17/06 : the Campillos lakes

As promised at the end of my last blog, this last Monday Federico and myself went for a look around the lakes to the south of Campillos, not just the well known laguna Dulce, although that is where we started. I haven't been to the others for many years, largely because I've always been too short of time but now that excuse has gone after the death of my old spaniel, we started early and arrived back in Torremolinos much later than normal. So, lake by lake, here is the account of our long morning which started with a hot sun but clouding over very ominously later and wind which was just a mite too strong for our liking. Reference to site MA2 (page 182 et seq.) in that well known 'how to get lost and still enjoy birding' masterpiece Where to watch birds in southern and western Spain may help if you possess a copy.

Laguna Dulce: We started here at 098.00, the same old place with plenty of wavelets sufficient to hide the ducks and small grebes at times. There were 3 species of grebes  Great Crested, Black-necked and Little, plus Moorhen and Coot. We found no Red-knobbed Coots but the common have been most prolific and Federico found one with a black neck collar with white letters, which was duly read and reported to Manolo Rendón. There weren't many ducks in sight, most were hiding in the reeds, but a pair of Teal flighted in - rather a surprise at this date - and hid amongst the Flamingos feeding way over on the right (looking from the hide) and a single Whiskered Tern battled against the westerly wind of which the over-flying Gull-billed made light work. We reckoned that there were at least 4 Lapwings.
Our next stop meant going into Campillos and working our way through the town to the A-468 road which leads to all of the lakes. Lakes are not given in order of visit but in order along the road southeastwards.
Laguna Salada: This is just over 1 km out of the town on the left hand side. Park in the open space where there is a track which leads over the rise but beware. This can get very soft after rain and although I have never been caught in the clag, I know that others have and it was once a damned close run thing for myself. The track up to the top of the rise which overlooks the laguna can get very muddy and in winter you may end up with 10 kg feet. This is a big lake and, like the Dulce and the others, a 'scope is necessary. There wasn't a lot to be expected there and we weren't disappointed - Pochard, Mallard, White-headed Ducks, hundreds of Coots which have obviously enjoyed a good breeding year and more Flamingos and Gull-billed Terns, a few Stilts and Little Ringed Plovers. This site is much more worthwhile in the winter and at times there is flood water on the southwest side of the road and will repay a look. We shall be including it in our future itineraries. The best part birds here were undoubtedly some 2 or 3 Alpine Swifts seen very well as they flashed through amongst their commoner cousins.
Laguna Redonda: About a km. further along the road,  the last time I stopped here, about a decade since, it was a rubbish tip where a pair or so of Stilts rummaged amongst a dead refrigerator and sundry garbage in ghastly stagnant water. It has been cleaned out and enlarged and there is ample off-road parking and hide! Birds seen there included a Black-headed Gull, over-flying Gull-billed Terns, a pair of Little Ringed Plovers, a pair of Pochards with 6 ducklings and more White-headed Ducks. So, next stop ....
Laguna Capacete:  This is best seen as soon as one has gone over the railway bridge. Park carefully and 'scope the right hand area. This is the best area of the lake for migrant waders but we had Kentish and Little Ringed Plovers, the expected Black-winged Stilts and at least 2 pairs of Great Crested Grebes - these with 2 and 4 chicks respectively - and at least 2 pairs of Black-necked Grebes. A hundred metres or so further along off the bridge there is the entrance to a farm site where one can pull in. Big trucks use this and in the past we have had run-ins with stroppy drivers, so be warned! From there on to the final stop ....
Laguna del Toro: This lake is right by the road and one scarcely needs to get out of the car. We saw at least 25 Gull-billed Terns feeding over the lake and 2 Black-headed Gulls. Here too we found a pair of Black-necked Grebes with 3 chicks and a single Lapwing, Little Ringed Plover and hordes of Coots.
From there, having time in hand, we hied ourselves off to Fuente de Piedra under clouding skies, stopping to look down on the colony from the west end and also from Cantarranas in the forlorn hope of picking out a Lesser Flamingo, there being a pair nesting there in amongst some 3.000 Greaters. The colony is split into some 6 or 7 units this year because of the high water levels. We were joined by a single, raucous Raven but it didn't help us at all. Thbis has been a record breeding year for the Flamingos with some 20.000 pairs (yes, 20.000) and 15.000 chicks (give or take a few hundred either way), the only possible problem for the chicks being that there is too much water when they come to form the nursery (crêche, guardería) groups.
All in all, a very good morning's birding and we shall be doing the same route again come migration and winter.
And to finish, a story about a Lesser Flamingo from Kenya. reported this week in a mail from Colin Jackson :
The Ringing Scheme of East Africa has just received news of a Lesser Flamingo that was found freshly dead at Lake Baringo on 13th February this year with a ring. The incredible thing about it is that the ring was a BTO ring (British Trust for Ornithology) that was one of those rings used on a batch of several thousand Lesser Flamingo chicks that bred at at Lake Magadi in....1962!!  This bird was in fact ringed by none other than the very well-known Leslie Brown on 1st November 1962 making it 50 years, 3 months and 25 days old!
It must surely be the oldest recorded Lesser Flamingo and quite stunning that it lived for so long. A few years ago there was one recovered also at Magadi that was about 45 years old - there may be one or two more out there with rings from that time!   If anyone receives this who knows more about that ringing event of Lesser Flamingo chicks in 1962 - or was perhaps even there and took part, it would be really interesting to know the full story. I believe many of the chicks had got 'anklets' of encrusted soda formed around their legs which were acting as a 'ball and chain' and were killing the birds. Rescuers were breaking the balls of encrusted soda off and putting rings on thus saving the lives of many flamingos - some to live to over 50 years later!  The person who found the flamingo is Nick Armour of Swavesey, England, to whom we are indebted for reporting the ring. The distance from ringing site to recovery site is 242kms.

I actually remember the event and seeing film (what a memory!), presumably on the news or in some wildlife programme on the BBC, of what is said about the chicks being caught with soda anklets and thus prevented from moving, as is reported, plus the fact that many hundreds, if not thousands, were saved by volunteers carefully cracking off the sodium and thus releasing the chicks from a slow death.

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