Tuesday 29/01, laguna de Fuente de Piedra. A lovely morning, as indeed all mornings have been this week after the initial cold of the night has been burnt off by the sun. We met at the carpark and set off first for Cantarranas where we ran into a very large raptor, notably larger than the 3 Buzzards we saw that morning and which took up a lot of time as it was quite distant. It was an object lesson in the effects of light as it showed a different back colour according to angle of light, ranging from mid brown in flight to nearly black when perched with a very upright stance. And when it flew very low from one tree to another it showed mid brown upper parts with a barred tail with a notably wider subterminal band and between the shoulders a large persil-white inverted triangle, visible with the naked eye at virtually a kilometer range. Indeed, it looked more like a target and was very different to the more normal upper back marking. What we could see of the underparts was white to off white from chin to ventral region, with no spotting/streaking visible. The head was basically greyish-brown with a paler supercilium. Eventually, after much thought and speculation, we decided that it was 3rd/4th year Bonelli's Eagle with a somewhat abnormal plumage.
While we watched we could hear and see plenty of Skylarks and some Cranes and by the time we had finished with the oddity we just had time to take a look at the laguna area near the information centre scrape and the board walk area where there were Teal and lots of Shovelers, plus some Shelduck. There was little in the wader line with only 6 Black-tailed Godwits to lighten the morning before it was time to head for home, but not before agreeing to meet again on Thursday and take a look first at the laguna Dulce near Campillos.
31/01 Laguna Dulce & Fuente de Piedra Another excellent morning with no puzzles. Before Ron and I even arrived at the lake a Southern Grey Shrike had flown off a telegraph pole. Chris was already waiting for us and the lake itself showed a goodly assortment of waterfowl with Mallard, lots of Pochards and Shovelers, a few Teal and Gadwall, but only one each of White-headed Duck and Red-crested Pochard, these being outnumbered by the 3 male Tufted Ducks, a not too common winter visitor to these latitudes. It was nice to see the Black-necked Grebes and a few Great Crested Grebes, with good numbers of Little Grebes feeding. Ron found a couple of Purple Boghens feeding on the far side of the lake about as far away as it was possible to get.
There was a nice little variety of raptors with a single Buzzard, a female Hen Harrier and a couple of Marsh Harriers, one an immature female with just a hint of white along inner forewing and the other an old female with a huge amount of white on her forewings.And while the harriers tried to harry, the Lapwings had combined heart attacks at their presence and a flock of 60+ Golden Plovers whizzed back and forth on the horizon. Nice!
PUZZLE PHOTO - FIND THE CETTI'S WARBLER AND WIN NOTHING!
There is one in there, I promise.
From there it was onwards to Fuente de Piedra and the first stop was at Cantarranas, but no Bonelli's to puzzle us, instead there was a Buzzard sitting on the same branch in the same tree. A couple of Ravens flew across to the background of more Skylarks bubbling, saw a nice male Blackcap and then we found the Cranes feeding way over, lots of them, so we did what any normal birder does, we counted them, all 280 or so in several groups.
It was while we were watching the Cranes that our attention was distracted, first by a distant lump which was presumed to be earth but turned out to be a Little Owl when 'scoped, then further down the road by a Tree Sparrow which Ron saw and Chris and I didn't, a pity as they are distinctly uncommon in Málaga province. Then, carefully ignoring the many White Wagtails, we picked up at least one female Reed Bunting and something else, in fact 2 something-elses, which did not want to be identified easily and were outstanding by their general dullness and general lack of salient features. However, once home and able to consult his field guide, Ron was first to come up with a positive i/d that they were two 1st winter female Cirl Buntings.
By which time it was time set off home as I don't like leaving my aged spaniel for more than five hours or little more at a stretch, even though I am pretty sure that she had spent all morning on the terrace asleep in the sun.