It’s the first day of March, and with a couple of birdwatching friends birdwatchalpujarras is off to visit the saltwater lagoon of Fuente de Piedra. This fascinating stretch of wetland habitat can be productive at almost any time of year, and with the spring passage upon us the first of the season’s migrants may just have begun to arrive from African wintering grounds…
We arrived in the sunshine after an early start – with the first Barn Swallows I’ve seen this year waiting to greet us, perched on wires around the car park.
Goldfinches, Stonechat, Black Redstart, White Wagtails and House Sparrows all showed well around the visitors centre, where we decided to check out the smaller ponds first.
Other species of wintering wildfowl had already moved on, but the pools around the entrance to the reserve still held good numbers of Shoveler, along with a few Mallard. With the local Kestrel patrolling overhead we picked up Coot and Moorhen here of course, along with Cattle Egrets, Black-headed Gulls and a few Lapwing.
The breeding population of Greater Flamingos starts to return to Fuente de Piedra in December, and we could see rows of pink specks out in the heat haze shimmering over the shallow waters of the lake. The margins held a number of waders, including Redshank, Common and Green Sandpipers, and also Wood Sandpipers – a brand new species for me, and a personal highlight of the visit…
As always though the beautiful Black-winged Stilts stole the show, and we had fantastic views of these elegant birds throughout the day. Nice to see a few Teal too – a fairly common species back home but another first for me in Spain.
Away from the water’s edge, a Southern Grey Shrike caused consternation amongst the House Sparrow community when it arrived on the visitor centre’s roof, and then proceeded to give great views as it called loudly from its favourite look-out posts.
There were huge numbers of Corn Bunting around the reserve today, and their jangling, metallic calls – like rattled keys or broken glass – accompanied us as we took a drive around the lake to check out some other viewing points. Poor rainfall this winter has obviously kept water levels down, and some seasonally flooded areas were dry…
The surrounding farmland still gave us a distant Golden Eagle however, and we stopped to take a last look back out over the reserve before moving on. A hunting female Marsh Harrier brought a predictably unwelcome response from a huge flock of roosting gulls out on the lake, and we could pick out the darker Lesser Black-backed Gulls in the throng as they noisily rose to see the intruder off.
A wonderful few hours – and we’ll be certain to return to this remarkable reserve regularly over the coming season. Fuente de Piedra is just one of the many fantastic birding destinations we report from through the year. If you would like more information about our birdwatching trips and holidays down here in southern Spain, click here for more details…and please keep checking our posts for all our latest news!