23 March, Arboleas Group at Cabo de Gata

Today was my last official search for the elusive Slender-billed Curlew, so I was joined by Gilly and five other members of the Arboleas Birding Group on the journey down to Cabo de Gata. After a coffee at the local cafe I suppose it was about 10 o'clock when we arrived at the first hide. There was a cool, gusty wind. The water level had dropped since last week. There were the normal Greater Flamingoes (267 for day) and numerous Slender-billed Gulls dip feeding. I spotted two Spoonbills in the distance. On the causeway we could see 4 Dunlin, a Greenshank, 9 Grey Plovers and Kentish Plovers. Also there were about 9 Sandwich Tern (my secretary had noted down Sandwich Pickle....the green tomatoes had got to her!). The wind caused most of the small land birds to stay in shelter.
Gilly, Chris and I checked out the pool on the opposite side of the road. Only finding some more Dunlin we headed off to the second hide to join Brian, Mary, Dave and Myrtle. On the approach walk we saw our 1st Woodchat Shrike of the year. From the windy hide we logged 17 Grey Herons, Avocets and Black-winged Stilts. A flight of 11 Eurasian Curlews circled and then landed on the grassland to our left.
On the drive to the public hide a Northern Wheatear flew across in front of us. Corn Buntings were singing away, but nothing was added to our day list from the hide.
Gilly, Chris and I headed round the rear of the reserve. We saw another 3 Woodchat Shrikes. A flight of Pallid Swifts, together with at least one Alpine Swift flew over. Barn and Red-rumped Swallows were also seen.
A Little Ringed Plover was caught having a bath in one of the many muddy puddles. 20 Black-tailed Godwits were noted. A small number of Chiffchaffs were flushed out by our passing truck, but the star birds were a Spectacled Warbler and a Willow Warbler. On our way to Retamar we stopped briefly at the "Dotterel field" with a negative result.
Meanwhile the others had made their way through the campsite to the Morales lake. Here they'd seen a Marsh Harrier, White-headed Duck, Shoveler and numerous House Martins to add to the list. They joined us and the House Sparrows later at the cafe.
A good day, but the weather could've been better. At least it didn't rain! 48 species in all.
Dave & Gilly

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