Tuesday 13 April 2021

Fuente de Piedra to the Rio Grande

 Monday 12 April

Pitch black when I left home on Monday morning to drive over to Fuente de Piedra and upon arriving about an hour later it was just on day-break but the temperature had dropped at least 7 or 8 degrees since leaving home at 14C.  I could see the White Stork standing on its nest on the old chimney and once at the entrance field on the left the lake had dried up to no more than a large, shallow puddle - but at least next to the road. Lots of silhouetted waders so took time to identity what was about before the first visitors arrived.  A couple of Black-winged Stilts, single Snipe and a pair of Ringed Plovers plus a trio of Common Sandpiper.  However, pride of place must surely have gone to the two dozen, busy feeding, Curlew Sandpipers, but that was when I also noted the single Wood Sandpiper.

Without more ado up to the car park, scope out and off to the boardwalk.  Not a drop of water nor a bird to be seen.  Once at the far end I scoped the fields and picked up a Common Kestrel and Jackdaws at the bird tower and looking towards the main lagoon could see the thousands of resting Flamingo albeit a few were in the air.  A dozen Shelduck flew over and on the fence I found a Woodchat Shrike.  Re-crossing the footbridge and taking the path alongside the stream I stopped to admire an early morning Corn Bunting whilst enjoying the calls of both Reed and Cetti's Warblers and ere long the first of  number of Nightingales.  A Blackbird flew across the track and then I was up to the mirador to appreciate the thousands of Flamingos along with Black-headed Gulls, many Gull-billed Terns and more Shelduck whilst being observed by a couple of Jackdaws.

Jackdaw Corvus monedula

Approaching the Lagueneta at the rear of the Visitors Centre, noting Greenfinch and Linnet on the way to the open screen overlooking the small pool below, I could hear the noise being made by the resident Flamingos. The small pool itself was playing host to many visiting House Martins and a couple of Red-rumped Swallows whereas the Laguneta produced a small number of Barn Swallows.  On the water, in addition to the many Flamingo, I quickly discovered Mallard, Shoveler, Common and Red-crested Pochard and a small number of Gadwall but no White-headed Ducks.  Just a couple of Little Grebe plus a pair of Moorhen and small number of Coot.  On the other hand, as I watched, the pair of Avocet were joined by five more.  And every once in a while the resting Black-headed Gulls were joined by passing Gull-billed Terns.

Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis (centre) and Linnet Carduelis cannabina in same tree

Making my way back to the boardwalk I stopped once more at the mirador to admire the Flamingos and also enjoyed the visit of both Linnet and Goldfinch to the trees in front of me.  Once on the far side of the boardwalk I picked up my first (Iberian) Yellow Wagtail of the day then took the circular route back towards the entrance road so as to give some cover as I re-approached the less-then-flooded field on my left. The Curlew Sandpipers had disappeared but I now had a couple of feeding Redshank.  Also now more obvious were the few Little Ringed Plovers feeding alongside their larger cousins. Lastly, a Marsh Harrier drifted away from the laguna.

Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis

Linnet Carduelis cannabina

Back to the car and this time I took the track alongside the railway line to join the exit road to Fuente passing southwards alongside the laguna.  The old roofs to my left seemed to be crowded with Feral Pigeons and on the wires opposite the station Collared Doves and a trio of Lesser Kestrels.  As I reached open country a Wood Pigeon flew over and a number of Greenfinches were seen.  Driving towards the large farm where I was to take a left turn, a few Crested Larks were recorded along the way and once at the farm no shortage of either Spotless Starlings or House Sparrows along with a single Serin that landed on the fence immediately in front of me.

