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A Report from

Spain - Almería, 2-9 October 2003,

Mark Easterbrook


A Birdwatching Guide to Southern Spain Malcolm Palmer.
Collins Guide to the Birds of Britain & Europe with N. Africa & The Mddle East.
Books for Spain

Trip reports posted on the Web.


1.     A brief introduction.
2.     A day-by-day account of the sites visited with birding highlights.
3.     A consolidated species trip list.
4.     Summary.

1.  Introduction

John Sanders accompanied me and together we saw a total of 129 species, (128 if you don't count Rock Dove)!  A fair total, with migration still in full swing and on one occasion, quite a large fall of migrants occurred following a down poor one night.

Birding in Almeria is well documented so I will not give site directions, however I will make reference and give thanks to all those people who have previously contributed trip reports to various trip report Web pages - thank you all; the trip would not have been so enjoyable without your valuable information. 

NOTE:  If you are looking for confirmation of a site for Dupont's Lark, then read no further as we didn't manage to see one despite visiting all of the documented sites (and then some), on several occasions at the recommended time of day for at least three hours each time.

Car hire cost £126.50 for 6 days (1.0 Toyota Yaris - which was ideal) pre booked over the Internet with Europcar, petrol is not surprisingly cheaper than the U.K. and the standard of driving is very laid back and slow on good roads.  We stayed in Roquetas de Mar an ideal centre in which to stay in order to visit all of the sites within an hour.  

2. Daily Itineries

Day One

The flight from Gatwick to Almeria took about two and quarter hours, from the airport at Almeria to our hotel took about forty-five minutes by car.  We arrived at about mid-day, checked in and did a bit of birding around the hotel, which produced a Western Olivaceous Warbler (obviously a migrant), in a tamarisk tree outside the hotel.  We collected the car at 1700 and headed for the Salinas de Roquetas.  As we were walking to lunch, about 40 Alpine Swift were noted above us and a Cory's Shearwater laboured past, quite close to the shore.

Day Two

Today was a Friday.  We headed for Cabo de Gata and the search for Dupont's Lark (which proved fruitless).  However a good number of migrants were noted in the coastal strip near to the visitor centre.  Highlights were a Montagu's Harrier and 5 Red-rumped Swallow.  We proceeded to Cabo de Gata lighthouse where good numbers of Black Wheatear were noted and at the Salinas, hundreds of Audouin's Gull and at least 16 Stone Curlew on the rocky ground behind the Salinas.

In the evening we made our first visit to Cañada de las Norias although no Marbled Teal were noted, A Purple Gallinule, several Black Tern, a female Red-crested Pochard and good numbers of White-headed duck were noted.  A Little Bittern also made a brief appearance in flight.

Day Three

We made our second visit to Cañada de las Norias, after reading information on the sites; we were convinced we had not thoroughly explored the area and that there were some pits we had not viewed.  At the first of such pits (of which there are 3), a Rufous Bush Chat was seen and several summer plumaged male Yellow Wagtails making identification of the Iberiae Subspecies easy.  On the third pit that we explored, we finally came across our first Marbled Teal amongst other wildfowl.  Closer "scoping" produced no fewer than 15 giving excellent views, with all of the ID features being easily observed.

We then returned to the hotel to collect our partners and headed off inland for some "culture".  In any event this proved successful as a Bonelli's Eagle and Blue Rock Thrush were seen in the village of Sorbas.  Later on our travels a Crag Martin was seen near Hambro and a single Grey Wagtail flew over the main street of Nijar, whilst we were having coffee.

That evening at Roquetas Marina a fantastic site of circa 500 Black-necked Grebe made quite a sight.  The only Common Terns of the trip were also noted here.

Day Four

An early morning visit to Roquetas Salinas / Park Natural after a heavy down poor the night before provided some newly arrived migrants that hadn't been noted previously.  The first of which were 2 Bluethroats.  On the Salinas Sanderling and a Grey Plover were seen and in the dunes behind the Salinas a single Lesser Short-toed Lark and every bush appeared to have a Northern Wheatear sat on it.  A good number of Redstarts were also seen.

