Sunday 17 November 2019

Laguna Dulce and Fuente de Piedra

Saturday 16 November

Common Cranes Grulla Comun Grus grus over Laguna Dulce
With the sun already shining in a clear blue sky and, at last, the wind abated I set off for a morning at the Laguna Dulce near Campillos just after 9 am.  Already up to 11C as I departed but upon arriving, having received a frost warning in the car when the outside temperature dropped to 3C at the top of the long climb up from Malaga, I arrived jut before 10.30 to be greeted by 5C, lots of birds on the water but very cold when standing at the hide as my hands gradually turned to ice.  But it was worth the effort and by the time I returned to Mezquitilla in mid-afternoon the temperature on the coast was up into the low twenties.

Checking out the water, try as I might I could not find a single Great Crested Grebe; scores of both Little and Black-necked Grebes but not a single sight of their larger cousin.  On the other hand, in addition to the hundreds of Coot, I had a marvellous selection of ducks.  Very many Mallard and Shoveler and diligent searching produced about a score of Common Pochard,  handful of Red-crested Pochard and a single Shelduck.  No Teal but a good number of Gadwall.  However, despite losing count at in excess of 250 White-headed Ducks my pride of place probably went to the score or more of Wigeon, not a bird I find that often in southern Spain, but then welcome sighting of a quartet of Garganey, my bird of the day.

Mainly Gadwall Anade Friso Anas strepera in this group of ducks
Whilst a good number of Crag Martins were feeding over the water and both Chiffchaff and House Sparrows were foraging below me in the greenery along with calling Cetti's Warblers, I looked up to watch the passing female Marsh Harrier.  This reminded me of the Black-shouldered Kite that I had just past on top of a wooden telegraph pole as I drove through Santa Ana just down the road.  A single Moorhen wandered out towards the hide whist on the opposite side of the nearby bay to my left an arriving Lapwing also drew my attention to Black-winged StiltRinged Plover and both Grey and White Wagtails working the shore. A little further behind them working both shore and hedgerow was a small flock of Meadow Pipits.

Flamingos Phoenicopterus roseus at Laguna Dulce in the company of Coot Fulca atra and, if you carefully, Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris
Next job to find the wintering Common Cranes.  To the very far right-hand corner a tight group of about thirty Flamingos were busy feeding and to their rear four Common Crane.  At that moment a half-dozen flew across the water, right to left, so I knew the main flock had to be somewhere in the immediate area.  Meanwhile, there was a presence of about 100 plus Black-headed Gulls to the rear of the water and as I looked I could still be not unimpressed by the huge swathe of White-headed Ducks which seemed to stretch right across the back of the water.  Time to drive over to the far side and take the farm track towards Fuente de Piedra but first a check in the shrubbery behind me where I duly found a lovely Zitting Cisticola.

About 30+ of the White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala with a few Shoveler Anas clypeata
Moving along the back of the water I quickly found both Crested Lark and Stonechat and the first of three good-sized flocks of Linnets.  A trio of Collared Doves were resting in trees near the farm to my left at the crossroad and, as I watched, a pair of Raven with a quartet of Jackdaws above the moved to the the left.  As the Ravens continued the Jackdaws joined a few more of their number also at the above farm.

Raven Corvus corax (above) and Jackdaws Corvus monedula (below)

 At about the same time I found the grazing flock of at least an hundred Cranes near the back of the water.  As I watched a good section moved away to the front of me and I discovered two further large flock so bringing the Crane total up to well over 300.

Common Cranes Grulla Comun Grus grus
Continuing on down the track nothing to record at the old ruin though I did pick up a solitary Buzzard resting on a relatively recently-ploughed field.  A good number of Jackdaws were seen at the "nesting tower" along with a few Spotless Starlings.  More Linnets and then both Serin and Goldfinches before re-joining the road and taking the anti-clockwise circuit to the salinas of Fuente de Piedra.

Female Linnet Carduelis cannabina (above) and Stonechat Saxicola torquatus (below)

Unlike the Laguna Dulce, Fuente de Piedra was almost devoid of water, just a couple of large puddles and the entrance fields and scrapes completely bone dry.  The only birds to be seen on the "lake" was a tight mixed flock of mainly Lesser black-backed and Black-headed Gulls.

Flamingos Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus at the laguneta

So round to the back and the laguneta where, even here, the water level was conspicuous by its dramatic fall in level.  Never mind islands, all we now had was a couple of small humps on the barren bed.  On the remaining water mainly a few Mallard, Shoveler and Coot along with little more than a handful of Flamingos.  A Lapwing walked the nearby shire and in the bushes the occasional Linnet and House Sparrow.

Northern Lapwing Avefria Europea Vanellus vanellus

Walking back towards the car both Goldfinch and a couple of Greenfinch were recorded then a male Sardinian Warbler and a number of feeding Blackcaps in the olive trees.  A female Black Redstart put in an appearance and a male Blackbird made a hasty retreat as a Kestrel drifted overhead, so bringing up the day's total to 45 species.

Female Black Redstart Colirrojo Tizon  Phoenicurus ochruros

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Garganey, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Flamingo, Black-shouldered Kite, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Crane, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Collared Dove, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet.

More Common Cranes Grulla Comun Grus grus

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