Wednesday 1 January 2014

Campillos lakes & District

Tuesday 31 December

Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis
A clear morning when I set off for Casabermeja to meet up with Norwegians John and Greta Jastrey for a long morning's birding between Antequera and Fuente de Piedra.  By the time we departed, as well as quite cold, it had become very cloudy although the weather did improve but it took till early afternoon for the sun to break through whereupon we finished the year in very warm temperatures.

First it was to Laguna Herrera where we did the clockwise circuit from just north of the motorway off the old Corboba road.  No sooner on the track than we had a trio of Red-legged Partridges having already recorded many Cattle Egrets following the ploughing tractors as we approached.  Driving on down the track we had a rather lovely Southern Grey Shrike that was happy to pose for us with a resting Black Restart immediately below.  At least two separate flocks of fifty plus Calandra Larks were on the move and there was always a White Wagtail walking the road and field edges along with regular Corn Bunting sightings, Chaffinches and Goldfinches.  A single Kestrel flew over and then we picked up a sleeping Fox on top of a large hay-stack!  Naturally, there was a Crested Lark to be seen on the road, the first of many, and even a Thekla Lark put in an appearance along with regular sightings of Stonechats.

One of a quartet of Meadow Pipits Bisbita Pratense Anthus pratensis getting ready for the morning ablutions
Nearing the end of the straight track where we would turn right to the dry laguna, we had first a distant Buzzard and then the first of many small flocks of Linnets.  A couple of Raven flew into a nearby tree and even a Blackbird disappeared amongst the olives.  A Green Sandpiper took off from the ditch along side the track and then more Chaffinches and Goldfinches followed by a quintet of most handsome male Serins, along with the resident House Sparrows, as we once more reached the Cordoba road and our exit from the site.  Nearby we had both Rock and Collared Doves and a second Buzzard conveniently perched on a nearby telephone pole.  Similarly, we continued to see many Spotless Starlings but not as many as the scores of Wood Pigeons that had lined he wires as we approached the above dry laguna.  The neighbouring field, not flooded yet, held a small party of Lapwings with  regular lights over the area by the occasional handful and four Meadow Pipits were bust feeding and bathing in a puddle just beyond the gate.

There are Tufted Ducks Porron Monudo Aythya fuligula at the Laguna Dulce
Our next stop was at the Laguna Dulce where the water level was still remarkably high having, no doubt, been topped up by the Christmas Day rain.  Not a Great Crested Grebe or White-headed Duck to be seen but there were certainly plenty of both Little and Back-backed Grebes.  Ducks were well represented by Shovelers, Mallards, a few Gadwall and a small flock of Red-crested Pochards.  Even better, we were able to find at least seven of the visiting Tufted Ducks.  A flooded Dulce would not be the same without at least a couple of hundred Coots but only the single Moorhen recorded along with a Purple Swamphen on the far left bank along with a passing Grey Heron.  The mixed flock of about an hundred gulls on the centre of the water were mainly Black-headed but also with a good number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Marsh Harrier  Aguilucho Lagunero  Circus aeruginosus

Now time for some excitement as we found our first Marsh Harrier resting in a tree on the far bank immediately in front of the hide.  No sooner seen than a couple more were in the air quartering over the far and side reed beds.  But then, without warning as we conveniently scoped the left side of the water, a Merlin shot by low over the water at mark1V speed never to be seen again!  Meanwhile, in front of us, we had feeding Corn Bunting, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and a singing Cetti's Warbler.  In addition, a very small number of Crag Martins were feeding high overhead.

Time to move on and show John and Grete the neighbouring lagunas in readiness for their return to the Torcal area in April.  Redonda was completely dry with only a single Black Redstart to be seen but the larger Capacete was well-stocked with a number of Shoveler, Common Pochard and Mallards.  More small grebes to be seen and about thirty juvenile Flamingos in total.  Also in view, our first Black-winged Stilts of the morning and a trio of Moorhen feeding on the adjacent arable field.

