23 April : Fuente de Piedra & laguna Dulce

This has been Ron's last visit to Fueante de Piedra this winter as he returns to Yorkshire next week and won't be back until next December, so I hoped that we would have some luck, and luck we had in fairly large quantities. We set off earlier, hoping to miss any school trips and failed dismally, but even the noisy teenagers  failed to spoil our morning. So, what made the morning so good?
The answer: WADERS IN LARGE NUMBERS, starting off with large numbers of Little Stints, many in superbly pristine breeding plumage but very flighty, as indeed were most of the waders. And how many of these? Well, we estimated at least 100. Not bad for a start.
But better was to come with an estimated 80+ Curlew Sandpipers, some still in winter plumage but most showing signs of change and at least 2 in full, resplendent breeding plumage. 
These were followed numerically by 60+ Dunlin. Then there were the other lesser numbers of the 12 species of waders seen whichg included 30+ Ringed Plovers, 10+ Redshanks and 4 Common Sandpipers with singles of Ruff, Wood Sandpiper, Turnstone and Greenshank, plus, of course, the ever present and uncounted Black-winged Stilts and Avocets.
But there was even more to come with the presence of 2 rather distant Lesser Flamingos over to the right from the Information Centre (this rather poor evidential record photo on the left where the colour difference can be appreciated) and a further scan along the lake towards the breeding colony revealed another, even more distant, pair. By chance we ran in to my old friend Manolo Rendón, the director there, and he believes that there might even be a third pair. And to add even more force to the wild birds theory, none of these were ringed.
There were 7 pairs of Red-crested Pochards on the lake behind the Information Centre  as well as a few Pochards, Shovelers and a few Mallards, with Avocets apparently sitting fast on the islands, and all to the warbling of a Nightingale..
From there it was off to the laguna Dulce for a last look, stopping at the west end of the Fuente de Piedra laguna to see if we could find the third pair but no luck, although we were treated to a Cuckoo calling but which refused to respond to our calls.
The laguna Dulce is still full of Coots, the predominant species by a great magnitude, god knows where they will all breed, or perhaps they are immatures. Thgere were few pairs of Great Crested and Black-necked Grebes, as well as a few Little Grebes, plus 3 Red-crested Pochards. We saw 4 Marsh Harriers, a male plus 3 immature birds, with a distant female Montagu's Harrier and on the road after leaving had brief views of 2 male Monty's. Of note was the constant, generally northerly, flux of Common Swifts all morning with a few Pallid Swifts, probably about 1% of the total, intermingled.
And thus ended Ron's winter in Málaga and we look forward to next winter, all things being equal.
A note from Mick Richardson of Loja, who yesterday visited the Guadalhorce where he recorded ca.70 Little Terns in front of the reserve and down at Calaburras there was still a single Purple Sandpiper present.

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