14 January : Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales

As Gilly, Carolyn and I headed south towards Cabo de Gata it was a bit cloudy with a hint of fog in the air, but by the time we got to the meeting up cafe in Pujaire visibility was still good, in fact better than the usual sun in your face. Due to illnesses there were only six group members today. We'd already seen the more commoner usual species before getting to Pujaire, but Cattle Egret, Kestrel and Jackdaw should be mentioned. After a coffee we made our way to the firstimmediately  hide. It was noticeable that the water level, mentioned in our last Cabo de Gata report, had not increased. As we scanned we saw Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Greater Flamingo, Shelduck, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, GreenshankDunlin, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover and a single Eurasian Curlew. Gilly spotted a distant group of Spoonbills. Also seen were Slender-billed Gull, Mallard and Little Egret. Little birds seen included Stonechat, Southern Grey Shrike and Hoopoe. There was then a disturbance in the water in front of us. A large animal was swimming from right to left. I shouted, "Wild Boar", but it eventually turned out to be a fox...... I got ribbed about it all day!
We then headed to the second hide, stopping by the beach for a minor seawatch. There was no sign of the previously reported sighting on Reservoir Birds of a Black-throated Diver. In fact the calm sea only produced some distant unidentified gulls. We yomped our way to the hide, seeing a small flock of Meadow Pipits on the way. We were eventually able to confirm 14 Spoonbills in the group after a complex calculation of division and multiplication regarding the number of legs and bodies! Gilly counted 580 Greater Flamingos. I spotted a Dartford Warbler the other side of the dyke. It was joined by a Sardinian Warbler. Gilly spotted a distant "big bird" being mobbed by Yellow-legged Gulls which turned out to be a Marsh Harrier.  I spotted a couple of Lapwing over to the right. Then, all of a sudden, we saw a flock of about 40 large birds taking off and landing on the savannah close to the hide further along - a mass of Stone Curlews.
We then convoyed to the public hide. Here we saw our one and only "Cabo" Chiffchaff. Even less than at Villaricos last week. On the causeway we added Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls plus Sandwich Terns. Black-winged Stilts were also seen. From the hide itself we saw a raft of at least 100 Black-necked Grebes.
After a cuppa at the beach cafe in Cabo village we drove along the track to the Rambla de Morales. In the estuary cutting there was a Sanderling and a male Shoveler, the first of many seen in the main lake. As we walked down we saw Little Grebe, Coot, Moorhen and White-headed Duck, but the star, first seen by John, was a preening male Pintail. A few more Chiffchaffs were seen, but only in small numbers. A small combined flock of Greenfinches and Serins completed our list for the day.
49 species seen in all. Good birding with great friends. Best wishes to Rod, out with an eye infection, and to Sandra with a heavy cold. Also a speedy recovery to Val (1) with a knee surgery and to Val (2) with a kidney infection!

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