25 February: Cabo de Gata and Rambla Morales

Come on, Dave, a morning without Chiffchaffs! Are you lot in Almería slacking off? Identification skills falling off? I mean, if you can identify a Spotted Redshank, a Chiff shouldn't pose too much of a problem! Sandwich Terns have been very scarce here again this winter, almost a rarity!There are plenty here and there were at Fuente de Piedra on Tuesday. By the by, apologies for putting this in with a delay but there is the new addition to the household, not a baby (not damned likely) but the previously featured pup who is taking up a lot of time and endless entertainment running around with the mop after the phantom piddler. 

As I loaded my truck with today's birdwatching paraphernalia at home in Arboleas, the red sunrise might be warning me that the weather could be bad for us (and shepherds!) later. It had forecast sunny, but windy down at Cabo de Gata. In fact it was wrong on both counts. It was cloudy with more of a breeze than a wind. Having already logged a few birds, including Southern Grey Shrike, Jackdaw and a Blackbird, on way way from the motorway, we met up with John, Barrie and Jan, making it  six members with Val, Gilly and I. After a welcome coffee in Pujaire, we headed for the first hide. 
The water level was definitely up from our previous visit. I counted 72 Black-tailed Godwits and there were Avocets, Dunlin, Ringed Plovers and Redshank. I managed to identify a Spotted Redshank and a Greenshank. Gilly spotted both Grey Plover and a Eurasian Curlew on the scrubland and Barrie saw a Whimbrel. John, as usual, spotted the Spoonbills, three this time, down the far right of the salina. He also spotted a pair of Shelducks. We had good views of a Dartford Warbler close to the fence in front of the hide. Also seen were Mallard, Black-headed Gull and a line of Black-necked Grebes, first seen by Barrie.
We next stopped at the beach by the second hide. Out to sea we only saw distant gulls, so we walked over to the hide. 
More Spoonbills could be seen on one of the islands together with a Yellow-legged Gull. A Black-winged Stilt made a noisy entrance flying up the dyke beside us. Also seen was a Corn Bunting, Sardinian Warbler and a pair of Stonechats. We only saw singles of Little Egret and Slender-billed Gull. John spotted some distant Shovelers.
We made our way to the public hide. Here we added Lesser Black-backed Gull and Kentish Plovers. Shelducks and Avocets were heads down resting. John checked out the causeway to the right, seeing more Avocets and some Sandwich Terns.
After another coffee in Cabo de Gata village we convoyed along the beach track to Rambla de Morales pool, seeing an obliging female Kestrel on the way. At the estuary we saw a Little Stint and a Shoveler. Our walk down the pools was curtailed after about 100 metres by a huge puddle, but we did mange to add White-headed Duck, Coot andLittle Grebe to the list.
A good days birding in good company. 44 species seen. Guess what....no chiffchaffs!

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