Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A week in South Western Spain

We have just had a weeks holiday (21-28 November) in south western Spain staying at the Barcelo hotel in Punta Umbria, which is just south of Huelva. The holiday was organised by Saga and we used this as a tester into southern Spain.
The weather was a bit iffy with only 3 days of sunshine the rest being cloudy with some light to heavy rain. Most days the temperature was 18c rising to 22c when the sun came out.

Day 1:
Having traveled to the Felbridge hotel near East Grinstead (where we left our car for the week) the day before we got a bus to Gatwick early this day for a flight to Faro. We were then transfered by coach to the hotel for lunch.

After lunch a walk around the hotel to see what birds and butterflies were around. Immediately Sardinian Warblers were calling but elusive along with fly over Crested Lark and Serin. Crested Tit was calling nearby and Black Redstarts flitted about.
Butterflies included Bath White, Small Copper, Painted Lady, Clouded Yellow, Large White

Bath White

Day 2:
In the morning we went on a birdwatching trip to a few local sites (El Portil, El Rompido and the Marismas del Odiel) but only a few notable birds were seen: 3 Osprey, 1 KP, 12+ Black-winged Stilts, many Flamingos and White Storks.
After lunch we came across a flock of some 50 Iberian Magpies near the hotel and a flyover Hoopoe.

Iberian Magpie

Day 3:
Prior to the holiday I booked a day with John Butler ( and as John knows the area we had a much more successful day. We visited Laguna El Portil, port of El Rompido, the Marismas Rio de Piedras, the Marismas del Odiel, the Estero de Domingo Rubio and the Laguna Primera de Palos.
Some excellent birds were seen including 20+ Audouin's Gull, 5 Caspian Tern, 2/3 Little Tern, 30+ Cattle Egret, 6+ Bluethroat, 11+ Purple Swamphen, 2 Southern Grey Shrike, 2 Osprey, 16+ Spoonbill, 2 Squacco Heron, 4 BNGrebe, 4 Marsh Harrier, 2+ Black-winged Stilt, 3 KPs and many White Storks. Also several Waxbill.

Day 4:
We went on a trip to Moguer and a Bodega. The first Red Kite of the holiday was seen as we travelled back.

Day 5:
After heavy over night and morning rain we walked around Punta Umbria

Day 6:
A day trip to Donana which was hugely disappointing because as there had been so much rain recently we couldn't get to large areas of the nature reserve.
We did see 1 Southern Grey Shrike, 2 Marsh Harrier, 3 Red Kite, 1 Swamphen and 1 Hoopoe.
Some butterflies included 5 Painted Lady, 2 Small Copper, 10+ Large White and 5+ Small White

Day 7:
The morning was spent around the hotel. Once the temperature rose enough some butterflies were flying: Clouded Yellow, Small Copper, Bath White, Large White, Painted Lady, Red Admiral and Long-tailed Blue

Long-tailed Blue

Long-tailed Blue

Small Copper

In the afternoon we went on another birdwatching trip to an area inland of Huelva. This was an excellent trip were we finally caught up with a Crested Coot which was on a lagoon on the Marismas del Odiel . Other birds seen were:

Black-shouldered Kite - 3 excellent sightings of this excellent bird.
Griffon Vulture - 1
Corn Bunting - 50+
Calandra Lark - 1
Marsh Harrier - 1
Common Crane - 4
Hoopoe - 4
Southern Grey Shrike - 2
Stone Curlew - 12+

Day 8:
Flight back from Faro to Gatwick. It rained all the way to Faro and when at Faro airport the rain became torrential for quite a while. So much so that the terminal building roof leaked very badly and much of the ground floor flooded.

As this was our first venture into southern Spain we didn't do too badly. Sardinian Warblers were relatively common with many sightings as were Iberian (Azure-winged) Magpies. Spotless Starlings seemed easy but we didn't see any Common Starlings to compare. In some ways we were unfortunate in Donana but there had been so much rain in the two weeks prior to and also this week that on the day we went it was very difficult to enter and we were led by Donana people.
The hotel was excellent as were the Saga people.

Full species list (88):

Audouin's Gull

Bar-tailed Godwit
Black Redstart
Black-billed Magpie
Black-headed Gull
Black-necked Grebe
Black-shouldered Kite
Black-winged Stilt

Common Buzzard
Calandra Lark
Caspian Tern
Cattle Egret
Cetti's Warbler
Collared Dove
Common Sandpiper
Common Coot
Common Crane
Corn Bunting
Crested Coot
Crested Lark
Crested Tit

Dartford Warbler

Fan-tailed Warbler

Great spotted Woodpecker
Great Tit
Greater Flamingo
Grey Heron
Grey Plover
Griffon Vulture

House Sparrow

Iberian (Azure-winged) Magpie

Kentish Plover

Lesser Black-backed Gull
Little Egret
Little Grebe
Little Owl
Little Tern

Marsh Harrier
Meadow Pipit


Purple Swamphen

Red Kite
Red-breasted Merganser
Red-legged Partridge
Ringed Plover

Sandwich Tern
Sardinian Warbler
Southern Grey Shrike
Spotless Starling
Squacco Heron
Stone Curlew


White Stork
White Wagtail

Yellow-legged Gull