Sunday 23 December 2012

Axarquia Bird Group visit to Fuente de Piedra

Cranes Grulla Grus grus in flight
Thursday 20 December

Not a cloud in the blue sunny sky when we set off from the Axarquia area for the last 2012 field trip of the Axarquia Bird Group at Fuente de Piedra this morning but, upon arrival, a complete cloud cover but very still and calm.. It was lovely to see so many friends in attendance with the final tally being seventeen - obviously we had either all completed our Christmas shopping or we were going to give it a miss this year!  For myself, I was rapidly going down hill with a heavy cold and very sore throat so even more miserable than usual.  Indeed, leaving Fuente to take our guests to both Cordoba and Sevilla for a couple of nights the condition rapidly deteriorated but, thankfully, feeling much better now as back at Casa Collado and well enough to tackle writing up the blog.  Looking back, it was a really productive morning with well over sixty species recorded, see list at end, and now await the first email to let me know what I have forgotten!

I think Andy Paterson may have been first to arrive and he was greeted driving down the entry road by a low-flying Merlin crossing his bows like a Scud missile on operation breakfast.  Do these lovely, lithe little death machines ever rise above ten metres?  Next up were probably John and Jenny Wainwright who managed to find the Ruff on the pool next to the boardwalk whereas the rest of us had to wait until we were actually departing the site.  Mick Richardson was probably a few minutes late but he had travelled over via the Laguna Herrera which held a good assortment of species in very wet and muddy conditions - the site that is, not the birds!  Liz and Marcus Rootes along with Bryan Stapley were present from Competa area and it was good to see Eric and Pat Lyon back with us along with their new, four-legged, addition to the family.  Yet another welcome returnee following a lengthy spell back in the UK was Malcolm and Susan Austin from Lake Vinuela.  Always good to have Janet and David from relatively nearby Antequera with us which just left Jenny and I plus our guests from Northamptonshire, England, Gordon and Sylvia Lerigo.  What they must have made of us all I have no idea but they certainly enjoyed the experience and had a chance to meet many of our friends and see what we get up to in Spain.

A small selection of the Cranes Grulla Grus grus opposite the Mirador Cantarranas

Introductions completed all round it was time to head off for the Mirador and take a general look over the main laguna and nearby pools.  Thousands of Flamingos on the main water and good-sized flocks of Gulls (mainly Black-headed and Yellow-legged with a fair smattering of Lesser Black-backs thrown in for good measure) and Shelduck were recorded.  We had already recorded Teal on the flooded field as we entered and now we found more on the small pool ion front along with Mallards and Shovelers.  Good numbers of Moorhens and Coots along with Black-winged Stilts and there seemed to have been a fresh influx of White Wagtails to the area judging by the numbers seen.  Regular view of Kestrel kept us occupied but the arrival of the first Marsh Harrier of the day certainly livened up the scene.  Similarly, every bush seemed to contain at least one feeding Chiffchaff and Sardinian Warbler was also seen.

Yet more Cranes Grulla Comun Grus grus

A closer inspection of the fringe areas recorded both Little and Black-necked Grebes with Meadow Pipits moving about in the grasses.  The regular passage of flocks of Spotless Starlings also produced the occasional Common Starling (the latter having already noted the extremely wet conditions back in Britain so deciding that southern Spain was a better option for Christmas!) and, of course, you did not have to look to hard to find either Collared or Rock Dove.  Eventually, having watched a small number of Lapwing fly across the front of the main water, we also managed to see the first Jackdaw of the day.

Song Thrush Zorzal Comun Turdus philomelos

The walk round to the laguneta at the back of the Visitors Centre produced not only a small number of Gadwall but at least four Tufted Duck.  A few Pochard were added to the list.  On the way to the hide, first Greenfinch and Serin but then, when watching a very active Dartford Warbler, at least four Song Thrushes put in an appearance, posing very nicely on top of the bushes to give good vies, albeit against the light.  Lots of rabbits about but no Egyptian Mongoose on this occasion.

An interesting walk over the boardwalk and along the far path produced first a Cattle Egret followed by a number of Reed and Corn Buntings but then, amidst the small flock of House Sparrows we had some rather attractive Spanish Sparrows.  This was also the area to pick up some handsome male Stonechats.  Other species recorded included a small flock of Sky Larks and Linnets.  A Little Egret flew over as we returned towards the boardwalk.

Distant Tufted Duck Porron Monudo Aythya fuligula on the Launeta at Fuente de Piedra

Time to circumnavigate the laguna and no sooner had we left the site, first stopping to admire the lone Ruff now on the flooded field on the right along with the Teal, Black-winged Stilts and a single Snipe, than the early cars had views of a pair of Avocets, a small flock of Stone Curlews and a at least twenty Golden Plover to the left.  For some of us, we had to be content with the resting Buzzard on top of a nearby pylon.  Indeed, I was led to believe that the Stone Curlews were only seen as a result of stopping to admire a Southern Grey Shrike.

Stone Curlews Alcaravan  Burhinus oedicnemus (John Waniwright)

No sooner had we taken the left turn to follow the lake than we had our first Cranes of the day.  The more you looked the more you saw and by the time we had reached the farm to turn back towards the  village we must have recorded at least four hundred individuals.  The Mirador Cantarranas produced a number of Marsh Harriers and at least three, well hidden, Purple Swamphens.  A flock of a dozen Wood Larks was most pleasing in addition to the occasional Crested Lark on the other side of the road as we continued to watch the Cranes.  Yet another Blackcap to add to those seen near the Visitors Centre and it was time to ignore the Lapwings, Flamingos and mixed ducks to start the return leg to the village which produced first a Raven and then a Little Owl sitting happily on a stone at the side of the road and, amongst the good-sized flock of Chaffinches at least a couple of Bramblings were identified.  Some having noted Red-legged Partridge on the road and yet another Robin, the final bird seen before reaching the bar restaurant for lunch was an over-flying female Hen Harrier to take, I think, the grand total to 64 species - at the moment.  And I have a sneaky feeling that somebody mentioned both Black Redstart and a singing Cetti's Warbler so still time to amend the final total within the next few days!  Yep, they did!  So that now makes 66 species for the day!

Little Owl Mochuelo Athene noctua (Jenny wainwright)

After our lunch, John and Jenny Wainwright drove over to the Laguna Dulce to where Mick had already travelled on (picking up Red-crested Pochard) whilst we made our way to Cordoba recording many Buzzards and Ravens on the way.  Having struggled to get a good view of the Purple Swamphen, a well-exposed individual was seen wandering along a scrubby island below the road bridge over the Guadalquivir whilst Grey Herons rested a the side and Cormorants flew over.  By the time we returned on Saturday evening we had also added Hoopoe and Red Kite so a very enjoyable three days despite not feeling too well.

A very peaceful Christmas and a most happy and healthy New Year to all readers.  May 2013 be an even better birding year.

Purple Swamphen Calamon Comun Porphyrio porphyrioon the Guadalquivir at Cordoba

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cattle  Egret, Little Egret, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Merlin, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Crane, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Stone Curlew,  Golden Plover, Lapwing, Ruff, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Crested Lark, Wood Lark, Sky Lark, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Southern Grey Shrike, Jackdaw, Raven, Common Starling, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Chaffinch, Brambling, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Reed Bunting and Corn Bunting.

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.    

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