Monday, 15 September 2014

Laguna Dulce and Fuente de Piedra

Sunday 14 September

Just a small part of the hirundine roost; Barn Swallows Hirundo rustico and Sand Martins Riparia riparia
Up early and just about to leave for a planned morning's visit to Osuna in search of Great Bustards and raptors when I got the cancellation phone call as a result of my guest's friend having broken his foot last night.  All set to go; so went.  But, rather than all the way over to Osuna I thought that I would check out the lagunas at Campillos and Fuente de Piedra.  Thekla Lark and Stonechats as I drove down the mountain and just past Colmenar got the warning alarm that Satnavs pick up when they sense a speed camera.  Great, I thought until I remembered that I did not have  Satnav in the rental Seat Ibiza from the Hertz subsidiary, Firefly!   Looked down and saw that I had a flashing red light.  What to do?  carry on or go straight to the airport, hang around for hours haggling about changing a car or carry on, reach my destination and have the engine blow up?  Gave it really serious consideration for all of three seconds and then said, "S** it!" and carried on to the Laguna Dulce with a flashing light all the way.  Well, if you have to hang around for the "Grua man" you might as well be somewhere that you enjoy.  In the event, when I cam to leave to drive on round to Fuente de Piedra no more noise or flashing red light.  That being so, I shall the use the car to the Guadalhorce on Wednesday and to Tarifa for the week-end!

Turning off the motorway towards Campillos I had a resting Kestrel on a pylon and just after crossing the railway a Raven drifted over the road.  Arriving at the Laguna Dulce it was obvious that there were numerous hirundines about including a couple or so Common Swifts.  Most seemed to be roosting in the nearby trees just inside the water tot he left of the hide.  Mainly Barn Swallows but also very good numbers of Sand Martins along with the occasional House Martin.  Even a couple of Red-rumped Swallows put in an appearance.

Recently arrived Curlew Sandpipers Correlimos Zarapitin Calidris ferruginea
Whilst the hirundines swarmed around the water was favoured by very many ducks with Shoveler and White-headed Ducks being the dominant species.  probably in excess of 150 individuals of both and supported by a much smaller number of Mallards.  Plenty of Little and Black-necked Grebes to be seen but only two Great Crested Grebes recorded.  The far edges contained many Black-winged Stilts and, to the far left, about forty Flamingos with slightly more of them being mature adults.

Juvenile Flamingo Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus

Then the fun and games to try and find the waders.  The water level had dropped slightly to give some very inviting wet mud to the left front of the hide and here I found three Little Ringed Plovers busy feeding.  Coots seemed to be thinly spread all over the lagoon but I had to scope the very far right-hand bay to find something "special" with both a distant Snipe and Redshank feeding just in the water below the trees.  Back to the "scrape" to my left and suddenly the Little Ringed Plovers had been joined by a dozen visitors; all Curlew Sandpipers save for a single Ruff.  Even better, same bird or not I do not know, but a Snipe appeared on the water´s edge immediately in front of me and took no notice of the juvenile Flamingo that fed alongside or the Common Sandpiper that also dropped in.

Common Snipe Agachadiza Comun Gallinago gallinago
It was to the beach on the far left that I had to scope to find the dozen Grey Herons whilst amidst the Black-winged Stilts in the small bay to the far right I also find a couple of Avocets.  And it was form this, the usual, corner that the first of two Marsh Hariers presented herself; one bird with a heavy-moulting tail and an immature individual a little while later.  Similarly, the flock of thirty plus Spotless Starlings also seemed to favour this corner of the site whilst beyond them taking much interest in he tractor harrowing the far field, a group of six Cattle Egrets waited, ever watchful, for the next morsel to be turned over.

