17/03 : Fuente de Piedra

A splendid morning's birding with Federico and his son who had escaped from Madrid, even though it was a Saturday which always draws out more masses and therefore more noise. It is amazing how much birding one can concentrate in the small area around the information centre looking at the pantaneto del Pueblo (the lake beyond the information centre), the laguna itself and the flashes of water by the board walk in a short time - only 3 hours.

The pantaneto del Pueblo gave us our first Whiskered Terns of the year and also included a 1st summer bird, a rather scarce plumage type to see, as well as a couple of very elegant Gull-billed Terns, always a delight to see with their distinctive calls and of which we were to see more during the morning. There were lots of Shovelers huddling and feeding and displaying together in little groups, with plenty of Coots and a few Pochards and Teal.

Although most unlikely to fly, an Ocellated Lizard appeared to have fixed residence in a hole not 3m from the righ-thand end of the hide and was easily visible. The fact that the spots on the side are not yet blue shows it to be an immature. These are lovely lizards, sometimes know as Jolly Green Giant of the lizard world, can quite easily grow to 30cm or more in length.

From there we had a quick look at the mirador and dismissed it as being full of people, concentrating on the waders on the side of the lake, mostly Little Stints of which there must have been at least 50 with a few Dunlin and string of about a dozen Avocets feeding out in the shallow watear and also a pair of Shelducks which were very visible. The flashes on both sides of the board walk are very productive and should become more so from now on until late May as migration gets under way, always assuming that they can maintain sufficient water. Here, virtually in front of the mirador and stretching over to the right, we had Little Ringed Plover and a few Little Stints and Dunlins, plus a pair of Black-tailed Godwits with a scattering of Shovelers and Teal.

But it was the area of water on both sides of the board walk that gave us the best, not many birds but great views, starting with a beautiful Marsh Sandpiper (L) of which there had been 2 earlier in the week.
And here a cautionary tale of another seen at the Guadalhorce this last week and which a visiting birder, believed to be English, had pronounced to Federico that it was definitely a Ruff. Fortunately Federico disbelieved him and photographed the bird, there being no doubt that it was indeed a Marsh Sand.. There is a moral here upon which which I shall not elaborate and leave you to work it out for yourselves by looking at a field guide or the photo here.
We, on the other hand, did see a Ruff (which strictly speaking is the name for the male only, the female being a Reeve and not a female Ruff, although I fear this old usage is falling into oblivion).
The Ruff was in early moult and if it remains around we should be able to see a nice development of plumage as I believe that it will be a largely white-ruffed bird (R). A Reeve flew in also and there is a big size difference between sexes here - what the biologists call sexual dimorphism.
This Reeve is shown here (L below) along with a Curlew Sandpiper, of which there were at least 4 birds present.We saw 2 Wood Sandpipers, a single Green Sandpiper and a very nice but very noisy Redshank, as are the Stilts at this time of year.
At one point, whilst I was looking the other way as usual, Federico and his son had brief views of a crake which was a very good record as seeing Little Crakes is not the easiest of pastimes and one needs infinite patience (something I lack) or luck (which wasn't with me).
We did see a nice demonstrative lesson in relative sizes when Little Stint, Dunlin and Curlew Sandpiper were all more or less in line.
By now you are probably wondering why I have said nothing about flamingos. First, there has been a notable increase in Greater Flamingos and second I spent a lot of time searching before eventually finding a very distant Lesser Flamingo - where its pair was is anyone's guess.
However, very this same lunchtime, I had a phone call from Mick Richardson from Loja, Granada (see www.lojawildlife.com and Mick, like Stephen Daly at www.andalucianguides.com, can show you parts that other birders don't reach - sounds like a certain beer ad.!) to say that he and some folks he was showing around were watching 7 (seven!!!) very visible ones at that very moment, a number which equals the lake record. I rang Manolo Rendón, who is Lord High Flamingo of Fuente de Piedra and a thoroughly nice chap and good birder too, to inform him but he added that yesterday afternoon 5 had been seen. Mick reckoned that none were ringed and Manolo said the same about the 5 seen yesterday. I spent a miserable lunchtime wondering if I should shoot up there immediately after but what with it being a Sunday and Sunday drivers and the masses, plus the heat haze, decided not to and shall be on my way up there by 08.00 tomorrow with hope in my heart. If there's any news, read about it here!
Nearly forgot, Mick also mentioned that they had seen 5 Ferruginous Ducks at the laguna Dulce.

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