Wednesday 4 September 2013

Returning raptors and loads of waders

Wednesday 4 September

Marsh Harrier  Circus aeruginosus
ABS committee meeting in Antequera duly concluded so took myself off for a picnic lunch at the Laguna Dulce near Campillos arriving about 1.15p.  What happened to all those years when nary a drop of water was to be seen at this laguna?  Virtually no rain since May, very hot temperatures for a couple of months and still the water levels are very high with so much lush growth on the near bank it is almost impossible to see the water never mind any sort of beach.  Indeed, there appears to be just one small patch of exposed land, off to the left from the hide, where, in addition to the Moorhen, a handful of Black-winged Stilts, 8 Cattle Egrets and numerous sheltering Mallards, I was able to find a single Green Sandpiper.  Back to the water itself, when you could find it through the hundreds of Coots that had taken up residence.

Male White-headed Duck Oxytura leucocephala (note the dark bill)
In addition to the Coots there was a good supply of ducks.  Whilst the Mallards appeared to be taking their rest in the sheltered spots, the open water provided scores of White-headed Ducks, a few Common Pochards and a small number of Shoveler.  However, before leaving, a couple of eclipse plumaged Red-crested Pochards flew across in front of me.  Also present were very many Black-necked Grebes with smaller numbers of both Little and Great Crested Grebes.  On the far back I counted 8 Greater Flamingos and a couple of Little Egrets plus a solitary Grey Heron.  My neighbours in the hide, a couple of birders on holiday from Devon staying near Fuegerola, almost manage to be looking in the right direction at the right time when a pair of Purple Herons "jumped up" out of the reeds  on the far side.  Then a pair of Gadwall put in an appearance close by and a trio of Ringed Plovers were recorded at the back of the above-mentioned small beach.

Back to the above-water feeders.  A number of Barn Swallows were present but these were far outnumbered by the scores of Sand Martins busy building up their strength for the coming migration.  Just the three Black-headed Gulls present but then the raptors.  Having already seen a Montagu's Harrier as I joined the main road to Campillos followed by a couple of Kestrels (a third one was waiting for me on the wires at the top of our mountain track as I approached Casa Collado on the way home) a couple of Marsh Harriers were present throughout my stay; what appeared to be a female and juvenile bird.

A Broad Scarlet Crocothemis erythraea I believe, as seen from the hide
My birding companions at the hide had just arrived from Fuente de Piedra and informed me that there was a range of waders on the laguneta at the back of the reserve so I decided to travel home via that destination.  No sooner on the back road towards the farm and Mirador de Cantarranas than I had a rather lovely Common Buzzard followed by a second specimen near the above mirador.  Four raptor species in less than two hours!

Arriving at Fuente de Piedra I went straight to the back to check out the waders but not before noticing, from end to end, the thousands of Flamingos present on the water.  Many, with young birds, were very close to the Visitors' centre giving good views despite the strong breeze.
Who let junior join the adult Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus party?
Whereas both the Laguna Dulce and the main laguna at Fuente with very full of water, the small pools all seem to have dried up.  The laguneta was simply a large pond but it offered, presumably, some delicious feeding surrounds for the waders and there were also over fifty Flamingos and a small number of Teal in the water.  Waders?  You name it and there seemed to be at least one present and waiting to be recorded.  Not just a couple of Black-winged Stilts and half a dozen Avocets but a small number of Black-tailed Godwits and, at the other end of the "pool" a trio of Bar-tailed Godwits.  Next it was on to count the Snipe which, in turn, revealed the smaller waders.  This time it was Kentish Plovers running around on the far bank but also a few Little Stints.  A quartet of Little Ringed Plovers put in an appearance which led to the sighting of a couple of Ruff.  However, most numerous of all were the score or so of Curlew Sandpipers.  But even these led to me recording both Dunlin and a couple of Sanderling.  Where had they all come from?  It was like some sort of surreal Noah's Ark scenario with ,at any time soon, me seeing them all line up two by two to board some invisible vessel.  Not so strange as, though it might have been hot and sunny all afternoon, I arrive back home to discover  a very cloudy sky!

I feel almost embarrassed to mention the single Redshank and Common Sandpiper but, there again, who would not want to mention the lone Wood Sandpiper present at the water's edge.  Too much excitement for one afternoon so time to go home before I began to think I was suffering from sunstroke!

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Red-ctrested Pochard, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Sanderling, Little Stint, Curlew sandpiper, Dunlin, Ruff, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Collared Dove, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Blue-headed Wagtail, Blackbird, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow.

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