Thursday 16 March 2017

Fuente de Piedra

Fuente de Piedra for Flamingos Phoenicopterus roseus
Wednesday 15 March

Following yesterday's (Tuesday) continuous heavy rain all day, this morning was beautifully warm and sunny even though the local forecast had suggested that we might have to wait until late morning before the temperature started to pick up.  So off to Fuente de Piedra to see the effect of the rain on the site and what might have been brought in.  How different from Monday evening's visit to Charca de Suarez when I had to sit in a damp hide with the drizzled dropping through the porous cane roof although, as my birding friend Chris Bell from Worksop pointed out, if I had paid more attention to my history lessons at school I would have known to "Beware the (h)ides of March!"

Can you find the Snipe Gallinego gallinago?

On arriving at Fuente I could sense that something was different from previous visits at this time of the year.  There was a good-sized pool on the field to my left as I entered the reserve but only a number of Coot to be seen along with, eventually, a couple of Ringed Plovers and a White Wagtail plus a number of Barn Swallows feeding over the water.  No ducks and where were all the waders that I expected to find.  To my right now plenty of wader on below the boardwalk but, again, just a single Black-winged Stilt to be seen.  So up to the southern side of the Visitors Centre and look down onto the scrape.  A rather large pool now and water in the nearer channel but, also here, no real evidence of any waders.  Yes, Coots and a handful of Mallard along with a pair of Shovler and even the Moorhens could be counted on less fingers than one hand.  What is going on?  However, scoping in on the resting male Shoveler revealed a pair of well-concealed Snipe and then out of the blue, or in this case out of the green, a most magical moment that made it all worth while as the most handsome of male Garganey swam into view.  What a gorgeous bird!

The glorious Garganey Anas querquedula

 I, therefore, quickly returned to the car to collect the camera and walked along the bottom track in the hope of getting a closer shot of the Garganey.  Whilst walking towards the hedge gap alongside the fence I also picked up a female Black Redstart and male Stonechat, a calling Hoopoe and, of course, a small number of House Sparrows.  Now where was it hiding?  A dozen Black-winged Stilts had arrived and the Shoveler was moving about but no Garganey.  Looking just beyond the water on the "grazing" land I found a trio of White Wagtails then noticed a lovely male Northern Wheatear and, almost immediately, a female Yellow Wagtail of the Iberian sub-species.  Great; a second year tick in just  few minutes or so.  A movement to the bird's right, more a sudden yellow light, as I found, also with the use of the scope, a resting Stone Curlew which had opened one of its large, chicken-like eyes.  Could it get any better?  Yes it could as the Garganey made its appearance from upstage left and gave me the chance to get some distant photos.

Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina with sleeping Flamingos
With a happy heart I made my way round to the Laguneto at the back of the Visitors Centre with a short stop at the Mirador to check out the main water.  Whilst there was more water than I had seen over the past few months, instead of thousands of Greater Flamingo the birds could be counted in a few hundred along with a good number of Black-headed and fewer Yellow-legged Gulls.  Maybe a handful of Shelduck were searching the mud for food and then a I noticed the ten Grey Herons huddled together.  Just beyond this little group stood a lonely female Curlew, what turned out to be my third and final new bird of the year recorded today.  The Barn Swallows continued to feed overhead and I became aware of the resident Jackdaw flock but, yet again, far fewer than I would have expected.

Time to go for these Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus
So onto the Laguneto where I soon became saw the large flock of Black-headed Gulls on the water along with a number of Little Grebe.  Lots of ducks on the water's edge in front of the hide so time to settle down and see just what was present.  Mainly Shoveler and Mallard but then the arrival of a (true) pair of Common Pochard guided me to yet more and also  at least five pairs of Red-crested Pochards.  But what was that smaller duck half-concealed behind a small growth?  No, surely not?  Yes, not one but a quartet of Garganey and then at least another pair resting alongside the Shovelers.  So, just like the number 9 bus, I wait well over a year for Garganey and then a whole fleet of the bids appear on one day.  I was later to learn that as many as 100 had been seen on site last Sunday and a 698 were recorded heading eastwards off the light house (faro) at Fuengirola following Saturday's heavy storm. Possibly all part of the same flock.

Garganey Anas querquedula with Teal Anas crecca and Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus
To my right I found a lone White Stork resting on the ground between the small trees.  Not seen one here before but looking across the  water I could see another pair on top of the tall chimney just beyond the railway station.  It very much looks like a new nesting site for these birds.  Just beyond the single White Stork a male Linnet was happily sitting at the top of a tree and out on the water I could add both Coot and Moorhen with, on the far bank, two pairs of White-headed Duck .  A Teal put in appearance to my right and then, to make a total of 9 duck species seen today, a pair of Gadwall drifted into view.

Is this White Stork Ciconia ciconia the odd one out with a pair nest building on a nearby chimney top? 
By now I had been joined by friends Barbara and Derek Etherton along with Micky Smith so we spent the next couple of hours enjoying the rest of the day's birding.  The small hide overlooking the pool adjacent to the Laguneto proved another pair of Gadwall and a few Shoveler and Mallard but also a score of sparrows feeding on the seed heads and drinking at the water's edge.  Closer inspection revealed that a number were Spanish rather all being House Sparrows.  A single Robin popped in whilst returning to the Laguneto proper we were also to add a Marsh Harrier and found the regular visits of a Goldfinch to its nest in the top of a small tree immediately in front of the hide where the female (?) was presumably brooding her clutch of eggs as a Black-tailed Godwit took off from a concealed position at the water's edge and disappeared away behind us.

A well-concealed but distat Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus

A stop at the Mirador revealed that the Curlew had moved on but there was a very small flock of Golden Plover on the sands and, as we watched, a pair of Redshank landed in front of us on the scrape and a Green Sandpiper took flight.  Beyond the scrape we once again picked up both Yellow and White Wagtails along a with a pair of Little Ringed Plovers and a solitary Crested Lark.  Moving across to the boardwalk a trio of Avocets passed overhead and, in addition to a couple of Black-winged Stilts we managed to find both Meadow and Water Pipit.  A few Jackdaws were making use of the breeding tower out on the field and returning to our cars we stopped to take a good look at the roosting Little Owl.

Sleepy Little Owl Athene noctua; but I can still see you!

A stop at the mirador La Vicaria hide for our picnic lunch revealed only many distant waders of various sizes in the heat haze with only Dunlin being positively identified.  A lovely Buzzard drifted overhead and a handful of Serin were recorded.  On to Cantarrannas mirador where nothing extra was added and so the start of respective journeys home which included a very lovely male Hen Harrier at the far end of the laguna near the near mirador.  All that then needed to be recorded were the Corn Buntings on the wires and the Rock Dove near the farm before once again joining the main road back towards Antequera and the motorway.  A very enjoyable day and in the best of company which, for me, finally provided a total of 53 species including three new for the year as previously mentioned.

A last view of the Garganey Anas querquedula
Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Garganey, Teal, Red-crsted Pochard, Common Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Heron, White Stork, Greater Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier,  Buzzard, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Stone Curlew, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Little Owl, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Yellow Wagtail (Iberian), White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Blackbird, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

So how many species can you count; 7 or more? 
Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

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