Friday, 27 November 2015

Fuente de Piedra

Friday 27 November

The Common Cranes Grus grus are back in force at Fuente de Piedra (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)

Please to read that whilst I am back in the UK enjoying the cold winds of the North Norfolk coast and the multitude of ducks at Rutland Water, friends Derek and Barbara Etherton enjoyed a day's birding at Fuente de Piedra, calling in at the Teba Gorge on the way, with their old neighbours Paul and Muriel from Yunuera.  Whilst I may have enjoyed the sunshine on my local visits I am sure that my daytime temperature was probably less than half of the night temperature in Andalucia.  Anyway, lovely report from Derek to confirm that water has returned to the Laguneta at Fuente de Piedra and with it the birds and in the surrounding area the wintering Cranes are returning in their hundreds so something to look forward to when the Axarquia Bird Group visits in mid-December.  And, as Derek reports, they also had a good sighting of yet another Wryneck so, perhaps as last year, there will once again be some over-wintering individuals.

Fuente de Piedra: 27 November

We had a lovely day today with our old friend Paul and Muriel from Yunquera, where we used to live. Neither of them are 'real  birders', but she has binoculars [that I arranged for her] and when she uses them the right way round she see things, and Paul likes taking photos.  We met for coffee at Zalea, mid way for us both, and continued up to Fuente de Piedra, dropping into Teba rock en route.  Not much at the rock except for a lone Griffon Vulture that eventually rested on their nesting area and meanwhile plenty of Crag Martins flew around.  A small flock of Rock Doves seemed very active but no reason, such as Peregrine, seemed to be the cause.
You may try and hide but the Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus was still found! (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
So on to Fuente via the back road, always the most interesting way we find.  Lots  of finches, Gold, Chaff and Green, large flocks of Serin, Stonechats, Linnets and Sardinian Warblers were busy at the side of the road.  It's here that the joys of birding in Spain come to the fore, i.e. just stop and watch!  Turning right to do an anti clockwise circuit we stopped at the ruined casas to look across the lakes.  A large, some 200+ flock of Common Crane flew in from Sierra Yegas direction to land. Searching amongst the olive grove we soon found the usual flock of Stone Curlew affording excellent 'scope views for all.  The verges here were noisy with the chatter of Serin and Goldfinch feeding in the seeded fennel, but then our eyes were drawn to a ploughed field where among the White Wagtails some Calandra Larks were on view.  Around the back road to the Visitors Centre, wow that road's improved somewhat, and an Iberian Grey Shrike posed beautifully for us.  Chiffchaffs littered the tamerisk by the sewage works and Robins sat up to be viewed.  
Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
On to the centre and a little stroll round to the hides via the viewpoint.  Little to see from the viewpoint except some very distant Greater Flamingo, Yellow Legged Gull, 6 Shelduck and a couple of patrolling Marsh Harriers.   Around to Laguneta hide and there is water here!  Loads of Shoveller and Mallard, some Moorhen and Coot, plus a couple of Little Grebe.  In front of us Linnet, Goldfinch and Stonechat posed on the scrub top.  Casting an eye to the waters edge a Snipe was enjoying a bath and a preen and a Green Sandpiper likewise on the other side of a stand of reeds.  Whilst watching these my eye was alerted to movement in the nearby scrub, thinking another Linnet I just casually looked only to be rewarded with a Wryneck busy feeding on ants.  Now I hadn't seen this species for years in Spain and this year I've seen 3, 2 of these in the past month.  Paul and Muriel had never seen [or heard of] this bird and to be able to 'scope it for everyone get a super view was rather special.  I got a couple of pics, poor quality as it was so camouflaged in the scrub, but it's a record.
Record shot of the Wryneck Jynx torquilla hidden among the sticks (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
Rather elated we all walked back to the car and into nearby Fuente for a Menu del Dia.  After a somewhat 'patchy'  meal we continued the 'circuit' of the lake, I use that term loosely, desert would perhaps be better.  Not much en route except for a couple of Common Buzzard, some Lapwing, plenty of Spotless Starlings and House Sparrows.  The bottom end with the 'dry marsh' area is somewhat depressing.  Just desert conditions and some very distant Greater Flamingo [about a hundred].  Moving down to Las Latas flocks of Common Crane flew low over us to land on the mud that was once a lake.  Walking up to the viewpoint a couple of Lesser Short Toed Larks were on view along with their Crested cousins, nice to view 3 lark species around the lake.  Looking down from the viewpoint the Common Cranes were restless and noisy, soon they started to rise, presumably as it was an hour to sunset, and flew off in batches beautifully illuminated by the low winter sun.
More Common Cranes Grus grus flying in to feed (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
Time to leave,  and no point calling into Laguna Dulce as it's dry,  we had an uneventful drive back home, for Paul & Muriel  a special day - always is when you get a first!
Many thanks Derek for a very enjoyable and descriptive report.  I shall have to make sure, now that the water is promising a return, that I check closely for any lesser Flamingos arriving at the old salinas. 

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