07/03 Fuente de Piedra

A terrific morning's birding at Fuente de Piedra with Federico Vallés, omitting the laguna Dulce at Campillos as we had decided to just concentrate on the laguna, and very worthwhile it was. Mind you, it was cool first thing, only 6ºC but bright and sunny with the laguna like a mirror broken by scattered groups and occasional masses of Greater Flamingos, many displaying in strutting groups with necks extended to the heavens whilst a variety of ducks and waders to enliven the morning, plus the passerines we were to later see. So, where to start? I suppose with the waders.

The most numerous wader by far was Little Stint with somewhere between 90 and 100 by our reckoning, these flashing back and forth. There were a few Dunlin, a flock of 19 Curlew Sandpipers and on the flashes by the centre we could hear Snipe grumpling but never saw one, as well as singles of Redshank and Greenshank. Federico was able to get good views of a very obliging Wood Sandpiper (R) which decided to have a bath after feeding, and shortly thereafter a Green Sandpiper, which let itself be seen reasonably well before shooting off and showing us its white rump dispappearing over the horizon. There were several Lapwings hiding quite well in the longer grass. To my mind, there were fewer small plovers than I would have normally expected at this date, especially Little Ringed, although this female was helpful (L). We could only find 2 Avocets, a not very encouraging figure.

There was a goodly assortment of ducks, especially Shovelers, but fewer Teal and Pochard now, and surprisingly low numbers of Mallards. Also in the aquatic birds line there were also Coots and Moorhens. The best duck was, without doubt, a smashing male Garganey which was on the left hand flash as one enters towards the parking and was the only water which we had not looked at and for which we had to thank Antonio Ternero and Juan Oñate for pointing out. They had been to the laguna Dulce and who had seen 4 Ferruginous Ducks and 3 Tufted Ducks there, as well as 29 late Cranes and 24 Little Bustards and at Fuente a skulking Spotted Crake and pointed out the superb male Garganey on the only water we hadn't covered.

We saw three spp. of hirundines, including my first 2 Sand Martins and there were plenty of Barn Swallows but relatively few House Martins. Chiffchaffs appear to be increasing, as I noted for the Guadalhorce last week, as they start to trickle north. We did see 3 or 4 Yellow Wagtails, including a super bright yellow male of the flava face and also 2 or 3 Meadow Pipits. Surprisingly, there were still some Reed Buntings around and Federico caught a glimpse of a male with a largely black head - needless to say, I was looking the other way! He also got this nice shot of a female.

The best of the day was not, however, the Garganey or the Yellow Wags., but the splendid views of 2 Lesser Flamingos. Not just because we saw the two together but could confirm that that are definitely a pair, a male and a female because of the size differences (known to those who care about these things as sexual dimorphism) which can also be seen in their bigger cousins. And not only did they stroll together, side by side - metaphorically holding hands - but displayed, heads left in unison, heads right in unison, all this with the necks and heads held high before they flew off together, watched all the time through our 'scopes. This is only the second time that I have seen Lessers in flight and the wing beat rate is faster than the bigger Greater Flamingos. A very satisfactory observation and Manolo Rendón told me later that they are frequenting the colony in the area of Los Charcones. Is it true love? Will they breed? Stay tuned to the flamingo love channel!

Finally, I recommend the next 2 months in the area around the flashes and the board walk as the waders are starting to move and there could be some good observations and it is worth going further along the track towards La Vicaria too.

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