13 January : Laguna Dulce & Fuente de Piedra

First, the rectification of an omission in my last entry from when Ron and I visted La Janda on 08 January. I forgot to say that we didn't see or hear a single Crane, a rather surprising default of a species which is common if not numerous on La Janda during the winter months.
So, that done now for today's outing which started at the Laguna Dulce, just outside Campillos at just before 10 this morning with the temperature showing a pleasant 3ºC but no wind, excellent light and sunshine.
Water levels are going down steadily there and the effects are showing with the huge fall in both numbers and variety if ducks and grebes, simply because the water depths are now insufficient to sustain them. The only grebe we saw was Little, and few of those, and there were a few Mallards and Shovelers, with a few Gadwall. A group of 18-19 Red-crested Pochards was showing itself way out on the far side of the lake, the males splendid in the sunshine but the surprise was the presence of 2 male Wigeon which promptly attached themselves to a swarm of Coots which came out in one solid block until a female Marsh Harrier showed itself and they then had a mass panic and scuttered and splashed for cover. Here we did see some Cranes, estimated at 26-27 birds as we were on the road with no way of stopping.
An interesting extra was a Mongoose which Ron saw as it scampered across some sand over to the right from the hide.
From there we went to Fuente de Piedra, stopping first at the fairly recently opened observation point at Las Latas, seeing a Southern Grey Shrike on the way. This new lookout point gives a magnificent view the whole length of the lake on days like today. The lake is drying out and although I didn't make any sort if estimate there is no doubt that numbers of Flamingos have fallen considerably since I was last there on 16 December 2014. I checked carefully but no signs of any Lessers and breeding looks very unlikely this year as there is insufficient water, only 23 cms when they need a minimum of 30 cms at the end of February if there is to be any chance if breeding. The one small group that was displaying is going to be disappointed.
From Las Latas we went round to Cantarranas and here we did find some more Cranes, around 76 and later a field with another 188 (= quite a lot or ca.264 birds). Here too we found singles of Purple Boghen, Redshank and, with a very long range identification, a Water Pipit, as well as a pair of Avocets and another of Black-winged Stilts. Skylarks were overflying and judging by the density if their bubbling calls there were quite a lot, the bubbles being broken by the occasional harsh croak of a Raven.
Black Redstart
The final stop was the Information Centre, having seen another Southern Grey Shrike on the way, although we gave little credence to an English birder who reckoned he had seen both Woodchat and Red-backed Shrikes within the last month near Santa Pola (Alicante). 
A visit to the laguneta behind the centre and a short walk along the board walk. Here we did see some waders, the predominant species being Little Stint of which there were at least 67 and probaby a lot more, followed by Snipe with a few Lapwings, 4 Green Sandpipers and one Common Sandpiper and there were a few Little Ringed Plovers and a few Black-winged Stilts. Shoveler numbers are well down on previous years due to the drying out of the lake but there are still fair numbers of Teal and a few Pochards and Gadwalls. There were, of course, plenty of Chiffchaffs and a few Black Redstarts, of which the lovely male shown here was one. The reddish-brown on the lower flanks and belly possibly indicate a bird of more easterly origin, for example, Turkey, or perhaps an intergrade.
I think that there is little doubt that short of an abundant rainfall (of which there is little to no sign) the lake will be dry by the end of April, although I hope that the works done last year will enable it to maintain some water around the boardwalk area, which should make it very good for waders in March-May.

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