donderdag 12 januari 2012

29th of December: First lifer of the trip and more!

We started the day slowly and after a good spanish breakfast we left with the whole family. We wanted to go to the real cape of Cabo de Gata first. So we drove from San José to La Boca de los frailes to Ruescas to Cabo de Gata, passing La Almadraba and eventually ending up at  the cape. The cape itself wasn't that spectacular, but as with the entire coast here, you have an amazing scenery: high rocky mountains on the one side and a beautiful Mediterranean Sea on the other side. On our way we had 2 Black Wheatears. And just before the cape there was a group of Cattle Egrets foraging close to the road. I was able to get a few good shots:
They were foraging on a grassy patch just between the rocks, not a place where you would expect them!

A quick scan over the sea delivered us 4 close Balearic Shearwaters and 5 Gannets. After our visit to the cape we drove back to look for our main target species here: Trumpeter Finches. A few 100 metres after we passed the white ruïn church of La Almadraba we stopped at a spot along the road, along the sea. Just opposite of the first hide you see on your right hand site near the Salinas. Just as I got out of the car I already had a Trumpeter Finch loudly calling, flying overhead. That was easy! A few minutes later we saw a Trumpeter Finch flying over again (perhaps the same one) and it dropped down in some vegetation/bushes. We walked towards the place where we'd seen the bird dropping down and soon we discovered a flock of mixed finches: Greenfinches, Serins, House Sparrows, Corn Buntings but also +10 Trumpeter Finches! We looked at them through the scope and had a great looked at these wonderful finches. This is the only place (I know of?) where you can see Trumpeter Finches in Spain, pretty cool! During the winter months small groups of these Trumpeter Finches winter here near the Salinas. On the sea we spotted a group of 12 Razorbills, which was quite a surprise (but as we found out later they seemed pretty common along the coast!)
Three Trumpeter Finches (to what it seems an adult male on the right on possibly young birds on the left).
And more of these cool birds!

With this quick succes we decided to head to the hide on the other side of the road, to check out the saltpans. We found: 32 Dunlins, 5 Little Stints, 4 Greenshanks, 3 Grey Plovers, lots of Flamingo's, 15 Shelducks, manye Little Egrets, 3 Sandwich Terns and a flock of 150 Serins. Next destination was the Lagune de Rambla close to the campsite of Cabo de Gata. This is a beautiful lagune situated along the beach. A huge diversity of bird species can be found here! Our main reason for going here was to try and see a lifebird for us: White-headed Duck! And so we did, we found 35+ White-headed Ducks on the Lagune. Soon we found out that they weren't really shy ducks. There was one pretty male with a blue bill, still (or again?) in summer plumage.
I like the interaction in this photo: on the background a female and a male displaying and the male with the blue bill displaying as well. While displaying the White-headed Duck dropped its head in a weird position (layed its head in its neck) and made a weird bubbling sound with its bill! It looked like the male ducks were filled with a lot of testosteron already;)
An adult male in winter plumage
A young (?) male, tailless.
Greater Flamingo, one of the few young birds present in the Laguna. Black-necked Grebes were also found in this Laguna. Near the campsite of Cabo de Gata we had a flock of 17 Golden Plovers. 

It was already 14.00 and we got hungry so we went back to our appartment and had a good meal. In the late afternoon my dad and I couldn't resist making another small tour, mainly because we wanted to photograph a Blue Rock Thrush or a Black Wheatear. So around 16.15 we left and fairly soon we stumbled onto a surprise along the road:
A superb Little Owl perched in an Alöe Vera tree close to the road.

We drove further and soon came across some Black Wheatears sitting on a small building near Playa del Monsúl. We had our first Red-legged Patridges of the trip too. They were playing hide and seek with us but in the end we came up with these pictures:
With a brown-green background 
And with a blue background.
Thekla Larks were frequently found at every possible place in this type of habitat. This was actually the first time that I really paid good attention to the differences between Thekla Lark and Crested Lark. And after thoroughly studying them, it has become much clearer; the short blunt bill, the clear supercilium, the neat crest and spots on the chest and in flight the contrasting colours of the upperside of the tailfeathers. And above all, they have a distinctive call, different from Crested Lark.

For comparison a great picture from my dad from a Crested Lark of a few years ago. Taken in Amersfoort, in the Netherlands. One of - what was then - the few remaining Crested Larks in the Netherlands:
Crested Lark, made by Tammo Meijer

We saw two more hunting Little Owls and 1 more Black Wheatear and a Blue Rock Thrush before coming back to our appartment complex in darkness!

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