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Lagunas de Palos y Las Madres


A series of lakes supporting birds such as Purple Gallinule and Little Bittern with a chance of others such as Moustached Warbler, Penduline Tit, Common Waxbill, White-headed Duck and Red-knobbed Coot.

Getting there

All the lakes can be accessed from the N442 between the oil refineries of Huelva and the town of Mazagon. I tried to make a brief visit here in March 09 following the details in Garcia and Patterson (2008) which suggested turning north at kms 12, 13 and 15.6. In doing so I wasted a lot of time and failed to find anything useful. Others have described similar experiences here so I’ve written the following notes to help you to avoid the mistakes I made. They include some speculation from what I have managed to find in online trip reports, as well as the results of detective work using Google Earth.


1. I completely missed the best of these lakes because it isn’t described in Garcia and Patterson at all. It’s the Laguna Primera de Palos, immediately before the first oil refineries as you approach Huelva. Ray Thorneycroft describes how, in May 2005, his party parked amongst pines on the north side of the N442 (presumably at 37.16999N 6.89455W) and viewed the lake across a railway line. They saw two Red-knobbed Coot swimming by the jetty and later coming closer to the SW corner of the lake. Both birds had white collars, making them easier to pick out amongst the Common Coot but signifying they were released birds. Trip reports mentioning this site include quite a selection of species including waders, ducks (Inc. Red-crested Pochard), Glossy Ibis, Whiskered Tern, Little Bittern, herons (including Purple and Squacco) and various passerines including Penduline Tit, Savi’s Warbler, Moustached Warbler and Common Waxbill.

2. Thorneycroft mentions that the jetty described above has a hide on it. Is there public access to this hide? Google Earth shows it is reached via a track from the north. To get there, continue towards Huelva and take the next right, between sets of oil tanks, and look for a track to the right after 600 metres (37.17719N 6.89532W). On Google Earth it looks as if there is a gate across this entrance but, if access is possible, it looks like there’s a car park on some scrubby ground and a choice of tracks leading to the lake from there.

3. By turning off the main road at km 12 you can take a sandy track which runs along the south edge of a lake. I tried this in 2009 and found an attractive pool surrounded by willows and rushes with singing Great Reed and Cetti’s Warblers. A brief look failed to reveal much else and, since I also almost got stuck in the sand, I didn’t stay. I’m sure with more patience I might have found birds such as Purple Gallinule and, later in the year, Little Bittern.

4. On Google Earth it looks to me as if there is a hide on the west side of this lake. Again, I don’t know if this is open to the public but there’s a track to it that begins (at 37.16410N 6.88898W) about 100m further along the main road towards Huelva.

5. The track at km 13 takes you through a wood and out into areas of plastic greenhouses with no sign of any lakes or pools. However, I discovered that a pool can be reached by walking west for about 500 metres along a track on the northern edge of the wood (from 37.16026N 6.87702W). This leads to a pleasant spot with a screened observation point overlooking a pool. Sadly though, there were hardly any birds there on my visit, just a couple of Pochard, Little Grebe and Common Coot. Again though, it looked a good spot for Little Bittern.

6. The track at km 15.6 doesn’t lead to the lake but to a farmhouse. We asked workers there about access to the lake and were told to turn back and try further east. We did this and couldn’t find any other access. However Derek and Lynne Lister describe how, in late May 2007, the farmworkers gave them permission to to walk to the lake where they had Osprey, Spanish Sparrow and a few waders and also visited ‘a small marsh adjacent to the laguna’ which had Purple Gallinule, a Bee-eater colony, Little Bittern feeding young and herons including Purple and Squacco.

Most of the sites in this section are treated in detail, with precise maps and directions, in my book ‘Finding Birds in Andalucia’ but my experiences at this site weren’t sufficiently successful to merit inclusion in the book. Nonetheless, here are some notes, albeit still requiring substantiation, that some users should still find helpful. 
Please feel free to use the comments facility on each page to add your own observations for these sites.

Lagunas de Palos y las Madres

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

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