06/04 : Charca de Suárez; Fuente de Piedra (2x) & laguna Dulce

It's been a funny old few days, parts very pleasant, one rather unpleasant and, very fortunately, some very nice birding to alleviate things. So let's start.

It was a rather grey morning at Fuente de Piedra last Saturday (31/03) when I met with Simon Papps, commissioning editor of New Holland who are publishing the waterproof pelagic seabird guide which will be out in late July. As Simon was on holiday with his wife and baby daughter at Loja, leaving them too long was not possible but we had a brief walk around and he was able to see a single Lesser Flamingo, 9+ Ruffs, 2 Wood Sandpipers, a single lateish Snipe and 2 lateish Teal, 100+ stints, most of which were probably Little although we saw 1 Temminck's and the Spotted Crake which has been there for ages showed itself briefly.

Still on Saturday, in the late afternoon I received an e-mail and two photos from Stephen Powell who very rightly reported an odd rail-type bird he had seen at the Charca de Suárez by Motril (Granada) and could not identify and which I put out on-line, which was an error on my part. This generated a lot of unpleasant correspondence into which I shall not go but on Sunday (01/04) I went with Steve and Jesús Diez to try and see it. A Nightingale sang as we went in, which augured well, I thought, but I obviously hadn't done the right sacrifice. We didn't see the oddity but did have excellent views of a Squacco Heron, a female Mallard with her flotilla of ducklings and fleeting view of a Spotted Crake. A migrant Sedge Warbler also showed itself a couple of times and allowed us to rule out Moustached which do occur in the area. The final touch was an immature Peregrine which overflew us just as were coming out. Charca de Suárez is a great little reserve and is a credit to Motril town hall and the folks who warden it but has very limited opening times.

On 03/04, Tuesday, I took Ron for a last spin around Fuente de Piedra and then laguna Dulce before he went back to Blighty (I suppose Scarborough's part of Britain unless it's declared unilateral independence along with rest of Yorkshire). The met. cast was not good and skies were grey, lowering and horrible menacing, and they didn't defraud either, although the heaviest rain fell where we weren't. Nevertheless, we had a brilliant morning's birding.
The flooded area around the length of the board walk at Fuente is of great interest to wader watchers, and there are other attractions also. The non-wader attractions included some very attractive Yellow Wagtails, a single Reed Bunting spotted by Ron but which I missed as I was talking to a Finnish birder, and a Water Pipit.

As for waders and leaving aside the hysterical Stilts and the super nervous Redshanks, thanks to what the Germans called Zugunrühe when they did the first migration rersearch back in the 1930s but is better known as migratory restlessness (you can learn all sorts of useless stuff here!). The same could be said of the Little Stints which were quite nervous and kept lifting and then settling for a few minute as before moving again, but its close relative, the only Temminck's we saw (and a very poor photo here R) appeared to be much more placid. Once again, no Green Sandpipers but we estimated 5 Wood Sandpipers and there were certainly 7 Curlew Sandpipers and 9 Ruffs (L above).
On the laguna itself we found 2 Lesser Flamingos, in spite of the vile visibility and light, and which I was able to show to some students from Sleaford, Lincolnshire, plus 9 Shelducks and some Avocets, plus small flocks of stints flying around, but certainly less than there had been on Saturday.
From there we went on to the laguna Dulce, stopping on the way just where one overlooks the west end of Fuente de Piedra but not for the flamingos but for a very brief view of 2 small warblers which we identified as Spectacled and not Whitethroat by the tertial pattern.
The laguna Dulce is an incredible place and I neaver seem to spend enough time there. Hirundines came in in huge numbers whilst we were there, all 5 spp. of them! - Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Sand and Crag Martin, plus 3 spp. of swifts which included a single Alpine.
On the lake there were plenty of Red-crested Pochards, at least 80, some rather nice Black-necked Grebes in breeding plumage and a single breeding plumaged Great Crested, but not a single damned Ferruginous Duck. On the other hand we were rewarded by the appearance of 5 Whiskered Terns, at least 2 of which had not yet obtained breeding plumage. A female Marsh Harrier (R) made an appearance and later an immature, but pride of place must go to the 3 Glossy Ibises we saw for their rarity there, although the immaculate male Hen Harrier was a close runner-up.
And so ended our morning and until we see each other next autumn Ron can live with memories of the 140+ spp. he has seen this winter. I shall miss his company.

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