14 January, Arboleas Bird Group

Gilly and Dave must be the least wimpy as I haven't been out for ages except for a to and from Madrid since last Saturday when the best was a small flock of Cranes and 2 Red Kites on La Mancha on Saturday. The return on Monday is best forgotten as the Ave did not fly but rather staggered as far as Cordóba. But Gilly and Dave are obviously made of stronger stuff, as Dave's account shows, and I reckon they deserve a gold star for effort!

14 January, Cabo de Gata, Arboleas Birding Group
The forecast was for high gusty winds with cloud cover. Gilly and I were the only two members to the group to be brave (or stupid) enough to venture down to our favourite local site, Cabo de Gata. As we arrived at the first hide, just beyond the village of Pujaire, we could see the high water level we encountered previously was actually slightly worse. Again the water was virtually up to the hide and had stretched to the other side of the road. There a small flock of Crag Martins were overflying a shallow pool which was occupied by 4 Shovelers. On the main water in front of us the only wader visible was a solitary Black-tailed Godwit on the mostly submerged causeway. 2 Lapwings did fly over and we did spot 11 Grey Plovers on the scrubland to our right. A Southern Grey Shrike landed on the fence not three metres in front of the hide, but sound of a camera being picked up frightened it away!

We then moved to the beach, prior to going to the second hide. The off-shore wind was tremendously strong and big waves were crashing on to the beach. Out to sea we had glimpses of a steady stream of Balearic Shearwaters being forced close to shore. As well as a couple of Gannets, I'm sure other good birds were not identified because of only the briefest of views and streaming eyes! A single Sanderling and Curlew were on the sand. At the hide Gilly counted only 130 Greater Flamingos. One Cormorant was spotted and a couple more Curlew and Grey Plover were on the steppes. No waders at all at the public hide due to lack of unsubmerged scrapes. On the salina to the right I spotted a pair of Black-necked Grebes and a raft of 500+ Black-headed Gulls, a few of which had their full breeding heads on.

We then ventured round the rear of the reserve. Do NOT try this route at the moment without a 4x4. Puddles up to the running boards!

On the first stretch of water a flock of 83 Audouin's Gulls were resting. Was close enough to see the numbered rings of 7 of them which I've forwarded to Andy to pass on. It'll be interesting to hear where they've come from. A Meadow Pipit came nicely within camera range. Small numbers of Dunlin, Little Stint and Avocet were seen. Singles of Black-winged Stilt and Redshank were noted. As we got near to the end were there are cultivated fields we put up a Green Sandpiper and a flock of about 10 Stone Curlews.
Saw 40 species for the day. Well satisfied.

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