17 February, Cabo de Gata, Arboleas Birding Group

Methinks that Dave must suffer from insomnia. In my household after a night with spasms of heavy rain we were awoken (all except the son and heir) by a clap of thunder that shook the windows, awoke the dog who reacted by barking just as there was another huge bang right overhead and all I could think of was John Laurie of Dad's Army fame and his sepulchral, "We're doomed, we're all doomed!" Once the dog was calmed down I decided that an early start and a coffee was in order, and I'm still working but this is the last act of the day whilst listening to 'The Gondoliers' - G & S is great to work to.

He saw 5 spp. of hirundines, jolly good going given the conditions but they still come, as I have heard of the same spp. coming over in the Strait and House Martins and Swallows have got up to Badajoz and House Martins have been seen in Madrid where there is snow (I shan't repeat what my daughter says about walking to work in the snow but it's not overly polite!). So, now to Dave's chronicle of what an insomniac sees when he ventures out in wild conditions!

The weather forecast was for strong WSW winds, which I hoped would push shearwaters towards the coastline. I got up early and was at the first hide just after first light. Water levels were still high, but there were a few larger waders sheltering on the mostly submerged rocky causeway. I could easily identify 3 Curlews and 4 Grey Plovers.
The others were Godwits. A passing Lesser Black-Backed Gull put them temporarily to flight and I counted 10 Black-tailed and 6 Bar-tailed. There was a lot of activity from the other side of the road. Due to the mud, I drove down a short track to the right of the small desalination building. There was a large shallow pool. Spring had obviously come to Cabo de Gata without my knowledge!

There were 10 Barn Swallows, a single Red-rumped Swallow, at least 3 House Martins, a similar number of Sand Martins and numerous resident Crag Martins.
2 Green Sandpipers flew off as I arrived. As I still hadn't ticked off a Black-headed Gulls for the day, I got the scope on a small gull down the far end. It was a first winter Little Gull. Got a distant record shot on the camera. 28 species for the first hide! At the beach, the wind wasn't as strong as predicted. A scan out to sea only produced 6 Sandwich Terns. I made my way to the second hide. A flock of 50+ Serins, the males very yellow, flittered between shrubs together with the odd Linnet and Greenfinch. The heavens then opened!

I was stuck there for over half an hour by the persistent rain and associated thunder and lightening. The only plus was that I would've missed the Oystercatcher! I eventually made my way back to the truck, slightly damp but happy to warm up with thermos coffee! At the public hide I managed to see Black-necked Grebe, Redshank and Kentish Plover.

I then moved to the seawatch point and was able to sit in my vehicle and observe the choppy sea whilst eating sarnies. Very disappointed. Only saw 4 passing Gannets and about 6 Sandwich Terns plus some regular gulls in the 45 minutes I was there. Maybe, due to the forecast, the sensible fishermen hadn't gone to sea and here were no boats visible.
Round the back of the reserve I headed. The track had reverted to elongated ponds (see photo).

The tally of waders rose with numerous Dunlin flocks, which had been infiltrated by Little Stints. There were also small numbers of Ringed Plover and Black-winged Stilt. As I reached the far end of the track I put up a flock of 50+ Stone Curlew.....and the sun was shining!! 51 species for the day. (And not even a runny nose, Andy!!). As I neared home a juvenile Bonelli's Eagle flew low over the truck to complete a very satisfactory day.

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