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WEATHER: all day sunshine, light breeze, top temp 30C

We had a mixed bag of luck today with some great sightings and some ‘dips’, we also had mixed luck with mosquitos, some unpleasant encounters but mainly good.

We left the hotel before 9am for the short journey to the coast at Matalascañas where we looked out to sea from the cliffs there. Clouds of mosquitos had us all rushing to apply a copious amount of anti-mozzie protection before we were eaten to death. The weather was too good for any decent sea-watching, the light wind was off-shore making it even worse.

A Sanderling on the beach

A gull roost about ½ mile along the beach held Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls with one or two Audouin’s Gulls, Sandwich Terns and a couple of Sanderling. Out to sea we saw a single Northern Gannet sitting on the water and all of the above in flight as some stage.

Above and behind us we saw Hoopoe, Common Swift, Iberian & Eurasian Magpies, House martins, Barn & Red-rumped Swallows and a Stonechat.

We didn’t stay long, the mozzies were very much a nuisance, so we drove off heading towards Huelva was 40km away. Just before we reached Huelva we pulled over next to a small laguna called Primera de los Palos where far fewer mosquitos were seen, ha! We scanned the open water and found our target duck within a couple of minutes. Two male Ferruginous Ducks sat out in the middle of the water, they looked happy feeding on mosquito larvae which filled the water in abundance.

Turtle Dove seen as we got out of the bus at the Laguna Primera de los Palos

Other species on the laguna were: both Common & Red-crested Pochard, Gadwall, Common Coot, Moorhen, Little Grebe, a dodgy Muscovy Duck and we saw Great Cormorant and grey Heron.

the jetty at high tide on the Rio O'Diel - Whimbrel, Little Egret, Yellow-legged Gull and a Sandwich Tern

Next we stopped at the salt pans on the approach road to the O’Diel natural park, we saw a great deal of birds from the roadside it was amazing. Hundred of Greater Flamingos filled one the salt pans and hundred of waders loafed around the dirt banks waiting for the tide to go out. The majority of the waders consisted of Dunlin, Curlew Sandpipers, Greater Ringed Plovers and a few  Stints.

a host of waders on the bank of the salt pans - tony Moore

Other birds seen were a pair of Ospreys on and near a nesting platform, Kentish Plovers, Common Shelduck, Ruddy Turnstone, a distant Marsh Harrier and lots of Barn Swallows.

Red-creste Pochard - taken by Tony Moore

At the visitors centre we scanned a jetty to find a host of Whimbrels with a Little Egret, Yellow-legged Gulls and Sandwich Terns. A walk along the edge of the pans produced some new species such as Common Shelduck, Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper and Sardinian Warbler.

During our time at the marshes the high tide reached it peak, so we decided to drive into Corales to buy our lunch and return to the marshes to eat it. The tide started to turn as we ate and many waders flew onto the exposed mud on edge of a large laguna we were parked next to. Whimbrels came very close, with Dunlins, Curlew Sandpipers (many ‘red’ ones were in summer plumage), Redshank, Grey Plover, Curlew, Greenshank and distant Curlews.

Glossy Ibis in Flight - taken by Tony Moore

We took a short walk to the beach and scanned a gull roost on a distant island, there we found more Audouin’s with the larger Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls. Lots of Little Terns were fishing or perched on the island with a bunch of Oystercatchers and many more Redshanks, Dunlins and Curlew Sandpipers.

A Montagu’s Harrier (male) drifted over the distant horizon, we also a few Black Kites and a Common Buzzard. Back at the tidal laguna where we had parked the bus the water level had dropped even more and many waders were now wading in the shallow water. We scanned them, but nothing new appeared.

Greater Flamingos on the salt pans - Tony Moorre

For the remaining afternoon we visited two more places in the area, the first stop was the Laguna at El Portil. Just like all other lagunas in the southern Spain it held a maximum amount of water and very few birds were acyually feeding there.

We saw Gadwall, Common and Red-crested Pochards, Little Grebes, Coot and Moorhens. A Few Greater Flamingos and a Eurasian Spoonbills fed at the distant end of the water and at least two Common Sandpipers foraged along the shore on the opposite bank.

A stop in town for a cold drink and/or a coffee was well appreciated by the group before we drove around to Rampido and the Rio Piedras marshes.

The marshes consist mainly of cistus and tamarisk scrub on a sandy base, we drove along a dusty track to get there and past a 36 hole golf course! At the river we had close encounters with some Sanderling, Turnstones, Whimbrel and a Grey Plover. Caspian Terns drifted up and down the river with Little  and Sandwich Terns. At least three Ospreys were present, we also saw Oystercatchers and lots of Dunlin, Curlew and more Whimbrels.

It was now 5pm and we had a long drive back to El Rocio so we set off, stopping for quick look and listen for Green Woodpeckers near the golf course without seeing or hearing one.

We arrived back at the hotel at 6pm and met up again at 7:30pm to call the bird-log. After dinner, most of the group went out for a drive to La Rocina to look for Nightjars along the lane. We couldn’t get out of the vehicle because of the huge number of mosquitos waiting to devour us. Steve spotted a Woodlark on the ground and a Red Fox before it got dark.

A Red-necked Nightjar did appear on the road a fair distance ahead of us, but it flew off before ad a chance to get close to it. We went back after that, in fear of being locked in as te main gate closes at 10pm.