2 March, Cabo de Gata

I didn't need to be much of a crystal ball gazer to know that it wouldn't be long before Dave was down at Cabo de Gata, it has that sort of magnetic effect on the lad. But before I go to his report I must say that (a) my contribution to the LBJ as a Tree Pipit was that it should have been eliminated as they do not exactly constitute my favourite group of birds (not exactly in those words) and it was Stephen who did the identification; (b) Hannu has just e-mailed me with news of hundreds of hirundines including Sand Martins up the río Fuengirola; (c) where you note Crows, Dave, do you mean Carrion Crows? I'm assuming so.

By the by, Dave, when I go off to North Carolina in May for the pelagics, we set sail at 05.30 so I will have to be up around 04.15, breakfast at 05.00, so don't feel so badly off. There is a Spanish expression, sarna con gusto no pica. Do your own translations!

And now to Cabo de Gata today ........

After being spoilt for twelve days in Southern Morocco, I was up early (0500) to get to Cabo de Gata as dawn broke to see what birding changes had happened in my absence. I was hoping for some early migrants. Disappointingly I didn't see any Swallows, Swifts or martins at all. Drinking my warming thermos coffee in the first hide at 0710hrs (....I'm beginning to hate the longer days!) apart from the numerous Greater Flamingos I could see a large feeding group of Black-tailed Godwits, 83 in all. There was an even larger group of Avocets in the distance all feeding in a long line. Also spotted were 29 Dunlins, probably about a dozen Grey Plovers, a few Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Redshanks and Little Stints. As the sun rose over the mountains to the south east I saw my target birds, the Eurasian Curlews. They were not doing their normal routine. There were between 10-20 of them giving a fast flying display over the grassland to my right. I couldn't see any raptor activity so I assume it must be some sort of courtship ritual? I also spotted a flock of Golden Plovers flying in the same area. I noted the approximate location where they disappeared for future observation.

After also seeing a single Black-winged Stilt and numerous Slender-billed Gulls I headed for the pool on the opposite side of the road. The water level was down, but a Wood Sandpiper had found it to his liking. A Zitting Cistacola and a Southern Grey Shrike were very vocal.
I then moved to the area where I'd seen the Curlews and Golden Plovers. Not a sign of them! That's the joy of birding for you! There was nothing out to sea either so I trudged towards the second hide. I was rewarded to see the 6 Spoonbills were still there and also a Greenshank. On the savanna Sardinian Warblers, Corn Buntings and Greenfinches were singing from sunny perches.

The only addition to the list at the public hide was the few remaining Lesser Black-backed Gulls, so I headed round the rear of the reserve. There was a group of 18 Audouin's Gulls resting on the dried salina and a few Sanderlings skittering about on the waters edge. There were quite a few Shelducks feeding and courting.

I was giving up hope of seeing any migrants when I saw a large raptor being determinedly harassed by two Crows. The ducking and diving went on for at least 5 minutes before the raptor got tired and landed on a pylon. I thought at first it was a Booted Eagle from the back markings but it was virtually pure white underneath so it was a young Short-toed Eagle. In fact another youngster appeared and took four attempts to land on another pylon on this windless day!

Carrying on further down the track I saw a bird in the top of a bush. I couldn't think what it was, so took a few photos to ask the experts later. It is apparently a Tree Pipit in moult. My grateful thanks to Stephen Daly of Andalusian Guides (who did) and Andy (who didn't) for their help. Ended the day with 43 species. Happy, but I can't stop thinking how it was in Morocco!!

Best regards,

Got some sad news for Arboleas Group members. Both Dave Green's parents, who were in their 90s have died within a couple of weeks of each other. Our thoughts and condolences go to Dave, Myrtle and their family at this sad time.
I also add my condolences to those of Dave and Gilly (Andy).

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