Wednesday 1 May 2013

May Day Extraveganza with 60 species

Wood Sandpiper Andarrios bastardo Tringa glareola
Wednesday 1 May

I had to go out yesterday but awoke to continuous rain so forget that.  However, this morning was the only day of the week when I was promises dry weather all day and glorious sunshine so up and away by 8.30 to call in at the Laguna Herrera before travelling on to Fuente de Piedra and Laguna Dulce.  The first stop was an absolute delight without a single person being seen but then I arrived at Fuente in the late morning to find the car park full.  The rest of Spain and its dog had also decided that Fuente would be a super place to spend a national holiday!  Even the picnic area at Laguna Dulce was well occupied though, fortunately, no body was taking any interest in the hide overlooking the water; what a pleasant relief.

Little Bustard Sison Comun Tetrax tetrax
I had no sooner left the house than I had a Woodchat Shrike on the wires quickly followed by a rapidly disappearing Blue Rock Thrush.  Next up was a male Sardinian Warbler and then both Collared Doves and House Sparrows as I approached Los Romanes.  Finally, before making the min road, I had a trio of Thekla Larks so I was now well-encouraged for the drive over to Antequera, with the only major decision being which way to enter the Laguna Herrera site.  With the sun immediately behind me I opted for the first entrance near the motorway and I was certainly not to be disappointed.  A Spotless Starling took of from the road side and a couple of fields along I recognised the unmistakable outline of a Little Bustard; standing proud and surveying its territory.  Lots of photos later I moved on with regular sightings of Corn Buntings on almost every bush and post.  Barn Swallows were feeding over the fields and a Kestrel rested atop a young olive tree.  Just like the Little Bustard, another familiar outline a couple of hundred metres further on so I stopped to confirm and photograph the Stone Curlew.  Whilst watching the bird I became aware of a number of Blue-headed (Iberiae) Wagtails and a small number of Calandra Larks in the same field.

Stone Curlew Alcaravan Comun Burhinus oedicnemus
Forget the Rock Doves, though just for a moment I thought that they might have been Stock Doves, a few metres further on I came to a flooded field and stopped for some considerable time to observe the waders present.  A couple of Wood Sandpipers led me through the undergrowth (using the scope not my feet) to reveal at least another four but also a half-dozen Black-winged Stilts, a number of Redshanks and Kentish Plovers.  Numerous Barn Swallows had now been joined by some House Martins and then I noticed the flooded field on the other side of the road, attracted to it by the Grey Heron flying in.  Yet more Black-winged Stilts which would appear to be nesting here and a single Greenshank along with another two Redshanks.  At the back of the water four juvenile Flamingos were feeding.  Not content with roosting in the bushes, a small number of Barn Swallows had decided to rest up on the track itself and had been joined by at least three Red-rumped Swallows.

Ever wondered what a Black-winged Stilt Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus does with its legs when on nest?
Moving on tot he crossroads and turning right towards the laguna I had a couple of Common Buzzards perched on top of the pylons but they soon made a move when they saw a vehicle coming.  A distant Hoopoe was "hooping" away as I drove along the track.  At first there seemed little on the water itself apart from a number of Black-headed Gulls and a handful of Mallards.  Then the first of a quartet of Great Crested Grebes quickly followed by the arrival of the noisy Gull-billed Terns.  A Little Grebe was seen towards the centre of the water whilst, on the wires above me, a number of Bee-eaters were seeking out where to find their morning breakfast. A few Moorhen waddled across the track and I moved on to turn the car round in the gate entrance overlooking the drain.  Taking the scope only I set it up to check out the end of the laguna an promptly flushed a Purple Heron.  A very determined bird this for it spent the rest of the time trying to attract my attention by regularly landing where I wanted to go! 

Purple Heron Garza Imperial Ardea purpurea
A Stonechat flew out and perched at the side of the track and then the Gull-billed Terns returned with a vengeance nut with them, they brought a single Black Tern which was very nice from my point of view.  However, best of all, whilst looking in the scope a magnificent male Montagu's Harrier cam quartering along the hedge at the top of the track and almost flew straight into me so busy was he on concentrating his mind on the next meal.  I am still not too sure who was the most surprised, me or the harrier!  Back to the car to get the camera in the hope that the Monty would return - and he did but not as close as the first time.

