I was delighted to welcome three lads from the north for a week’s birding this month. Neil, Tony and Simon are all members of East Yorkshire Motor Services brass band and whilst not being expert birders they were keen to enjoy the birds and scenery of Almeria. They flew into Almeria from Stansted and after they had a shower and lunch at the hotel we headed to Tabernas for a short afternoon session. We were rewarded by great views of crested lark, thekla lark, black wheatear and bonellis eagle.
Day two started at Punta Sabinar. On the lagoon were red crested pochard, common pochard, white headed duck and a huge raft of black necked grebe whilst around the fringes were little egret and squacco heron. Several wader species including ringed plover, kentish plover, avocet, black winged stilt, grey plover and dunlin were present. Greater flamingo was present in good numbers. Several marsh harriers drifted over the reeds. A flock of gulls loafing on a dry lagoon included greater black backed, yellow legged and half a dozen audouins gulls. We then moved on to Las Norias where we found hoopoe, little egret and a lovely group of a dozen yellow wagtails. We drove back over the mountains and stopped to hunt for warblers. Our luck held as we found sardinian and dartford. Other birds present were serin, red legged partridge and spotted flycatcher. The highlight of the day however was right at the end. As we pulled up outside the hotel in Instincion a pair of bonellis eagles drifted right over us!!
For day three we headed to the plains. The first birds we found were calandra larks. As we checked a group of trees several black bellied sandgrouse flew overhead. In the trees were redstart, pied flycatcher and corn bunting. Chough were present in large numbers. As we drove along we found two little owls and atop a small hill was a flock of rock sparrows. In the afternoon we headed to Puerto de La Ragua,a mountain pass on the border of Almeria and Granada at an altitude of 2,000m. As soon as we got out of the car we found citril finch and three griffon vultures flew high overhead. We then located stonechat, whinchat, redstart and rock bunting. In the pines was a short toed treecreeper.
Our fourth and final day took us to the saltpans at Cabo de Gata. Greater flamingo was there in good numbers and again there were rafts of black necked grebe. Slender billed gulls were present alongside yellow legged gulls and a solitary sandwich tern. Numerous waders included kentish and ringed plovers, sanderling, avocet, dunlin, greenshank and black winged stilt. In the dunes we saw southern grey shrike, whinchat, wheatear and sardinian warbler. Around the back of the saltpans we located about a dozen stone curlew and whilst we watched those several eagles appeared over the mountains including short toed eagle. The highlight of the day came as we left one of the hides. A red footed falcon flew straight across our path. After a picnic lunch on the beach we headed to the steppes of Las Amoladeras. Here we again had southern grey shrike, wheatear and redstart. Several black bellied sandgrouse flew over. We were then lucky enough to get a close fly by of bonellis eagle and a migrating honey buzzard was a real bonus to end what was a wonderful week.
Thanks lads,you were excellent company.
Following the very enjoyable visit of the lads from EYMS I was joined by two old friends from the north west, Ann and Graham, both keen birders. They chose to organise their own accommodation in the resort of El Toyo and join us for 3 seperate days birding.
The first day was spent entirely at Cabo de Gata where all the usual quality was on display. Numerous greater flamingo of course and good numbers of little egret, avocet, sanderling, little stint and black winged stilt on the lagoon alongside black tailed godwit and a large raft of black necked grebe. Slender billed, audouins, yellow legged and black headed gulls were present and also several sandwich tern. A marsh harrier flushed a group of 8 spoonbills, a magnificent sight in flight. On the headland we found several balearic shearwaters, northern gannets and crag martins. Driving back towards the village we were treated to fantastic views of a hunting short toed eagle.
A couple of days later we visited the steppes of Las Amoladeras. Our first birds were wintering blackcaps quickly followed by dartford warbler, hoopoe, black redstart and southern grey shrike. A distant bonellis eagle was a bonus. We then had a real surprise as Graham called out ‘trumpeter finch’. 3 juvenile birds gave close up views for several minutes and Ann managed to get some good photos. Alongside the finches we also enjoyed lesser short toed lark and stone curlew. We then headed back towards the car and found black wheatear on the way. After a traditional tapas lunch we headed to the Tabernas desert. Within a few minutes Ann spotted close to 200 griffon vultures kettling over the nearby mountains along with a single black stork. A truly wonderful spectacle and the first time I have seen so many in Almeria. A family group of black wheatears gave good views and as we sat on a rock scanning the desert a golden eagle gave a close fly by.
Our final day trip was to the plains in the west. A very rewarding day began with huge flocks of calandra lark and black bellied sandgrouse flying overhead. Chough was present in good numbers. Lesser short toed lark and little owl kept us on our toes but the highlight came at the end of the day in the form of nine little bustard giving great views in flight and on the ground.