10/11 : Fuente de Piedra

After the vast quantities of rain which have fallen in the past fortnight and having postponed two trips to Fuente de Piedra, even though I have had one or two interesting records from home including a very late Pallid Swift on 07/11 which fed in front of the apartment for about 3 minutes, and a male Peregrine which overflew the garden the follow day, plus the Black Redstarts have arrived down (with up to 4 in the garden squabbling about winter territories), and Chiffchaffs are present. So, when the metcast for Staursday was favourable, I was up to Fuente de Piedra in the company of Sandra, a long time friend and expert on raptor tracking who has worked on the reintroduction of the Imperial Eagles, Bonelli's Eagles and this year on Egyptian Vultures on Lanzarote and Fuerteventura.
   We didn't look at the laguna Dulce as my information was that the road from the Campillos direction to Sierra de Yeguas and the branch to Fuente was a claggy meass and last time it took four turns (4 euros)  to blast the mud off the underside of the wheel arches.
    The lake is full, there is water in the area to the side of the information centre where there is ther board walk and the fields beyond are slushy, (photo above) plus the lake behind the centre is so full that there is no shore space for ducks to haul out or for many waders to stand around. Indeed we didn't see a single a Avocet and in the waders line around 30 Stilts, 2 Green Sandpipers, a Wood Sandpiper, 4 Little Stints and singles of Redshank and Greenshank and some Lapwings which panicked every time a Marsh Harrier came near - hardly brimming over with birds. Relatively sparse too was the duck population with the usual Mallards, quite a few Shovelers but nothing like the numbers that will come in, some 40 Teal came in and out like bullets. It was whilst along the board walk way that we heard, but didn't see, small numbers of Cranes, but there aren't many in yet.
    In the raptor line, to please Sandra, there were some 3 or 4 Marsh Harriers, including a female which nailed a rabbit, although the rabbit wasn't too happy about it. We found a couple of Hen Harriers, a juvenile with its reddish brown body and an adult female, a couple of Common Buzzards and a Booted Eagle and nice little male Kestrel. A pair of Ravens flew over and attracted the attention of the Kestrel, but we would rather it had been a Black-winged Kite, like the last time I was there.
    There were were plenty of passerines around, including the Southern Grey Shrike which was probably the same that featured in a blog some weeks since as it was in the same place- We ran in to Bob Wright who told us of the presence of Spanish Sparrows, they're very skittish amd difficult to get a bead on as they mix with the House Sparrows, and it was with them that we found a Chaffinch and also a female Reed Bunting. Thearea were hordes and hordes of White Wagtails, to say hundreds would not, I think, be underestimating - at one point I had 15 in binocular view! - and more surprising was the preseance of at least 3 Yellow Wagtails, all immatures, with these. Theare wwere several Black Redstarts, the males are really stunning, around the centre, but the prize for bird of the day award must go to a first winter male Common Redstart, which was very late.
A very pleasant mornings birding and with a bit of luck I might even get down to the Guadalhorce this Tuesday, although the temperature at this moment is only some 7ºC but I've got the winter gear out ready!


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