23 April : Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales

By the cringe, Dave is really giving the birding some stick (pure jealousy, Dave) and me still incapable of doing much, although things are improving and I hope to get to Fuente de Piedra tomorrow for an hour or so if the knees hold up. It's either that or hara-kiri! Just had a Garden Warbler in the most unusual place, the garden, the first record in 30+ years here I think.
Gilly had a sick note today (headache) so I left Arboleas, in the drizzle, at 7am giving me time to swing round the rear of the Cabo de Gata Bird Reserve before meeting up with other members of the Arboleas Birding Group. There were still a few rain spots as I took to the track. It was quite rutted and muddy in places so a 4x4 is advisable. The first two salinas were totally dry which might confirm the rumours that salt production has ceased. My first uncommon bird was what I believed to be an Iberian Chiffchaff on the chainlink fence. I also had a couple of Corn Buntings. Beyond the hide, there was water so I managed to see numerous Avocets and a Ringed Plover. At the ternery I was expecting to see Sandwich Tern, but no, I was pleased to see Gull-billed and Common Terns. I was then given great views of a male Whinchat fence-hopping in front of the truck.
Male Whinchat

The resident Little Owl on the ruined building was giving me the evil eye. Nearing the end I spotted two female Montague's Harriers flying east towards the Michelin test track. Two Stone Curlews and some Greenfinches were also seen.
I met up with 5 other members at the Pujaire cafe for coffee before heading to the first hide where the first bird was a Kestrel. Apart from Avocet we also saw Black-winged Stilt, Grey Plover, Kentish and Little Ringed Plovers. A flight of Dunlins landed and I spotted some distant Spoonbills which looked like six individuals. Shelduck were seen. A Red-rumped Swallow flew past as well as a small stream of Barn Swallows. Some Pallid Swifts were identified now that the sun was shining. A Hoopoe was calling from an electricity pylon. Sandra spotted a couple of Woodchat Shrikes and Alan pointed out an iberiae Yellow Wagtail.
Little Owl
We then motored round to the second hide. Alan spotted a shearwater out to sea. From size, jizz and colouring we believe it to be a Balearic. Bee-eaters were heard and screaming Common Swifts past by. From the hide we couldn't see the previously mentioned Spoonbills as they would have been below the bank in front of us, but I did spot three more in the pool to our right. Two Grey Herons were observed as well as a Little Egret. A Corn Bunting was also seen. In the distance towards the church we could see a mass of seabirds feeding so headed that way to find they had disappeared. We think they were the dozen or so Gull-billed Terns feeding over the savannah. Seems to be very good year for them. Only 78 Greater Flamingos seen.
At the public hide it was full of teenage girls. As I put my head in I heard one say, " God, this is boring!" so I decided we'd observe through the collapsed fencing. There were numerous Curlew Sandpipers, some turning breeding red. Alan spotted 3 Black-necked Grebes and some Little Stints. Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Sanderlings were also observed. Colin also saw a Thekla Lark and a Spotted Flycatcher beside the road.
After a coffee and snack at the Cabo beach cafe, we made our way to the Rambla de Morales. There were 4 Audouin's Gulls, 2 Slender-billed Gulls and some more Gull-billed Terns at the estuary before being disturbed by a cyclist. The best bird was a Garganey and there were also White-headed Ducks. Kevin spotted a male Red-crested Pochard. There was hardly any calling warblers. We eventually heard a Reed Warbler and heard/saw a Zitting Cisticola. Upon leaving Kevin and I took the rutted track back towards the campsite. A Green Sandpiper was seen. I also added White Wagtail and Jackdaw.
We totaled 59 species. Lucky with both the weather and the birds. A cracking day.

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