The quartering Marsh Harrier Aguilucho Lagunero Circus aeruginosus at laguna Dulce
Small birds seemed far and few between.  A handful of Corn Buntings came down to feed and drink near the Little Ringed Plovers and a Zitting Cisticola presented itself on a reed top in front of me.  A very few foraging House Sparrows but nothing else.  Thinking that there might be Serins or Golfinches in the olive trees behind the car I first checked out the picnic area and was in time time to see a movement and rest in a nearby tree; my first Pied Flycatcher for a few months, they are obviously on their return migration.  But the bird had disappeared when I reappeared with the camera and nothing else was to be found.  Time, therefore, to pack up the gear and move on rather than seek out all the calling Collared Doves.

The drive round to the laguna at Fuente de Piedra revealed a Stonechat near the farm junction followed by a small flock of Serins approaching the Mirador de Cantarannas.  However, before reaching this point I had already seen the "water" from the far end and was amazed at the silver light shining up from below me.  The pool was completely dry and without a bird as the salina glazed in the sunshine.  Quite a paradox really; still plenty of water at the Dulce which should have been bone dry by now and yet no water where there is always something at the larger Fuente laguna.  Moving on I stopped to watch and record a Northern Wheatear that was moving along the roadside bushes.  No easy way to get a shot of a bird on the right but, fortunately, no traffic so was able to turn the car almost into the ditch to obtain a shot through the driver's window, first a record shot and then another with the engine disengaged.

Norther Wheatear Collalba Gris Oenanthe oenanthe
Approaching the main car park there were a good number of Barn Swallows in the air and a look at the lagoon form the Visitors' centre mirador confirmed the empty state of the pool.  But to the far right near the inlet a small, thin pool of about an hundred metres by three and, judging by the 380 Flamingos and a similar number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls resting on the edge, probably no more then five centimetres deep.  So, on to the main hide overlooking the Lagunetta where there was plenty of green, soopy water.  There must be blocked drainage channels here to retain the water and at least make some provision for the avian stock.

A small number of Mallards and Shovelers but also some Teal by way of variety.  Plenty of Black-winged Stilts and a few Little Grebes alongside another forty Flamingos.  A Green sandpiper patrolled the far bank with a Common Sandpiper not far away.  A better sight was the pair of a Lapwings on the far bank to my left and, on the water, a small number of Black-headed Gulls with a single Mediterranean Gull for company.  A few Barn Swallows feeding overhead but the hirundines here were mainly House Martins.

Time to go home for this Shoveler Cuchara Comun Anas clypeata
A walk down to the bottom hide revealed that there was only a small pool of water but lots of green vegetation.  Just as I was about to leave movement below directed me towards the small bushes that were full of berries and caused me to remain and watch the proceedings.  First a male Sardinian Warbler and then at least three or four Whitethroats gorging themselves as if there was no tomorrow.  Necessary really when you think that this bird will probably double its weight before setting off on its migration to south of the Sahara.  Go on fellows, ask your wife of a rather lovely and shapely eight stone or so if she is going to fill up to sixteen stones before the fortnight on the beach/pool somewhere in Spain!  But watch out for the sharp back-hander that will be quickly coming your way!

Common Whitethroat Curruca Zarcera Sylvia communis
Joining the party, a single Great Reed Warbler appeared next followed by a young/female Subalpine Warbler.  What a way to end the morning and a final total of 49 species, more than I expected and, especially, when you realise the birds that were not seen.  Home to discover that the temperature was now really soaring and reached 36C in the shade by mid-afternoon.  It was a case of fall into the pool and just sit there for an hour trying to cool down, hence the lateness in getting this blog completed.  That's my excuse anyway.

Juvenile Little Ronged Plover Chorlitejo Chico Charadrius dubius

More fun come this Wednesday when we restart our Axarquia Bird Group season with a visit to the Guadalhorce in Malaga.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Curlew Sandpiper, Snipe, Ruff, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Common Swift, Thekla Lark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Zitting Cisticoal, Great Reed Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Whitethroat, Pied Flycatcher, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Corn Bunting.

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

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