24 February : Las Norias and Roquetas

Winter hath come at last and heaven knows what damage the low temperatures and strong, cold winds coming down off the sierras will do to the early migrants (I know what they did to me), especially the hirundines and the few early swifts reported, not to mention the thousands of Chiffs which are moving now. The Solitary Sandpiper remains at the same site in Almería where it has been twitched by many, along with up to 12 other spp. of waders reported this week, including Temminck's Stint.
That said, now for Dave's account of the Arboleas Group's trip to Las Norias and Roquetas.

The motley crew consisted of Steve, John, Richard and myself today. We met up at the service station at Jct 420 E15/A7 motorway just beyond the Roquetas tunnel. After a coffee we made our way to the Balso del Sapo at Las Norias....yes it pays to read the signs! The water was as flat as a tack on both sides of the first causeway. The predominant birds were Shoveler on the left hand lake. Amongst the large rafts were a few White-headed Ducks. Down the far end perched on the posts were Cormorants and some Grey Herons. John spotted some distant Red Crested Pochards and a number of Great Crested Grebes. I added a Common Sandpiper on the rocky edge.
Moving across the road we found both Black-necked and Little Grebe. I spotted a lone male Gadwall and Richard added a Little Stint. A flock of 20 odd Avocets flew over. Little birds in this area included Cetti's and Sardinian Warblers, Zitting Cisticola, White Wagtails, many Chiffchaffs and some Meadow Pipits. Richard then spotted a juvenile Night Heron on the reed edge. Steve found some Crag Martins. They were obviously enticed by the thousands of mosquitoes!
We then drove round to the halfway stop. On the rocky outcrop were numerous Cormorants. We saw Redshank, Black-winged Stilt, Dunlin, a Wood Sandpiper and at least 20 Little Stints. Richard spotted an Iberian Yellow Wagtail. I added a Barn Swallow.
We found more Yellow Wagtails on the corner meadow and John found another juvenile Night Heron and I spotted our first Red-rumped Swallow of the year whilst walking along the second causeway.
We convoyed towards Roquetas adding a couple of Kestrels. After a coffee we made our way to John and Alan's spot, which, when I read the sign, is called Punta Entinas Sabinar! From the causeway between the salinas we observed hundreds of Greater Flamingos and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. On the wader front we had Redshank, Dunlin, Black-winged Stilt and Black-tailed Godwits. Loads of Shovelers here as well plus a few Shelducks. A Marsh Harrier made an appearance, but the best sight of the day was a flypast of about 30 Spoonbills.
We ended up with 47 species. Weather was sunny, but the wind increased from calm to stiff breeze during the morning.
I'm off with Gilly to Morocco for a couple of weeks. Hopefully I'll have some good photos to show you upon our return.
Regards, Dave


