18 January, Almanzora estuary, Arboleas Group plus a bit extra from here.

Once again Dave and the Arboleas Group are on the search, this time to the Almanzora estuary in eastern Almería. Obviously I shall have to come down there and redo it for the next edition (always assuming that I can last that long!).

The day started so badly, but.......... Brian, Mary, Dave, Myrtle and myself travelled the short distance from Arboleas to the Almanzora estuary. We drove down the usual ramblaside track towards the turning area which overlooks the reeds and pool at the end. Our path was blocked by a vehicle barrier, so we began to walk down the 150 yds, only to be approached by the security man from the ongoing desalination works. Told him our intentions, but he said, due to machines working in the area, we'd have to go round to the opposite side of the rambla. Health and Safety has arrived in Spain!
Undeterred we went round the far side and began to birdwatch in earnest. At first we didn't see much on the pool. Coot, Moorhen and an overflying Audouin's Gull. Then a Shelduck swam into view, an unusual sighting here. We made our way back across the flat area between there and the beachside restaurant and on to the beach. There were Cormorants on the rocky islands. At Myrtle's suggestion we walked along the beach towards the estuary, very glad we did. Even though there were a few anglers there, we saw numerous waders on the rocky spits. Kentish and Grey Plover, Greenshank, Dunlin and Turnstone. Close to the shore were 3 Red-breasted Mergansers. On the estuary spit itself the were 17 Sandwich Terns and some Black-headed Gulls plus a Little Gull, this only spotted when they all took to the air and I spotted the diamond back design of this 1st winter bird. 9 Audouin's Gulls were also present. A pair of Little Stints gave us close views in one of the shelter bays.
Due to the coolish wind we had a reviving cuppa in Villaricos before heading up the rambla. Luckily, for a change, we headed up the Villaricos side. The ford to the other side had been blocked off as they're putting in pipes under the road at either end to divert the water from the ford. This has dried up the area on the Cuevas de Almanzora side, but the other side has flooded for 200yds or so. We had good views from our elevated position over muddy pools. We saw Common and Green Sandpiper, Redshank, Black-winged Stilt, Snipe and Ringed Plover. Brian spotted a Grey Wagtail whilst I had a fleeting view of a Bluethroat. Water Pipits were also present as was a single Teal.
The area has changed significantly from when Andy Paterson and Ernest García published their latest edition of "Where to watch birds in Southern & Western Spain". When all the works have concluded I'll have to send him a new map and description of the best viewing areas. Thankfully the area still seems to be a very good spot despite all the workings.
We headed further up the rambla, but to be honest, due to a lack of water, it was a bird desert. We therefore went to the Desert Springs Golf complex. The pool there was completely overgrown with reeds, but we did see flocks of Serin and Meadow Pipits on the fairways.
After such a disappointing start we eventually saw 46 species. A cracking day. Best thing was seeing the beginnings of a birding revival in the area. Hopefully it won't be too long before the construction works will be completed!

The extra bits are from me and include the Peregrine (a male by its size) that I saw flying over Torremolinos Tuesday pm. whilst walking the dog.

The other bit, and the photos are testimony, is about the ambition of a Cormorant which had caught and was endeavouring to swallow a rather big eel it had caught in the Guadalhorce on Wednesday pm (19/01). It did manage to swallow it after about 15 minutes struggle and had difficulty in keeping it down and its neck bulged very considerably whilst the eel struggled inside and the Cormorant was showing signs of considerable discomfort but did eventually manage to fly away, albeit with very laboured flight and very low.

Finally, Rai Martín from Almería has this morning (Thursday) reported a White-winged Black Tern from Las Norias. Javier Elorriaga reports a Long-legged Buzzard that has been seen down near Los Barrios and a Rüppell's Vulture near Tarifa

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