10/04 : Fuente de Piedra & Laguna Dulce


A much-needed escape for a morning's birding to take in Fuente de Piedra and the laguna Dulce, starting at Fuente before 10.00. It was painfully obvious that water levels had fallen considerably and Greater Flamingo numbers too, the latter falling from near the 10.000 mark to around 1.200 birds in the week since my last visit - and not a Lesser Flamingo in the place. Any breeding is now thought to be very unlikely and the dry conditions also appear to be affecting not only the reduced number of migrant waders but also the numbers and breeding energies of Little Ringed Plovers and Stilts, although this pair of Avocets (above) weren't going to be put off. I didn't do any real estimates of numbers (there were far too many school children around) and the stints - mostly Little from the ones I could see clearly and the Temminck's continues to skulk around the pond edges on the right as one enters the board walk and the same area still harbours the quite elusive Water Pipit. Redshanks were all over the place, although the Ruffs didn't seem too concerned and included one bird still in its 1st winter plumage (R) and without the bright yellow-orange legs. Even the dorsal colouring is variable once one really starts to look at them. The shot here (L) shows from top to bottom an adult, the aforementioned immature and the smart Wood Sandpiper that's been around for a while, but a Green Sandpiper pushed off rapidly. The wind was getting up by now and a quick stop at the Cantarranas mirador showed only 2 Shelducks, the only ones of the day, out on the lake, as well as an immature Marsh Harrier, very probably a female. Another stop at the end of the lake going across towards the road to Campillos showed the sorry picture of the extent of the flamingo departure (exeunt stage left, flying).
It was jolly windy at the laguna Dulce, the sort of wind that blows through the observation slits - jncidentally the three new observation slits are jolly useful - and peels your eyelids back against your forehead, and that, plus the waves(!) on the laguna made observation difficult. There are still something like 80+ Red-crested Pochards out on the lake and more of the Black-necked Grebes in their splendid breeding plumage, but conditions made photography diffiult and the results were frankly rubbish. The wind made telescope movement difficult at high magnifications but there were certainly 4 Whiskered Terns, 2 adults and 2 which I couldn't decide of they were immatures or unmoulted adults, possibly the latter, plus 3 Black Terns, one still in winter plumage. In the end the conditins beat the clock and I beat a strategic retreat, but not before seeing a distant young adult female Marsh Harrier being given some stick by the ever present Ravens.

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