20 February : El Fondo (Elche, Alicante)

Sorry, dear readers, but I've not got the time to edit or to put in  Spanish names this morning. Apart from the usual thanks to Dave, thanks also to Helen for the photos and  congratulations for hitting gold on the Sociable Plover. Up to 3 Spotted Eagles have been seen there over this winter, including the well known Estonian bird 'Tonn'.
Whilst the cat, Gilly, is away in the UK on a caring job, the mice, John, Val and myself arranged a personal visit to El Fondo, near Elche, just south of Alicante. Entry to this reserve via the north gate, which gives the best views, is only allowed, by prior arrangement, on Saturday mornings between 08.15 & 11.30 hours. Hence it was a very early start yesterday morning. I met up with John & Val at the Overa Hotel. Jct 547 at 05.45hrs, giving us time for a second breakfast at Cox before meeting up with Helen, who'd kindly made the arrangements, at just after 08.00hrs at the north gate. Whilst waiting for access, we heard Iberian Green Woodpecker and saw Yellow-legged Gull, Chiffchaff, Grey Heron & Wood Pigeon
Spotted Eagle
The ranger duly arrived (early, bless him!) and let the assembled birders in. I suppose there were about a dozen of us, mostly Brits, but a couple of Swiss and Spanish. We drove down to the first hide on the right. With about 6 of us up there (it was elevated) it was a bit cosy. Local birders, Graham & Gordon, had already found a  Spotted Eagle, perched on a palm tree way over to the right. In front of us was a reed bed, then a large expanse of open water stretching out towards the information centre. 
On the water were lots of wildfowl. Mallard, Teal, Shoveler, Shelduck, Pintail, White Headed Duck, Common & Red Crested Pochard. Someone also mentioned Wigeon, but none of us saw any. All three resident grebes were seen, Great Crested, Black Necked & Little Grebes. We saw our first on many Marsh Harriers seen during the day. Also saw Common Buzzard, Greater Flamingo & Coot. On the wader front we saw Black Winged Stilt, Ruff, Dunlin and Black Tailed Godwit. Some of the latter were seen flying with flocks of Lapwing, which caused my heart to flutter as a Sociable Plover was also known to be flying with the Lapwings. Behind us was more reeds and water pools. I spotted some Purple Swamphen. I also managed to spot the head & neck of a Great White Egret over to our right. 
I'm not good at bird calls, but luckily Gordon & Graham were. We heard Moustached Warbler amongst the Reed & Cetti's Warbler singing away in the reeds below us. They also identified the Water Rail & Little Bittern calls for us. Some of us were able to see a feeding Penduline Tit. The only hirundines we saw were Crag Martins. A pair of illegally low flying hot air balloons caused major panic amongst the birds. Apparently they are not allowed to fly over at less then 1,200 metres altitude, but these appeared much lower than that.
Southern Grey Shrike (photo: Helen)
We moved down to the larger elevated viewing platform at the bottom end. We had good views of Booted Eagles and a pair of Glossy Ibis, but little else. We returned to the much better first hide. I noted that the Spotted Eagle had flown. Sure enough it appeared above us. As it was nearly chucking out time, we made our way back to the north gate. Whilst waiting for the ranger we added a Robin to the list.
We decided to have an early lunch before searching the southern end of the reserve. We followed Helen round picking up smaller birds like Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Serin, Iberian Southern Grey Shrike, Black Redstart and Stonechat. Hoopoe and  Kestrel were also seen. We spent a bit of time overlooking empty meadows, by a abandoned hut where Helen said the Sociable Plover had been seen. No luck so we ended our tour at the southern hide. Couldn't actually get to it as the path was under water. We did see about a dozen Black Necked Grebes & a White Headed Duck.
Many thanks to Helen for making the arrangements and guiding us round. We headed off home. Helen hung around for another 4 hours.....this is what she e-mailed me later! (Some editing done!)
Sociable Plover (photo : Helen)
"Some pictures of this afternoon (3 lifers today, you brought me luck - mercy beaucoup)
The Sociable Plover: I have been waiting on that new path, with the ready to move in house, a couple of hours and was so lucky with 3 or 4 Iberian Wagtails, 101 Cattle Egret so close by. Then 1 of the 2 Southern Shrikes came verrrrrrrry close, telling me: I keep an eye on you.
Almost 6 o'clock Lapwings came flying in, smaller groups bit by bit,  and a couple of Golden Plovers. The Lapwings were flying in and out of the field.
The father and son that were in El Fondo, parked their car behind mine at one point and there IT was.( The Sociable Plover) Later on I learned that I could have gone half the way closer because father and son did so and the Lapwings stayed.
Besides my first ever Pintails I also found a couple of Garganey , another lifer.
What a day!"
Patience & commitment pays! What a cracking day. Can't wait to get back there!


For those who don't know, after eleven years of battling by groups, local and international such as Greenpeace, the Spanish supreme court has ruled that the monstrosity of the El Algorrobico hotel on the eastern Almería coast must be demolished. Este correo es seguro. Puedes activar la visualización de imágenes de tu correo electrónico.
This architectural abortion was constructed nearly 20 years ago within the virgin coastal area of the eastern Almería park area to the north of Cabo de Gataafter being given legally doubtful planning permission. Even the Junta de Andalucía, which should have known a hell of a lot better, was against its demolition, although I and many others could never understand their support for its maintenance. Given the recent and continuing corruption scandals within Spain, and which have gravely touched some members of the Popular Party at a national level, some regional administrations, notably Madrid and Valencia, and with Andalucía not untouched, one must be left wondering.
The site can never be returned to exactly the same as before but is at least a blow for the environment and common sense. A small plus is that according to Greenpeace some 98% of the materials are reciclable and its demolition will provide some 400 jobs locally.


