13/03 : Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales

Herewith the Arboleas Group again, who boldly go where others have been too, but they do it in worse conditions! By the by, Dave et al., I have never seen an all black-headed White-headed Duck, although I have seen ones with a more than normal amount, but not many. From here and the Guadalhorce there is news of an Iberian Chiff heard singing and the Common Scoter flock was logged in at 150-160 birds yesterday (12/03) and one of the Short-eared Owls was still present on Monday. There are some swifts around but, contrary to normal at this date, more Commons than Pallids with some records of Alpines moving through at mach 3 as is their wont. Reports from the Strait of Gib. indicate lots of raptors coming through, mainly Black Kites but with the first Short-toed Eagles, a few Marsh Harriers, Sparrowhawks and so on. Plus taking the dog down an hour since (this is being written at 23.30 and will be transferred and put online tomorrow), I heard some Curlew flight calls heading north. How long this generally inclement (or if you prefer it in my normal style, bloody awful) weather will continue remains to be seen.

     After last weeks weather disaster, I kept a good check on the forecast for a return visit to Cabo de Gata. Some cloud, but generally sunny with a strong wind. Gilly had a note excusing her due to tonsillitis, so I picked up Carolyn and her mum, Ros, and headed south. As we were early for the rendezvous point, we headed down to the tower and chapel just outside Retamar. It was windy and the breakers were crashing onto the beach. We spotted a Cormorant and Yellow-legged Gull out to sea. A Pallid Swift was also seen. We then made our way to the cafe in Pujaire, meeting up with Phil, Sue, Rod, Linda, Alan, John and Kevin for a cup of coffee.
Cattle Egret
     The wind had died down somewhat as we got to the first hide. There was a good variety of waders but none in good numbers. We saw Redshank, Greenshank, Little Stint, Black-winged Stilt, Black-tailed Godwit, Grey and Kentish Plover. Best of the bunch were a couple of Curlew Sandpipers spotted by Kevin. There were a few Shelduck and Mallard. Other birds seen were Little Egret, Slender-billed Gull, Greater Flamingo, Zitting Cisticola, Kestrel, Red-rumped and Barn Swallow, Corn Bunting, Greenfinch and Sardinian Warbler.
      A quick seawatch before we yomped to the second hide produced juvenile and adult Gannets. I was the only one to see an Eurasian Curlew flying very low along the beach away from us. A small number of Cattle Egrets were feeding on the steppes as were a couple of Black-tailed Godwits. In the salina we added Black-necked Grebe to the list. Out to sea Phil spotted a Lesser Black-backed Gull and also seen were Sandwich Terns. John spotted a Blackcap.
'black-headed' White-headed Duck
     As we began to walk from our vehicles towards the public hide Phil had a brief glimpse of Stone Curlew. From the hide it was good to see good flocks of Avocet. Also seen a Golden Plover spotted by Alan. I found a pair of Knot and also a flight of 8 low flying Spoonbills. Numerous Common Swifts were heading north. Sanderling was also added to the ever increasing list.
     We then went to the viewing spot behind the houses in the next village. This time there was shallow water in the salinas over which House Martins were trying to feed. A little flock of 14 Audouin's Gulls were at rest. A distant "Ringed" Plover species was seen.
      After another break at the Pujaire cafe we made our way, via the campsite, to Rambla Morales. Overhead, some just over our heads(!), were Common and Pallid Swifts and lesser numbers of House and Crag Martins and Red-rumped and Barn Swallows. Had confirmed sightings of Teal, Little Ringed Plover and 4 more Black-tailed Godwits. 2 Ravens down there was an unusual tick. On the water were Shoveler and White-headed Duck, one of which, spotted by John, was a 1st summer male with a pure black head. Never seen one before. Alan and John spotted an early Whinchat.

    The birding would've been so much better if the wind had subsided. Even so we got an incredible 62 species for the day. Hopefully Rod and Linda got home okay after we had to bump start their car with a dodgy starter motor. Good to see Phil and Sue back for an all too brief holiday.

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