2 January, Fuente de Piedra

Having suffered a lack of birding recently and after a morning yesterday which could only be classed as 'adequate', it seemed reasonable to attempt a trip to Fuente de Piedra after the recent heavy rains, this time in company of Bob Wright. It was a beautiful morning when I left home and remained so until going down through the village of Fuente de Piedra when it got greyer and greyer and the visibility lower and lower. FOG. Was I happy? No I ******* well wasn't! But hope springs eternal in the Paterson breast when it comes to birding and my hope was that it would burn off, and burn off it did within 30 minutes of parking. In the end it turned into a beautiful morning, sunny, clear (with even more than a hint of heat haze when looking through the scope!) with the always agreeable company of Bob, one of those days which make life seem wonderful when there are the birds to accompany it.

And there was water in the laguna, lots
of it! And in the flashes on each side of the track in too, the only problem being that no waders had yet discovered it, but it was compensated for by a flock of some 110 Golden Plovers and on the way back they had been joined by 40+ Stone Curlews. But on the slow way in along the bottom track Bob found the first good bird of the day, a male Spanish Sparrow with nicely marked black spots on the breast and flanks in amongst the many House Sparrows (there may have been females too but we're not into those). There were hordes of White Wagtails and Chiffs too.

It was nice to see at least 3 Reed Buntings, they aren't exactly common but those were eclipsed by finding the 1st winter male Bluethroat which seems to be spending the winter there and which we saw on the last visit. Bluethroats are renowned for
suffering from an avian version of hyperactivity and this bird was no exception, but patience paid off and I got two half-way decent shots.

Meanwhile, out on the laguna a scan revealed a few Shoveler and Shelducks, some 50+ Avocets and, of course, the usual hysterical Black-winged Stilts some of which were practising their hysteria ready for the breeding season. Bob was looking the other way (usually my trick) and missed the female Marsh Harrier which had pounced on something unsuspecting and refused to fly again, presumably stuffed with New Year's rodent or similar.

A walk round the back to the big pond with the hide revealed very high water levels and once again the Little Owl was there, waiting for me to try and get a decent photo, and once again the Little Owl won, the score currently being 2-0 in its favour. The only other species of interest was a pair of Gadwall, the Mallards all looking as though they must have had a hell of a good party at New Year and were suffering from major hangovers. Thence back to the cars, spray water from the windscreen washers on a large moggie that refused to move from the bonnet of my car - it did so very rapidly! -and off we went around to Cantarranas.

And at last there were Cranes, well over 200 of 'em spread out in the fields on the right just before and down on the reserve. And there too were the Flamingos, well over a 1.000 we guesstimated. but the light was rather against us to see them well so we went on round to the west end where one can look down on the laguna as I was particularly interested in the presence (or absence) of Lesser Flamingos. As it was, there were 2 birds there, much redder and notably smaller than their bigger cousins, up to their bellies in the water (what a way to live!) whilst on the big cousins it only came up to the leg joint. A trio of Ravens came cronking over - how does the old country rhyme go and is it for Ravens or Magpies? "One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy ... etc." No girl appeared though.

So, running three-quarters of an hour late and in the clag yet again except for my dog who was glad to see me home - nice to know someone is even if it's for an ulterior motive as nobody had thought to feed her - I set off for home leaving Bob to go and have a shufti at the laguna Dulce. A really good morning's birding under ideal conditions, with some 39 spp., but I'm sure I've missed something on the list I was trying to keep. Days like this make life worthwhile.

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