Trip Report: Costa Almeria (Andalusia, Spain), April 7-14, 1998

Dirk Raes, St. Gen. Rode (just south of Brussels), Belgium;

Being just back from guiding a birding-trip (07.04-14.04.98) to Costa Almeria - Andalusia - Spain, I would like to give you some information on this very good birding place. This trip was, compared with last year, one week earlier. But what a difference!

The first five days a very strong wind (about 80km/h) was blowing. Despite the extremely bad weather in the rest of Europe, we had always sunny weather and temperatures around 16°C Celsius. The last three days were just perfect: no wind at all and around 22°C Celsius.

We stayed at the same place -- an ideal one -- the Hotel Sabinal / Urb. Roquetas de Mar. You can contact the reception (Yolanda, Kazimiero or Paco) or the director (Antonio Magan) on tel. (9) or fax (9) You can mention my name and just say 'Ola' from me. These people are very helpful.

Ask also the permission to the Junta De Andalucia, Consejeria de Medio Ambiente, before visiting some of these nature reserves.

The hotel is situated in the center, near the sea, and the Hoopoe (U. epops) is still around the swimming-pool. Just go out by the garden and do some sea-watching during the morning. Almost every day we saw Northern Gannet (M. bassanus), Common Tern (S. hirundo), a lot of Sandwich Terns (S. sandvicensis). A good one was on 10.04 the Red-throated Diver (G. stellata) and the next day a group of about 70 Greylag geese (A. anser). Extremely remarkable was the almost total absence of Shearwaters (Puffinus sp.). This year, while walking in the center, the Sardinian Warbler (S. melanocephala) was not so common.

Hereby some of the most 'special' observations during the excursions made in:

Tuesday and Wednesday 07-08/04:

Paraje Natural de Roquetas - Punta Entinas - Sabinar / Almerimar: only 20 min. from the hotel and a good birding area (desert-like places, some water and reed, salinas, dunes, beach, ...). To be short: a place to go for several days.

Night Heron (N. nycticorax) six on a morning coming into the reeds, Little Egret (E. garzetta), and checking a group better we found two Cattle Egrets (A. ibis), a probable -- and very quick view -- Purple Heron (A. purpurea), some hundred Greater Flamingo (P. ruber), one pair of White-headed Duck (O. leucocephala) close to the center, one female Marsh Harrier (C. aeruginosus), several Kentish Plover (C. alexandrinus), Little Stint (C. minuta), Sanderling (C. alba), several Dunlins (C. alpina) -- some already in summer plumage --, Spotted Redshank (T. erythropus), Redshank (T. totanus), Greenshank (T. nebularia), Wood Sandpiper (T. glareola), Black-winged Stilt (H. himantopus) -- which are now breeding in this area --, a migrating group of Whimbrels (N. phaeopus), a great observation of a Stone Curlew (B. oedicnemus), all together eight Pratincoles (G. pratincola) -- one couple was parading --, Black-headed Gull (L. ridibundus), Lesser Black-backed Gull (L. fuscus) -- some colour-ringed --, Yellow-legged Gull (L. cachinnans), beautiful observations of the Audouin's Gull (L. audouinii) -- two birds colour-ringed --, Black Tern (C. niger), one Bee-eater (M. apiaster), a couple of Hoopoes (U. epops), Lesser Short-toed Lark (C. rufescens), Crested Lark (G. cristata), Thekla Lark (G. theklae), several Woodchat Shrike (L. senator), Sardinian Warbler (S. melanocephala), several Fan-tailed Warblers or Zitting Cisticola (C. juncidis), Black-eared Wheatear (O. hispanica), Spotless Starling (S. unicolor), Pied Flycatcher (F. hypoleuca) and Nightingale (L. megarhynchos). These are some of the species occurring in this great area.

Several other excursions were made -- in target of specific birds:

Thursday 09/04:

Las Amoladeras (from Almeria, take the road to Cabo de Gata, after Retamar, along the road you will see Mirador and Centro Visitantes, follow the track).

Most of the already mentioned Larks and Warblers. Additional: a Little Owl (A. noctua), about 15 to 20 (always in pairs and max. 5 together) Black-bellied Sandgrouse (P. orientalis), probably the first (only five) Bee-eaters (M. apiaster), Hoopoe (U. epops), two Great Grey Shrike (L. excubitor) and close to the information center a Black-eared Wheatear (O. hispanica). During the afternoon almost no birds due to -- again -- the wind.

Friday 10/04:

Paraje El Desierto, near to Tabernas. (take the parking from Mini-Hollywood / new installed Zoo, but go left up to Cerro del Orro (1197 m). Very desert-like area (some spaghetti-movies by Sergio Leone have been filmed here). Take at least a whole day to reach the top.

Birding-result: not so much, due to the hard wind, only one Crag Martin (H. rupestris) and an Alpine Swift (A. melba). A good observation were the several Dartford Warblers (S. undata) into our scopes.

Saturday 11/04:

Sierra Alhamilla (6 km east from Nijar) and the NW-surroundings of the Nijar-village.

Some of the observations: two fighting male Red-legged Partridge (A. rufa) seen from the bus (distance five meter!) -- later several birds seen --, some Sardinian Warblers (S. melanocephala), a Little Owl (A. noctua), a couple of Black Wheatears (O. leucura) and twice a couple of Rock Buntings (E. cia) very well in the scopes.

During the afternoon we visited the village of Nijar -- and for the birders take direction old windmill. Along this path we had superb views of Red-rumped Swallow (H. daurica), a second-year Golden Eagle (A. chrysaëtos) harassed by two Peregrines (F. peregrinus), and a Blue Rock Thrush (M. solitarius).

Sunday 12/04:

Paraje Natural Cabo de Gata - Nijar (the same as above, only just out of Retamar turn right direction Ermitage de Torregarcia).

Due to the first day without wind, Swift (A. apus) was flying very low. Several Pallid Swifts (A. pallidus) were also seen. Also the already mentioned warblers.

In the afternoon we paid a visit to the Alcazba, a highly situated fortress in Almeria city. The gardens of this place were full of Serins (S. serinus).

Monday 13/04:

Paraje Natural Cabo de Gata - Nijar (the same as above, just continue towards Punta Cabo de Gata and Punta Negra). Over the sea only two Northern Gannet (M. bassanus).

This rocky area, the driest place of Spain (150 mm rain/year), just rises out of the sea. One Black-eared Wheatear (O. hispanica) and surely ten Black Wheatears (O. leucura). The place is known for its Trumpeter Finches (Rhodoperchys githogines zedlitzi): we saw twice a couple. Two birds were even looking for nest material. A female Marsh Harrier (C. aeruginosus) came 'out from the sea' on migration north.

In the afternoon we visited the Salinas Cabo de Gata: the same birds as in the Salinas close to Roquetas were found, but as an extra a White Stork (C. ciconia) and extremely good views -- all together three -- of Stone Curlew (B. oedicnemus). Very good was also the Spectacled Warbler (S. conspicillata). High in the sky twelve Bee-eaters (M. apiaster) migrated north. Black-winged Stilt (H. himantopus) -- which seems to breed in this area -- was good, but more Avocets (R. avosetta) were in these salinas.

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This page served with permission of the author by Urs Geiser;; April 17, 1998; updated May 27, 2001