17 February : Villaricos & Vera

I know it's only a fortnight since our last visit here, but that Solitary Sandpiper (andarríos solitario) is still hanging around, so it was an obvious choice to return there to try and find it. Val and I had been there last Friday and had success. Steve and I met up with Val, Rod, Les, Richard, Colin and John at the usual spot overlooking the ford. We clocked Redshank (archibebe común), Ringed Plover (chorlitejo grande), Green Sandpiper (andarríos grande), Dunlin (correlimos común), Little Stint (correlimos menudo) and Black-winged Stilt (cigüeñuela) before we drove further towards Cuevas De Almanzora to the next tarmacked crossover. There are numerous shallow pools, in which there were numerous waders feeding. Most prolific were Dunlin (correlimos común), but there were also Ruff (combatiente), Little Stint and Wood Sandpiper. There were Water Pipits (bisbita alpina) and a few Snipe (agachadiza) and a Sanderling (correlimos tridáctila) were also seen. 
Wood Sandpiper
We moved up from the crossover onto the elevated rambla side. Crag Martins (avión roquero) were flying overhead. A single Stone Curlew (alcaraván) flew off the rambla into the opposite fields. Les then spotted the Solitary Sandpiper (andarríos solitario) although not everyone saw it before it was flushed by a passing tractor! 
Little birds seen included Linnet (pardillo común), Serin (verdecillo), Chiffchaff (mosquitero común), Stonechat (tarabilla común), Black Redstart (colirrojo tizón) and Greenfinch (verderón). We carried on further up the rambla seeing more of the same. Returning to the cars I spotted a Hoopoe (abubilla). John and Richard, who were the last to arrive, also picked up Grey Wagtail (lavandera cascadeña) and our first Yellow Wagtail (lavandera boyera)of the year, plus a House Martin (avión común). 
After a refreshment break in Villaricos village, we made our way to the beach. There were fewer Cormorants (cormorán grande) on the harbour rocks than before and the Grey Heron (garza real) still sat there. Moving to the estuary, we added the usual waterbirds. A huge flock of gulls was present, mostly Black-headed (gaviota reidora), but a large number of Mediterranean Gulls (gaviota cabecinegra) as well, with some coming into breeding plumage. Amongst the Crag Martins (avión común) were some Barn Swallows (golondrina común) and a single Sand Martin (avión zapador). A Kentish Plover (chorlitejo patinegro) was seen and Les saw a Great Crested Grebe (somormujo lavanco) out to sea.
As we walked back along the beach I spotted a larger wader asleep on the rocky isthmus which turned out to be the long staying Whimbrel (zarapito trinador). Also seen were more Kentish Plovers (chorlitejo patinegro) and Colin was the first to see the Kingfisher (martín pescador) catching fish off the rocks.
We drove to the dual carriageway at Vera. Here there were numerous Coot (focha común) and Shoveler (pato cuchara) and small pockets of Teal (cerceta común) as well as a pair of Shelduck (tarro blanco). More Mediterranean Gulls (gaviota cabecinegra) were seen - it's been a good year for them in this area. An Iberian Southern Grey Shrike (alcaudón real) was spotted. Some of the group stopped at the far end by the Consum supermarket. where they saw more ducks and added a Zitting Cisticola (buitrón). 
We met up again at the beach-side pool near the Millionaires Bar with four species of gulls and Sanderlings (correlimos tridáctilo).
A brilliant day's birding. Weather was eventually kind once the chilling breeze had warmed up. The pools further up the rambla will be on our visiting list, although, Rod, who lives nearby says that area is usually dry. 63 species for the day....numbers are getting bigger!


10 February: Rambla Morales and Cabo de Gata

Before starting off with a delayed report from Dave (my fault, or rather this machine's which refused to copy it), the Solitary Sand. is still in the same place. I should also pint out that whilst some are proposing that it's the same bird seen down here at Málaga last October, I can think of several reasons why not. Also, for those of you in the frozen north, it's colder than charity down here this morning (Monday) with a lazy wind, the sort that goes through rather than round you.

