23 May, Fuente de Piedra

I had intended to go up to Fuente de Piedra this morning (Saturday) but things didn't pan out as planned (which happens with ever-increasing frequency, I find), so when the Gauleiterin suggested going up there this afternoon, it didn't take too much for me to agree with her. So, off we trotted, arriving there in decent, reasonably warm, sunshine but later dpearting under lowering skies and damned big drops of rain but not enough to clean the car, it's so dirty I shall have to take it to the carwash.

But between the coming and the going, there was something to see, although both variety and numbers have fallen greatly since my last visit. Even before we had parked, I could see some Black Terns - probably about 15 of them - swooping around erratically over the flooded area and on the same water there were some Flamingos and an assortment of other species, notably Avocets and Gull-billed Terns, these elegant and noisy as always in which they were joined by a few Black-winged Stilts, and a few other waders. There was less than a hand of Redshanks in total, no stints of any sort, a solitary Common Sandpiper and out on the lake itself some 35-40 resting Ringed Plovers.

There were, of course, lots of Greater Flamingos in sight, some ridiculously close on the new flash, including the ringed one shown here - 4 bar F6, one from Fuente de Piedra which was ringed in 1994 - but a prolonged scan revealed no Lessers, not that the heat haze helped with identifying anything at distance. So, we staggered around to the hides where the wife hoped to see some ducklings of any sort, she's not choosy! She did see a couple of baby Coots with their ridiculously sparsely downed heads through which the red shows. and which, for some abstruse reason, reminded me of the not very lamented, recently resigned Speaker of the House of Commons. However, her afternoon was made when a female Red-crested Pochard hove in to sight with her flotilla of 10 young ducklings, these not more 3-4days old, I reckoned. We were also given the opportunity of admiring a couple male Red-cresteds with those ridiculously red bills and there were 3 females in total on the same pond. The single male White-headed Duck remains on the pantaneta del pueblo, it's either unwell or mentally retarded (my bet) if it hasn't got the sense to fly off in search of a female at this time of year!

By that time the clouds were gathering and over towards the Sierra de Yeguas it was raining so we made slow progress towards the car during which time the flock of Ringed Plovers took off, callling loudly and slowly gaining height as they headed northwards. I wonder where these late birds must be going, somewhere very far north like Spitsbergen or Novaya Zemlya (use Google if you don't know here it is!) is my bet as they are very late and still have an awful long way to go.

Under the darkening clouds I stopped for a last scan of the flamingos and picked up two Lessers, a long way off but sufficiently clearly that the wife even managed to pick them out all on her own. The first rain drops were falling on our heads (reminds me of a song from a certain film) as we got to the car and I had just stowed everything in the back when I heard two Greenshanks calling urgently.

Now, I like Greenshanks, they are my favourite wader, they are very attractive in a subdued sort of a way, I have a lovely print of one by an English artist Chris Lodge (you can find his name and a link to is work by checking in Google) and I expect it to call any time! Greenshanks have class, not like the riff-raff of the Redshanks who shout loudly and panic about everything, so equally urgently I got out scope and binoculars and went off to try and see these two equally late migrants. I couldn't really miss them as they were being very noisy, which is quite something for a Greenshank, and so were easily located as they swept back and forth, obviously nervous which is feature of waders on migration, settled long enough to allow me to ensure that neither was wearing colour rings and then they were off, also on a northerly track. And where would they be going? Anywhere in northern Norway and across into Russia at this date. It's a long, long way!
You need big maps and some romance in this birding game!

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