20 January: Las Norias & Roquetas

Sorry for the delay in getting this out, Dave and readers. Life is complex. One day it won't be and I'll die of fright/shock/bordeom! On the birding front, news of a male Redstart (Colirrojo real) seen on La Janda late last week, plus Barn Swallows (golondrina común) and other hirundines! Even better/worse (it'll be worse if the weather goes sour), records also of Pallid Swifts (vencejo pálido) and at least one Common Swift (vencejo común) seen over to the west also.

Gilly was busy so I was on my own picking up Paul from Los Gallardos this morning. We were heading for Las Norias the far side of Roquetas. It was grey skies and drizzle to heavy showers as we drove down the A7/E15 motorway. We met up with Alan and Richard at the junction 420 service station and then made our way the the first causeway at Las Norias. Thankfully the weather had improved with only a few droplets falling. We were met by numerous Crag Martins (avión roquero) flying around. On the water there were loads Shovelers (pato cuchara) together with all the common grebes. 
I spotted a distant group of wildfowl which included both Red-crested (pato colorado) and Common Pochard (porrón común) and White-headed Ducks (malvasía cabeciblanca). Then a great surprise...a House Martin (avión común)! A Night Heron (martinete) flew over along with Black-headed (gaviota reidora) and Yellow-legged Gulls (gaviota patiamarilla). Alan spotted a distant group of Teal (cerceta común). The bushes were alive with Chiffchaffs (mosquiteros comunes).
We moved to the next observation point. Alan saw a Zitting Cisticola (buitrón) as we parked up. Off the rocky point there were more Red-crested Pochard and some Gadwall (anade friso) as well some Teal (cerceta común). A small flock of Dunlin (correlimos común) and Little Stint (correlimos menudo) flew past and landed, as did a Meadow Pipit (bisbita pratense) arrived there.
1stW Slender-billed Gull
We drove round to the second causeway where there more Meadow Pipits (bisibita pratense) and  Alan spotted a Chaffinch (pinzón común) and also Crested Lark (cogujada común) and Black Redstart (colirrojo tizón). Paul spotted a couple of roosting Night Herons (martinetes) on the far bank. As we walked up towards the small bridge a Cattle Egret (garcilla bueyera) flew over, but was immediately overshadowed by a flight of 18 Night Herons (martinetes) flying in to the reed beds. Another (or the same) House Martin (avión común) was seen. And the sun was shining!
We headed towards Roquetas, adding a couple of Hoopoes (abubillas) on the way. After a coffee stop we drove towards the reed beds and lake. As I was driving, I missed the Marsh Harrier (aguilucho lagunero) immediately to our right, but once stopped over the other side near the hotels we saw two individuals. The lake contained at least 500 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (gaviota sombría) and a similar number of Black-headed Gulls (gaviota reidora) and of Coots (focha común) in two huge rafts. Twenty odd Black-necked Grebes (zampullín cuellinegro)were synchronised diving. 
Spotted Redshanks
As there were only four of us, we all got in my 4x4 and made our bumpy way to the Salinas de Cerrillos, some 4 kilometres further into the reserve. Usually a wader hotspot, unfortunately the water level was high. On the only sandy island above the water level sat two adult Yellow-legged Gulls (gaviota patiamarilla), a couple of Cormorants (cormorán grande) and a 1st winter Slender-billed Gull (gaviota picofina) with two or three Black-necked Grebes (zampullín cuellinegro) on the pool to our left. A Dartford Warbler (curruca rabilarga) showed well on the shrubs and many Chiffchaffs (mosquiteros comunes). Richard won first prize for best spot and bird of the day with a Great White Egret (garceta grande) over to the right. I spotted the 20 odd Spoonbills (espátulas) on the causeway and on our way back we added Audouin's Gull (gaviota de Audouin). We found a pair of Spotted Redshank (archibebe oscuro) feeding next to a normal Redshank (archibebe común) so it was good to see the comparison between the two species. We stopped off at the "Red Knobbed Coot" pool. They seem to be no more, although we did see the more common ducks, including White-headed (malvasía cabeciblanca).
A good day's birding. 50 species seen and the weather god was with us!

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