas removed and the vet was without his assistant (sick) and myself staying to help (blood doesn't upset me) this morning and then pick up a very nervous and stressed little dog this afternoon with sutures at 4 points on her body, well, another fun filled day! So, it was very welcome to receive the following from Dave and the Arboleas Group about their visit today to Cabo de Gata. And if it's any consolation for you down there, Dave, we have no shore space for waders at the Guadalhorce either and I am hoping that I may pick up some at Fuente de Piedra as soon as time permits.

Cabo de Gata,
Tuesday 29th December 2009
Last week the weather forecast for Wednesday down at Cabo de Gata wasn't too hot so we decided to go on the Tuesday. When I looked yesterday, Tuesday was cloudy, whilst Wednesday was clear and sunny. So Dave, Myrtle and I travelled down there thinking the worst. Gilly had overnight succumbed to the cold/flu I had had over Xmas so I'd left her in bed. The weather all day was good, but not brilliant. Sunny with high clouds, but with a strong warm breeze which kept the smaller LBJ's in the undergrowth. Over the past week or so, we'd seen in the local papers that the village of Cabo de Gata had had some serious rains followed by flooding, but it was still a minor shock to see the water level from the first hide. There were no visible mud scrapes. The rocky causeway had virtually disappeared. The water was within metres of the chain link fence below the hide itself. On the other side of the road the ground was covered by large pools.

On the causeway I could see 11 Grey Plover and a single Ringed Plover. Three Snipe flew off. On the scrub to our right a mixed flock of Spotless and Northern Starling were being moved around by a harassing Kestrel. Lots of Stonechats and Chiffchaffs were seen all day. We could see a flock of Black-tailed Godwits close to the second hide, so off there we headed. A check out to sea was fruitless. It was choppy. As we arrived at the hide a large group of Lesser Black-backed Gulls with 4 Sandwich Terns amongst them. We found the grazing flock of 25+ Black-tailed Godwits, which were joined by 6 Curlews. The numerous Greater Flamingos ( est. 750 +) were up to their bellies in water. I spotted two Spoonbills in their normal pose...asleep! A Bluethroat made a very brief appearance on a shrub before skulking away. Singles of Cormorant and Black-necked Grebe were seen. Very poor on the wildfowl front..... 11 Mallard and about 8 Shelducks for the day. None of the expected wintering duck seen. A solitary Slender-billed Gull was in the water-filled dyke beside the hide.

A visit to the public hide only added a few more Cormorants and Grebes. No waders to be seen at all. I had high hopes for the rear of the reserve. As we started our adventurous drive round, we were greeted by a very obliging pipit on a garden wall. It stayed long enough for us to confirm it was a Water Pipit. My 4x4 came into its own. Some of the puddles must have been 2.5 feet deep. Some Meadow Pipits were bathing in the fresh water. The expected numbers of wader didn't materialize. A few Sanderling, Redshank, Dunlin, Little Stint and Avocet. Spotted a godwit that flew off as we approached...no white wing bars, so a Bar-tailed Godwit. Not a single Kentish Plover or Black-winged Stilt seen all day. We ended up with a 44 species count. Well, that's it from the Arboleas Birding Group for 2009.

Wishing all a very productive birding 2010, Dave & Gilly.

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