El Rocio

OK, I can’t get to my hotel because there’s a procession in the way, which seems like a good opportunity to blog the first week of my trip. Or to go to a bar and have a beer and a little tapa of something, but blogging it is.

I went to a town on the borders of the Coto Doñana National Park called El Rocio. Next to the town there’s a huge lagoon called Madre de las Marismas (mother of the marshes) where there are lots of birds, and there are some convenient other birding spots nearby, including a mix of habitats: pinewoods, scrub, deciduous trees along the rivers. So it’s a good place for birding on foot. I did pretty well on the bird front, getting most of the things I would have said were target species – Azure-winged Magpie, Great-spotted Cuckoo, Purple Heron – as well as some rather less glamorous lifers like Great Reed Warbler. Oh, and flamingo, spoonbill, stork and so on. So that was good. I hope I’ve got some quite nice birdy photos out of it, but those may have to wait until I get back to my own computer before you see them.

It also had enormous numbers of nightingales. Really a lot. I got quite annoyed with them after a while, because I rather hoped one would be a Penduline Tit or something. Nightingales are famous for the beauty of their song, or course, but actually I think they’re really famous because they’re very loud and completely indefatigable. Not only do they sing at night, they sing all day as well, absolutely belting it out. They do make some quite nice noises, to be fair – including Coleridge’s ‘one low piping sound more sweet than all’ – but they also make some very peculiar squawks, rattles, grunts and so on.

El Roco is quite an interesting place – all one-storey white buildings and sand-covered roads. Very pictureskew. All the guidebooks accuse it of looking like the set of a cowboy film. On the other hand, after a long day on your feet, carrying a telescope, birdbook, water, binoculars, camera, suncream etc, walking on sand really saps the strength out of you. The locals get around on horses, dirtbikes or 4-wheel drive.

El Rocio’s other claim to fame is that it’s the site of Spain’s biggest annual pilgrimage. A million people come, apparently, many on horseback or in oxcarts, and much piety, drinking, eating and generally debauching around the campfire ensues. In flamenco costumes. So there are whole streets of buildings marked with ‘Hermandad de Sevilla’ or whatever – a different brotherhood for every town in Andalucía. There must be hundreds of them and, of course, they’re all empty for the 51 weeks of the year when they’re not hosting pilgrims.

Anyway, I was mostly birding and I won’t bore you with too many details about that. I’ve now been in Seville for a day and a bit, but I think that my Seville thoughts can wait for a moment.

… and annoyingly I haven’t brought out my bit of paper with email addresses on it, so I can’t email my friends and family. Oh well, that too will have to wait.

2 Comments

  1. 12 April 2006 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    Hi there! Sounds like fun! Since my trip is about a month and a half away, I was just googling Seville, came across the Andulacia page with info on parks and protected areas, then thought of your blog! How fun to be there during the festivals – that’s a glimpse into the culture that you wouldn’t get at other times of the year. Take care and keep having fun!!

  2. Harry
    16 April 2006 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Cheers JT (may I call you Jaded?). It’s pretty hot here now, it’ll be toasty come June.

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