Before I get on with today's report, I'd like to direct you to the Rare Birds in Spain site (www.rarebirdspain.net) where Andrew Allport has posted fantastic photos of a Solitary Sandpiper (andarríos solitario) he found in the Rambla de Almanzora on the 4th February. Just shows you what can turn up....anywhere! Having been feeling particularly low for some time, I decided to have a twitch down there yesterday as the bird had been seen still there on Monday. Saw lots of Wood (andarríos bastardo) and Green Sandpipers (andarríos grande) but alas not the Solitary one!
I digress....The winds in Arboleas overnight were horrendous, but being the boss I knew I still had to make my way with Val to Cabo de Gata. To be honest, the winds subsided substantially as we headed south. We met up with a plethora of other group members at the Pujaire plus a friend of Richard's who was on holiday, Martin from near Minsmere. The water level was reasonably high, so little chance for smaller waders to find suitable feeding areas. Of course there were hundreds of Greater Flamingo (flamenco) plus a few Shelduck (tarro blanco) and Mallard (azulón). There were small groups of Black-tailed Godwits (aguja colinegra), a Redshank (archibebe común) and some Dunlin (correlimos común). A pink Slender-billed Gull (gaviota picofina) was easy to identify at a distance. Richard then found what he thought was a dead Stone Curlew (alcaraván) on the edge of the car park. It was still alive but obviously in an extremely poor way so it was put out of its misery. Also seen were Little Egret (garceta común), Southern Grey Shrike (alcaudón real) and Sardinian Warbler (curruca cabecinegra). 
We moved on to the beach. Rollers (waves not birds) were crashing onto the sand. Audouin's (gaviota de Audouin) and Yellow-legged Gulls (gaviota patiamarilla) were seen. At the second hide we added Grey Plover (chorlito gris), Avocet (avoceta) and a raft of 20-30 Black-necked Grebes (zampullín cuellinegro). I then spotted movement on the savannah and we were pleased to see about 10 Stone Curlews (alcaraván). A Common Sandpiper (andarríos chico) was seen in the gully. I then spotted a Wigeon (anade silbón) with some Mallard (azulón). The same one from the 13th January? A steady stream of Lesser Black-backed Gulls (gaviota sombría) was now passing along the beach. Also seen were White Wagtail (lavandera blanca) and Stonechat (tarabilla común).
Heading to the public hide we saw 17 Spoonbills (espátulas), two of which were ringed. John had Greenshank (archibebe claro), Redshank (archibebe común) and Dunlin (correlimos común) on the right hand salina. On the left hand side we added Cormorant (cormorán grande). Les found 4 Sandwich Terns (charranes patinegros) on the rocky causeway.
After a coffee and tostada break in Cabo village we convoyed along the beach-side track to Rambla de Morales. The wind had got up. On the water were more Greater Flamingos together with a mall number of Shovelers (pato cuchara), Coot (focha común)and Moorhen (gallineta de agua). A single Cattle Egret (garcilla bueyera) was seen as was a flight of three Golden Plovers (chorlitos dorados). A small flock of pipits, presumably of the Meadow (bisbita pratense) variety, were feeding on the scrubland. I managed to spot the first and only Chiffchaff (mosquito común) of the day. A Cetti's Warbler (ruiseñor bastardo) was heard. A small group of Sanderling (correlimos tridáctilos)  and a pair of Turnstone (vuelvepiedras) was near the estuary.
After saying our goodbyes, Val and I headed along the "campsite" track where we had a Kestrel (cernicalo vulgar) and a Hoopoe (abubilla). Rod, Sandra and Colin who hung around the beach for their picnic also had a Kestrel (cernicalo vulgar) and some Gannets (alcatraces).
We ended up with 43 species. Not bad considering the weather! But alas no photos.


