Sunday 29 September 2013

La Herrera, Fuente de Piedra and Laguna Dulce

Saturday 28 September

Lots of low cloud but calm following the overnight rain and, with Jenny out all day, I decided to drive over to Fuente de Piedra and Laguna Dulce but also call in at La Herrera on the way.  Kestrel and Thekla Larks to see me off the mountain and then welcomed by House Sparrows and Collard Doves as I left the old Cordoba road from the motorway to enter La Herrera.  However, no sooner had I reached the stubbled fields and I came across a covey of eighteen Red-legged Partridge in the space of twenty metres.  On the track itself a lone Northern Wheatear watched me approach and flocks of Linnets and charms of Goldfinches regularly took to air from the bushes on either side of the track.  A dozen Cattle Egrets flew over and then a Kestrel on a wire.  No water in the winter laguna but plenty of House Sparrows and Spotless Starlings in the track-side bushes.  A Southern Grey Shrike put in an appearance then a few Serins and a Blackbird before regaining the main road back to the motorway for the short drive in to Fuente de Piedra.

Flamino Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus
Lovely to arrive at Fuente de Piedra at 10.15 following a wet night as the place was completely deserted, other than the Visitors´ Centre receptionist.  So, straight away round past the mirador to the laguneta at the rear where I had almost an hour before being disturbed by the arrival of three young and excited children along with their distant parents.  My cue to make my departure!  On arriving it was apparent that the main laguna had lost a little water and most of its Flamingos, albeit the numbers could still be counted in thousands if not the previous tens of thousands.  Still a huge difference tin the sizes and development of this year´s youngsters.  Along with the Flamingos, there were good numbers of Mallard and Teal on the main water along with many Black-winged Stilts, especially Black-necked Grebes.  Both the Visitors' Centre roof and the main tree at the mirador were playing hosts to at least a score of Jackdaws with the ever-watchful resident House Sparrows.  Below, in what is usually a very productive pond, an area had been fenced off so that a small flock of sheep and a couple of horses might graze the grass.  Needless to say, there were plenty of Black-headed Gulls.

At the laguneta the water level had dropped considerably, so much so that there were no Flamingos to be seen until a solitary individual dropped in just before my departure.  There were a number of Mallards, Shoveler and Teal along with a few Black-winged Stilts and many Moorhens.  On the far side a pair of Avocet were busy feeding along with a very small number of Ringed Plovers and a single Little Ringed Plover.  A half-dozen Little Stints were also present and then I found a trio of Snipe to add to the list.  As a Little Egret flew across the water it revealed a couple of Common Sandpipers and these were then joined by an incoming small flock of Sanderling along with a few Dunlin.  Meanwhile, in front of the hide, a single Blue-headed Wagtail (Iberian sub-species of Yellow wagtail) was wandering the grass in search of sustenance.  Time to move on and, stopping at the road junction to check out the distant pylons and find the resident Buzzard, I also had a Hoopoe fly through my vision.  Only a very brief stop at the Mirador de Cantarranas, where I saw many more duck species and Flamingos and also a pair of Marsh Harriers, as the weather had turned quite dark and, on getting back into the car for the drive over to the Laguna Dulce, the heavens opened with some very heavy rain showers.  Indeed, approaching the mirador I had a Hare, probably a leveret of the year, standing in the road debating whether or not it was worth the effort to cross to the other side.  As they say, "hare today, gone tomorrow!"
To cross or not to cross, that is the question for this young European Brown Hare Lepus europaeus
Ten minutes later I had arrive at Laguna Dulce and the rain had stopped and the clouds were quickly breaking up.  Indeed, it became very warm so I was able to scan the water in good rather than poor light.  Hundreds of Coots on the water plus a few Moorhen along with a number of Little, Great Crested and Black-necked Grebes.  Again, hundreds of ducks which seemed to be mainly Mallards and Shovelers but also good numbers of White-headed Ducks.  Searching the far side found a couple of Red-crested Pochard, followed by a handful of Common Pochard and a small number of Gadwall.  The little reed-covered pond to the left of the hide had a mixture of Coots and a juvenile Great Crested Grebe and, as I watched, a Cetti's Warbler landed in front of me.  On the far bank a trio of Snipe were feeding whilst I also managed to find a single Flamingo and a few Black-winged Stilts on the furthest left-side bank.  Behind them on the recently ploughed field were at least fifty resting Cattle Egrets.

Northern Shoveler Cuchara Comun Anas clypeata
A great morning but I had been up early so decided to call it a day and head home on the hope that Casa Collado had been bathed in sunshine and I might even get a swim before the afternoon was out.  Approaching the car a Willow Warbler crossed the road in front of me to perch in a conveniently nearby tree and then, above me but forever putting the sun between me and the bird as tied to take a photograph, an immature Bonelli's Eagle circled and moved away.  My last view as I looked back over the laguna was of a Marsh Harrier quartering the far reeds.

Female White-headed Duck Malvasia Cabeciblanca Oxyura leucocephala
The return journey was not without incident for, as I approached the motorway, a flock of at least a dozen Lesser Kestrels were hunting over a stubbled corn field to my left and a Corn Bunting posed nicely on the wires above.  Returning via Los Romanes rather than take the wet track around the back of the village, I was greeted by almost 300 House Martins either feeding or resting on the wires, appropriately opposite the well-known and frequented restaurant, and a Stonechat greeted me back to our mountain.  A final total of 52 species was very rewarding but, on the other hand, Casa Collado had also received the rain showers and was quite cool and cloudy up my return so, sad to say, no swim today.

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Bonnelli's Eagle, Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Little Stint, Snipe, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, Northern Wheatear, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Willow Warbler, Southern Grey Shrike, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

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