24/04 : Laguna Dulce & Fuente de Piedra

A morning out with Sandra Sierra - a bird of prey expert - and Chris Feare, possible the last before he goes back to the Seychelles to continue his 40 (yes, forty) year project with the Sooty Terns. Chris had brought some of the results of the tracking of these by satellite or geolocators - fascinating stuff. That's research! We met at the laguna Dulce just before 9 and it was undoubtedly the morning of the grebes, both Black-necked and the Great Crested, a pair of which engaged in front of the hide. The courtship of these beautiful grebes is fascinating and the series of three shots below, even though they were against the light, show a part of it, each bird mirroring the head and neck actions of the other, is a joy to behold.

Great Crested Grebe courtship display
The grebes apart, Reed Warblers sang, Coots pottered around and the morning was further enlivened by Chris finding a Red-knobbed Coot which we managed to see well. A few White-headed Ducks and a Little Grebe fed close to the hide and some Pochard were much further over, as were some 10 Whiskered Terns which flew into the wind feeding (what a wonderful invention is the telescope!) and Gull-billed Terns winged their way across on feeding trips. Not a single harrier was to be seen.
From there we went on to Fuente de Piedra, stopping to look down on the western end where the Greater Flamingos have settled down to breeding chores and also hearing the fluting calls of a Golden Oriole. From there it was straight to the information centre, noting on the way that the water flashes on the left side of the road had dried out, thus depriving us of a fruitful wader source and also seeing the only Marsh Harrier of the day, and later a nice male Lesser Kestrel. Not that there was a great quantity or variety of waders in any case, but it wasn't for lack of searching.
Spotted Redshanks and Ruffs
Spotted Redshank
 The best was the presence of 2 Spotted Redshanks, one well on its way to full spectacular breeding plumage, and an amusing moment when a Common Redshank walked by one stopping to look up at it - many birders do not realise how big a Spotted Redshank is in comparison with  Common, and if one looks at the photo with the Ruff (males) one can get a good idea of its bulk.
Although we didn't do any sort of really accurate count, numerically, the most abundant was very probably the Wood Sandpipers with at least 8-10 birds present - what a good spring for this lovely wader, followed by Common Redshanks (6+) and 4 Ruffs and the 2 Spotted Redshanks. There were very few small plovers and we only really saw Little Ringed and not a single stint. Where have these last gone? The same question has been posed throughout Andalucía about the lack of Garganey this spring but we did see 2 pairs of Shelducks and way over on the lake at least 8 Black Terns were feeding.
Separating  Black from Whiskered at a distance can be a bit difficult when both are in breeding plumage as the white cheeks of Whiskered are often difficult to see, a better clue is the colour of the back and upper wing, pale and generally tern-like in Whiskered, rather darker and with a brownish-grey tinge in Black.

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