11 March : Cabo de Gata and Rambla Morales

Dave and Co. went off to their number one area: Cabo de Gata and Rambla Morales. There is only one shot, a record shot, of the Great Bustard taken by Dave.
One of our members had visited Cabo de Gata last week and said the birding was very poor, but I'd made the decision and that was where we (the Arboleas Birding Group) were heading. I travelled down on my own as Gilly had to go to a funeral. It was sunny and warm if you kept out of the shade. I met up with seven other members at our usual Pujaire cafe. A few of the commoner birds had been logged from the motorway, the best being a Hoopoe flying across in front of Val and Rob's car. We made our way to the first hide. Large numbers of Greater Flamingos could be seen together with numerous Avocets. Other waders included Black-tailed Godwits, Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Dunlin and Redshanks. Also seen were Slender-billed Gulls, Little Egrets and Shelducks
Great Bustard
I was looking towards the second hide to the right when I saw a large flying bird being mobbed by a gull. First thought was a bird of prey, but then I realized it was a Great Bustard. It was heading in our general direction, passing at height and speed to our right and then over Cabo de Gata village. I had my bridging camera with me, so photographers amongst will appreciate how difficult it was to get a shot. I got a "record" shot which will probably fail to get through the editor's cut! We added a Red-rumped Swallow before making our way to the second hide.
 The sea was mirror flat so any birds on the surface would be obvious ( if there was any there!). We did see flying Black-headed and Yellow-yegged Gulls plus fishing Sandwich Terns. On the walk over we observed the first pair of Barn Swallow of the day. Probably we had about a dozen during our stay. A Black-winged Stilt was seen. I spotted a pair of Stone Curlews flying from the scrubland across the salinas. We managed to find another one to show a couple of British birders.
We then travelled to the public hide. There were large numbers of Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the right hand causeway.  One or two of the latter were very nearly black which may suggest a different origin. On the wader front we added Sanderling and Grey Plover to the list. Also seen were about 20 Black-necked Grebes, a handful of Cormorants and a solo Grey Heron. Alan spotted 4 sleeping Spoonbills. Having a final scan I was lucky to spot a pair of soaring birds of prey over the distant Michelin Tyre Testing track. Getting the scope on them confirmed them to be our first Short-toed Eagles of the year.
As we had a coffee in front of the beach side cafe in Cabo village, John spotted an adult Gannet.  We then convoyed up the track to the Rambla Morales. Last visit our birding exploits were thwarted by a very large puddle. This time there was a noisy party of 50+  school children on a day out.  Luckily they didn't hang about long but the damage had been done. A Black-winged Stilt returned to the estuary.  On the water were small numbers of White-headed Ducks and Common Pochards. On the reed fringes were Coots and Moorhens whilst sleeping just inside the reeds were some Mallards. Alan spotted a House Martin which added to the now 43 species list.
A good days birding with good company. Definitely not poor birding with migration beginning at a slow pace.

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