Las Norias and Salinas Roquetas - A birding trip to the coast

Thursday, 5 November 2009 ·
On every visit to Valor we always like to venture back down from the hills for at least one trip to some of Southern Spain's birding sites nearer the coast. This is often Cabo de Gata or as in this case a combined trip to the Salinas near Roquetas du Mar and the reserve at Las Norias.

En route I picked up a Southern Grey Shrike just before Cherin and not too far down the road from where we started. This same area is also good for Rollers. We often pick up Black Wheatear and Little Owl on the drive down, but we didn't see anything more of note during the drive.

It usually takes us about three quarters of an hour to get down to Roquetas, and as usual decided to visit the western end of the site first.

Although there was a fair bit of water in the pools at this end (they are sometimes completely dry after the Summer), waders were almost totally absent. In fact we only picked up a single Redshank. Most odd, as there is usually plenty of other stuff about.

Plenty of Barn Swallows were still present, and the scrub carried good numbers of Willow Warblers, Stonechats and more Robins than I think I've ever seen before in one place. People often don't think of Robins as migratory, but there is a fair chance that the ones you see in your garden during the Winter are not the same individuals that were present all Summer.

Apart from the usual Serins, Sardinian Warblers and Zitting Cisticolas, things were a bit quiet, so we decided to drive around to the Eastern end of the site to see what was on the larger pools.

Scanning across the main pool from the road (where there has recently been a lot of new property development) we could see the usual large numbers of Greater Flamingos along with a few Little Egret. There was also a good sized group of Black-necked Grebe and a smaller number of Great Crested Grebe. Large numbers of coot were present, but I couldn't pick out any of the Red-knobbed species (difficult from distance at this time of year anyway). There has been a re-introduction programme in this area so it is usually a good place to find them.

Gulls were represented by Black-headed, Yellow-legged, Audouin's and Lesser Black-backed. Both the main pool at the Eastern end and the far pools up past the old lighthouse are good for gulls.

Raptors we spotted were Kestrel, Hen Harrier and Marsh Harrier.

After having a good look around at Roquetas, we drove the few kilometres back to Las Norias. This site always fascinates me. It's not the prettiest by any means, being smack bang in the middle of Almeria province's plastic greenhouse nightmare. These invernaderos cover a huge amount of the area and apparently can be seen from the moon (check them out on Google Earth). However the birds don't seem to mind and the two man made pools here are teeming with birds.

In addition to other species already seen at Roquetas, we saw Hoopoe, Little Gull, Great Reed Warbler, White-headed Duck, Black-winged Stilt, Pochard, Purple Gallinule, Kingfisher and best of all a beautiful Marbled Duck. Another Marsh Harrier also gaves some spectacular close fly pasts as it hunted over the reserve.

With that it was time to head back home to the Alpujarras. Overall 43 species for the day, which I have to say is far below what I would usually expect given the quality of Southern Spain birding, but it was a very pleasant day out none the less.
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Annabel Candy said...
7 December 2009 at 10:14  

43? I think that sounds most impressive. I'd be hard put to spot that many on my birding trips but then I usually have 3 kids with me so even spotting one or two birds is a minor miracle. Sounds like a fab spot:)

oldroader said...
7 December 2009 at 11:22  

Hi Annabel,
thanks for looking in.

Spain is a really superb country for bird watching, a species count of double that wouldn't be at all unusual. But for me it's quality not quantity, I just love being out there and seeing whatever there is to see!

timwootton said...
28 January 2011 at 22:54  

Hi Des- Sounds like things are going well for you in foreign climes - good for you! Just a quickie to remind you not to forget about your sketching, or your BF buddies - who would love to hear what you're up to.
All the best

oldroader said...
17 February 2011 at 10:26  

Hi there Tim!
Good to hear from you. We are still working hard to make a permanent move to Spain, unfortuantely that has taken its toll on my available painting time.

I must admit I have been a bit of an absentee on BF and must do something about that. How are you all doing?

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