16/01 : Las Norias & Roquetas

I suppose that like myself, many of you haven't been exactly thrilled by the current bout of high winds and low temperatures which have combined to give a nice chill factor, neither do I suppose that the birds have been thrilled either and feeding to maintain body temperatures a major task, particular for those which live at higher altitides. As these move down to warmer (?) levels, keep an eye peeled for anything unusual. However, Dave, Gilly and the Arboleas group are not so easily deterred and they did venture out ..... Seeing both the Little Bittern and the even scarcer Squacco Heron is pretty unusual and the latter is downright very scarce at this date. Neither would I sneer at Wryneck or Water Rail. As s Dave says, a very good day's birding. However,  read on to see what they saw at Las Norias and Roquetas.

     To be honest I thought today's trip might turn out to be a bit of a disaster due to the cold gusty winds we've been having for nearly a week. How wrong I was!  Gilly and I met up with the 9 other members at a service station about 10km from the Las Norias lakes. The brilliant news was that there was virtually no wind. The bad news was that (A) The road onto the first causeway was closed and (B) the water was almost lapping by the roadside. We overcame the first obstacle by driving round the barriers (typically Spanish!). There was heavy engineering work going on at the pumping station. We were able to observe the water to the right. There wasn't  a lot.  Cormorants, Shovelers, Great Crested Grebes and Coots. We heard Cetti's Warbler and saw Chiffchaffs, Stonechats, Kestrel and Hoopoe. Having been refused permission to walk through the work site to check the left hand lake, we drove all the way round, passing over the second causeway seeing Grey Herons and Black-winged Stilts
male Bluethroat
     Back at the first causeway a scan around the left hand lake produced a Purple Swamphen perched on a fence and a Marsh Harrier. Also seen were numerous Crag Martins and a single Barn Swallow. A Little Grebe was also spotted. We then headed back towards the second causeway. Things didn't look good as we approached the flooded meadow on the corner as Gilly and I spotted a cat running across the road towards it. We parked up and wandered back to take a look along the muddy lane to the left. It didn't disappoint. Yet again Bluethroats were there. Further down we could see Teal, Little Stint and Black-winged Stilt. Something suddenly flew out of the reeds beside us and headed for the tall reeds across the meadow. It landed in full view - a Little Bittern. I set up the scope so everybody could get a good view. I noticed movement on the water line below it. A Little Grebe.......but sat, half obscured slightly to the right was a Water Rail. We couldn't believe our luck.
Squacco Heron
We walked over to the smaller pool to the left. A Grey Heron was fishing in the right hand road side gully. It was teeming with fish. It was joined by a Squacco Heron, which appeared oblivious to passing vehicles, so Gilly and I drove slowly passed for a photo opportunity not to be missed! Next a pair of Night Herons flew from the reeds towards the Plastic Recycling Centre. Shortly afterwards Kevin spotted two Glossy Ibises flying from left to right. And then it got even better. 
Gilly was scanning the shrubs on the opposite bank. She spotted a brownish bird skulking in the vegetation on the top on a small bank. It was a Wryneck! How she spotted it from at least 75 metres I'll never know? Unfortunately it disappeared before all the group saw it. Down the far end we also saw Common and Red-crested Pochard. We then headed towards Roquetas, picking up Grey Wagtail, Common Buzzard and Common Sandpiper on the way. 

     After a coffee we stopped at the Roquetas Hotels lake. The wind began to pick up, but we added Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black-necked Grebe and White-headed Duck. There were large rafts of Coots being harassed by Marsh Harriers. Seeing 8 Pintail was very nice. We then walked up to the small pond. Only one Red-knobbed Coot was seen. We had close views of Red-crested Pochard and White-headed Duck. A Zitting Cisticola was heard and a Robin seen to complete the list.

     What a fantastic day! 49 species including some crackers!

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