22 September, Cabo de Gata

I really am starting to think that this site should be renamed 'birding with Dave', or similar. Herewith his report for today from Almería. However, this e-mail did get through and here it is.

Gilly, four members of the birding group and myself headed down to Cabo de Gata, arriving at the first hide at about 9.30am. The weather was sunny, but with a bit of a breeze. A scan of the water in front of us produced the usual Black-winged Stilts, Avocets, Black-tailed Godwits (137 for day), Ringed Plovers, Kentish Plovers and Redshanks. Also present were the Greater Flamingos (222 counted later), Grey Heron and Little Egret. A shout went up regarding some birds of prey. A Short-toed Eagle was trying to gain height whilst being harassed by a female Montagu's Harrier. I checked for Eurasian Curlew on the right hand sandy waters edge but could not see any. However at least four were spotted on the grassland between us and the sea.

We headed round in that direction. On one of the low wooden railings, beach side of the road, sat the first of many Northern Wheatear. As we sat there a curlew-type bird flew from the beach in front of us onto the grassland. We had a clear view and confirmed it was a Whimbrel. Out to sea we spotted 4 immature Gannets and some Sandwich Terns. Then Gilly spotted a flight of 8 small birds which landed to our left on the grassland. The one we managed to spot was a Tawny Pipit. At the hide itself Gilly and Mary spotted some small birds in a thicket. Three Whitethroats and a juvenile Woodchat Shrike came close by. Shoveler were added to the Mallard we'd seen. We next stopped the public hide. In the compound was a female Blackcap, which unfortunately was having trouble flying. From the hide itself only a Sardinian Warbler was added to our list. But the female Montagu's Harrier did a beautiful fly pass at very close quarters.

At this point we split up. Gilly and I, as we had our 4x4, went round the rear of the reserve whilst the others proceeded to the Visitors Centre. They missed a treat. Small migrants were in abundance. Spotted Flycatchers, at least a dozen Whinchats. Northern Wheatears were joined by a single Black-eared Wheatear.

As we were watching these I spotted movement to my left. A Whimbrel, not 5 metres away, slinking over a sandy ridge to the water beyond. Whether it was a juvenile or a different subspecies I don't know, but it didn't display the pale median crown strip. I have a confession to make. As it was now hidden from sight, but only 10 metres away, grabbing my camera I climbed over the wire fence and skirted round where I thought it would be. I clicked as it saw me and flew off, getting a perfect under wing identification of a Whimbrel.

I returned to the migrant watch, seeing Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and a pair of resident Spectacled Warblers. On the wader front we added Greenshank, Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Little Stint and an eclipse Spotted Redshank.

Another fantastic day at our best local spot. 49 species for the day. Brilliant!

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