02-04 February : Doñana

When Ron, who is once more over-wintering down here, wondered if a trip to Doñana might be possible, I had no hesitation in taking up his idea. Admittedly the dates I chose were not of the best, but as they say back home in Yorkshire, ‘owt is better than nowt’. I planned the route with some care as Ron is suffering from tendonitis of an Achille’s tendon, which is very painful.
The first day we would go from Fuengirola to El Acebuche (Hueva) with a look at the sea at Matalascañas, then to El Rocio where we would roost the two nights away in the Hotel Toruña. The second day would be taken up with venturing all the way around to get as far as the Centro José Antonio Valverde and then go as far as posible along La Escupidera, then back via Dehesa de Abajo, all of which was to prove a rather long day. The final day, the Thursday, we would have a look at La Rocina and then, if Ron was sufficiently mobile, we would go as far as El Acebrón, something we didn’t manage.
DAY 1: On the way we saw our first Black Kites (milanos negros) of the year with 5 birds near Chuchena (Huelva), but not before I realised that I had managed to forget to put the big Olympus and telephoto in the car, leaving me with only the bridge Olympus 820. However, such were the distances at we were to be functioning, with much telescope work, the bridge was actually slightly more useful with its greater magnification.
Common Buzzard
El Acebuche is dry and frankly it was a waste of time. Instead of a sheet of water, or at least pools, in front of the hides, there was just a dustbowl. As for birds, even less apart from the traditional pair of White Storks (cigüeña blanca) on top of the information centre, and a diffuse flock of lovely Azure-winged Magpies (rabilargos) moving around with the remnants of food left by a party of school children in their bills, but never sufficiently still to get even a halfway decent photograph. Here too there were the common Magpies (urracas) ad we saw the first Barn Swallow (golondrina común) of the trip, plus a Common Buzzard (busardo común).
From there it was on to Matalascañans where the sea gave a good imitation of a mirror, but apart from a single Sandwich Tern (charrán patinegro) we did see some 5 Razorbills (alca común), an increasingly uncommon wintering species in the Málaga Bay area. By then we had seen something like 15 species in total, which was hardly brilliant.
sunset El Rocio
So, off to El Rocio where we booked in and then walked slowly along to the SEO centre along what I suppose one should call a paseo lagunero, rather than a paseo maritímo. Here at last there were birds all over the marisma. A flock of displaying Flamingos (flamencos) with more scattered all over the place. Spoonbills (espátulas) were, as usual, asleep in daylight hours but stirred as the sun sank towards the horizon, while the Glossy Ibises (moritos) were busy feeding. There was a quite decent selection of ducks, all of them pretty normal although there were lots of Shovelers (pato cuchara) and Pintails (anade rabudo), the males being paticularly elegant, while a scattering of Greylag geese (ansar común) did their own line astern swim-by. Snipe (agachadiza común) were notably abundant on the nearest island and there were at least 54, far outnumbering the 4 Black-tailed Godwits (aguja colinegra) which took off at dusk. At last things were happening and we saw, according to my field notes, some 31 species there with a total of 39 for the day. Hardly brilliant but tomorrow would be another day.
DAY 2: To get to the Jose Antonio Valverde Information Centre, one has to go rather a long way round, at times through some rather nice pines but where we saw/heard next to nothing in the few stops we made. However, once out on the track to the Centre from the paved road, a distance of some 22 kms, the birds started to appear in a landscaoe which is as flat as a billiard table  and I swear you could just make out the earth’s curvature. 
Black and White Storks
There were White Storks (cigüeña blanca) everywhere and we saw some with Black Storks (cigüeña negra) in attendance. In the canal which runs along side the track, a Green Sand (andarríos grande) proved to be photogenic and for once, rather ike the buzzard later, the photo was not of white rump vanishing to the far horizon.
There were plenty of Marsh Harriers (aguilucho lagunero) seen, mostly females and immatures, but with at lerast two superb males seen during the day. I had hoped to see more Hen Harriers (aguilucho pálido) but surprisingly we only saw one, a nice male.  A nice Common Buzzard (busardo común), one of several,  allowed at decent photograph instead of a shot of a rear end disappearing rapidly at low level. Particularly pleasing to the eye was the sight of several Red Kites (milano real) with a few of the rather more dowdy Black Kites (milano negro). There were outnumbered considerably by Ravens (cuervos) and Magpies (urracas), particularly in the large área where the sun-dried bones of dead livestock are mute testimony to the fragility of life, although I must admit that ending up as Griffon Vulture (buitre leonado) food hardly appeals, ecological though it be.
There is plenty of water (as well as a much needed coffee) at the Inforrnation Centre and excellent views from the windows, with a nice supply of ducks and waders, whilst Purple Boghens (calamón) are certainly not in short supply. Notably abundant were the Black-tailed Godwits (aguja colinegra) with a guesstimate of 150+ birds present. Going onward along La Escupidera we  found the Greylags (ansar común) – some flocks of which have been reported flying northwards this morning (09 February). We searched for the Whitefronts which have been reported but with no success. Here too we found plenty of Cranes (grullas). In this section we notched up a total of  41 species.
Green Sandpiper
The second stop of the day was to be at Dehesa de Abajo. The first stop was by a single semi flooded rice paddy, on the face the same as the thousands of hectares if the ithers, but this one had waders. A flock of some 200 Golden Plovers (chorlitos dorados) flashed back and forth over the many Lapwings (avefrías), some 500+,  and once the scpes were uo ad we started looking there were at least 140+ Ruff (combatientes), a suprising 100+ Sanderling (correlimos tridáctilos) and 10+ Little Sint (correlimos menudo). Why only in this paddy, we know not, and when we called by again on the Thursday morning, there were only a few Lapwings.
There was a fair wind blowing and this had concentrated a lot of the ducks and coots at the south side of the Dehesa lake where the road runs by. The place was solid with Red-crested Pochards (pato colorado) and after scanning with the scopes we guesstimated some 1.500 in the lakes with flock after flock scattered over the water, along with a vast number of Coots (focha común), which did not bode well for Ron who had never seen a Crested Coot (focha moruna)  and which made the task of finding look like the proverbial needle in a haystack job.  
We went up to the centre to see what was and on the ‘recent sightings’ board someone had put Red-necked Grebe (somormujo cuellirrojo), a very unlikely record and one that I would be most unlikely to count.  Here some walking was involved in order to get down to the hides, a trail advertsied as being some 500m but the longest 500m that I have ever seen! This was not good news for Ron and on the slow wending way down we saw 4 Thekla Larks (cogujada montesina) very well and a bit further on, with the advantage of height, we stopped to scan and lo and behold, I found a collared (release programme) Crested Coot (focha moruna) with 4 other uncollared birds with it. A new species for Ron, which made his day! The other good bird of the afternoon was a small male Peregrine (halcón peregrino) which flew over unfazed by anything and then there was a Southern Grey Shrike (alcaudón real) – or whatever they are being called now with all the proposed splits!  But all was not yet finished, and the last bird of the day was a Short-eared Owl (lechuza campestre) which flew in front of the car on the way back to El Rocio.

