26 March : Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales

After an exceedingly windy night here in Torremolinos which had been preceded by a morning up at Fuente de Piedra on Monday which was not worth writing about, there being next to nothing except for around 14 Black-tailed Godwits and 3 Ruff, but no other waders and not a single Yellow Wagtail, I spent the mornign Málaga with my sister who visiting from DarK Satanic Mill-land and did see my first Alpine Swift, having seen several groups of Pallids the previous afternoons. Up to 4 Lesser Flamingos have been seen at the laguna in recent days, but their presence is rather irregular and Greater Flamingos aren't showing much signs of breeding yet according to Manolo Rendón, the director of the reserve. However, Dave & Co. did rather better, as you can read .... By the by, it is believed that the Great Bustard seen is a wandering male from the Albacete population which has been seen several times in recent winters.
     After the stresses and problems of the last few weeks I was hoping to improve my mood with some decent birdwatching with friends. It didn't look good, what with extremely high winds overnight, but as Gilly, Val and I headed south towards Cabo de Gata the wind seemed to be decreasing. We met up with Colin, Sandra, Rod, Kevin and Troy at the cafe in Pujaire before heading for the first hide. I was the first to spot the Oystercatcher on the causeway. There were also pinky Slender-billed Gulls and some Grey Plovers. The water level had dropped since our last visit so there was a muddy shore on which shorebirds could feed. The option was taken up by Kentish Plovers, a Redshank and a Ringed Plover. Small numbers of hirundines were seen, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows, House and Sand Martins. I also spotted a pair of presumed Pallid Swifts over towards the village. All the other usual suspects were seen which included Greater Flamingo, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Shelduck, Little Egret and Southern Grey Shrike.
     I'd already spotted a distant Gannet out to sea before we drove to the second hide. We walked over to it, not seeing much on the way. I spotted a Spoonbill flying & landing on a small island. We then managed to see various small birds despite the wind. Greenfinch, Chiffchaff, Yellow Wagtail, Whitethroat and a female Woodchat Shrike. Scanning the savannah between us and the next village along I spotted our target bird for the day, the previously seen Great Bustard. Luckily it lined up beautifully with the village church so its location was easy to describe. We all had good views, a first for a number of the group.
     Suitably happy, we carried on towards the public hide, seeing a large number of Sandwich Tern feeding just beyond the violent surf. As we drove into the approach lane a few Lesser Short-toed Larks flew over. A Skylark serenaded us from up high. We only added Black-necked Grebe on the water, but Colin saw a Black Redstart in the enclosure. There were a few Black-tailed Godwits on the right hand causeway.
     After a refreshing cuppa at the cafe adjacent to Cabo de Gata village beach, we drove along the beach-side track to the Rambla de Morales lake. The wind speed had increased somewhat, so no cameras or telescopes were carried. Even so numerous White-headed Ducks could be seen. Colin spotted a wader in one of the little sheltered bays with some Black-winged Stilts....a Spotted Redshank. A female Teal added to a very short wildfowl list. Kevin just managed to blurt out Glossy Ibis as it took to the air giving everyone good views. Also seen were Common Pochard, Coot, Moorhen and a Black-necked Grebe in full breeding plumage. As we reached the large puddle at the end of the reeds we were happy to see three Green Sandpipers, a Kentish Plover and a Yellow Wagtail there.
     All in all a very good days birding, especially the Great Bustard! Pity about the wind. Even so we had 49 species.

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