24 February : Fuente de Piedra

A smashing morning yesterday at Fuente de Piedra along with my old friend Ron and another from when we started the Seabird Group back in 1965, Prof. Chris Feare who has spent a chunk of his time studying Sooty Terns in the Seychelles these past 40 years. Chris was telling us how the ability to track birds by logging, GPS and satellites has revealed some incredible results of 'his' birds, including one bird which last year flew some 61.000 kms, flying into the Bay of Bengal and then as far east as Malaysia and that part of the world after breeding! It was as much as a chat session by old men about birds and birding in general, slagging off rarities committees and talking about old friends, some of whom who have sadly fallen off the planet (after all, between us we had something like 210 years of birding experience), about real birding which is observation and not just making lists on a beautiful, cold and rather windy morning.
Water levels in the laguna have risen to around 30cms but there are very few Flamingos present and breeding seems about as likely as me swimming to Morocco. The flash of water on the left on the way in showed the usual ducks, a few Teal and Shoveler but the avian presence was dominated by some 75 Black-tailed Godwits, some coming into breeding plumage,and we also found a couple of Snipe and at least 3 Little Stints. We ran into Antonio Tamayo from the Guadalhorce and he and Adrian had seen 4 Yellow Wagtails and a Wryneck whilst I was introducing Chris, who is setting up a home in Antequera, to Manolo Rendón, high serang of Fuente de Piedra and an excellent person and biologist.
It was lovely to see the Barn Swallows and House Martins as they flew low over the water looking for insects, and also to hear the Barn Swallows chittering, a real sign of spring. There were a few Chiffchaffs and we then got to talking about the fall in numbers of species in western Europe this autumn and wintear after running into an Irish birder when we went up to Cantarranas. It really as been an odd winter, although having seen the number of Chiffs at the Charca de Suárez last week with Bob, I reckon that most were wintering there!
It was at Cantarranas that we hoped to see the 7 (yes, seven) Great Bustards that had been seen on Monday but instead we ran into a large flock of Cranes, with odd smaller units, whch we rough counted at ca.540 birds, a lot for this date as they are usually reducing in numbers by mid February. We also saw 4 Marsh Harriers during the morning, an immature male and then 3 full and splendidly plumaged adults at Cantarranas, these migrating north before the females in order to set up breeding territories once on the breeding grounds.
So, home and to the new acquisition, a young long-haired teckel (male but the crown jewels will go soon) and with one blue eye and one brown, by name of Whisky. My children have been after me getting one for a long time and I suspect that I may have been set up, and Monday morning I succumbed. He is bright and delightful and will certainly keep me busy. The Phantom Piddler strikes again and is currently running around with a chew in his mouth!

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