01/02 : Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales

Today is supposed to be International Wetlands Day but the fine weather of the week with bright sunshine and little to no wind has given way (at least it has here) to a nice force 5-6 NW breeze, very unpleasant for those who have ventured out. This really has been a good week for those who like self-flagellation by reading all this stuff, first Dave and the Arboleas Group in Murcia, then myself with Ron and Chris with the double entry on Fuente de Piedra and laguna Dulce, and now Dave and company again, as promised.  
Today, Gilly granted me a free rein as she was out the early part of the day, so knowing that Val and Rob can't come on next Wednesday's trip to Cabo de Gata, I contacted them to see if they wanted a trip there today. We met up at Los Gallardos and I drove them down to the Byzantine Chapel, on the beach between the Rambla de Morales and Retamar Sur, where we did a bit of a seawatch while drinking our thermos coffee. Not being a twitcher, it was just coincidence that it was from here some Leach's Petrels had been seen a few days earlier. No, they were no longer there.....departed out to sea with the gales gone, no doubt! However we did see 5 Balearic Shearwaters heading east as well as Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls and some Cormorants.
adult Slender-billed Gull
Leaving there, we headed towards the first hide, stopping briefly near Pujaire to check out a Common Buzzard sitting on a telegraph pole. From the hide we saw Shelduck, Mallard and Slender-billed Gulls. On the wader front we spotted Black-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover, Redshank, Little Stint, Greenshank and a pair of Grey Plovers. Unusually there were no Avocets to be seen anywhere.
As we walked over the scrubland to the second hide we disturbed a small flock of Meadow Pipits. From the hide we saw there were 4 Spoonbills on the far side. An Eurasian Curlew flew off and a Golden Plover was also seen. A Dartford Warbler came to check us out.
Little Owl
As we approached the public hide I spotted a bird atop a 6ft gate post. Another Bluethroat. Either we've been very lucky or it's a great year for them. Also seen from the hide were Black-necked Grebe, Dunlin, Shoveler and Sandwich Tern.
As we were in the 4x4, we drove round the rear of the reserve. Very disappointed to find all the salinas had been drained so there was not a wader to be seen. The track had been graded so was reasonably ok. A hire car, yes. Your own car, maybe not! We saw at least 6 Southern Grey Shrikes and had good views of Little Owls.
We then headed for the Rambla de Morales. We parked up near the end of the lake and ate our picnic lunch, watching a few Crag Martins overhead and listening to a Cetti's Warbler. On the water we added White-headed Duck and Common Pochard to the list. Also seen were more Slender-billed Gulls and Black-necked Grebes.
A good day, especially for Val and Rob getting a Bluethroat lifer. 47 species in all.

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