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An oasis in Doñana’s marshes

By José Antonio Sánchez Iglesias

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Summer progresses and harden living conditions for all inhabitants of Doñana, including us, humans. With a bit of luck temperatures stay below 30° C and without it may exceed 40° C
The Mother of the Marshes, still retain some water, and it becomes one of the most attractive spots in the Park. A large number of herons, storks, glossy ibis, flamingos, spoonbills, black kites, stilts, godwits and many other species concentrate to take advantage of the easy food offered to them by the low water level. The last puddles are always located next to the Puente de La Canaliega over the Arroyo de la Rocina. This also tends to hold large concentrations of birds in their already reduced water depth, is a good time to try and observe the elusive Otter from the hides along the path of Charco de la Boca.
Rising temperatures and shortage of water don’t bring only disadvantages, the number of mosquitoes, already low this year, has dramatically drop no to be a nuisance anymore during the tours to the Park. In the marshes mirages are an everyday sight and confuse us to think that the marshes are flooded, that the dunes are much higher than what they actually are in the distance and that the forests lay on hills and not on flat lands.
In the forests, deer show their antlers grown, in some cases almost ready for the upcoming rut. Stork chicks on nests have already reached almost their parents’ size, and these are looking for grasshoppers and lizards on the dry meadows. Baby lynx show themselves more often, and allow us to see that they already weigh several kilos and are able to tear themselves prey meat that brings her mother and even help in hunting tasks, although showing a evident clumsiness.
Montagu’s harriers and black kites begin to prepare their plumage for the upcoming trip back to Africa, and begin to molt their wings, exposing some holes clearly visible in the silhouette in flight.
Coots, moorhens, grebes and mallards are striving to move forward with their latest chicks and defend them from the attacks of hungry black kites and marsh harriers in the lagoons of Jose A. Valverde. Also there are often flocks of flamingos, stilts and godwits. Some small groups of deer and wild boar also come to this oasis surrounded by cracked marsh. On any water patch there is a multitude of swallows and inexperienced martins of the year, and the young goldfinches and greenfinches, with colors clearly more attenuated than adults, thicken the flocks that feed in the fields of thistles. Even the great Spanish Imperial Eagle flying over the lakes almost daily before noon in search of some distracted duck.
Outside, the marshes so full of life in spring have become a vast cracked steppe in which few species think of living, some larks and shrikes, kestrels, sandgrouses and stone curlews, black kites, ravens and vultures, the last are actually delighted with the harsh conditions that does nothing but provide food often and easy, as the weaker cattle succumbed to the scarcity of food, heat and weakness. From mid-morning they are usually seen in large groups using thermals to raise high over the marshes and explore ten of miles around for any sign of food.
Spring has gone north, not far, in the rice fields around the nearby town of Isla Mayor many thousand long legged birds and waders concentrate take advantage of the resources offered by the shallow waters of these plantations. The abundance of crabs, frogs, small fish, insect larvae and other invertebrates makes these vast flooded areas the perfect location for a large percentage of the birds born in the Park take several weeks accumulating energy before they start their migration south. Rice fields are now essential for the conservation of many species in Doñana.

About José Antonio Sánchez Iglesias

José Antonio Sánchez se licenció en Biología por la Universidad de Sevilla en 1985. Más tarde, durante varios años, se dedicó a organizar y guiar rutas de senderismo y naturaleza ...

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