David and Steve's Spanish trip (Day Six).
Water, more water and even more water.
David and Steve’s last day had soon come around and after a fairly early start we found our selves viewing an area of fields to the north of Cabo de Gata in Almeria Province. On the way down we had seen the only Carrion Crows (Corneja Negra / Corvus corone) of the trip, 4 birds were perched on wires at the side of the Autovia just south of Guadix. We were now looking for a species that I had not yet caught up with in Spain and armed with directions from a friend in Granada we were searching for a small flock of Dotterel (Charadrius morinellus) which have wintered in the area for some years. The site had been fallow for a long time but back in 2010 the area was ploughed and this had made the birds less reliable at the site as we were finding out. The only birds seen were Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros) and lots of Serins (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus). We moved on south and called at the first hide on the Northern end of the salt pans. Good numbers of Greater Flamingo’s (Flamenco Común / Phoenicopterus ruber) were immediately obvious, along with several Little Egret (Garceta Común / Egretta garzetta) and at least 50 Slender-billed Gulls (Gaviota Picofina / Larus genei). Once the scopes were set up we started to add a few waders to the trip and day list, these included Avocet (Avoceta Común/ Recurvirostra avosetta), 20+ Black-tailed Godwits (Aguja Colinegra / Limosa limosa), Black-winged Stilt (Ciguenuela Común / Himantopus himantopus), Common Redshank (Archibebe Común / Tringa totanus), Common Sandpiper (Andarrios Chico / Actitis hypoleucos), 10+ Dunlin (Correlimos Común / Calidris alpina), 2x Greenshank (Archibebe Claro / Tringa nebularia), 10+ Grey Plover (Chorlito Gris / Pluvialis squatarola), Northern Lapwing (Avefria Europea / Vanellus vanellus) and 2x Ringed Plovers (Chorlitejo Grande / Charadrius hiaticula).
We then moved down the seaward side of the pans and called at the first hide, we did not see anything new from here but decided to leave the car on the road and walk down to the next hide which I thought was the large main one, but that one was quite a way on. We had a scan from here and added both Stone-curlew (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus) x8 and Kentish Plover (Chorlitejo Patinegro / Charadrius alexandrinus) on the small pool to the side of the hide. I then decided that I would go and fetch the car and meet David and Steve at the main hide, thinking that it might make it a long circuit with David and his broken toe. On my way back I started to pick up numbers of finches in the dune area between the road and the sea and then I dropped on four cracking Trumpeter Finches (Bucanetes githagineus), 3 females and a male all of which were hanging around with a good sized flock of Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris). One of the females perched nicely on a wooden fence pole and I managed to get a couple of OKish shot before racing of to the car and returning a few minutes later with the lads. We eventually got some nice views of the three females but the male was only seen once more in flight then he disappeared. After the cracking Trumpeters had moved along the road a bit we returned to the main hide and had a look from there adding a single Spotted Redshank (Archibebe Oscuro / Tringa erythropus) to the list and also picked up a couple of Sandwich Terns (Charrán Patinegro / Sterna sandvicensis), Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus), Northern Shoveler (Cuchara Común / Anas clypeata) and Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis).
We then took a drive out to the lighthouse but it produced nothing except a chance to pick up lunch which we ate in the hide back on the northern shore where we saw the same birds as earlier on plus a couple of Eurasian Wigeon (Silbón Europeo / Anas Penelope).
We then drove around the city of Almeria and went to the lagoons and salt pans near Roquetas del Mar, the numbers of Northern Shoveler were huge with there being a couple of thousand on the first lagoon alone. The wind was getting quite strong by this point which made birding hard going but we persisted and eventually found a single Red-knobbed Coot (Focha Moruna / Fulca cristata) in amongst the Eurasian Coot flock and at least three Marsh Harriers (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus) could be seen patrolling over the reed beds. A single Greater Flamingo flew along the back of the lake, several Great Cormorants (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocorax carbo) were drying out their wings on some dead tree stumps and 50+ Crag Martins (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) bounced around in the wind.
We moved on to Canada de las Norias another lagoon, but this one is surrounded by miles upon miles of plastic covered greenhouse which does not make this site the most pleasant to visit. Any way we had a walk along the causeway at the eastern end and got good views of some of the 300+ White-headed Ducks (Malvasia Cabeciblanca / Oxyura leucocephala) we picked up. A little further along Steve got views of an adult Night Heron (Marinete Común / Nycticorax nycticorax) in the low tamarisk trees out in the water, while we were watching it, the bushes suddenly erupted with Night Herons going up from every where. There was a flock of at least 60 birds which circled for a couple of minutes before dropping back in to the trees and giving us more excellent views. At the far end of the pool a small flooded area had a small flock of waders on it, they included three Ruff (Combatiente / Philomachus pugnax), a few Snipe (Agachadiza Común / Gallinago gallinago), Black-winged Stilt and a couple of Dunlin. On the walk back to the car we found several Little (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis), Great Crested (Somormujo Lavanco / Podiceps cristatus) and Black-necked Grebes (Zampullín Cuellinegro / Podiceps nigricollis), Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina), Northern Shoveler and loads more Crag Martins getting battered by the wind.
We started the journey home but called briefly at Charca del Suarez on the way past. The reserve was about to shut so we only had a walk along the boundary track but we saw both Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops) and Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti) well.
Photographs from the top:Greater Flamingo’s (Flamenco Común / Phoenicopterus ruber), Lycium intricatum, Trumpeter Finch (Bucanetes githagineus) and Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris).
75 bird species seen.