Three of the many Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis at Laguna Dulce

So on to the Laguna Dulce near Campillos.  Goldfinches and Serins were flitting around below the hide and to my left I could hear the voluble Cetti's and at least one Reed Warbler.  On the opposite side a Nightingale was singing.  Meanwhile, no shortage of birds on the water, especially the hundreds of Coots which spread out right the way across.  Lots of Flamingos in what seemed like separate groups and then, apart from the many Black-necked  and few Little Grebes, there were the ducks.  Nearby Red-crested and with a few more along with many Common Pochard further out on the water. Mallards seemed to be mainly in pairs then there was a small group of Shoveler on the far side. Scanning from left to right I soon picked up the White-headed Ducks and then focused on the small, almost hidden, water at the back, far right.  Not just a quartet of Lapwing but also a Glossy Ibis skulking in the dead weeds.  It was also in this area that I discovered the lone Heron.  It was also as I returned to the main water that I found the single female/immature Pintail.

Male Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina

A couple of Cormorant flew across the water where most of the Black-headed Gulls were resting. Barn Swallows were bust feeding and every now and again a Gull-billed Tern would pass by.  Then I noticed the "irruption" from the reeds on the far left-hand of the opposite bank where it would appear upwards of twenty Whiskered Terns had been resting.  To add a little bit of excitement I was suddenly watching the flight of a lone Black Tern.  Time to visit the back of the laguna as a Blackbird flew across in front of the hide.

Blue-headed Iberian Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava iberiae

Taking the track down from the main road plenty of House Sparrows at the stat and then a resting Kestrel as I approached the distant arm.  Bearing right towards the laguna I watched a lovely Iberian Yellow Wagtail and another Corn Bunting.  A Marsh Harrier was heading towards the water and as I returned, maybe  two hundred metres from the main road, I watched the Marsh Harrier pass overhead and on over the fields to my right where, suddenly, it was accosted by a smaller raptor.  As close as I could get with the car and out to watch the female Montagu's Harrier mobbing the larger bird.  I was even more surprised when checking the photos that I had, unknown to me, actually also capture the male Montagu's Harrier as it moved in front of the wind turbines.

Distant record shot of male Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus

Next stop now that it was time to head back home was the cliff face at Penarrubia on the Teba turning. A Buzzard flew across the road as I approached and within 500 metres I watched a Black Kite doing its best to retrieve some fresh "road kill" in front of me.  On the other hand, I had to wait almost fifteen minutes to record a Griffon Vulture above the cliffs but did see a handful of Chough as I waited.  Around me no shortage of Chaffinches.

Now after mid-day as I made my way towards Malaga and rather than simple drive across the Rio Grande I took the approaching track to drive upstream to see what might be about.  House Sparrows at the farm and an Iberian Yellow Wagtail as soon as the track reached the river bank.  Feeding in the water a lone Little Egret and then on up to park at the end of the bridge so that I could check upstream to where the conservation work was still very much in progress.  A Grey Wagtail followed by a White Wagtail then a pair of Mallards and a Common SandpiperGreat Tits were calling from the nearby trees as I started back towards the river.  Just as I was about to cross at the ford I noticed a single Cattle Egret and once on the other side another individual nearer to the bank.  Crested Larks on the track and a good number of feeding Golfinches and Serins as I drove forward.

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis

Stopping to admire the many Black-winged Stilts I also picked up another Common Sandpiper along with both Little Ringed and Ringed Plover.  Stopping to check a "hidden" wader I eventually found a couple of Green Sandpiper followed by one, then anther pair, of Wood Sandpipers.

Distant Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola

First a Kestrel then a dozen Bee-eaters passed over and I drove to the far end to check the confluence with the Guadalhorce.  Blackbirds and Chaffinches driving through the trees followed by Cettti's and Reed Warblers once at the river junction.  Nightingales were also singing in this area.  Finally more Great Tits making my way back to the main road and home.  Wonderful day with 69 species recorded including 7 new sightings for the year.

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius

Birds seen:

Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Pintail, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Glossy Ibis, White Stork, Flamingo, Black Kite, Griffon Vulture, Marsh Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Curlew Sandpiper, Snipe, Redshank, Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Whiskered Tern, Black Tern, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Iberian Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Nightingale, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Great Tit, Woodchat Shrike, Chough, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

Those lovely Flamingos Phoenicopterus roseus

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

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