In the afternoon we visited the Steppe area inland from Las Cuevas de las Ubedas (North of the N344a - The N344 is the new motorway and the old road is now numbered the N344a, this caused some confusions initially), in search of Rock Bunting, which was unsuccessful.  However a good number of Sylvia warblers were seen including Subalpine, Orphean, Whitethroat, Sardinian and Blackcap.  Migrants were in evidence here including a Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher and numerous Redstarts.  A flock of 30 or so Rock Sparrow were also in the area and good numbers of Red-legged Partridge were also present.

Day Five

We set off in order to be at the coastal Steppe opposite the Mirador Hotel on the way to Cabo de Gata.  A tarmac track opposite leads to a large Steppe area that looks perfect habitat for Dupont's Lark, however none were seen.  The area did however produce 7 Black-bellied Sandgrouse a Dartford Warbler and numerous Short-toed Lark.  A search around by the visitor centre revealed a European Nightjar, but try as we did we were unable to turn it into a Red-necked Nightjar.  It appeared to be an exhausted migrant from the night before's fall and gave superb views sat out in the open not 10 yards from us.

Day Six

We visited Granada and La Alhambra.  Well worth the visit in anyone's book.  It also produced some birds that were not seen elsewhere including Firecrest, Short-toed Treecreeper, Coal Tit and a soaring Honey Buzzard.

A quick sea-watch on our return to the hotel produced good numbers of Gannets, a Cory's Shearwater and several Balearic Shearwaters.

Day Seven

Another visit to the Tabernas and Cabo de Gata area for Dupont's Lark which proved to be another dip.  However the Tabernas area did produce our first Spectacled Warblers and Corn Buntings.  The Steppe area opposite the Mirador gave good views of 16 Black-bellied Sandgrouse and some common migrants.

Another visit to the Cabo de Gata lighthouse revealed no Rock Bunting but Cory's and Balearic Shearwaters were noted along with a few Gannet.  2 Ravens sailed over the mountains calling and a Peregrine put in a brief appearance.  A surprise sighting was of 3 Goshawk above us, following the ridgeline and obviously migrating.

A final visit to Roquetas Salinas gave us our final birds of the trip a Nightingale in the scrub and a Little Ringed Plover on the edge of one of the lagoons.

I returned the car at 1700.

Day Eight

A short flight home via Gatwick and we were back in the house by 1500 and ready for a snooze.

