4 January, Fuente de Piedra

This is just a quickie on the trip that Ron Appleby, an old friend who was seabirding at Filey Brigg before I did and who helped kick me and some of the few others off in the right direction back in the late 1950s and early 60s, something for which I am most grateful. So, as he is a wintering species down here,it was a real pleasure to take him out birding around Fuente de Piedra and the laguna Dulce (Campillos) and show him some of our birds, including some Cranes of he is particularly fond.

We started off at the laguna Dulce on an ideal birding morning, cold and with reasonable light sun but no wind. This meant that we could use telescopes without fear of shake. Now that most of the water birds have departed apart from a large raft of Coots and a few Black-necked Grebes, my main objective being the Little Bustards which Ron was keen to see, although really it was a renewal of aquaintance. These were eventually found way over on the far side of the laguna, really too distant for good views but undoubtedly bustards.

There were quite a few Lapwings around the flood water on the right side of the laguna, some being decidedly frisky in the winter sunshine and one or two Black-winged Stilts were feeding in the same area.

From there it was on to the west end of Fuente de Piedra and the stop on the top where there is the most fantastic view of the lake. There were several flocks of Flamingos, including some with a lot of display going on with lage numbers of birds, as many as 50% in some groups, with necks extended high. A few Cranes were feeding in the long grass and a flock of some 20 or so Shelduck were feeding in the lake. The surprise here was the appearance first of no less than 4 Marsh Harriers together, including an immature male and an old female and there was a bit of bust-up between two of these, which was quite spectacular. After these had allflown offto the right (south) and out of view another 3 appeared and in totalwe reckoned we saw 9 or 10 of these.

On the way round to the information centre we stopped off at Cantarranas where there were 60-70 Cranes feeding on the edge of the olives on the inland side the strong morning light was, as always, against us for adequate observation and we saw several smaller groups during the morning, both before and after.

On the main lake, after showing Ron the newly renovated information centre and a needed coffee, it was time to search. The laguneto del Pueblo, the lake behind, gave us some Teal, a few Pochard, a single Common Sandpiper and 5 Snipe, plus we were informed that some other birders had seen a Green Sandpiper. On the main lake there were still very large numbers of Shovelers, a really huge concentration of hundreds of birds, along with a few Black-necked Grebes and a smattering of gulls.

The flashes near the lower track below the mirador had a few Black-winged Stilts, some already showing signs of breeding hysteria-it beats me how they ever manage to bring off any young! There was again an abundance of Chiffchaffs feeding on minute insects in tamarisks and using the boundary fence as a watch point.

The main surprise of the day though was that on the field on the right as one drives in, where the tower is and which is usually the refuge of a varying number of Stone Curlews failed to reveal one, not even after an extensive search with the telescopes.

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