17 December : Las Norias & Roquetas

My apologies to Dave and the Arboleas group for being so tardy in getting this out. I have seen one Whiskered Tern in winter, actually flying in from the sea on New Year's day many moons ago. This past autumn has seen, as far as I am concerned, huge numbers of Chiffchaffs and there are still a lot around.
This last Thursday I was at  Fuente de Piedra with Bob & Co. but couldn't stay long although some of us saw a Water Pipit out on the mud of the main lake.
So, another year come and darned nearly gone. I shall therefore wish you all a not too alcoholic Christmas and New Year - remember the little green men with machines that you have to blow into -, with lots of good birding for preference in 2015! My especial thanks to Dave and for his reports and to Gilly for kicking him into action (not that he needs much encouragment!).
Due to the fact I sent all on my mailing list an invite to join us this week instead of just the local birders, you all know we were going to Las Norias and Roquetas. Due to illness, vacations and other commitments there were only 6 Arboleas Birding Group members who met up at the junction 420 service station, two of which arrived as the other four of us were heading to the lake. By the time Colin and Sandra had caught up with us we'd clocked up Great Crested, Black-necked and Little Grebes plus the common Coot and Moorhen
Great Cormorants
There were large numbers of Cormorants, easily outnumbering the Grey Herons. We saw a good raft of Shovelers plus a small group of Gadwall and a Common Pochard. Chiffchaffs were in abundance all day. Also seen were Stonechat, Black Redstart, and White Wagtail. Cetti's Warblers could be heard. I spotted a Meadow Pipit. Both Cattle and Little Egret were observed. John spotted a claimed raptor the far side of the lake. I followed his direction and identified a juvenile Night Heron. Minutes later Gilly came to his rescue spotting a Marsh Harrier in the same area. 
John the spotted a distant tern. We dismissed Sandwich and Little Tern. Alan reckoned a "Marsh" tern. Colin said a Whiskered. To get a better view of it we drove round to the side of the lake and luckily I spotted the tern sitting on a buoy in the centre of the lake. After much debate and checking in Collins, Colin proved to be right ... a Whiskered Tern. The distribution map in Collins did suggest some birds over-winter, but we'd never seen one before. From our viewing point we saw a Purple Swamphen flying low over the water. About six adult Night Herons were seen. Singles of Avocet and Little Stint were spotted, as were Red-crested Pochard and a Crag Martin.
adult Nightheron
We moved to the causeway where Sandra spotted a Green Sandpiper. A female Marsh Harrier flew over as did a Kestrel. More Night Herons were also seen.
We headed towards Roquetas, seeing a Southern Grey Shrike on the way. After a coffee and mince pie John and Alan suggested that instead of turning towards the hotels and "Red Knobbed Coot pool" (none seen for ages) we turn right at the junction and check out a spot they'd been to in the past. We followed them for a couple of kilometres and then turned left onto a tarmacked single track leading across the salinas. We added Greater Flamingo, Redshank, White-headed Duck, Black-winged Stilt, Slender-billed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls to the list. At this point a works vehicle approached from the opposite direction, so we packed up shop and reversed the 200 metres back to the road. At least we did get a "thank you" hoot!
That completed our day's birding. 45 species in all. I'm sure all our members would like to wish everybody a Happy Christmas. We'll be back in the New Year unless I'm brave (stupid) enough to venture to the Sierra de Maria to see what's around in the snow!

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