Today we went to the coast at Huelva to visit the O'Diel natural park, the weather was smashing we listed nearly 90 species in some wonderful habitat.......
LAGUNA PRIMERA DE LOS PALOS – NATURAL PARK MARISMAS DE ODIEL – LAGUNA EL PORTIL – ROMPIDA HEATH (Rio Piedras).
We decided to head for the coast as the weather forecast for inland was rain, it was a good decision, as we had sunshine all day and the temperature was in the mid-twenties.
We set off early, at 7am, carrying our picnic breakfast with us, it was dark until we reached Huelva some 45 minutes later. Our first stop was at the Laguna de Primera de los Palos this spot had produced some good birds in the past but recent visits were not so successful and today was the same, somehow, perhaps the habitat has become degraded which does not surprise me as there is a huge oil and gas refinery adjacent to it. From the small railway track we saw Common and Red-crested Pochard, Whiskered Tern and a couple of pairs of Gadwall.
We drove through Huelva Port and round to the O’diel nature park where we spent the rest of the morning. This huge area of Salinas, lagunas, marisma and tidal mudflats is a fantastic birding venue and usually produced a long list of waders and raptors. We stopped first at the small Laguna Calatillo, which was quite shallow and over recent years has held a breeding pair of Red-knobbed Coots, but today is was quite barren. A few Black-winged Stilts loafed around with Common Sandpiper, Little-ringed Plover and a few Common Coots, Gadwall, Moorhen and not much else.
The Salinas across the road were full of Greater Flamingos they looked superb in the morning light, groups of Stilts were joined by Dunlin, Curlew Sandpipers, Redshank and a single Common Shelduck. In the distance we could see an Osprey standing next to its’ nest, this is one of two sites locally where this magnificent bird has adopted for home in recent years.
This extensive salt marsh lies parallel to the coast on a outcrop of land that extents 30 kilometers coming to a narrow point where a lighthouse stands guard to the port of Huelva at the mouth of the river O’Diel. We travelled along most of it stopping to look at waders, gulls, terms and some scrubland for passerines.
Our best finds included: Montagu’s Harrier, Collared Pratincole, Little Tern and a good selection of waders. The tide was very low and as a consequence the shore birds were widely distributed and we never saw a high concentration of birds anywhere, nevertheless we listed nearly 20 species of waders!
From the salt marsh we drove into Portil where a roadside viewing platform gives perfect views over a large laguna. Normally it is packed with ducks but today it wasn’t, it often has a number of Ferruginous Ducks but not this time. One surprising find was a Pintail but we soon realised that this bird had a broken wing. Common & Red-crested Pochard, Gadwall, lots of Common Coot, Little Grebes with fewer numbers of Little-ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Greenshank made up the rest of the sightings. We also found a European Chameleon in the hedgerow.
We ate a tapas lunch in El Portil before driving round to La Rompido where we spent an hour on the heath looking for warblers. A male Golden Oriole was our best find followed by Caspian Tern.
Lastly we stopped at Niebla Castle where a huge colony of Lesser Kestrels can be found, we had fantastic views of them in the late afternoon sunlight. We found nesting Crag Martins, White Storks and Jackdaws. We got back to El Rocio at 6pm after stopping to watch a Short-toed Eagle, we made a quick visit to the laguna before returning to the hotel.