|Common Crane Grulla Comun Grus grus|
Saturday 26 November 2011
Leaving the house early we travelled down the mountain passing a Kestrel and pair of Hoopoes followed by half a dozen Azure-winged Magpies as we came off the last hill before Antequera on our way to join the monthly meeting of the Andalucia Bird Society (ABS) at Laguna Dulce. Whilst we left in brilliant blue skies with lovely sunshine, as soon as took the Campillos road from the motorway we were in very low mist and much reduced visibility. A good job that the start time was 10 rather than 9.30 or we would have seen nothing; as it was a couple of members actually drove past the laguna lay-by such was the poor visibility.
To be expected, the early sightings were restricted to the near water and consisted mainly of close by Coots, a trio of Black-winged Stilts and a few hazy Mallards and Shovelers. We had already passed a small flock of Cattle Egrets following a ploughing tractor just before the venue and there was a further handful to the left of the hide along with the odd Lapwing and Moorhen. As the mist rapidly lifted so we gained better views of the above plus a good number of both Little and Black-necked Grebes. At the rear of the water a resting Marsh Harrier was quite visible perched on a dead tree until it, along with a second individual, entertained us to a slow fly-past.
Now with full light we were able to pick out more species including good numbers of both Common Pochard and Red-crested Pochards. Similarly, there were very good numbers of White-headed Ducks but only a handful of Gadwall. Only Black-headed Gulls were readily observable whilst, in the bushes below us, there was constant activity from mainly Chiffchaffs, a few Stonechats and a Black Redstart. We also had the occasional Corn Bunting and, as usual, a good number of White Wagtails. Similarly, a look at the trees behind the hide and neighbouring reeds also produced Goldfinches, Serins, House Sparrows and a pair of Zitting Cisticolas.
|Part of a 300 plus-strong flock of Cranes|
Only a very small number of Cranes flying in the far distance but no chance of landing on their regular feeding field as the week-end hunters were out in force. Even the Jackdaws and Spotless Starlings remained in closely grouped flocks near the distant ruined farm. However, perhaps the biggest thrill of the morning was to find a Merlin resting on a distant fence post but still easily identifiable. What a great bonus!
Whilst the remainder of the group were going to take a look at the neighbouring Campillos lakes and then move westwards towards Olivera, Chris and I left within a couple of hours to visit Fuente de Piedra and the small Laguna Herrera. The drive round to the back of the Fuente laguna produced more Serins and Crested Larks before finding a large flock of 300+ Cranes on a grassy field between the olive groves in the direction of Laguna Dulce. We had previously counted about 20 Cranes in the shallows of the laguna but little else and no sign of any Flamingos.
With very little else to see we continued on the main Visitors’ Centre passing a large feeding flock of Rock Doves. Nothing in the nearby pools but there was plenty to see on the main water including a raft of about 300 Lesser Black-backed Gulls. In the same area there was a large flock of mainly adult Flamingos and a handful of Shelduck. Even with more Flamingos to the left of the Mirador, the total number of Flamingos present is now probably down to the mid-hundreds rather than the tens of thousands of the early summer. On the fence in front of the stream a lonely Sardinian Warbler competed with Stonechats and House Sparrows.
|Quartering Marsh Harrier Aguilucho Lagunero Circus aeruginosus|
The small laguna at the rear of the Centre was relatively quiet with a mainly Shovelers and a few Mallards in addition to the resident Coots. However, we did find five Teal and a rather lovely Marsh Harrier. A very loud Cetti’s Warbler made his presence known along with a healthy number of Stonechats.
The continuing clockwise circuit of the laguna brought not only a good number of Lapwings and a large flock of Calandra Larks but a further 150+ Cranes. This smaller flock was much nearer to the road so we were able to achieve far better views and distinguish many juveniles.
The Laguna Herrera was rather disappointing in that, whilst there was water, the levels were still insufficient to start attracting ducks, Flamingos and Avocets. A couple of White Wagtails, three Black-winged Stilts and a reasonable sized flock of Black-headed Gulls was all we got for our trouble. On the other hand, we did have good views of Buzzard, a number of Kestrels and at least five individual Hoopoes. On the flooded field behind, in addition to the gulls, were a couple of Herons and a single Little Egret.
|Adult Common Cranes|
And so back to Casa Collado where we were welcomed back up the mountain by more Serins and a pair of Rock Buntings at the bottom of the drive. All in all, a rather lovely extended morning with a final tally of 44 species.
|Juvenile Crane looking for his Mum!|
|The graceful flight of departing Common Cranes|
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Flamingo, Cattle Egret, Heron, Little Egret, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Merlin, Moorhen, Coot, Crane, Black-winged Stilt, Lapwing, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Hoopoe, Crested lark, Calandra Lark, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Chiffchaff, Sardinian Warbler, Azure-winged Magpie, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting and Rock Bunting.
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