12 March: Fuente de Piedra and some other bits

Have you been wondering if I have been shot down or that something has befallen me? Well no, but I've not been out at all as life has been a bit hectic what with one thing (including messing up two sheets of nearly finished gull illustrations) and another, plus the weather has hit the birding rather badly. But first ...

An old friend from Scarborough from when I first (pre 1960) started seabirding at Filey has been down all winter and he has been out a lot more than myself. He was down at the Guadalhorce on Tuesday and apart from 2 stunning male Black-eared Wheatears and 2 Ospreys had nothing less than 3 Dotterels - first ever record for the area as far as I am aware - and which have got to be on the 'must' list of many. He has also told me of hundreds of hirundines of all spp. held up along the river at Fuengirola when there was the big blow some ten days since.

There have been 2 Common Gulls hanging around the mouth of the Guadalhorce at Guadalmar (Angel García and Huberto García, no relationships) and also some more Mediterranean Gulls, now mainly 1st summer birds moving and Huberto managed to photograph 2 colour ringed birds and some e-mailing revealed that they were ringed as chicks last year in western France.

I have been seeing the occasional Pallid Swift terrace at home and also a few passing Barn Swallows, whilst early this morning (12/03) there was a good movement east of Sand Martins, a rather self-effacing little hirundine which I rather like. There has been a marked lack of Willow/Chiffs with only a couple or so records, an amazingly low number for this time of year. Asn so rightly said, if you don't get out, you don't see the birds. And as the first hasn't occurred, neither has the second. And whilst I have been talking with Mick Richardson from Loja (Granada) who is down at Algeciras between the previous and following sentences, 2 Alpine Swifts flashed past as well as 5 or 6 Common Swifts. He has seen 'about 2.000' Black Kites today plus 'several hundred' Short-toed Eagles, as well as Montagu's and Hen Harriers...... I think I could feel ill!

There are 3 Lesser Flamingos in the lakes in the La Lantejuela area of Sevilla province (Paco Chiclana) but there sure as heck aren't any at Fuente de Piedra as I searched carefully for them this morning.

As Ron goes home to Scarborough on Tuesday, this morning, which actually not only promised fine but was!, we went up to the laguna Dulce and Fuente de Piedra in order that he could have a last look around. The first stop was the laguna Dulce, just outside Campillos and which was not particularly fruitful as there is so much water there is no vegetation (ie. reeds and the like) for waterbirds to breed. We did have a single White-headed Duck and some Pochard, whilst a pair of Black-necked Grebes in full breeding plumage were very smart.

From there we went on to Fuente de Piedra, going around and across the western end to be met with the sight of several thousand Flamingos - ca.7.000 according to information - scattered around the lake with at least half of them in the colony nuclei. Large rgoups were displaying, with the necks erect but there was little wing flashing. A pair of Ravens cronked their way over whilst Ron gazed at the view in splendid sunshine. From there we went around to the observatory at Cantarranas but the light is against you there but we did locate 21-22 remaining Cranes (some were seen over the centre of Madrid this last week!).

The final stop was at the information centre and there we got some superb views of Flamingos there, including a couple of copulation attempts, which if you are a flamingo is fraught with hazard with those long legs as the males fall off with a certain regularity, which must be extremely frustrating for them. We saw had a very brief view of the little male Bluethroat which has wintered there, a couple of rather dark-looking Meadow Pipits, lots of White Wagtails and a solitary male of the Iberian race of the Blue-headed Wagtail. A flock of some 24or so Avocets swam way out on the lake along with some Shovelers - this has been the winter of the Shoveler without a doubt, the things have been everywhere, there few Mallard and distant views of a pair of Wigeon.

But it was the swifts and hirundines which stole the morning. There has undoubtedly been a big movement (Mick Richardson had seen a lot of both moving in this morning just to the east of Algeciras-Los Barrios). Most of the swifts were Pallids, there were at least 2 Commons (but see above about the ones I have seen whilst writing this) and at least 6-8 Alpine Swifts, a real fast mover and lovely to see. There were hordes of Barn Swallows , some House Martins and at least 1 Red-rumped Swallow, so I ended up seeing all 5 spp. in the day as I had already seen Sand Martin this morning and I have seen Crag Martin at home here this evening before dusk.

So homewards. Ron very happy with the last morning's birding and he, like me, is now in love with Fuente de Piedra as a place to go birding. Except that he hasn't been there at the height of summer with the mercury going well through the 40ºC mark with the solano wind blowing and which sucks you dry.

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