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A Report from

Almeria Spain 29th Jan – 12th Feb. 2003,


Fancying a bird-watching trip to Almeria, Spain during the winter I booked a flight with Easyjet from Bristol to Malaga, £40 return. Car hire was arranged with Holiday Autos, £113 for 14 days and rental of an apartment with Almerisol, a property/rental company in Roquetas de Mar, at 180 euros/week (approx £120). All were booked via the internet and all went very smoothly and trouble free.

Renting an apartment at this time of year works out a lot cheaper than staying in hotels - especially if several people are sharing, and is also more comfortable than being stuck in a small hotel room. In this one the kitchen had everything to cook meals etc. the   bedroom 2 single beds, the lounge a settee and two armchairs, sofa-bed, TV, radio, coffee table and dining table with four chairs, and the bathroom a hand basin, shower, toilet and a washing machine, all you needed for four people, let alone one.

The flight was on time and landed at 09.30hrs local time. After collecting my bags and hire car - a Fiat Punto, from Crown car hire desk below the arrivals terminal, I set off for Roquetas de Mar at 10.30. Outside was sunny and hot, so off came the coat and jumper and on went the sunglasses - this is more like it.

A couple of stops along the way produced a few birds, Serin, Spotless Starling, Sardinian Warbler, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Crested Lark, Yellow-legged Gulls and a group of 9 Mediterranean Gulls.

I arrived at Cańada de Las Norias, on the outskirts of Las Norias town, about 1.30pm and spent the afternoon there. This is one of the best birding spots in the area and a must to visit, one of those places where anything can, and does turn up. I visited here several times over the next 2 weeks and each time saw at least one bird not seen on a previous visit.

After a great afternoon, sitting in the sun with lots to look at I headed for Urbanisation Roquetas de Mar to pick up the keys to the apartment. It got dark about 7 p.m. and shortly after this, and a visit to the little corner shop 100 yards away, I was enjoying a glass or three of wine - at less than 70 pence a litre!!

The two weeks were spent within a short distance of Roquetas de Mar, apart from a trip to Cabo de Gata and two trips to Las Amoladeras Steppes, 50-60 miles away. The sites could have been covered comfortably in one week.

Sites visited: 

Cañada deLas Norias - Two lakes with some vegetation around its edges - although a lot of this is being lost with excavation for pipe-laying in the eastern lake. The area holds a good selection of water-side birds and passerines, being especially good for White-headed Duck.

White-headed Duck
 White-headed Duck

Easily found by taking the Las Norias/La Mojonera turning off the E15 from Malaga to Almeria and following the road signs to Las Norias. Drive through the small town until reaching a roundabout with an exit on the right for San Agustin, (remember this turn, it is the shortest and easiest route to Roquetas and the saltpans), carry on over the roundabout and in the next 100 yards or so look for a turning on the left leading to lots of polytunnels and crossing the two lakes that make up the reserve of Cañada de las Norias. After a look around this part come back to the main road, turn left and drive out of the town, more of the lake is easily visible on your left - this part produced most of the good birds, Purple Gallinule, Penduline Tit, Whiskered Tern, White-headed Duck, etc. There are several places to pull off the road on the right-hand side and obtain close views of most of the birds.

Birds recorded Cañada de Las Norias (29th Jan, 2nd 6th and 10th Feb).

Black-necked Grebe, Little Grebe, female Little Bittern, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Gadwall, Mallard, Pintail, 100's Shoveler, 12+ Red Crested Pochard, Pochard, 80+ White-headed Duck, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, 3 Purple Gallinule, Coot, Black-winged Stilts, Lapwing, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, sub-adult Whiskered Tern, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, 2 Swallows, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Cetti's Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaffs, Penduline Tits, 3 Southern Grey Shrike, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Corn Bunting.

