1 October, Laguna Dulce and Fuente de Piedra

1 October This morning, as I was awake early and all body parts appeared to be without any malfunctions, I decided to hie me off and fit in a quick visit to three areas, the first to Los Llanos de Antequera where Mick Richardson had seen both Ortolan Bunting and distant Great Bustard earlier in the week, to be followed by the Laguna Dulce just to the east of Campillos and finally to Fuente de Piedra.

I was in the area where Mick had seen the Ortolans soon after dawn. In my book, this is always a good bird to see even though they breed at one or two points high up in the Sierra Nevada but the French still persist in eating them. I shan't say that I would like to in case sensitive persons are reading this. Needless to say - no luck.

So on to the Laguna Dulce at Campillos which has kept water in it all summer. I think the last time I saw it so full at this time of year was back in 1990 after the heavy rains of November-December 1989. The lake was a wonderful sight for ornithologically sore eyes in the early morning sunshineas it is teeming with aquatic birds and I could quite easily have spent most of the morning there but time was scarce. There are (or appear to be) thousands of Coots and it is claimed that a Red-knobbed Coot has been seen but finding one in that lot and given the size of the laguna, I reckon a pretty big dose of luck is needed, especially as the little red billiard balls it sports on its head shrink in the post breeding period. (That could be a good new name- the Red Billiard Ball Coot - like it?). And checking through the shape of the frontal shield on its forehead and the contrast between bill colour and frontal shield ..... well, good luck if you want to try it but make sure that you have lots of time!

So, scanning twice slowly through all the birds swarming all over the lake and the counting the White-headed Ducks and guesstimating some of the more interesting species took far longer than I had intended. However, I came up with a total of a minimum of 70 White-headeds and that it almost certainly on the light side, just as it is with the 20+ Red-crested Pochards (bonny birds, the males). I have no estimates for Gadwall (how does 'not a lot' sound?), Pochard (not a lot of them either)or even Mallard. It was nice to see at least 30 Black-necked Grebes and 20+ Great Crested Grebes. So, if you have the time and the telescope which is an absolute necessity, it is certainly worth a visit. I may well try and get up again next week and devote more time to it. (On Sunday,I heard that there have also been sightings of Ferruginous Duck there this last week.)

From there it was on to Fuente de Piedra. Coming round the western end on the road to Sierra de Yeguas, I stopped (as one should always do) at the open point as one goes over the top. The view was breathtaking. The lake is full of Flamingos and the smell of them wafted up delicately on the faint zephyrs of wind. How many? LOTS 'N LOTS - like 30.000 lots, give or take a few thousand each way. The sight fair takes your breath away (as they say where I come from and provided you're a non-smoker) Again, try counting but I was interested in trying to find a Lesser Flamingo, of which there has been a marked lack - like none - since a sighting I had right back in early January. Why? I suppose because that there's water everywhere where there hasn't been for years but neither have they been reported except as isolated records in other parts of Spain since then either.

A quick look from the mirador at Cantarranas revealed that it would be a waste of time to spend any time there as everything was up-sun and in silhouette, but there is water down in front of the watch point and it would undoubtedly repay attention in the afternoon when the sun has come round. 4 Black-winged Stilts were busy having one of their hysterical arguments on the edges but there wasn't even a harrier of any sort to liven the day. I carried on and stopped at the mirador at La Vicaría where there were a lot of Shovelers, lots of them, with at least 500 in the lake, many in front of the raised hide there.

So, with time running away and with a time limit to be home the last stop was the centre itself. There, I had the pleasure of watching 4 spp. of hirundines : Red-rumped Swallows (10+), Barn Swallows, House Martins (most juvs.) and Sand Martins (5+), these sitting on the wire by the centre and taking short flights around and where these photos were taken.

The lake over the back, the Laguneta de Pueblo, is virtually dry and held a few small plovers, LRPs and Kentish, and that was it.

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