06/10 : Laguna Dulce & Fuente de Piedra

It was later than I hand intended when I arrived at the laguna Dulce, not that I needed to have hurried as it was a grey, coolish and definitely uninspiring morning with little promise of bettering at 09.50. Visibility wasn't great, not that it mattered as the lake was hardly teeming with birds. Coots, of course and most of those were along the far shore, a smattering of Mallards, 7 female Pintails to give some class, at least 20 Black-necked Grebes and 3 Great Crested Grebe, with a head count of 48 White-headed Ducks, which was quite an increase on the previous week.
From there it was a gentle ride to Fuente de Piedra, in parts perforce of circumstances beacause of the damned great potholes in the road to Sierra de Yeguas but at least the mud has either dried or been shovelled off. First stop was the top overlooking the laguna and it was here that I came upon the first of 2 Hen Harriers which made itself highly conspicuous by doing an ungainly crash landing in the top of an olive tree, the other being round at Cantarranas.
At Cantarranas the sun was starting to break through and two Common Buzzards flew off, possibly the same pair I had seen last week some 5kms away whilst I was to see a third later one, this last being given a good beating up by a Black-winged Kite (this is the correct name, not Black-shouldered). I think these little kites must have something about other birds of prey overflying as on Wednesday we saw another beating up a Booted Eagle. A single female Marsh Harrier sat in a field, they must be a philosophic species, either that or it had indigestion.
The road along from Cantarranas towards Fuente de Piedra has taken a fair beating and the fields on either side are full of washed channels and it was in and around one of these with a nice erosion channel that I came across a Grey Wagtail, saw 3 Northern Wheatears, the last being a big bird (photo on left) which I reckoned was one of the Greenland race, so notable were the differences in size, stance, plus colouration. It was while I was watching these that some Skylarks flew over and I saw the first of 3 Hoopoes for the day.
The last part of the morning was spent around the information centre and in the field on the right with the tower, just after one has turned of the road and which last winter hardly ever had a Stone-curlew in what had been a traditional site, abandoned then because I think that there was too much vegetation and which has been harrowed and sown with something held no less than ca.45 of these enigmatic birds. A lovely sight.
The water level has fallen slightly in the lake and there were certainly fewer Flamingos and Shovelers but this was compensated for by a big rise in Avocets, there being over a hundred, plus a smaller rise in Stilt numbers. I could only count 10 Ruff but the tamarisks hid part of the shore line. A look at the lake at the back revealed little except this rather fine adult Ocellated Lizard (above), very possibly the same that was there all last summer.
A surprise bird was a a solitary Common Swift which led a small migrant group of House Martins and 3 or 4 Red-rumped Swallows and I had previously seen a handful of Barn Swallows. To finish off I took the first part of the path over the walk way - what a pity that area is dry! and received a final reward in the form of this Southern Grey Shrike which couldn't make up its mind which way to go! Nothing rare but some rather nice views and a damned sight better than being at home.

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