12/06 : Cabo de Gata & Rambla de Morales

Before letting you loose on Dave's account of Cabo de Gata and Morales, some of you might remember that earlier in the year the Spanish Ornithological Society (SEO) asked me to conduct a bit of market research about the possibility of magazine of some sort for English readers. First, thanks to all who did reply with comments/ideas, which were looked at carefully at a meeting I had with the powers in Madrid back in March. Planning is now under way following the lines of your ideas, material is being gathered together for an edition zero and I hope that within another month I will be able to give you a lot more details. So, the idea is not just sitting on a shelf gathering dust.
 On the birding front, we are now in to the slack season when birds are generally busy rearing young (those of you are parents will know how debilitating that is!), recovering from having done so and will soon be starting moulting in some cases. As Dave notes, roll on migration but that is, at its earliest, at least 4-5 weeks away before the first birds start coming back down.
That doesn't stop rarities turning up, such as the Grey-headed Gull in the Albufera de Valencia earlier this week, so keep eyes open for anything odd. Mind you, with the beaches being inhabited by things other than birds now the weather is warming up, there are some very odd things to see!

    Gilly and I met up with seven other members of the Arboleas Birding Group at the cafe at Pujaire. Most of them had already logged the Little Owl sitting on the telegraph pole on the approach to the village. Belated 75th birthday greetings to Rod. We made for the first hide overlooking the Cabo de Gata Nature Reserve. The Highways Department had done sterling work on the entry and exit of the lay by. No suspension testing drop and better visibility when leaving. To be honest there was not much at first glance. The predominant bird was the Avocet. Also seen were Black-winged Stilts, Yellow-legged Gulls, Mallards and numerous Little Terns. Brian was on top form. He first spotted a Shelduck on the horizon in the savannah. Next was a relatively close Eurasian Curlew just over the stone wall on the grassland. Finally, a Roller in a distant palm tree. Other birds seen were Sardinian Warbler, Kentish Plover, Woodchat and Southern Grey Shrikes and Yellow Wagtail.

     The sea was almost calm which made it easy for us to see there was no birdlife out there! We wandered over to the second hide, feeling the heat as we did so. Gilly counted 266 Greater Flamingos. Kevin spotted Little Ringed Plover on the weed rafts. Some Slender-billed Gulls were also seen.

     Things improved slightly at the public hide. Gilly spotted a larger tern, a Common Tern. Kevin found some Bar-tailed Godwits. We then made our to the viewing point over the salina at the back of the houses in the next village. Mary and Jack both got wasp stings from a nest hidden in the top of the conblock wall. With no large lens, Gilly was taking photos of Prey of Birds instead of Birds of Prey. An American Cockroach was her first model!

     After a refreshment break we drove to the Rambla de Morales with some trepidation. We were concerned regarding the walk in the hot midday sun.....mad dogs and Englishmen came to mind. A cool offshore breeze was a blessing. We immediately added Reed Warbler and Zitting Cisticola. On the water were female White-headed Duck (no sign of any males), Little Grebe, Coot & Moorhen. The advance party of myself, Kevin & Rod made our way towards the beach as there were some gulls at rest. An unfriendly scrambler bike made our trek a waste of time. We did pick up a juvenile Grey Heron on the way.

Upon our return a small flock of Slender-billed Gulls flew in. We then saw two new bits of bird behaviour. First a Bee-eater flew low over the water and had a quick dunk. Did it a few times. Then a small flock of Gull-billed Terns arrived. One, with a fish in its bill, flew low over the water like a skimmer, presumably washing its lunch before devouring.

     We ended up with 42 species for the day. Not bad, but roll on migration time!

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