Another site I was pleased to have a closer look at this spring was Lagunas del Puerto de Santa Maria - and note that I've got the title of the place correct this time! It's such a mouthful that I usually call it 'Lagunas de Santa Maria', but this isn't strictly correct! Another slice of information that I discovered wasn't 'strictly correct' was that it was OK to drive along the track running along the eastern edge of Laguna Juncosa (a). We tried it, but were very pleasantly, but firmly, told that it was private. However, I suspect that birders walking along the track might be tolerated. The road along the side of the canal is still marked as 'No Entry', but as before this seems to be generally ignored by locals. I also found that the track from Exit 464 to Laguna del Hato Carne is signposted as a 'camino particular' (i.e. private road) although the sign is very small and easily missed. The other track seemed to have no such restriction although it got pretty after a small finca at the top of the hill.Laguna del Hato Carne - April 2013 from the finca (see map)
When wet the Laguna del Hato Carne is, by area, the largest of these lagunas, but it is very shallow and more often than not dry. The lack of vegetation around the laguna indicates this although it may also reflect a high level of salinity. Since March 2013 was one of the wettest on record, this photo probably indicates the laguna at its greatest extent. As the track down from a small finca (see map) was rather rough and time was pressing, I scanned the laguna from afar by 'scope. The few birds I could see included a handful of Flamingos, thin scattering of Black-winged Stilt around the margin and a few Collared Pratincoles flying over. It's probably not worth getting much closer given the wealth of more accessible similar habitats, but it was good to satisfy my curiosity about this laguna.Laguna Juncosa
If Laguna del Hato Carne was rather disappointing, Laguna Juncosa couldn't have been better. Usually clogged with a dense growth of juncus reeds, this spring it was a superb open water packed with birds. Waterfowl including Pochard, Red-crested Pochard, Gadwall, Shoveller and a handful of White-headed Duck, Dabchick and a couple of dozen gorgeous Black-necked Grebe cruised amongst the reeds, everywhere you looked Purple Gallinule strutted amongst the reeds and, best of all a Crested Coot - my first at this complex - drifted out of the reeds. In fact, this miniscule laguna had far more of interest than Laguna de Medina!Typical view over Laguna Salada (with passing Montagu's Harrier).
Laguna Salada is the larger of the three main lagunas of the nature reserve, but being tucked away into the rolling countryside it's difficult to view. The path is distant and the bushy surroundings make it impossible to view the near shore whilst the further one is too far away to get decent views. Some have walked around the fields on the perimeter of the lake to get a better view, but the 'guardian' here takes a dim view of this strategy! An alternative is to walk several hundred metres along the road following the canal (walk as it's narrow without anywhere to safely pull off. However, views are still distant and unsatisfactory. Another recurrent problem is that the track that runs down to the laguna (and on to Laguna Chica) can be impassably boggy. It was almost so when we visited in April when I got two wet and muddy feet for my pains. After a week or so of sunshine, though, it had dried out by early May. You can reach the shoreline of the laguna where the track forks off to Laguna Chica , but the views are actually worse as a thick growth of tamarisks give a blinkered vista over the water. I've had a variety of ducks here but spotting a Crested Coot, given the range and poor views, would require a lot of luck.Laguna Chica - the closer you get the less you can see!
This was the first time that I've been able to reach Laguna Chica since on every previous visit the thick girdle of gloopy mud around the footpath made further progress, sans wellies, impossible. When I eventually got there I found it to be a smaller version of Laguna Salada as it too is tucked away and difficult to view. Although it's smaller size make it marginally easier to get decent views of whatever ducks, grebes and coots might be swanning around on its surface.
About me ...
Hi I'm John Cantelo. I've been birding seriously since the 1960s when I met up with some like minded folks (all of us are still birding!) at Taunton's School in Southampton. I have lived in Kent , where I taught History and Sociology, since the late 1970s. In that time I've served on the committees of both my local RSPB group and the county ornithological society (KOS). I have also worked as a part-time field teacher for the RSPB at Dungeness. Having retired I now spend as much time as possible in Alcala de los Gazules in SW Spain. When I'm not birding I edit books for the Crossbill Guides series.