We enjoyed three excellent days in early October with regular customers and friends, Ann and Graham from Darwen in Lancs. We arranged hotel accommodation for them in Alhama de Almeria just a few miles from our base in Instincion.
Day one started at the salinas at Punta Entinas de Sabinar and what a start – the very first bird was a stunning migrant Bluethroat! A pair of Water Rails ran behind it and in the same area were Spotted Redshank and Greenshank. Little Egret, Cattle Egret and Flamingo were numerous. Feeding on the mud were Snipe, Dunlin, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Kentish Plover, Ringed Plover, Sanderling and Little Stint. A Marsh Harrier drifted over the reedbed. In the reeds themselves were Cetti’s and Fan-tailed Warblers and a migrating Whinchat. A Kingfisher flashed by and a fine Western Swamphen (Purple Gallinule) rounded off our visit.
We then moved on to the lagoon and surrounds at Las Norias. Several Night Herons were our first find then in a dry field a flock of about 30 Yellow Wagtail were feeding including several of the blue-headed race. A Hoopoe flew around the area as did several Turtle Doves. En route to a secret little corner we know for waders we put up a superb pale morph Booted Eagle. The corner didn’t disappoint. Two wonderfully marked Wood Sandpipers were feeding alongside two Green Sandpipers and a Western Swamphen wandered past at close quarters. Best bird of all was an Osprey flying low over the lagoon.
Day two began at the salinas at Cabo de Gata. As we stepped out of the car we found Northern Wheatear and while we scanned for more a shout went up of Dotterel! Four beautiful birds were feeding in the grassy area at the roadside and gave brilliant close views. Hundreds of waders were present on the lagoon and some diligent work revealed Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit, Kentish Plover, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Sanderling, Avocet, Black winged Stilt and Redshank. Best of the waders though was a Temminck’s Stint. Several Audouin’s Gulls rested on nearby rocks. As we came out of the hide a mixed group of Reed Warbler and Willow Warbler were present in the bushes. We then strolled along the path to the next hide, again spotting the Dotterel. However the highlight was a superb Trumpeter Finch sitting on the fence. On reaching the hide we found a large raft of Black-necked Grebe and of course the ever present Flamingos. Drifting over the distant hills were several large raptors so we drove to an area beyond the village to try and get a better view. We were rewarded by two Golden Eagles! Ann also located four Stone Curlew in the scrub.
After tapas lunch and a cool drink in a beachside cafe we headed to Rambla Morales to look for a long staying Buff-breasted Sandpiper – a very rare migrant for Almeria. We stalked out the area where our team had found it a few days earlier but after over half an hour had no luck so wandered off and found Night Heron, Shoveller,Teal and Pintail. On our return several Sanderling and a Bar-tailed Godwit were feeding in the shallows and our target bird emerged from the reeds. Stunning views of Buff-breasted Sandpiper. Everyone was delighted! As we basked in our success and of course the lovely sunshine a Hobby shot by, causing panic among the hirundines feeding over the water.
Our third and final day was spent on the plains of Sierra de Baza. Northern Wheatear and Chough were seen before we even got out of the car and at our first stop we were stunned by a flock of almost sixty Black-bellied Sandgrouse! Calandra Larks were present and a Little Owl lurking in a small plantation provided a fantastic opportunity for photographs. Rock Sparrow was present in an olive grove. We found further groups of Sandgrouse throughout the afternoon and things were brought to a close by a Southern Grey Shrike.
All in all a great trip.