A cracking days birding at two great sites.
I met up with David Hird and Micky Smith for a days birding down in the Cabo de Gata area where we hoped to catch up with a couple of good target species. after quite a drive (I will be glad when they finish that coastal motorway at some point in the dim and distant future) we arrived at our fist site on the coast just the east of Retamar. We stopped got our kit together and then started searching for the regular wintering flock of Eurasian Dotterel (Chorlito Carambolo / Eudromias morinellus) and after a short while we found our first four in with a group of winter plumaged Golden Plover (Chorlito Dorado Europeo / Pluvialis apricaria). During the next hour we saw 15 or so Dotterel, getting great views which was nice as the birds were lifers for both David and Micky. We spent some time checking out other birds in the area and included a short walk along the beach to check what was out to sea, not a lot was the basic answer but we did catch up with Northern Gannet (Alcatraz Atlántico / Morus bassanus), Lesser Black-backed (Gaviota Sombria / Larus fuscus), Yellow-legged (Gaviota Patiamarilla / Larus Michahellis) and Black-headed Gulls (Gaviota Riedora / Larus ridibundus). Later we searched the scrub and open areas nearby and found a small flock of Skylarks (Alondra Común / Alauda arvensis), Thekla (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae) and Crested Larks (Cogujada / Galerida cristata), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) and good numbers of Crag Martins (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris). Whilst we were at this site we were pleased to bump into Jesus Contreras who was out leading a group, even though he was busy he still had the time to have a chat and give us some info, Thanks Jesus.
We retraced or way back to the main road and continued on through Cabo de Gata village ignoring the roadside hide this time headed out towards the light house. As we were passing between the Salinas and the sea we saw a small flock of Trumpeter Finches (Camachuelo Trompetero / Bucanetes githagineus) flick up onto the roadside railings so we pulled over and walked back for a better view, there were at least six birds in total but three flew when we were way back but the others gave us some nice views. Whilst here we also had a pair of Lesser Short-toed Larks (Terrera Marismena / Calandrella rufescens) calling as they flew past, one landed briefly before continuing on along the beach and two Sanderling (Correlimos Tridáctilo / Calidris alba) which flew along the tide line.We had a scan over the Salt Pans but planned to do them on the way back but we could easily see that there were good numbers of Greater Flamingo's (Flamenco Común / Phoenicopterus roseus), Gulls, Ducks and Waders there. We moved on to the light house but turned left before we got there and drove up a roughish road to near the summit of a small coast hill called Vella Blanca where we scanned the cliffs and rocks for Shag (Cormorán Mondudo / Phalacrocorax aristotelis), we gave it a good go but this was to be the only real miss of the day, we did see several Great Cormorants (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocroax carbo), Little Egret (Garceta Común / Egreeta garzetta), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer domesticus), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura) and one of only two butterflies of the day a Bath White (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice). Again we retraced our way back down the hill to the Salt Pans many of which nearer to the town were dry but there was plenty of water infront of the first hide. From here we scanned the water and islands and soon started to add new species to the day list including Spotted (Archibebe Oscuro / Tringa erythropus) and Common Redshanks (Archibebe Común / Tringa totanus), Black-winged Stilt (Ciguenela Común / Himantopus himantopus), Avocet (Avoceta Común / Recurvirostra avosetta), Kentish (Chorlitejo Patinegro / Charadrius alexandrinus) and Grey Plovers (Chorlito Gris / Pluviali squatarola), Little Stint (Correlimos Menudo / Calidris minuta), Dunlin (Correlimos Común / Calidris alpina), Slender-billed Gull (G aviota Picofina / Larus genei), Shelduck (Tarro Blanco / Tadoma tadorna) and several Sandwich Terns (Charrán Patinegro / Sterna sandvicensis) which were sat on the rocky ridges with hundreds of Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Whilst in the hide we met several members of the Almeria based Arboleas bird group who were also having a good day. We moved on to the next hide but picked up a nice group of Thekla Larks on the walk back to the car and one sat and stretched nicely for us whilst we took some shots. As we approached the second hide two Stone Curlews (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus) flew up from beside the track and landed in the scrub a short distance away, one later showing well from the hide. Once we were in the hide we could see the small group of Spoonbills (Espátula Común / Platalea leucorodia) which were roosting on a small island off to the left, these were the only new species seen but we did get better views of some of the others.
We again walked back to the car and went back through the village calling at a small hotel where Micky got an upto date price list and David and I saw a single Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui). Once through the village we called at the hide we passed earlier, it was generally quiet but we saw Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula) and Ringed Plover (Chorlitejo Grande / Charadrius hiaticula) which were new for the day list and just as we were about to leave a flock of 10+ Eurasian Curlew (Zaoaito Real / Numenius arquata) flushed up from a field on the far side of the pool, the first time I had managed to see this species here.
Our last site in this area was at the beautiful Rambler Morales pool, after finding our way through the maze of trackes we parked and started to see plenty of birds including Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Northern Shoveler (Pato Cuchara / Anas clypeata), Eurasian Teal (Cerceta Común / Anas crecca), several White-headed Ducks (Malvasia Cabeciblanca / Oxyura leucocephala), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinulas chloropus), Black-necked Grebe (Zampullín Cullinegro / Podiceps nigricollis), a couple of dozen or so Greater Flamingo's, Cetti's Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), Cattle Egret (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricailla), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita) and White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba). At this point we decided that we had got almost all the target species for the day and as it was only 14:30 we had time to headed back along the coast and get to Charca Suarez before it closed at 18:00so we headed back to wards the main road, on the way we saw a nice male Blue-rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius) on a track side ruin.
On the way to Charca I notice a few species including Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa) and a group of male Spanish Ibex (Cabra pyreaica hispanica) on a ledge right on the side of the motorway.
We arrived at Charca at just befor 16:30 and after quick look at the first hide headed around to the one that looked over Laguna Trebol where the wintering Moustached Warbler (Carricerin Real / Acrocephalus melanopogon) was being seen from. There were already some lads in there but they were not really birding but just taking photographs which made seeing any thing quite difficult. After a while some of them moved around to the next hide and once in a decent viewing stop it did not take long to located the bird which at first showed well in the fare Iris and reedbeds but then crossed to the nearside and came into view for just a few seconds quite close. Other species seen from here included Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea), a female Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus), Snipe (Agachadiza Común / Gallinago gallinago), a couple of the introduced Red-knobbed Coots (Focha Moruna / Fulca cristata), Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Great Tit (Carbonera Común / Parus major), Robin (Petirrojo Europeo / Erithacus rubecula) and Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis). We later moved around to the main hide a checked what was on the water but only added Common Pochard (Porrón Común / Aythya ferina) before heading for the exit as it was getting close to closing time but on the way we had a quick look at the last hide and found a cracking male Red-crested Pochard (Pato Colorado / Netta rufina) there, a nice bird to finish the day on. During the time in the reserve we also heard several Stripe-less Tree Frogs (Hyla meridionalis) and saw a couple of Stripe-necked Terrapins (Mauremys leprosa). On the way back we stopped and had a coffee before heading home.
Thanks for a great day lads and look forward to our next adventure.
Photographs from the top: 2x Eurasian Dotterel (Chorlito Carambolo / Eudromias morinellus), Golden Plover (Chorlito Dorado Europeo / Pluvialis apricaria), Trumpeter Finches (Camachuelo Trompetero / Bucanetes githagineus), Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Moustached Warbler (Carricerin Real / Acrocephalus melanopogon), Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis), Immature Great Cormorant (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocroax carbo) and male Red-crested Pochard (Pato Colorado / Netta rufina).