31 March, Fuente de Piedra

Another day out, this time with Dave and Chris Sowter - he a gull ringer and also Seabird Group member, which is a major part of the seabirder mafia to which my sister refers, and Dave and Anne from Nerja with whom they are staying. It was frankly grey on arrival at Fuente de Piedra but the sun eventually broke through and we enjoyed the sunshine which showed the lake and surrounds in all its glory and also some really great birding, even if there weren't too many gulls for Dave to see! I was also able to talk, possibly for the last time, with one of the guards, Rafael, who I have known for over 25 years and who will be retiring soon, after which time it will be not very litle that I see him again.

Flamingos first, very large quantities of 'em, thousands and thousands, scattered all over the lake, heaven knows how many but sufficient to think that searching for Lesser Flamingos might be a needle in haystack job, and I think that the two Daves thought so too. It actually took little time to find them, four together with another pair a few hundred metres away (=6 birds) and they really do stand out, even at well over half a kilometre or more. So, what else was there? The simple reply is LOTS and LOTS!

There were plenty of Yellow Wagtails - three races of males, the British flavissima, the Blue-headed flava and the Spanish iberiae, all of which are worth looking at in superb fresh plumage and which left me withg the distinct impression that they were moving through. A single Woodchat Shrike was knocking around, it'll probably breed in the area. There were lots of Pallid and Common Swifts moving through and feeding en route, sweeping through low and fast and plenty of Barn Swallows and a single Red-rumped, apart from House Martins.

The new layout and scrapes for waders are really proving their worth. Between them and the lake side itself there were plenty of waders, by far the most common numerically being Little Stint, well over a hundred of them, some few Dunlins and Redshanks, the inevitable Black-winged Stilts and also Avocets also busy shouting their heads off. There were half a dozen or so Ruffs (males) - have you ever noticed how small the head seems in proportion to the body?, and a single smaller Reeve (female in in the rather old English with which I grew up and which nobody seems to use nowadays), and also a similar number of Black-tailed Godwits. There were all the three species of small plovers : Kentish of which the males have a lovely little ginger crown to the head, Little Ringed and a single male Ringed Plover, as well as a Lapwing, which is also a plover and used to be called Green Plover in some circles years ago, like at the end of the 19th century, which is before my time even!! (Useless information a speciality!)

There was a single male White-headed Duck on the lake behind the newly reformed information centre, which is due to reopen around May-June time I understand, and a flock of 80+ Shovelers resting by the lake. The earlier Gull-billed Terns flew over, noisy as usual, and there was a single Whiskered Tern hawking over one of the new scrapes, plus a single Black-headed Gull had obviously taken up watching humans on the path.

We saw a female Marsh Harrier, rather distant I admit, and I missed a male Montagu's Harrier while driving which the four behind did not!! Aaagh, there's always something ... but who cares after a very good morning's birding in very pleasant company! It's what makes life worthwhile.

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