more from Almería

Doesn't Dave ever sleep or has Gilly thrown him out so that he doesn't get in the way of Christmas preparations? Hot on the heels of one mail yesterday and which I didn't even get time to post, another when I opened up a few minutes since. So, in order that I don't get another three awaiting by after Christmas, here they are. My apologies to Dave & co. for the delay, but in case you haven't noticed, the festive season is upon us (I hate bloody Christmas!) and someone keeps wanting me to do things, like shopping (which I also bloody hate!).

So, just in case you do like Christmas and that Santa and/or the Three Kings are going to bring you something optically appetising and that someone has been listening to your unsubtle hints,
Happy Christmas and, especially, good birding in the New Year. And if nobody has listened to your unsubtle hints, buy yourself your own presents, that's a 100% guarantee of getting what you want! I do.

Now to the accounts, first 22 December about Las Norias and Roquetas with the Arboleas Group, followed by today, 23 December, and Cabo de Gata by Dave on his ownsome.

22 December, Las Norias and Roquetas with the Arboleas Group The weather forecast for today was not good.....rain. For this reason Brian and Mary decided not to travel the long distance from Chirivel. So it was down to Dave, Myrtle and myself to head down to Las Norias. We left Arboleas at 0730, expecting to get wet at some point. We arrived at the causeway opposite the scrapyard in sunshine with a few clouds! Apart from numerous Crag Martins flying around, the first thing we noticed was the height of the water. It was at least 4ft above it's normal level. A scan round the left hand lake revealed hundreds of Shoveler, Great Crested, Black-necked and Little Grebes and Coot. The shrubs on the waters edge were alive with Chiffchaff and the odd Sardinian Warbler. There were 10's of Cormorants as well.

We then walked over the road to the right hand lake facing the scrapyard. The sun was against us but there were at least 200 White-headed Ducks with more Shoveler. Also spotted, swimming along the reed edge, was a Purple Swamphen. We then drove to the viewing site near to the empty heronry. Apart from a host of midges, we did see an unusual warbler with the Chiffchaff. It remains unidentified. A Cetti's Warbler was being vocal from the bamboo.

At the causeway near to the plastic recycling depot the water levels were extremely high on both sides of the road. The newly created gravel islands were totally submerged. A flapping of wings drew our attention to an adult Night Heron flying off. I made my way to the flooded fields on the corner. As I walked round the corner a Little Bittern disappeared into the reeds. I beckoned Dave and Myrtle over as this was looking promising. A Bluethroat was strutting its stuff on the path. A Redshank and a Common Sandpiper were feeding in the shallows. 9 Lapwing and a Black-winged Stilt flew over. A Snipe was also seen.

We then headed to Roquetas, stopping next to the hotels overlooking the large lake. Therein were Red-crested Pochard, Wigeon, Common Pochard and Shelduck. A Kingfisher whizzed by. We then walked from the corner to the little pool where we hoped to see the resident Red-knobbed Coot. We weren't disappointed, but only saw the one. Didn't see any of the "collared" ones. A pair of White-headed Duck were also there. An obliging Cetti's Warbler deigned to give us a reasonable view. As we walked back to the car a few drops of rain began to fall. Putting our gear back in the car I spotted a Marsh Harrier disappearing into the reeds.
A cracking days birding...sorry you missed it, Brian and Mary! 48 species in all.

23 December, Cabo de Gata
After yesterday's good luck with the weather, I suspected it couldn't last. I was dead right! I got down to the first hide at Cabo de Gata just after 0800hrs in time for the usual exodus of Eurasian Curlews from the waters edge to the savannah. The wind from the west was horrendous. There was little or no protection in the hide. The water level was up again with only small amounts of sandy scrapes available for waders.I scanned the scene in front of me. 3-4 Little Egrets, 36 Black-tailed Godwit and 4 Redshanks. A steady stream of Cormorants were heading towards the very rough sea. Spotted a single Eurasian Curlew. At 0822 it took off and flew north.
About 0830 19 Eurasian Curlews flew towards the hide from the far end of the salinas. About 300yds out they split into two groups passing about 150yds each side of the hide. I managed to pick up one of the birds to the right which was smaller in size and bill, but no positive ID. A Whimbrel or something much rarer? 6 Northern Starling flew low and fast passed the hide.
I drove round to the pool on the opposite side of the road. 3 more Black-tailed Godwits, an Avocet, 9 Black-winged Stilt and a nice male Teal. A pair of Crag Martin tacked against the wind. It was then on to the beach road to the second hide. I tried to look out to sea, but the wind made it impossible to hold binoculars steady let alone a telescope. I trudged to the hide. About 30 Avocet were sheltering below the nearest bank. 100+ Slender-billed Gull were huddled together to the left. Spotted some Stonechats on the leeward sides of shrubs.
The only birds seen from the public hide were some Greater Flamingos and 6 Shelducks. I fared little better round the rear of the reserve. No waders at all. Only a few more Shelducks and a Water Pipit. The track had huge deep puddles so definitely only for use by 4x4's.
26 species today.......and a Happy Christmas to everyone!!

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