Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fuente de Piedra

Temp - 28C/31C - Windy with Scattered Cloud, then Clear - Wind ENE @ 18/22 mph
Laguna de Fuente de Piedra
The Laguna de Fuente de Piedra is a vast saline lake almost 7 kms in length and 2.5 kms in width. The lake, together with the areas of scrub, marsh and reedbeds that immediately surround it, has been given the status of Reserva Natural and has been fenced off to prevent human interference. That said there's a modern visitors centre with viewing gallery and plenty to explore, along with a couple of hides to investigate.

When you arrive at the centre you can't help being taken aback by the shear amount of Greater Flamingo that live and breed here. An initial scan of the lagoon from the observation area yielded small flocks of Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, a couple of Black-necked Grebe, Little Egrets and various numbers of Teal, Gadwall and Mallard. 

One of three Whinchat's during our visit
A central track runs left from the centre a leads between mixed agricultural fields and ends at a railway crossing around a kilometer away. By now it was almost blowing a gale but it didn't stop a Great Reed Warbler from appearing briefly, offering short but excellent views. A single Cattle Egret seemed wedged in the treeline, wings askew but after a short battle it managed to settle in the swaying trees. Before long a check of the fences around the perimeter gave up a couple of Spotted Flycatchers and at least two pair of Stonechat. Overhead small passages of Meadow Pipit, with a few settling on the fences, plus a constant flow of both Red-rumped and Barn Swallow. It seems that the terns have already moved on but a steady stream of gulls, mainly Black-headed with a few Yellow-legged. The fields on the opposite side of the lagoon are always worth a look but unfortunately unlike our last visit in April 2012, when they had just been ploughed, the crop was yet to be sown. Still, we did manage Crested Lark, Northern Wheatear and Yellow Wagtail.

Peek a Boo! - a gorgeous Little Owl
Heading back past the centre a lone Common Kestrel overhead, the call of Cetti's Warbler and a distant Booted Eagle, plus an opportunity to search a few of the larger trees and rocky knolls. Here, perched in one of the trees and to Dave's delight a gorgeous Little Owl, which gave a few photographic opportunities before making off and perching on a nearby rock.

One of several Stonechats
It's always a risk coming here in the late summer, and although the lagoon is fed by several small streams, it is dependent on adequate rainfall to supply other flood meadows. Unfortunately, as we approached the boardwalk, which was rich with waders during our last visit, the lack of water was very obvious. However, we still walked down to that area and were rewarded with a single Lapwing♂Stonechat and around a half dozen Yellow Wagtail, which included at least one juvenile Blue-headed Wagtail.

Juvenile Woodchat Shrike
Moving off the boardwalk and heading off to investigate the lagunetta hide a juvenile Woodchat Shrike perched nicely on the fencing. A good deal of water still here and this is where we eventually found the waders. Three Spotted Redshank, along with Redshank, Sanderling, at least two dozen Greater Flamingo, Kentish, Little-ringed and Ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Dunlin, Little Stint and a lone Common Snipe.

Record shot of Long-legged Buzzard!
Once you have investigated this part of the site you can drive around the rest of the lagoon, It's best you do this in an anti-clockwise direction. As you can imagine it can be a stop start affair with lots to investigate and as it happens this was the case. Short-toed Eagle, Whinchat, Zitting Cisticolas and Marsh Harrier were all recorded. At one point at Mirador de Cantarranas a group of around six Marsh Harriers were mobbing a single large raptor, at first sight an Eagle Sp. was suspected but after returning home I believe it to be a Long-legged Buzzard, and although not uncommon these days around this area, another Andalusia first to end this trip!