My first target was to investigate the track off the A 351 by the 14 km post (c3km north from Laguna de la Turquillas) which promised to give better views of the location of Laguna de Ruiz Sanchez. Set amongst low hills about 1.5 km east of the A 351 this tantalising laguna was once the largest lake (356 hectares) in the complex and the second largest in Andalucia – only Fuente de Piedra is larger.
However, it was drained in 1967 and converted to farmland. Fortunately, it was purchased by the Andalucian junta in 2006 for 6 million euros and in 2009 an ambitious restoration project began. Costing 435,000€ the project involves building two dams, adding culverts and diverting a stream to increase water flow into the laguna. It was previously home to Marbled, Ferruginous & White-headed Ducks and Crested Coot. When I passed this way in March 2013, after a wet winter, it was alive with birds – mainly waders & ducks, but viewing from the A 351 was so distant that about all can be identified with confidence are Flamingos!
Another track I've been meaning to investigate is one that runs across the fields near two fincas on the SE 716 (see map). It turned out to be in excellent condition and allowed good views across the fields. I failed to find any bustards or sandgrouse (as hoped), but the diversion was worth it for good views of Montagu's Harrier and a very obliging Stone-curlew.
It was good to join other ABS members on Saturday meeting several friends (esp. Peter Jones, Derek & Barbara Etherton) and make a few new ones. Peter took us further along the Vereda del Alamillo than I'd ventured previously. Despite a dull start – with young olive trees dominating – it was good to find that the authorities had built a brand new Lesser Kestrel tower here (c1 km). I'm somewhat agnostic about these structures here as there are still many ruined fincas in the area with many suitable crannies for nesting kestrels. However, the kestrels had already taken up residence so perhaps it's not such a waste as I assumed.
Another 2 km along the Vereda del Alamillo brings you to a collection of ruined farm buildings beyond which the track degenerates still further. This is an excellent site for Rollers - we had two here despite it still being fairly early in the 'season' - and where we also had our only Black-winged Kite of the day. Apparently the fields between the tower and the ruins can be good for both bustards and Black-bellied Sandgrouse (per Peter Jones).