Having been busy with family visitors recently it was nice to be able to get out birding once again as I was going "Cold turkey". So, on a wet and rainy Saturday we headed over to Fuente de Piedra where Mick Richardson and others had reported seeing a White Winged Tern, which would be a lifer for me.
At first I was concerned that we may have missed out as it was not over the flooded field where everyone had reported seeing it. However as we walked across the boardwalk beyond the Visitors Centre Elena spotted it flying overhead back towards the entrance.
For the next hour or so it quartered the wetland just to the left of the access road. I think it is a very attractive member of the Tern family. Not as elegant or delicate as some but the contrasting black and white plumage more than makes up for it.
I became concerned that for all its wheeling and swooping it never entered the water or caught any fish. Then it dawned on me that of course all "Marsh" Terns feed mainly upon insects which they either hawk from the air or dip down to pluck from the surface of the water.
As well as the solitary White Winged Tern there were plenty of Whiskered and some Gull Billed Terns around.
It was interesting to distinguish the species in winter plumage, many of them 1st winter birds, lacking any real distinguishing features of adults in Summer plumage. I think the majority were Whiskered. Although lacking the dark grey colouring of an adult bird in Summer there was evidence of breast-side dark patches and other features that indicate whiskered.
The next photo is of a very similar bird which has a relatively small bill, the black patch behind the eye extends around the neck and there appears to be a slight breast side grey patch, all features of Whiskered not gull Billed, and is there just a hint of red in those legs? I don't know but if I had to put money on it I would say Whiskered Tern.
There were of course plenty of other species to be seen. I am not a lister so won't recall every species but post a few shots of some. The Curlew Sandpipers were particularly attractive in transitional moult, still having plenty of russet, almost brick red plumage.
Avocets are very common in Andalucia and so tend to get overlooked by Spanish birders, but there is no denying that they are one of the most elegent of waders. I remember the fuss and excitement generated when Avocets first returned to breed at Halvergate Island in Suffolk back in the eighties. In fact I spent a blissful night anchored by that island in a little sailing boat back then and being thrilled to see these charming birds for the first time.
Other birds spotted include Ruff, Shelduck, Squacco Herons, Wood and Common Sandpiper, Marsh Harrier, a single Whinchat, Common and Red Crested Pochard, White Headed Duck and of course many Greater Flamingos, which look best in flight I think.