Friday, 24 April 2015

Fuente de Piedra and neighourhood

Friday 24 April
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
Lovely sunshine on the mountain breaking through the thin cloud base and no sign of a breeze.  Different story down on the coast at Torre del Mar at 8.30 when I took Jenny to meet her travelling companions as they set off for four days in Morocco.  Thick cloud.  As she headed south, a flock of Cattle Egrets headed inland overhead and i split the difference by heading towards Malaga and Funete de Piedra via the motorway.  As expected as soon as I moved away from the coast the sun broke through and it became a rather war, very warm if somewhat humid day, with a mix of full and hazy sunshine.

Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta and part of the large flock
Nevermind the Spotless Starlings and Collared Doves as I approached the reserve, the flooded fields and scrapes were full of waders.  Where were all the waders during the winter?  I have no idea but I certainly know where they were this morning/.  There must have been upwards of 100 Curlew Sandpipers and many sporting their best breeding colours along with three score or ,more of Little Stints.  A single Spoonbill was energetically working the water  and at least thirty Flamingos were also present. Just the single Avocet and a handful of Black-winged Stilts, more of all these were to be seen as I explored the various waters.  Another small wader making its way north was the Ringed Plover; loads of them but only the odd Little Ringed Plover and the pair of Kentish Plovers were not found till near the end of my stay.  Meanwhile, feeding overhead, we had both Barn Swallows and House Martins plus a few Whiskered Terns which rather made the Rock Doves look somewhat out of place.

There were over an hundred Curlew Sandpipers Calidris ferruginea
Although I had seen a single Moorhen, more were found on both the scrape and the laguneta at the rear of the Visitors Centre.  Also on the scrape, as well as most of the above, were both Common and Green Sandpipier along with a couple of Wood Sandpipers and both Ruff and Reeve (female Ruff) to add to the mix.  By now I had located a few Dunlin and a trio of Redshank whilst he Jackdaws seemed to appear out of nowhere. I was also able to add both Kestrel and Crested Lark.  Isn't it lovely to have the place to yourself save a couple of other birders before the first coach arrived - fortunately as I was leaving!

Ruff  Philomachus pugnax
A scan of the main water with the scope produced thousands of distant Flamingos and diligent searching of those nearer to me produced a single Lesser Flamingo - which became two when checking on way back.  To the right a trio of Shelduck and resting Whiskered Terns whereas the Gull-billed Terns seemed to have booked in on my left for their morning slumber.

Lovely to watch the acrobatics of the Whiskered Terns Childonias hybrida
Ignoring the small charm of Goldfinches I pushed on round to the laguneta hide to check the duck situation.  More Greater Flamingos, Coots and Moorhens along with a Little Grebe and the breeding Avocets.  Ducks included a good number of Red-crested Pochards plus Commmon Pochard, Mallard, a pair of Gadwall and a single Shoveler.  Wonder of wonders,my first real treat of the day when the long-sought after Squacco Heron flew past me along the water.  The Black-headed Gulls seemed to be on this water but not in great numbers.  And away to my right a couple of Grey Herons were patiently waiting for breakfast to move within range of their darting spear-like bills.

My return walk towards the mirador and then down along the edge of the scrape produced a surprise before I had even reached the open hide.  Had I been a photographer who went birding rather than a birder who takes photographs, I might have captured a shot of the Cuckoo sitting on top of a small bush.  As it was, I just enjoyed the privilege of watching the bird, which then cleared off when he saw that saw what I was doing.

The very close, unringed, Spoonbill Geronticus eremita and with Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
More Avocets and Black-winged Stilts plus even more Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stints, not to mention Ringed Plovers and the pair of Kentish Plovers as I crossed the boardwalk.  I had been busy photographing a Ruff when I notice a "moorhen-like" shape wander out of the reeds to my left. Turning my bins I watched as a Water Rail strode out and then disappeared into the next clump of short reed and before I could get the scope out of the way to try and capture a photograph.  Onwards to the end of the bridge where I picked up my first Blue-headed Wagtail (Yellow Wagtail of the Iberian persuasion) of the day.  Returning to the other end I was in time to see the Willow Warbler flit over the bridge and onto a nearby tree.

Yellow Wagtail (Blue-headed) Motacilla flava iberiae
The Mirador de la Canterranas produced a gorgeous male Marsh Harrier having seen a few Corn Buntings on the approach road and a closer view of the distant Flamingo breeding colony.  On round the loop and back to the village where I stopped for lunch passing a quick sighting of my only Litttle Egret of the day.  Following lunch I returned the way I had just arrived and recorded House Sparrows, Chaffinch and Linnet before coming across the Buzzard resting on top of a pylon near the level crossing then more Corn Buntings.  Both Great Tit and Serins were seen before taking the main road towards Campillos and finding a Southern Grey Shrike on the wires as I approached.

Laguna Dulce seemed back to normal with hundreds of Coots on and at the side of the water making it seem difficult to find anything else.  There were a good number of Flamingos on the far side and then I found the ducks; on this occasion nearly all were Gadwall save a few Mallards.  I also found a pair of Great Crested Grebes and all the gull s were Black-headed Gulls and the same applied to the Gull-billed Terns.  Just a handful of Moorhens but plenty of House Sparrows.  I had seen a distant Marsh Harrier but the a second individual relatively close with its lovely golden head came to rest nearby.  As if this were not good enough, my second special treat of the day as a magnificent male Montagu's Harrier drifted over the water from right to left.  As I left I had more Goldfinches and calling Cetti's Warblers and then another handful of Collared Doves as I approached Campillos itself.

Three Marsh Harriers Circus aeruginosus including a distant male in middle shot

From here it was the mountain road over to Los Corales and my overnight stop.  First a Hoopoe, then yet more Corn Buntings and finally a Blackbird, my first and only of the day, as I approached the village.  However, before checking in  I made a quick trip over to the nearby Laguna Gosque at Martin de la Jara.  Very overgrown compared with my previous visit but there was a small mixed party of finches in the tree in front as I parked including Greenfinches, Serins, Goldfinches and Spanish Sparrows.  I even had a couple of Stonechats as I drove down the track and a Wood Pigeon was active away in the olives to my left.  On the water itself, having to try and scope through the dry rushes that were partly obscuring my view, were more Flamingos, a handful of Gull-billed Terns, Black-winged Stilts and a pair of Mallards.

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
A very pleasing tally of 63 species and now quite tired and ready for bed!

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Squacco Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Ruff, Redshank, Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Whiskered Tern, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Cuckoo, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Yellow Wagtail, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Willow Warbler, Great Tit, Southern Grey Shrike, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

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

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