Sunday, 8 March 2015

Fuente de Piedra and Laguna Dulce

Sunday 8 March

With a report from my friends Derek and Barbara Etherton that there were not only scores of Black-tailed Godwits at Fuente de Piedra but also good numbers of Garganey to be seen, despite my hatred of visiting these sights at the week-end I was up and away by just after 8 o’clock in the hope that they would still be present, and I would be arriving before the Sunday tourists, rather than wait till the morrow and find the birds flown.  I can happily report, especially after recent disappointments, that the birds were still present so a final tally for the morning of 55 species was a welcome relief, bearing in mind I had strict instructions not to be late home as we had guests coming to lunch!
Jackdaw Grajilla Corvus monedula
Driving down off the mountain the omens were good with first a handful of Serins followed by a male Blue Rock Thrush and then a Stonechat, House Sparrows, Collared Doves, Thekla Larks and White Wagtails.  An uneventful drive then followed and as I entered the main drive up to the car park in front of the Visitors centre at Fuente it was very noticeable that there was still a flooded field to the left and some water beneath the causeway.  Nobody else present so time to stop and check out the birds on the flooded field before parking up the car; just a shame that the bright sun was in the worst possible place so preventing any reasonable photographs.  But, nevertheless, I still wanted a little time here and still be round the back at the hide overlooking the Laguneto before anyone else arrived.  There seemed to be Hulls everywhere, both on this field and all parts of the main laguna and the Laguneto; mainly Black-headed and Yellow-legged but I did manage to find a small number of Lesser Black-backed and even a Mediterranean Gull with almost complete black head.

One of many Black-tailed Godwits Aguja Colinegra Limosa limosa
Fortunately for me, most of the gulls made an early departure with my arrival so revealing a good number of Coots and at least a score of Black-tailed Godwits feeding at a very hectic pace. A few Mallards but the dominant duck, as on the Laguneto, was the Shoveler; they seemed to be everywhere. The occasional Chiffchaff and White Wagtails were feeding on the edges near the road and overhead the first of the feeding Barn Swallows.  On the opposite side of the road a slight movement caught my attention and I was in time to see the disappearing Snipe as it moved behind some tall grass.  Behind the wader, under the causeway, I could see more Shovelers and some additional Black-winged Stilts.

Snipe Agachadiza Comun Gallinagogallinago
Moving up to the side of the Visitors Centre the remaining water of the scrape held a mix of ducks including Mallard, Shoveler and Teal along with many Black-winged Stilts, a couple of Snipe and also more Black-tailed Godwits.  A couple of Blue-headed Wagtails were foraging the shores and more Barn Swallows were recorded. The first of many Moorhens put in an appearance and I could not miss the numerous Jackdaws that occupied the area.

Record shot of Garganey Cerceta Carretona Anas querquedula
Walking on round to the laguneto at the rear I found the first of the Flamingos but only a handful present.  Lots of Shovelers and Coots plus both Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls, many of the later resting on the shore in front of the hide.  Apart from the birds, there were rabbits everywhere, of all shapes and sizes, suggesting a very active breeding season.  Close examination soon produce many Moorhen and Little Grebes along with Black-winged Stilts. Also present were a good number of Common Pochard, Mallards and even a couple of pairs of White-headed Duck.  Before moving closer and under cover of the shore below me I was also in time to record a pair of Avocet of the main island to the left.  Chiffchaffs and Stonechats were feeding in the bushes in front of me along with a male Sardinian Warbler and many more rabbits.  Difficult, looking against the sun, to identify what actually was resting on the shore to the right along with the Flamingos but, even though I was first on site, no sign of the resident Little Owl that is often seen from the main hide.

Can you name all the species?  (Answer at end)
So onto the smaller hide at the far end which offered a little more vision but still not good although good enough to watch the male Garganey paddle out towards the middle of the water.  Much frenzied feeding going on in front but I have no idea what had attracted the ducks to this particular spot on the water.  Also present were a couple of Lapwing and a distant Buzzard resting atop an electricity pylon.

What was on or immediately below the surface that led to this feeding frenzy?
Walking back towards the mirador I recorded a small number of Goldfinch and the first House Martins put in an appearance alongside the Barn Swallows.  On arrival, down below in the bushes more Chiffchaffs and a lovely pair of Linnets.  From here I could also see that the scrape also included a few Little Ringed Plovers, a Meadow Pipit and Green Sandpiper in addition to the Black-winged Stilts, Snipe and Black-tailed Godwits.

Green Sandpiper Andarrios Grande Tringa ochropus
From the causeway I also had a view of a pair of Ringed Plovers, a male Black Redstart and a rather lovely Sky Lark.   A couple of Crested Larks put in an appearance and a small flock of Spotless Starlings flew over. It was as I made my way out of the site and stopping to say goodbye to the Black-tailed Godwits that I found my single Mediterranean Gull amidst the many Black-headed Gulls.

Little Ringed Plover Chorlitejo Chico Charadrius dubius
The journey round to La Vicaria produced Thekla Larks but it was on the next step towards Cantarranas that I found a couple of Corn Buntings and a Common Kestrel passed overhead.  Sad to say, or delighted depending upon your viewpoint, all the wintering Cranes seem to have departed, last Wednesdays large sighting by John and Jenny Wainwright being the last recorded date of which I am aware.  La Cantarranas produced a magnificent pair of Marsh Harriers along with more of the same and it seemed to me that Flamingo numbers were well down on previous years.  However, a female Blackcap was a pleasant interlude.
A gorgeous Black-winged Stilt Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus
And so to the Laguna Dulce which was like a millpond it being so calm.  Very little near the hide but lots of Black-headed and Yellow-legged along with a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls present.  It seemed to be just the one raft of Coots totalling about fifty individuals and at the far side a similar number of Flamingos.  Apart from Mallard and very many Shoveler there was still a presence of a small number of Red-crested Pochard at the far side and careful searching with the scope even found the pair of Wigeon that seem to have been present for at least a month or more.  However, what drew my attention was the good number of Gadwall present.

Who are you looking at?
So, with Cetti’s Warblers calling from below, I made a start on the return journey home and, I suspect, another bird that cannot be added to the list as the chicken rested in the oven!  No sooner under way than I had a Southern Grey Shrike on top of an abandoned wooden electricity pole and the first Rock Doves of the day.  Strange to relate, as I approached Los Romanes my last bird of the morning as a female Blackbird disappeared through the olive grove.
One of a handful of Flamingos Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus on the laguneto
Birds seen:
Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Garganey, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Cattle Egret, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Green Sandpiper, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Sky Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Yellow (Blue-headed) Wagtail, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Cetti’s Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Southern Grey Shrike, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

Answer to species: Green sandpiper, snipe, Black-winged Stilt, Shoveler

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