Audouin’s Gull
Audouin's Gull

Salinas Vieja and Cerrillos up to Punta del Sabinar just west of Roquetas de Mar - a large area of saltpans, some unused with encroaching vegetation, coastal dunes, scrub, pools, etc.

An excellent area and one of the prime sites in Almeria. Held a good variety of birds including Audouin's Gull, Penduline Tit, Bluethroat, Lesser Short-toed Lark and Stone Curlew, different birds were seen on each visit, and you felt anything could turn up at any time.

Access from Roquetas de Mar town is now only possible by walking along the beach to the end of the line of palm trees and cutting inland - the track leading into the area is now part of a construction site. I found an easier access point, and a driveable one, was to take the main road west out of Roquetas towards Almerimar for about 5km. and turn into a track on the left that goes through the saltpans, there is a grey block building beside the road marking the turn. Ignore the access prohibited sign, everyone has for several years and even the rangers turn a blind eye. After crossing the saltpans turn left and drive as far as the construction site at Roquetas, there is a pool and reedbeds on your right here (good for Penduline Tit and Bluethroat) and the old Salinas on your left. If possible cover the whole area back to where you crossed the saltpans, including the newer saltpans, coastal scrub, and dunes. You can then stay on this track which will take you close to the lighthouse at Punta del Sabinar where there are more saltpans, reedbeds, pools etc. The whole dune area is criss-crossed by driveable tracks giving access to the beach and areas good for Short-toed Larks and Stone Curlew.

One word of caution - the area seems to be a favoured spot for queers, I was approached by two and a third was flashing himself. Although no great problem to get rid of it's as well to be aware of the problem and avoid it.

Birds recorded Salinas Vieja and Cerrillos (31st Jan, 5th  7th & 8th Feb).

Cormorant, Black-necked Grebe, c.100 Cattle Egret roost beside main road, Little Egret, Grey Heron, 4 Spoonbill, sev.100 Greater Flamingo, Shelduck, Teal, Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, 60+White-headed Duck, 4 Marsh Harriers, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Stone Curlew, Ringed Plover, 40+ Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Knot, Sanderling, 80+ Little Stint, Dunlin, Ruff, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Curlew, Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Greenshank, 2 Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Turnstone, Mediterranean Gull, Little Gull, Black-headed Gull, 100+ Audouins Gulls, 3-4000 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 8 Yellow-legged Gulls, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Hoopoe, 15 Lesser Short-toed Larks, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martins, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, 3 Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Cetti's Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler (sorry, I refuse to use its new name on one of my favourite birds), Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, 6 Penduline Tit, Southern Grey Shrike, Spotless Starling, Serin, Greenfinch, Linnet, Reed Bunting.

Offshore.Gannet, Razorbill, Sandwich Tern.

Kentish Plover
Kentish Plover

Almerimar, about 15km west of Roquetas de Mar - a coastal area with similar habitat to Punta del Sabinar, without the saltpans but with taller vegetation and more of it, also on the inland side of this an area of open, grassy/stony ground leading to a long cliff-face with the main Almerimar - Roquetas road above it.

Almerimar is reached by continuing along the main road west out of Roquetas. On reaching the Almerimar turn, take it and stay on the picturesque tree-lined road all the way to the beach. Park over to the left at the start of the shrub line and you should find a wide track heading east. Along this, the small reedbeds on both sides held Penduline Tit and Bluethroat, Lesser Short-toed, Crested and 3 Thekla Larks were feeding along the track plus several Kentish Plover on the small pools.

On returning to the car drive a few yards up the road to another turning on the right that will take you inland and around to a large lake and the grassy/stony area, as well as  Flamingos and Audouin's Gulls on the lake Blue Rock Thrush can be found on the cliff-face.

Birds recorded Almerimar 1st & 4th Feb.

Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Greater Flamingo, Kestrel, Water Rail, Moorhen, Stone Curlew, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Redshank, Greenshank, Turnstone, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Collared Dove, Little Owl, 6 Lesser Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark,

2 Skylarks, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaffs, Penduline Tit, Southern Grey Shrike, Magpie, Spotless Starling, Serin, Greenfinch, Siskin, Reed Bunting.

Thekla Lark
Thekla Lark

Las Amoladeras Steppes a large area of arid steppe, stony with low, sparse scrub, on the inland side of the AL-1001 road to Cabo de Gata, - there is also another large area to the seaward side of the road, more green and fertile but I never covered this as my main targets were Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Dupont's and Thekla Lark.

I found the easiest way to get there was to take the E15 to Almeria and stay on it, avoiding Almeria town altogether; come off at junction 467 for Retamar/Cabo de Gata and  follow the signs for Cabo de Gata. From the roundabout for Retamar the entrance road to the steppes is about 4km. along the Cabo road, and virtually opposite a building on the right with a sign saying Las Amoladeras Bird Observatory, (if you go as far as the Visitor Centre you've gone too far). Drive up the tarmac road until you see a large dirt track on the right with room to park, the aircraft beacon will be in sight further up the road.

Walking this track produced good numbers of Short-toed and Thekla Larks and 5 Black-bellied Sandgrouse plus Great Spotted Cuckoo in a small ravine off to the right and 2 Trumpeter Finches. After 1km. the track forks and 300yards along the right fork a Dupont's Lark was giving its mournful song - like many others I never got to see it! Following this fork and turning left where it meets another track leads to a panoramic viewpoint overlooking another large area of steppe with more areas of low vegetation and some shallow pools, an ideal spot to sit and watch for Bustards and Sandgrouse - 3 flew into the area while I was there.

Birds recorded Las Amoladeras Steppes  9th and 10th Feb

Cattle Egret overhead, Buzzard, Kestrel, 6 Red-legged Partridge, 100+ Golden Plover, 5 Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Hoopoe, Dupont's Lark (heard only), Lesser Short-toed Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Southern Grey Shrike, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Serin, Greenfinch, Linnet, 2 Trumpeter Finches.

Greater Flamingo

Salinasde Acosta a series of large saltpans just inland from the road between the towns of Cabo de Gata and Almadrava, on the approach road to Cabo de Gata headland.

On entering the town of Cabo de Gata turn left at the first roundabout for Almadrava, the track to the hide overlooking the saltpans is about halfway along the straight stretch of road leading into the town. As with most saltpans what you see depends on the time of day and how much water is in the pans, my visit was in the afternoon and the heat haze was terrible, to make matters worse the levels of the pans were either very low or empty.   

However, birds were present in good numbers, if a little distant.

Birds recorded Salinas de Acosta 3rd Feb.

Greater Flamingo, Grey Heron, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Little Stints, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Greenshank, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Corn Bunting. 

Trumpeter Finch

Cabo de Gata headland, an arid area with sparse vegetation, mainly scrub, a rough beauty all of its own and some really good birds, e.g. Black Wheatear, Trumpeter Finch.

From the Salinas de Acosta carry on through the village of Almadrava and the road terminates in a car park at the famous lighthouse. Black Wheatears are seen as soon as you drive up the first hill on leaving Almadrava, a convenient lay-by on the left giving excellent views of them on the cliff-face and even perched on the road signs.

At the lighthouse car park a track in the top left corner leads out to an open area with a few houses, Trumpeter Finches were feeding in this area all the morning of my visit, and a pair of Black Wheatears around the first house on the right - the male singing. A walk along the road produced more Black Wheatears, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting, several Lesser Short-toed and Thekla Larks.

Birds recorded Cabo de Gata 3rd Feb.

Cormorant, Kestrel, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Little Owl, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Thekla Lark, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Spotless Starling, Serin,  Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, min.6 Trumpeter Finches, 2 Rock Buntings,  

On route to Cabo de Gata - Pair Peregrines chasing feral pigeon over E15 at Almeria.

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