31 October: I'm back! Fuente de Piedra

Greetings anyone who has been looking in vain for an entry, but I have been out of action with both eyes operated on for cataracts with a fairly high degree of success. Today, 31 October, was my first trip out apart from one last week when Federico took me down to the ponds. Otherwise, birding has been restricted to peering into a somewhat blurry world with occasional walks down the western bank of the Guadalhorce where there was a huge influx of Chiffchaffs after 21 October, peaking on 28 October. There were also 1 or 2 around in the garden but peering at everyone with binoculars at the ready gave me brief but very good views of a Yellow-browed Warbler on the same date. This bird was in the same tree and around the same date as the previous record in the garden some 10 years or more ago, the same year Ernest García found one in a supermarket down at Algeciras, feeing on insects in the fruit section! There have been lots of records in Andalucía with 5 ringed in Doñana and 3 in Gibraltar, thus surpassing their sum total of 2 over all the years. On 28 October I had 2 Red-rumped Swallows down by the river but fewer Chiffs..
So, today, 31 October, and with glasses to correct a slight myopia with which I have been left, today I took off for the Laguna Dulce at Campillos and then on to Fuente de Piedra, just to get out.
The laguna Dulce has much less water than when I last saw it, hardly surprising after this incredibly long, hot autumn and the high levels of evaporation, and the effect on the birds has been very negative. There were only 4 Red-crested Pochards, a few Shovelers, Mallard and Gadwall, plus a some 150 Coots and a single Black-necked Grebe. The best was a distant view of my first 4 Cranes of the autumn. Hardly earthshaking, so it was on to Fuente de Piedra.
The first good news is that after what has seemed to be an interminable wait the observation point at Las Latas, at the south end of the lake from where one can look down the length, is now operative. There is a parking area. then through a gate (please close the latch when leaving). The view, when there is water in the lake and it is full of birds, will be stupendous, but today there was little water and not a lot to see.
Las Latas observatory
view from Las Latas observatory
From there I went directly to the information centre, bypassing Cantarranas as it would mean looking directly into the sunlight. There wasn't much to see there either, except for a single adult Lesser Flamingo. By chance, my old friend Manolo Rendón emerged from his office, we talked and he suggested going to take a better look at the Lesser, an opportunity too good to miss, as he could also check out the Greaters for rings. Going in his Lnad Rover saved me a walk and we got nice and close and while he read rings, which apart from 8 from Fuente de Piedra ringed birds included 3 from the Camargue (S: France), one from Italy and one from Algeria.
He also told me that this year they had again had one of their oldest birds, a female born in the Camargue in 1977, which makes her 37 years old, back in the colony although they weren't sure if she had bred or not, although she did so last year. There was also a single Ruff and a few Black.winged Stilts, but most of the time we spent talking about future plans for Fuente de Piedra and, especially, for the Guadalhorce, all of which will be revealed in the fullness of time if all goes well but it sounds good, believe me.
So, I'm back in action and now for a few long distance shots of the Lesser which weren't helpoed by the heat haze. Heat haze on 31 October?

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