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WEATHER: all day sunshine, light breeze. Top temp 27C

We didn’t have to go far today to find some excellent species and have a really enjoyable day. To view the Laguna de Madre de Marismas we took a short pre-breakfast walk to the main promenade o El Rocio. It was just getting light at 7:15 and scene before our eyes was magical.

Flamingos came alive as the first rays of sunlight spread across the tranquil laguna, the water was flat calm giving a mirror effect to everything that stood in the water or near it. We didn’t see many new species but the experience was memorable.

Purple Swampen and a Black-winged Stilt in the early morning light

After breakfast we drove a short distance to the Natural Park of La Rocina but instead of walking through the woodland to view the pools we drove onto the Palicio de Acebron where a unique piece of ancient woodland can be found. The trees are mainly cork oak, ash and pine and a pathway takes you around a large laguna. Thick scrub, reeds and viewing areas can found all around the laguna.

As we entered the woodland we heard a countless number of Nightingales, with Cetti’s Warblers adding to the wall of sound. We found Iberian Chiffchaff with no trouble, and we saw one or two Nightingales too. Many common birds flitted about, we saw Serin, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Wren, Blackbird etc.

Night Heron seen at the Laguna de Acebron

Two of our main targets species were Wryneck and LS Woodpecker, we saw the latter very well as Vicky found a pair visiting a recently constructed nest hole. Whilst watching them we discovered Sardinian Warbler and Short-toed Treecreeper. A Wryneck then flew into view and visited an ‘old’ nest hole in the next tree, but it landed only for a split second and was gone.

female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

We hoped to see flycatchers around the laguna but all we found was a single Little Egret and three Night Herons. During the journey back to La Rocina the Woodlark was promoted from ‘heard’ to ‘seen’ on our checklist when we found one singing from a roadside fence-post, a second bird sang from power lines viewed from the La Rocina car park.

male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

Before we went off to lunch we visited part of the boardwalk at La Rocina which took us to the first two hides that overlook Arroyo de Rocina. A good number of species were present especially Spoonbills and Glossy Ibis. We added Shoveler and Common Pochard to the duck list, we heard Savi’s Warbler and we enjoyed many other species.

Large Psammodromus Lizard

We took a late lunch at the visitor’s centre at Acebuche some of the group saw a Tree Sparrow through the plate glass windows. Our after lunch we took a short walk,, the temperature was high and bird activity was low. We sat in a hide for a while watching very few species over a very dry terrain that used to be a large laguna. Stonechat, Serin, Woodchat Shrike, Black Kite, Spotless Starling and a Willow Warbler was all we saw.

Woodchat Shrike

Iberian Magpies

Back at the car park we enjoyed the antics of the Iberian Magpies as they came down to clear up scraps left by groups who had had picnic lunches earlier. It was 4pm when we left.

Iberian Magpie

Five of the group had had enough birding, the heat had got to them, so I dropped them off at the hotel and Matt and I continued birding. We visited the laguna Marde de Marismas and viewed it from the west side. The light was exquisite we enjoyed a good hour just scoping the hundreds of waders out there, so many birds were present. Over 200 Collared Pratincoles, 2-300 Common Ringed Plovers, dozens of Dunlin, Little Stints and fewer numbers of Curlew Sandpipers. We also saw 9 Greenshanks, Wood, Common and Green Sandpipers, Black-winged Stilts, Avocets as well as the countless Flamingos, Ibis, Herons, Egrets and ducks. What a fantastic sight.

Waders on the move; Greater Ringed Plover with a few Dunlin

Collared Pratincoles

A Great Spotted Cuckoo flew into the car park for a short while before disappearing. We picked out a couple of Griffon Vultures up high with Black Kites and clouds of Pratincoles. Phew, what a superb hour we had.

We heard from another guide, a friend of mine, that a Red-knobbed Coot had been seen recently from the second hide in La Rocina, so off we went. It took ten minutes to get to hide from the car park and we spent almost an hour searching for the Coot which did not appear. A group of 10 Wood Sandpipers was nice to see as they dropped in onto an island.

Wood Sandpipers with Spoonbill and Mallards

We got back to the hotel at 7pm and joined the group for dinner at 8pm. By 9pm we were on the road again to the Palicio de Acebron. This road is now famous for producing sightings of Red-necked Nightjars at dusk. We sat and waited for dusk and at 9:30pm we heard the first Nightjar calling. We drove slowly back towards the entrance and saw two Red-necked Nightjars sitting on the road. Neither of them remained for very long, a bit disappointing for those in the back of the bus! We swopped the seating arrangement, but it was too late, we never saw a third bird!