desirable dwellings for White Storks
DAY 3: After breakfast and settling the very reasonable bill we set track for La Rocina, with the option of El Acebron if Ron's Achillle's tendon would cooperate, which it didn't.  However, we visited the first two hides at La Rocina and were inundated by Glossy Ibises (moritos), enjoyed a singke male Marsh Harrier (aguilucho lagunero) and admired the thoughtfulness of man who erected an electricity pylon with enough space for three White Stork (cigüeña blanca) nests. That said, there was little else to attract with a solitary Robin (petirrojo), Cetti's Warblers (ruiseñor bastardo) shouting their presence and a very bonny little male Serin (verdecillo). I should at this point note the presence of processionary caterpillars (procesionarios) whose presence and touch bodes ill for humans and dogs with sores and ulceration and, if the fine hairs are inhaled, kill dogs by asphyxiation.
            Going further and with El Acebron obviously out of the question, we set tracks for Dehesa de Abajo with the aim of seeing, if possible, more  waders and, hopefully, Marbled Duck/Teal. The flooded paddy which had yielded so much the previous afternoon only gave a few Lapwings (avefrías, a single Green Sandpiper (andarríos grande) and 4 Wood Sandpipers (andarríos bastardos). There were stil massive quantities of Red-crested Pochards (patos colorados) and included a  rather odd-looking leucistic one which was also seen on Saturday by a friend from Sevilla. The rest of the birding was rather run of the mill and we set course for home.
            The net result? I calculate some 79 species with one significant miss (or dip as they are known) in the form of Imperial Eagle. At least Ron was very satisfied, I was reasonably so, and he had at last seen Doñana after around 70 years birding.


