Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Five days in Huelva Province (4)

Thursday 15 October

Day 4: Ayamonte Area

Time to go our separate ways with a few travelling home but seventeen of us moving on to the Donana national park where we had booked in for the night in El Rocio.  This meant that we could spend the morning exploring the marshes around Ayamonte and whilst a couple of cars made a return visit to the top end of the Odiel Marshes the remainder of the second group made their various ways to El Rocio calling in at some of the well-know sites near Huelva on the way.

The initial visit to the coast south of Ayamonte was somewhat disappointing as upon arrival in the target are we discovered the road through the marshes closed for repair works.  This resulted in a rather large detour to find the harbour at the far end of Playa del Moral where the exposed mud held Turnstone and Dunlin along with Cormorants and both Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls.  In what appeared to be fresh water next to the harbour we also found a large number of Little Egrets, Herons and more Cormorants whilst in the vegetation next to the water were numerous Magpies, House Sparrows, Stonechat, Backbird and Corn Bunting.  Not unsurprisingly, amongst these large flocks of House Sparrows we duly found some Spanish Sparrows followed by a Sardinian Warbler and then the odd White Stork whilst a Common Kestrel flew over us.

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea

Meanwhile, Barbara and Derek Etherton had found the main track to the east of Ayamonte, almost parallel to the old Huelva road, and, taking a side track, came upon a Rufous Bushchat, Common Redstart and Orphean Warbler drinking at a puddle on the track in front of them.  Having telephoned through the news, most of us at the harbour site made a hasty retreat to join them albeit a few carried on to El Rocio and John and Jenny took an alternative route.

Having all met up once again we proceeded down the side track where we all duly found both the Common Redstart and Orphean Warbler along with numerous Stonechats and a pair of Sardinian Warblers - but not the Rufous Bushchat. A couple of Hoopoes were seen and then the first Marsh Harrier for the day.  Reaching the end of the track at the Oyster farm we were able to look at the river where we had Whimbrel, Curlew and Green Sandpiper.  Whilst at the "farm" we spent some time watching the young lads at work as they cleaned and packed the oysters for onward travel to Sevilla and, when offered, even sample one, or at least Derek and I did.  Before leaving we duly bought a couple of dozen and then shared them out before dinner in El Rocio.

Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Back to the main track which we took o the far, eastern, end before continuing on to Huelva.  In the pools and streams on either side we duly recorded a number of birds including both Greenshank and Redshank along with Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, Herons, Little Egrets, Little Grebe, Ringed Plover and Curlew.  Ducks included Mallard, Gadwall and Shoveler and, of course, we found both Moorhen and Coots.  In addition to the eight Spoonbills on the final pool we had over-flying Barn Swallows and on the bank both Linnet and Southern Grey Shrike were recorded.

Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
Then it was on to Huelva with Derek and Steve's cars off to the Odiel and four cars to the Donana.  Meanwhile, John and Jenny were busy at one or tow well-known sites on their way to El Rocio as can be seen from John's report.

A warm day but so much diving

We started off from the golf club after collecting breakfast, and then spent the next hour and a half driving in 
and around Ayamonte area.  Finally when we did "land", we took a small track across the heathland and saw 
Zitting Cisticola, Stonechat, Blackbird, Crested Larks,Southern Grey Shrike and House Sparrows. In the
gullies we found Redshanks, Turnstones, Dunlin, Ringed and Grey Plovers, Little Egrets, Yellow-legged Gulls,
Black-headed Gulls and Little Stint.

We then made our own way back down to km13 on the Matlascana road, en route seeing Buzzard, Common 

Kestrel, Magpie and Azure-winged Magpies, Rock Doves, and several White Storks.  At the km13 area as
we entered the "hide" a Bluethroat was noted on the brambles to our front.  Then we heard the Waxbills 
coming over.  On the lagoon we saw Purple Swamphen, Teal,Common Coots, Shovelers, Moorhens and two
Little Egrets, while in the surrounding bushes we found Blackcaps, Common Waxbills, Goldfinches,Long-tailed
Tits, Common Chiffchaffs and Robin.


Moving on to Acebuche reserve, here we had a coffee then moved down to the right of the hides.  As we got 
close to the garages a Northern Wheatear posed for us. Oodles of Azure-winged Magpies about here as usual, but a nice surprise was the
Short-toed Treecreeper.  Also about was a Dartford Warbler, Pied Flycatchers all female, a Spotted 
Flycaycher,Common Magpies, Spotless Starlings, a Blackbird, Crested Larks, Stonechats, three Greenfinches
and our first Chaffinch and Great Tit of the trip.

Whilst at the gazebo hide at the top end of the Odiel, those present managed to find all the usual birds from yesterday including a feeding Osprey and a number of Black-necked Grebes along with the resident Flamingos.

Those of us heading towards the Donana made our first stop at the Laguna Mujeres where MoorhensCoots and Purple Swamphens were easily seen at close quarters.  Both Mallard and Shoveler on the water which were later joined by an arriving Gadwall and the occasional visit from both Little Egret and Cormorant.  A Kingfisher flashed across the water before we drove another kilometre up the road to access the hidden corner of the large lake.  As soon as we arrived we had a Squacco Heron and closer study confirmed that there were actually four individuals present along with Purple Swamphens, Grey Herons, Moorhen and Coots.

Record shot of Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides

Finally, it was time for the drive to El Rocio where we recorded more Azure-winged magpies, Magpies, Crested Lark and a couple of handsome Common Buzzards sitting on th fence alongside the main road.  having checked-in at the hostal, I then took Olly, David and Diane Hackett over to the La Rocina Visitors Centre and back via the SEO Visitors Centre at the far end of the, now dry, El Rocio lake.  At the former we found our first Chaffinch of the week and at least a couple of female Pied Flycatchers whilst at the latter site we had Cattle Egrets, at least 300 Greylag Geese, Cetti's Warbler. lapwing and feeding Barn and Red-rumped Swallows overhead.  Altogether, I would think that, as a group, this was possibly our most productive day with well over 70 species.

Female Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca

Birds seen:
Greylag Goose, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant,Night Heron, Squacco Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, White Stork, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Osprey, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, lesser kestrel, Common Kestrel, Moorhen, purple Swamphen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Curlew, Redshank, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, White Wagtail, Rufous Bushchat, Robin, Bluethroat, Common Redstart, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Orphean Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Great Tit, Southern Grey Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

El Rocio in the evening sunshine

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

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