Then came the Cranes Grulla Comun Grus grus
And so on to our final destination, the large laguna at Fuente de Piedra, arriving on site from the rotten narrow road off the main Antequera - Campillos road.  Stopping to photograph the lake and its Flamingos at the far end it was obvious that numbers were beginning to increase in readiness or the coming breeding season.  Another Raven flew over and then, just a few hundred metres up the road, we found our first flock of Cranes, totalling about 150.  The old farm at the junction had a number of Spotless Starlings and more White Wagtails and then we arrived a rather quiet Mirador de Cantarranas.  Just the one resting Marsh Harrier and a small number of silhouetted ducks but plenty of Famingos on the main water.  A couple of distant Purple Swamphens were found feeding in the open but then, just about as we were to depart, once again that lovely white hovering shape that revealed itself as a magnificent Black-winged Kite.  Much observation of this lovely, delicate-looking raptor and then it finally came to rest on a fence pole to give an even better, albeit distant, view.

Cranes overhead by the score

But whist at this site we could here the loud "honking" of nearby Cranes so, perhaps, we might just get closer views and with the sun behind us rather than straight in our faces.  Driving slowly down the road to where we could see the main flock, at least another 150, the tractor in front put up most of the birds so we had to be mainly content with an aerial display.  However, a smaller number did remain rooted the ground as they carried on feeding so also some time for more photographs.

Ruff and Reeve Combatiente Philomachus pugnax on the new pool at Fuente de Piedra

Arriving at the main entrance to first thing I noticed was the field on the left-hand side approach to the Visitors' Centre was once again flooded with shallow water.  A few Shovelers had taken up residence along with Black-winged Stilts and a Redshank made a hasty disappearance.  At the back a quartet of Ruff were busy feeding as were numerous Chiffchaffs in front of us along with yet more White Wagtails.  Then most unexpected, a Common Sandpiper decided to walk along the top of the wooden fence at the side of us and pause to try and extract grubs of some sort from the numerous cracks and crevices.  So busy looking over John's should at the activity that I had not noticed that the waters had also returned to the opposite side of the road, still more needed, and, at least, the bridge now actually had water beneath!  A Snipe suddenly shot up in front of me, he must have seen the bins poking through the window, and there were yet more Chiffchaffs and Chaffinches in the neighbouring trees.

Great news to have water back because even a large puddle had appeared below the Centre where previously the sheep had grazed so now, hopefully, we can expect to see the return of some waders, especially the Avocets.  On the main water lots of Flamingos and some Yellow-legged Gulls in with the mixed gull flock plus a pair of Shelduck.  No sign of a Stone Curlew but more Lapwings and then a distant fly-past by a large group of Jackdaws.  Most of the wildlife was put into the air, including Shovelers, Teal and Black-winged Stilts, by a low-flying Marsh Harrier as we returned from a relatively short visit to the Laguneta at the rear of the site.  On the main water we found a good number of Gadwall, Shovelers, Teal and Mallards along with Coots, Moorhens and Little Grebes.

Common Sandpiper  Andarrios Chico  Actitis hypoleucos
So, having recorded 58 species it was time to set off back to Casabermeja at 3.15 knowing that there was no way I was going to be back home between 1 and 2pm!  Nothing changes.

Still lots of Shoveler Cuchara Comun Anas clypeata about as they come into their summer plumage
So a Happy New Year to all my readers and now to try and sort out the new Facebook page solely devoted to the birds and wildlife of the Axarquia district and neighbouring areas.  I think it will call for another, specific, blog so there may also be a delay in attaching photographs to the above!

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, Tufted Duck, red-legged partridge, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cattle Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Black-winged Kite, Buzzard, Kestrel, Merlin, Moorhen, Coot, Crane,  Black-winged Silt, Lapwing, Ruff, snipe, redshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Blackheaded Gull, lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dive, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Southern Grey Shrike, Jackdaw, raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

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

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