03 February: Rambla de Amanzora and Vera

I have been away in Doñana and haven't yet downloaded the few photos that I took, hence Dave's report comes first. Also this afternoon news of a Solitary Sandpiper (andarríos solitario) seen at Almanzora on 04 February, along with a bundle of waders. It may hang around but one can never be sure. The photos of it are stunning. Looks like you really copped out there, Dave!
As for those whi wonder what Gilly's reiki course is, do as I did and look it up. As for me finding myself, I have enough difficulty finding birds and going birding sets me free. And as for freedom, I thought that the answer was divorce. Sorry, Gilly, couldn't resist it.

Gilly was again involved doing her reiki master's course, so I picked up Steve and headed to the Rambla de Almanzora.
As we came down from Palomares towards the beach, in full sunshine, we could see a rolling mass of sea mist coming towards us. We made it to the rambla's ford seeing Moorhen (gallineta de agua), Green Sandpiper (andarríos grande), Teal (cerceta común), Meadow Pipit (bisbita pratense) and Black-winged Stilt (cigüeñuela) before the mist overcame us reducing visibility to less than 20 m. Barrie and Jan had already arrived and we were joined by Rod, Colin, Sandra, Richard and John. It was a welcome return for Charlie, Val and Les, all of whom had been AWOL for months! Obviously birdwatching there was out of the question so we reversed our normal route and headed to the dual carriageway opposite the Consum supermarket. About a kilometre down the road it was clear skies.
There were numerous Shoveler (pato cuchara), a few Teal (cerceta común) and the occasional Mallard (azulón) with a Marsh Harrier (aguilucho lagunero) over the far reeds. Above us the were a few Crag Martins (avión roquero) and a single Barn Swallow (golondrina común). Numerous Chiffchaffs (mosquitero común) were feeding amongst the shrubs and Blackcaps (curruca capirotada)were also seen. A pair of Little Grebes (zampullín chico) were present and also a Common Pochard (porrón común) and a Redshank (archibebe común) down the far end.
2nd year Mediterranean Gull
We then headed to the beach-side pool by the Millionaires Bar in Vera Playa. There were many Black-headed Gulls( gaviota reidora), a few Mediterranean Gulls (gaviota cabecinegra) and a single immature Yellow-legged Gull (gaviota patiamarilla). Moving up onto the pathway to get a better view of the reed-bed borders, John was saying about seeing some Little Bitterns (avetorillo) there previously when, blow me down, I spotted one in the reeds and Common Pochard (porrón común), Crested Lark (cogujada común), Hoopoe (abubilla) and Cormorant (cormorán grande) were seen while a Cetti's Warbler (ruiseñor bastardo) was heard.
We made our way back to Villaricos village where we took refreshments. John spotted a Gannet (alcatraz) out to sea. The mists had been burnt away by the sun so we made our way back to the rambla. Birds were few and far between. There was a Black-winged Stilt (cigüeñuela) just before the sewage works, which I must say were ripe today. A Common Sandpiper (andarríos chico) was on one of the pools while on the main lake edges were three Ringed Plover (chorlitejo chico) and a Dunlin (correlimos común).  Les also saw a Short-toed Lark (terrera común). Returning to the ford, where there was actually water across the road for a change but we saw only common species, while Les observed a Thekla Lark (cogujada montesina). As we were pulling out of the parking area a Grey Heron (garza real) flew by and we saw another one on the rocks by the harbour amongst numerous Cormorants (cormoranes grandes) and a pair of Turnstones (vuelvepiedras). At the estuary there were hundreds of Black-headed Gulls (gaviota reidora) and a single Lesser Black-backed Gull (gaviota sombría). There was a single Shoveler (pato cuchara) and a Snipe (agachadiza común). There were few waders, only Sanderling (correlimos tridáctilo), Dunlin (correlimos común) and a Kentish Plover (chorlitejo patinegro). Walking back along the beach there was a resting flock of 17 Sandwich Terns (charrán común) on the rocks and I spotted a Grey Plover (chorlito gris) which was joined by the resident Whimbrel (zarapito trinador). Les discovered the Audouin's Gull (gaviota de Audouin) to end our bird list for the day. A respectable 55 species, considering the poor start, a good day's birding.