10 November, Cabo de Gata

Hooray, Dave and Gilly are back so there is news from Cabo de Gata. Thanks, Dave, and welcome back! I'll bet you're both still thawing out.

After 5 weeks in the UK I was very happy to be back birding in Spain. Gilly had charity work commitments so Chris and I headed down to Cabo de Gata, hoping that the high winds had subsided. After a coffee stop in Pujaire we made our way to the first hide. We were astounded to see that the water level was exceedingly high. Yes, there were Greater Flamingoes, but no sign of the usual huge numbers of Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit or Black-winged Stilt. Neither were there any small waders to be seen. We did see a Little Egret and a single distant Audouin's Gull. I then noticed a wader on the causeway - a Greenshank. Huddled next to it was a Grey Plover and a Golden Plover. Some Sardinian Warblers made an appearance as did the first of many Stonechats. Our intention was to saunter over the road to where we suspected the shallow pool was, only to be beaten there by a van. Its arrival did put a couple of Snipe and a Redshank to the wing. On the power lines was, according to my new Collins Bird Guide, an Iberian Grey Shrike.
A check out to sea revealed about 10 Gannets of various ages, but nothing else. The walk to the 2nd hide produced a pair of Corn Buntings. Again the bird life was few and far between. Some Mallards, Shelducks, a flight of Avocets, a feeding flotilla of Slender-billed Gulls and a single flying Turnstone.
Moving on to the public hide, things improved slightly. 3 Eurasian Curlew were a godsend as I didn't relish the thought of submitting a totally blank survey form to the Slender Billed Curlew Search team! We saw a small number of Shoveler, a Cormorant, a few more Avocets, some Black-winged Stilts and (birds of the day) a raft of 23 Black-necked Grebes.
As we drove round to the back of the reserve we we gutted to see that the first salina, where the majority of gulls rest, had been drained. But as this area is a working salt producing plant, none of the reserve would exist today without the past workings. The second salina was in the process of having its water removed. There were lots of shallow waterfilled trenches. These were feeding troughs for loads of Dunlin, Kentish Plover, Little Stint and Sanderling.
An average day by Cabo standard. 39 species and, sorry, no photo opportunities. Glad to be back though!

I must say that I don't really go on the new English name of Iberian Grey Shrike for Southern Grey Shrike, especially as I am not sure if they have been separated (at least officially) from the North African races of algeriensis and elegans, not to mention koenigi of the Canary Islands, in which case it's a bit regionalistic and jumping the gun. I see from my copy of the new Collins guide that they claim genetic didfferences, but I do know that some claims for other spp. have been based on comparative mtDNA differences of considerably less than 2% - a generally accepted divergence figure for speciation.

The same criticism can be applied to the Mediterranean race of Cory's Shearwater which some want to call Scopoli's and with which others (of which Hadoram Shirihai, Bill Bourne and myself are three) and where the genetic divergence Is only around 0.5% and which the Collins retains as a subspecies but does give the name Scopoli's. It is, in fact, the nominal race and used to be known as Mediterranean Shearwater (which is before my time even!) and Atlantic race is borealis.

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