3. Consolidated Systematic Species List

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis Numerous at Canada de las Norias
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 3 at Canada de las Norias on each visit
Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis Several at Canada de las Norias and c500 at Roquetas Marina on the 4th
Cory's Shearwater Calonectris diometea 1s & 2s drifting by at coastal locations
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus Several past Roquetas de Mar and the same at Cabo de Gata
Gannet Morus bassanus As Above
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo Several at Roquetas Marina and 1 at Cabo de Gata Salinas
Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus 1 flight view at Canada de las Norias on the 3rd
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis Numerous around the Cabo de Gata area and Roquetas golf course
Little Egret Egretta garzetta Widespread and common in suitable habitats
Great White Egret Egretta alba 1 at Roquetas Salinas on the 2nd
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea Several over Cabo de Gata and C20 at Roquetas Marina
Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 1 at Roquetas Salinas on the 7th
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber Numerous at Roquetas Salinas, Roquetas Marina and Cabo de Gata Salinas
Gadwall Anas strepera Several at Canada de las Norias
Teal Anas crecca Several at Canada de las Norias
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos Widespread and numerous
Pintail Anas acuta 1s and 2s at Canada de las Norias
Shoveler Anas clypeata Good numbers at Canada de las Norias
Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris 15 at Canada de las Norias on the 4th
Red-crested Pochard   2 female types at Canada de las Norias on the 3rd
Pochard Aythya ferina Several at Canada de las Norias
White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala Large numbers at Canada de las Norias and smaller numbers at Roquetas Marina
Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus 1 in flight over La Mojoneras on the and 1 soaring over La Alhambra - Grenada on the 7th
Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus 1s and 2s at coastal Marsh areas
Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus 1 quartering over the Cabo de Gata area near to the visitor center on the 3rd
Northern Goshawk Accipter nisus 3 obvious migrants drifting West over Cabo de Gata on the 8th
Buzzard Buteo buteo 1 over Cabo de Gata and 1 near the ruins North of Las Cuevas de las Ubedas
Bonelli's Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus 1 near the village of Sorbas on the 4th
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus Widespread and fairly common
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus 1 harassing the "Rock Doves" at Cabo de Gata
Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa Several at Cabo de Gata steppe and numerous in the valley North of Las Cuevas de las Ubedas
Moorhen Gallinula chloropus Widespread and numerous in wetlands
Purple Gallinule Porphyrio porphyrio 1 at Canada de las Norias
Coot Fulica atra As for Moorhen
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus Widespread and numerous in suitable habitats
Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta Good numbers at Roquetas Salinas
Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus 16 on rocky ground behind Cabo de Gata Salinas
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius 1 on saltings at Roquetas Salinas on the 8th
Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula Common at wetland habitats
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus Common on Salinas and widespread
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola 1 at Roquetas Salinas on the 5th
Sanderling Calidris alba 8 at Roquetas Salinas throughout
Little Stint Calidris minuta 2s and 3s at various Salinas and Canada de las Norias
Dunlin Calidris alpina As Little Stint although more numerous
Ruff Philomachus pugnax 1 at Roquetas Salinas on two occasions
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago Common at Wetland sites
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa Common at Roquetas Salinas
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica 1 at Roquetas Salinas not so numerous as the last species
Curlew Numenius arquata 1 at Roquetas Salinas on the 5th
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus Common in good numbers at various Salinas
Redshank Tringa tetanus As Spotted Redshank
Greenshank Tringa nebularia 1 at Roquetas Salinas on two occasions
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos Common around Canada de las Norias
Turnstone Arenaria interpres Common on the beach at Roquetas de Mar
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus Numerous at Roquetas Marina
Slender-billed Gull Larus genei 1 over the sea at Roquetas and 3 at Roquetas Salinas on the 5th
Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii Roosts of 100s at Roquetas Salinas and Cabo de Gata Salinas - many were ringed
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus Numerous at Roquetas Salinas, some bearing Dutch and Norwegian color rings
Yellow-legged Gull Larus atlantis Common at coastal locations
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis Common over the sea and at Cabo de Gata Salinas
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 5 noted at Roquetas Marina
Black Tern Chlidonias niger 6 noted at Canada de las Norias and one at Roquetas Marina.
Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis 7 on the 6th and 16 on the 8th on the Steppe area opposite the Mirador Hotel - Cabo de Gata area.
Rock Dove Columba livia Several convincing looking individuals at Cabo de Gata lighthouse had their credibility ruined by an albino individual - tick them if you like?
Wood Pigeon Columa palumbus Good numbers seen around La Alhambra - Grenada
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto Widespread and common
Turtle Dove Streptopelian turtur One at Canada de las Norias on the 3rd
Little Owl Athene noctua 1 in the scrub behind Roquetas Salinas on the 3rd
European Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus One near the Cabo de Gata visitor center on the 6th
Common Swift Apus Apus 5 seen on the first day were obviously migrants
