20/03 : Rambla and ría de Almanzora & Vera

   First, before the birdy part, for those who replied to the query about a magazine. I was in Madrid on Tuesday for a meeting with the Spanish Ornithological Society folks about the basic planning and we had a useful and positive meeting. They will have to look at pricing, that's way above my category. We are looking at an edition zero pdf to test the water and hopefully obtain your reactions, hopefully before June. Having left here on the 0620 AVE I was back by 1530 in the afternoon and feeling pretty satisfied with the way things had gone and it looks like there is what Mission Control would have called 'a go situation'. So, thanks to all who made their feelings/ideas felt, either in writing or in person. All we need now is a name for the magazine! Any ideas, anyone?  
Spring is well on the way. Both Pallid and Common Swifts are here, the hirundines are all over the place, from the insignificant  little Sand Martins to the high speed movement of Alpine Swifts. Reports are coming in of several races of Yellow Wagtails being seen, warblers are starting to show up - Willow, Subalpine, the first Whitethroat has ben seen near Seville. Northern and Black-eared Wheatears have been reported. Down in the Strait raptors are pouring across and waders are building up, the Ruffs and the Black-tailed Godwits on their way to breeding grounds far north from Andalucía. Ducks too are moving, although have been few reports of Garganey but the same day as Dave & Co. were birding to the far east, Federico Vallés saw 7 Tufted Ducks at Fuente de Piedra. Anything can turn up anywhere so now is the time to get up and get out! 
So on to the Arboleas Group who set forth once more, this time under clearer skies, although I fear that Dave's optimism may well be misplaced.
Firstly, before I forget, the group sends their best wishes to Jan, Barrie's poorly wife. As requested by Val, today we made the rambla and estuary of the Rio Almanzora, Villaricos our birding destination. Gilly, now recovered from her bout of tonsillitis, was with me when we picked up Carolyn for the trip. As we were slightly early we took the scenic route along the side of the rambla from near the Desert Springs Golf Course entrance down towards the sea. 
Kentish Plover, male
We spotted a Woodchat Shrike, our second of the year. We stopped for a photo opportunity as we crossed the reconstructed "ford". We had close views of Kentish Plover, Dunlin and Black-winged Stilt. Adrian had already arrived. Another 14 members turned up. After a quick briefing regarding noise levels we began birding in earnest. In the waters either side of the ford, apart from the above mentioned waders we also had Redshank, Snipe, Green Sandpiper and Little Stint. A Teal was spotted, but the rest of the wildfowl were Mallard. Both Cetti's Warbler and Zitting Cisticola were heard. Alan saw a Water Pipit. Further along the rambla towards the Desalination Plant Little Ringed Plovers were seen, as were 3 Yellow iberiae Wagtails. A Southern Grey Shrike was also seen near the sewage works. 
I expected more hirundines, but there were only small numbers of Barn and Red-rumped Swallows, House and the occasional Sand Martins. As we headed down to the village for a coffee, Phil spotted a low flying Alpine Swift.
We then headed down to the beach. Mechanical rollers were flattening the ploughed area in preparation for a pop concert, so with the ever increasing wind it was very dusty. On the rocks we saw Cormorant, Audouin's Gull and Turnstone. Further out Phil spotted Balearic Shearwaters popping up above the horizon. We walked through the reeds to the far end of the beach so the sun would be behind us on the way back along the beach. Rod spotted a Grey Heron. A Great Crested Grebe was just off the estuary. I got the only Pallid Swift of the day. As we walked back a group of Sandwich Terns was on the rocks. A Whimbrel flew off towards the harbour and a Sanderling was also seen.
     We then drove in convoy towards the pool opposite the Consum supermarket at Vera. Gilly and I stopped on the way to ID a passing Marsh Harrier. At the pool were Shoveler, Common Pochard and White-headed Duck. 2 Mediterranean Gulls in full breeding plumage was a great sight. A Little Bittern flew across the pool. A young female Marsh Harrier was seen. Phil spotted a Chiffchaff and a high flying Common Buzzard.
     A good day had by all. 55 species. Hopefully the weather has now turned for the better.

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