Gull-billed Terns Pagaza Piconegra Sterna nilotica at work and at rest

By now the sun was well and truly up in the sky and the Common Swifts had decided it was time to go out to feed as they arrived by the score.  Departing the laguna to head up the long track to pick up the motorway at the next junction, I had first a couple of Goldfinches, then Blackbirds and a single Common Sandpiper in the adjacent ditch.  A Woodchat Shrike posed on a signpost.  The vegetation alongside the ditch was  alive with more Yellow Wagtails of the Flava iberiae race.

Female Yellow Wagtail Lavandera Boyera of the Iberian race (Motacilla flava iberiae)
As previously mentioned, Fuente de Piedra was alive with visitors, a mixture of family groups and larger parties.  On the the hand, I did actually record 31 species here in what, for me, was somewhat of a whirlwind tour of the edges and laguneta at the back of the Visitors' Centre.  The water on the pool to the left of the entrance road has almost disappeared now but there were numerous waders to be seen - and, fortunately, nobody else had stopped here so I had the water to myself.  Lots of Black-winged Stilts and Redshank but also a good number of both Dunlin and Ringed Plovers.  Closer inspection also revealed a small party of Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stints but, possibly most numerous of all, were the Wood sandpipers where I quickly counted about seventeen.

Curlew Sandpipers Correlimos Zarapitin Calidris ferruginea feeding up before departure north

Too many people on the far side of the causeway so I restricted myself to standing on the bridge to see if anything else was present apart from the handful of Black-winged Stilts that I could see.  Another Wood Sandpiper on the road side and three Kentish Plovers on the water side of the bridge.  Plus a family of cyclists who road across and almost took me and my bins into the drink!

Avocet Avoceta Comun Recurvirostra avosetta at Fuente de Piedra
The hide at the back was not much better as what seemed like a Spanish teacher gave forth for the benefit of all and sundry in her piercing voice, whether or not they wanted to hear!  I stayed long enough to check out the water for Flamingos, Mallards, Avocets, both Common and Red-crested Pochards and a couple of Little Grebes.  There ware also a small number of Black-headed Gulls and the occasional Gull-billed Tern paid a short visit; perhaps they also heard the Spanish teacher!  However, I did also see a single Whiskered Tern before moving in to the smaller hide where all that was revealed was a Moorhen and a Common Sandpiper.

Lots of Greater Flamingos Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus about an many showing signs of departure
The pool below the Visitors' Centre contained, in addition to yet more Flamingos, a good number of Avocets and a few Moorhens plus a single Greenshank.  The same round the corner where the flooded field opposite the footpath exit has now all but dried up but there was a single Cattle Egret present.  More walkers at the Laguna Vicaria but in the field opposite the car park a single Lapwing was seen.  The Laguna Cantarranas was equally disappointing with the sun now in the wrong direction form a viewing point of view but, at least, I had added Crested Lark as I drove along the road in addition to even more Corn Buntings.  Lots more Flamingos but, as I drove out of the car park I noticed a white "blob" in one of the trees down at the bottom of the bank on my right.  A good job I did stop and made the effort of setting up the scope as the white blob turned out to be a resting Black-winged Kite!  Was that or was that not a great sight for sore eyes.

A handsome Black-necked Grebe Zampullin Cuelinegro Podiceps nigricollis at Laguna Dulce

And so on to the Laguna Dulce where I was able to add a single male White-headed Duck, a lovely female Marsh Harrier and a a three pairs of Black-necked Grebes to the day's list.  A quick visit to the neighbouring lagunas of Redonda and Capacete respectively produced Coots with young and another Gull-billed Tern but, at the latter, I also had a pair of Turtle Doves.  And so back to the main Campillos to Antequera road and as I traversed the track to avoid driving through the town the now much-reduced flooded field produced five Little Egrets to go with the half-dozen Black-winged Stilts.   A good morning's birding with a final tally of 59 species.

Other birds photographed included:

 Kentish Plover Chorlitejo Patinegro Charadrius alexandrinus seen from the causeway at Fuente de Piedra
One of many Redshank Archibebe Comun Tringa totanus seen during the morning

Resting Barn Swallow  Golondrina Comun Hirundo rustica

Woodchat Shrike  Alcaudon Comun  Lanius senator
Numerous Corn Buntings Triguero Emberiza calandra
 .... and not forgetting the large number of dragonflies seen:
Scarlet Darter  (Broad Darter) Crocothemis erythraea

Birds seen:
Mallard, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Flamingo, Black-winged Kite, Marsh Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Little Bustard, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Stone Curlew, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Lapwing, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Whiskered Tern, Black Tern, Rock Dove, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark,  Barn Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Iberian Yellow Wagtail, Stonechat, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.

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

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