Alpine Swift Apus melba A magic site of 40 or so swirling above us and migrating south on the first day.
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 2 at Canada de las Norias
Hoopoe Upupa epops Widespread in ones and twos
Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla Common in the Cabo de Gata area on Steppe areas
Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens 1 in the salt scrub behind Roquetas salt pans
Crested Lark           Galerida cristata Widespread and numerous
Thekla Lark Galerida theklae As above but appear to be at higher altitudes generally
Sand Martin Riparia riparia Several seen at various wetland sites
Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris 1 near Hambro and 5 at La Alhambra - Grenada
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Seen throughout
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica 5 migrants near Cabo de Gata visitor center on the second day
House Martin Delichon urbica Ones and twos with hundreds at Canada de las Norias
Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris 1 or 2 seen near the Cabo de Gata visitor center on both visits
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava Iberiae Large numbers at Roquetas Salinas roost and Canada de las Norias (Iberiae Subspecies)
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 1 calling over the main street in Nijar
White Wagtail Motacilla (alba) alba 1 at Roquetas Salinas and one over the Steppe at Cabo de Gata Salinas
Rufous Bush Chat Cercotrichas galactotes 1 at Canada de las Norias on the 4th
Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos 1 in the scrub behind Roquetas Salinas on the last day
Bluethroat Luscinia svecica 3 seen after a fall at Roquetas Salinas
Redstart Phoenicurus Good numbers in suitable habitat after the rain storm
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra 3 seen on the first day in the scrub behind Roquetas Salinas
Stonechat Saxicola (torquata) maura Replaced Whinchat in good numbers in the latter half of the week
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe Seen throughout with a massive fall on the 4th
Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura At least 7 at Cabo de Gata lighthouse, 3 at Sorbas and several around Tabernas
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius 1 at Sorbas and a male and a female at La Alhambra - Grenada.
Blackbird Turdus merula Ones and twos throughout
Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti Numerous at Roquetas Salinas and Canada de las Norias
Fan-tailed Warbler Cisticola juncidis 1 or 2 at Roquetas Salinas - in the scrub
Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus Several at Canada de las Norias
(Western) Olivaceous Warbler Hippolais pallida 1 outside the hotel in tamarisk on the first day- gave excellent views
Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata 1 in the Steppe opposite the Mirador and several at Cabo de Gata on the hillside above the lighthouse
Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata 4 or 5 just west of Tabernas in scrub and several in the scrub behind Roquetas Salinas
Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans 2 near the ruins North of Las Cuevas de las Ubedas
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala Widespread and numerous
Orphean Warbler Sylvia hortensis 1 near the ruins North of Las Cuevas de las Ubedas and in the olive grove.
Whitethroat Sylvia communus 1 near the ruins North of Las Cuevas de las Ubedas and 1 in the Steppe area opposite the Mirador
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla A large fall of migrants produced at least 20 in the valley    North of Las Cuevas de las Ubedas and several in La Alhambra - Grenada
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus Numerous at wetland sites with reedbeds and scrub
Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus 1 at La Alhambra - numerous others heard
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata 1 near the ruins North of Las Cuevas de las Ubedas
Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca 2 at La Alhambra and North of Las Cuevas de las Ubedas
Coal Tit Parus ater 1 at La Alhambra
Great Tit Parus major 1 at La Alhambra and one near the ruins North of Las Cuevas de las Ubedas
Short-toed Treecreeper Carthia brachydactyla 1 at La Alhambra
Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis Common on open Steppe land
Magpie Pica pica 1s and 2s near Roquetas Salinas and La Alhambra - Grenada
Raven Corvus corax 2 calling over Cabo de Gata on the 8th
Starling Sturnus vulgaris Large flocks near habitation and Canada de las Norias
Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor Not in such large numbers as the last species but common everywhere
House Sparrow Passer domesticus Widespread and common
Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia A flock of c30 in the valley North of Las Cuevas de las Ubedas gave excellent views perched on power lines
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs 1s and 2s near Tabernas and La Alhambra - Grenada
Serin Serinus menachensis 1 near Tabernas and a large mixed flock at Cabo de Gata
Greenfinch Carduelis chloris Common and widespread in small numbers
Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis 2 at La Alhambra
Linnet Carduelis cannabina A large flock on cultivated land near the ruins North of Las Cuevas de las Ubedas
Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra 3 just west of Tabernas on the 8th, were the only ones seen

4. Summary

The Almeria province is not typically Spanish and the accent was a little odd, especially when you're trying to learn Spanish.  However the people are very friendly and helpful.  This coupled with the facilities and location, make Roquetas de Mar the ideal place for a Birdwatching and or family holiday.  The weather was not fantastic; indeed we saw two days rain for the only official desert in Europe (we were told we were fortunate - the sunbathing fraternity didn't see it that way).   The main sites are well documented and there is little to add to the excellent directions and descriptions that have already been written.  A week is enough to catch up with the target species, if you're lucky with the Dupont's Lark and it's the right time of year for Rock Bunting to be on their breeding grounds.


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