21/04 : double entry - laguna Dulce & Fuente de Piedra; Sierra María

A double entry this afternoon, both from yesterday. First a quickie of my own with Federico to the laguna Dulce and Fuente de Piedra, the second, which I have seen after starting my own, is one from Dave E-B to the Sierra María.

Also, before reading on, my thanks to Clive for suggseting how to deal with the downloading problem. A friend who knows about these things is going to attack it this coming week as I, like a certain animal, am '...a bear of very little brain'.

FEDERICO & SELF : Laguna Dulce & Fuente de Piedra
An early start with Federico meant that we were at the laguna Dulce (Campillos) by 09.00 and things augured well as in the final 3 kms before arriving a pair of Montagu's Harriers overflew and we saw a Little Owl sitting high up on a telegraph pol, whilst later we saw a Common Buzzard. Plenty of ducks still, although numbers have Red-headed Pochard have definitely fallen.
There was a decent scattering of ducks of various species, all relatively common, and there were noteworthy numbers of Black-necked Grebes, very bonny in their breeding plumage. At least 4-5 Whiskered Terns quartered the lake and there was some movement of lazy flying of Gull-billed Terns while a pair of Black Terns which disappeared rapidly, no doubt fed-up of dodging the fast moving Common Swifts and hirundines, something which did not bother the single Glossy Ibis.
Scanning across the fields at the back to the sound of a Nightingale trying a few exploratory phrases and the chuntering of a Great Reed Warbler, we found at least 3 Little Bustards, including a male which displayed briefly for Federico.
From there it was on to Fuente de Piedra and spotting 3 Black Kites and a female Marsh Harrier on the way. The lake is drying out very rapidly and I doubt if there were 100 Greater Flamingos present in total. In fact, all the close range action is of waders on both sides of the board walk and on the large flooded flash on the left as one drives in where there are also some ducks.
If my notes are correct (always dubious), we saw no less than 12 species. Discounting the resident breeding Stilts, Avocets and the very few Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers, the remaining 8 were migrants all feeding very busily and refuelling as these birds are the ones that will go furthest north up beyond the Arctic Circle by the end of May. These included fair numbers of Redshanks, somewhere in the region of 20 Ruffs (above L), some Curlew Sandpipers - some of which were starting to show their beautiful breeding plumage, a trio of Dunlin which had obviously found some soot in which to sit, 20+ Little Stints, a pair of Sanderlings which never fail to fool me as theirs breeding pluamge is so different to the winters and, finally, a pair of Wood Sandpipers, one of which was a real stunner in full breeding plumage (R).
I reckon that the flashes around the board walk area should be good for waders for about anohter 10 days, in spite of them having shrunk considerably.

DAVE E-B : Sierra de María
This is what happens when Dave is left on his own ..... and I don't blame him one little bit!
Gilly, having advanced in her yoga sessions, was on a weekend retreat. (is that a contradiction in terms?) I took the opportunity to visit the Sierra de Maria on my own to attempt to hone my camera skills.
After a coffee at the Repsol garage cafe in the town, I headed up towards the chapel and the Botanical Garden. On the journey to Maria I'd already seen Black Wheatear, Crag Martin and a Kestrel amongst others. I disturbed a large flock of Goldfinches and Chaffinches on the almonds trees as I approached the chapel car park. I wandered over towards the water trough where I was rewarded with a male Common Redstart in full breeding plumage sitting on the waters edge. In the large bush near the poplar tree was a pair of singing Nightingales.
     Walking up towards the Information Centre, a flight of 15 Bee-eaters flew over. There were two male Stonechats and a single female on the shrubs ( It'll all end in tears!). Also seen were a pair of Cirl Buntings and some very obliging Long-tailed Tits. I got to the Centre at 09.55hrs....Due to open at 10.00hrs. Managed to see Crossbill and Rock Bunting before someone turned up at 10.13 precisely...not that I was clock watching.....much!      
I was on my own round the gardens and middle walk so I could take my time. Had good views of Crested Tit, Bonelli's Warbler, Subalpine Warbler and Short-toed Treecreeper but alas no sight or sound of Melodious or Western Orphean Warblers yet. There was another pair of Stonechat there as well. A few Griffon Vulture silently drifted overhead.
I then headed for the La Piza recreation area. A Woodlark was again on the football goalposts. I parked next to a small puddle where I saw Crested Tit and Crossbill drinking from on my arrival. I ate my lunch, but the birds weren't thirsty enough to venture back.
 I then headed home and then to a belated Golden Wedding Anniversary party at Dave and Myrtle's house. Congratulations to them.

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