Juan Pérez Contreras and I travelled down to Cabo Sacratif where we carried out the RAM sea bird survey for January, it was a cracking morning with a very nice sun rise through about the only cloud in the sky. It was a shame that the birds were not as good, we did however record a few Balearic Shearwater (Pardela Balear / Puffinus mauretanicus), Northern Gannets (Alcatraz Atlántico / Morus bassanus), Black-headed (Gaviota Riedora / Larus ridibundus), Mediterranean (Gaviota Cabecinegra / Larus melanocephalus), Lesser Black-backed (Gaviota Sombria / Larus fuscus) and Yellow-legged Gulls (Gaviota Patiamarilla / Larus Michahellis) and a small Skua species which was just to distant to be identified fully but was probably a dark phase Arctic Skua (Págalo Parásito / Stercorarius parasiticus) and we were quite surprised not to see a single Audouin's Gull (Gaviota de Audouin / Larus audouinii) during the survey. Other species seen during the time on the rock were Sandwich Tern (Charrán Patinegro / Sterna sandvicensis) and Great Cormorant (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocroax carbo) at sea, whilst on dry land we recorded Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus), Dartford (Curruca Rabilargo / Sylvia undata) and Sardinian Warblers (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) and Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris). We decided to take the short cut down the hill from the sea watch point and on the way we found a dozen or so spikes of Ophrys forestieri (one of the fusca group) growing in amongst the scrub where the invasive Bermuda Buttercup (Oxalis pes-caprae) had not yet smothered.
Our next stop was at the Motril fish port but as with the last visit the place was very busy with the loading of the Morocco bound ferry which meant the Gulls were fragmented and most were inside a newly fenced area which ment we could only check the species and not the rings numbers. Whilst there we did however add Little Egret (Garceta Común / Egreeta garzetta), Cattle Egret (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis) and Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea) before heading off to Charca via a coffee and loo stop in a bar on the way.
We enter the site from the main port road and went through the Agricultural area on the way, along here we had a couple of small flocks of the naturalized Red Avadavat (Bengali Rojo / Amandava amandava), Several wintering Reed Buntings ( Escribano Palustre / Emberiza schoeniclus), Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis), Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata) and White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba). We entered the reserve and started by going anti-clockwise to the first hide where a couple of chaps were working on the reed screens and were making quite a bit of noise doing it so we did not think much would be seen. As soon as we got into the hide we were proved wrong when a cracking male Bluethroat (Pechiazul / Luscinia svecica) was seen hoping around on the far shore, it was in great plumage with a bright blue throat, white spot and lot of red below. Also on this pool we located Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinulas chloropus), Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos) and Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita). We then moved on to the next hide passed the willow scrub area where we saw two adult Night Herons (Marinete Común / Nycticorax nycticorax) which took some finding amongst the tangel of branches. In the next hide we soon had Water Pipit (Bisbita Alpino / Anthus spinoletta), Purple Swamp-hen (Calamon Común / Porphyrio porphyrio), Water Rail (Rascón Europeo / Rallus aquaticus) heard only, Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea), Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina) and Northern Shoveler (Cuchara Común / Anas clypeata) on the day list. We again moved around to another hide, on the way a confiding female Common Kestrel sat nicely for Juan and my cameras. Once in the hide year ticks started to be seen straight away, these included Black-winged Stilt (Ciguenela Común / Himantopus himantopus), Eurasian Wigeon (Silbón Europeo / Anas penelope) and a female Ferruginous Duck (Porrón Pardo / Aythya nyroca). Other species seen from here included a well hidden Shelduck (Tarro Blanco / Tadorna tadorna), Cetti's Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo), Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus), Robin (Petirrojo Europeo / Erithacus rubecula) and Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto). Again we continued on but this time it was back to the second hide where we were still hoping to get a view of the reported Baillon's Crake (Pollueta chica / Porzana pusilla) which was still about after its spring arrival. We did not see it but did add a fly over Peregrine Falcon (Halcón Peregrino / Falco peregrinus). 1 o'clock soon came round so we had to leave the reserve, so we started our drive home and on the way had views of a soaring Golden Eagle (Águila Real / Aquila chrysaetos) along side the motorway. I dropped Juan back at his car before starting off towards home via the fields near Moraleda, I made a quick ciurcat of the site but it was fairly quiet. The only new birds for the day list were Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina) and nearer home I added both Common (Urraca / Pica pica) and Azure-winged Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus). During the day which was generaly sunny we saw a few species of Butterfly including Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria), Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), Small White (Artogeia rapae), Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias corcea) and Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta).
Photographs from the top: Early morning view from Cabo Sacratif, Ophrys forestieri (full plant and single flower), Purple Swamp-hen (Calamon Común / Porphyrio porphyrio), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus), Water Pipit (Bisbita Alpino / Anthus spinoletta) and Ferruginous Duck (Porrón Pardo / Aythya nyroca).