12 January, Cabo de Gata

You will possibly be wondering why there is a photo of a plant on a birding page, especially when the writer of this blog classifies plants by the extremely simple system of colour and size - for example, large, yellow, in spring = daffodil, or, large, green with thick stems = a tree.

However, this particular plant rejoices in the scientific name of
Androcymbium europaeum and was found by Mary Taylor, a botanist, and photographed by Brian Taylor at Cabo de Gata. It is an extremely rare endemic and only found there. They were part of the Arboleas Group who went down to that most productive of areas, Cabo de Gata, as Dave reports below. The other photos are Dave's. By the way, Dave, I haven't seen any Razorbills either although I understand that occasional ones have been seen in Almería bay, nor any Arctic Skuas.

And before going to Dave's account, a 1st winter Pallid Harrier was seen on La Janda this last weekend and was seen again yesterday (Wednesday) along the track that runs along by the canal.

It was a lovely day down at Cabo de Gata. Sunny, getting warmer & no wind. The water level was still quite high in front of the first hide, so not many smaller waders were around, but the larger ones were more in evidence. 26 Black-tailed Godwit, Avocets and Greater Flamingos. (Gilly later counted 248). I spotted 23 Grey Plovers with a couple of Eurasian Curlews on the right water's edge. Then Gilly spotted a group of large birds grazing on the savannah, 6 more Curlews with 5 more Godwits. Also overflying the grasslands were about 50+ Golden Plover.

Gilly and I checked out the pool on the opposite side of the road (because we had the 4x4) as Brian, Mary, Dave and Myrtle headed for the second hide. At the pool we added Snipe, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover and Dunlin to the list before following the rest of the group. Out over the calm sea was a solitary Gannet. Seen no Razorbills this winter at all. From the hide we saw 4-5 Stone Curlews sunning themselves on the steppes and a Water Pipit in the dyke.

We drove into the parking area by the public hide first. I stopped as I saw a bird by one of the puddles. A Trumpeter Finch, but it flew off before the others arrived as did a Dartford Warbler. From the hide we saw numerous Shelduck and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Then somehow Gilly spotted a raptor sitting on a post through the heat haze. With full zoom on the scope we studied this shimmering bird. We concluded it was a Peregrine Falcon. Maybe Gilly and I would get a better view from the rear of the reserve. Meanwhile Brian had found a Trumpeter Finch on the fence by the car park and Mary spotted the elusive Dartford Warbler.

The others headed towards the lighthouse, seeing a Black Wheatear and Black Redstart along the way, as Gilly and I squelched our way along the muddy, rutted track round the back of the reserve. We don't usually stop at the hide a third of the way round, as normally there's nothing showing in front of it. We did stop this time to scan for the raptor, only to see a Curlew Sandpiper closing in on the hide. As the door and portals were open, I managed to get a photo of it without making too much noise on my approach. We carried on further and amazingly the raptor was still there. Closer and with the sun behind us giving us a better view. A brown coloured juvenile Peregrine Falcon confirmed. On the way to lunch in Retamar an obliging Cattle Egret didn't fly off as we stopped to get a photograph!! 46 species in all. Very pleasing day. Waiting to see the first Great Spotted Cuckoo. Can't be long now!

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