17 Dec., Cabo de Gata, Arboleas Birding Group

Dave has been out to Cabo de Gata again. I'm certain that one day, sooner rather than later, their devotion will pay off with the BIG YIN - and I don't mean Scotland's best known philosopher, Billy Connolly, but a Slender-billed Curlew for which he is so assiduously searching. My apologies for late posting, Dave, but I been away up in Madrid and saw 2 Common Buzzards and a ring-tailed Hen Harrier from the Ave yesterday afternoon and dr9ving down today a single Buzzard near Ciudad Real and a few Azure-winged Magpies near the Bailén turn off. And if you think it's cold at Cabo de Gata, try Madrid this morning (Saturday) at -4ºC and hoar frost all over the car screen, followed by rain, at times very heavy, from Ciudad Real south to Málaga! And whilst I'm writing this there is thunder and lightning banging around, it's pouring down outside and the dog has objected to particularly large bangs a couple of times and also needs to go down but she doesn't like rain - a good job she doesn't live in Britain!

Also, before going to Dave's account, please note that the next Axarquia Bird Group visit will be to Fuente de Piedra, meeting at 10 am,Thursday, 23 December, in the main car park which is immediately in front of the re-opened Visitors Centre.

I should have known how cold I was going to get at Cabo de Gata as I scraped the ice off the trucks windscreen. My hands hugged a cup of thermos coffee as I sat in the first hide just after dawn had broken. The good news was that the water level had dropped so expanses of sandy ground had appeared. This had encouraged about a dozen Grey Plovers to settle. Also there was some Ringed and Kentish Plover, Dunlin and Redshank. In slightly deeper water a flock of 27 Black-tailed Godwit was feeding. I could see a couple of Eurasian Curlews on the right shoreline, but could also hears the calls of others. Between 0814 and 0833hrs both birds had moved onto dry land.

A Stonechat was oblivious to my presence as it patrolled along the fence in front of the hide, giving me an opportunity to capture it on film....sorry, digital imagery I suppose you say these days! A flotilla of 70+ Slender-billed Gulls were feeding amongst the legs of the Greater Flamingos. I could see to my right a large flock of birds moving en mass up and down the savanna near the beach, so that's where I headed after a short stop at the pool over the road. Managed to spot a single Teal, a Southern Grey Shrike and a few Black-winged Stilt.

As I drove along the beach road I came across this swirling flock of what turned out to be about 200+ Golden Plovers. This is, to me, an unusual location for them as they're usually to be found about a mile or two away on the Morales steppes. There was nothing out to sea. From the second hide I gained Little Egret and Mallard.

I stopped for another thermos coffee at the public hide car park & watched the numerous Greenfinches and a pair of Corn Buntings drinking at the puddles. 3 Eurasian Curlews were put to flight by a hardy walker. From the hide itself I saw 59 Lesser Black-backed Gulls resting on a spit and 24 Black-necked Grebes huddled in the water away from the cold breeze. On the wader front there was very little round the dry rear of the reserve but the sun had brought out the smaller birds: Water Pipit, Zitting Cisticola, Dartford Warblers and Chiffchaffs. 2 Stone Curlews were a very pleasant finale to the trip.
"Only" 34 species for the day. Was glad to be heading back home for hot soup & toast.

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