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Caño Guadiamar in summer

Caño Guadiamar in summer

By José Antonio Sánchez Iglesias

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A stop at Caño Guadiamar these days becomes an experience full of sensations. The old course of the River Guadiamar, passing through Doñana becomes every summer one of the few pockets of moisture across the northern marshland, an oasis that turns into a valuable refuge for thousands of waterfowl, raptors and passerines on migration during the dry season.

Gamos en el Caño Guadiamar

Fallow deer

Fallow deer

As we approached the tamarisks surrounding the main channel we put in alert a small group of fallow deer, with their white bellies and spotted coat, jumping away on the glassworth and dry bullrushes that cover the dry and cracked river bed. The move away from us and stop to look curious at us and resume jumping away until we lose them behind a small rise in the ground.

 

Flocks of dragonflies hover near the ground, red males and yellow females seem to look for food on the dry bushes. Its much larger blue relatives are on the prowl because they serve as food. There are no mosquitoes that bother us, but some fat flies like us. A couple of marsh harriers fly low over the water channel, looking for a clueless duck. Their number will gradually increase, with individuals from the north, as temperatures drop. Willow warblers and pied  flycatchers on migration hide among the tamarisks. A female redstart and the first bluethroat of the season also hide in the vegetation as we walk across it.

 

Small groups of spoonbills and black-headed gulls and also some grey herons fly over the backwaters. The unmistakable whistle of a young spoonbill demanding food to their parents reaches our ears clearly as we approach the runway. A small group of white storks and several glossy ibis fly away. When we get to see the shore we find some greenshanks and spotted redshanks, ruffs, black-tailed godwits and green sandpipers feeding, our presence on the other side does not seem to bother them.

A grey heron flies over us and gives one of his typical squawking, who always sounds like disapproval, as if she did not like that we had come to see her. The shrill cries of a black-headed gull that fly past and that of a farthest little egret accompany us as we watch a couple of flamingos that filter the water from the shore in the distance. It does hardly any wind, so the midmorning sun warms our neck and calves.

Águila imperial adulta

Adult Spanish imperial eagle

Adult Spanish imperial eagle

Several vultures begin to rise in the sky over the distant Hinojos Marshes taking advantage of the first thermals. Suddenly another known croak makes my head spin. Behind us, a pair of Spanish imperial eagles also take advantage of the first ascendent air currents to gain altitude and explore the marshes. A lesser kestrel from the nearby colony chase them away from the place.

While we entertain ourselves with a orange shield bug and some large grasshoppers, strikes us something moving on the opposite bank dry. It is an Egyptian mongoose, which we enjoy for a few seconds until it hides in the reeds. Soon after, as we watch a cormorant that came from the north to spend the winter with us warming up perched on a post, a group of 3 young boars appear between the edge vegetation and quiet drink on the shore.

Later we enjoy the maneuvers of a beautiful young marsh harrier flying low over the bushes; we hear the cries of a black-winged stilt just arriving and landing near the group of waders. A group of glossy ibis fly over us and soon after another large group of about 50 spoonbills. They are so close that we can clearly hear the sound of their beating wings. A young one with typical black tips to the wings flies behind his mother desperate of hunger. A red kite, also newcomer to spend the winter with us, fly over the colony of lesser kestrels, causing a big stir and a cacophony of screams.

Águila culebrera en vuelo

Short-toed eagle

Short-toed eagle

A group of about 100 white storks circle within a thermal. It does not seem very strong because they approach us without gaining much altitude and when they are over our heads we can hear again clearly the sound emitted by the beating wings. A booted eagle, with the unmistakable white and black bands across the underwings also flies at low altitude. Meanwhile in the distance there is a large raptor with a white belly and wings hovering over the dry marshes. No more need to identify one of the short-toed eagles that these days is passing through Doñana in their migratory trip to sub-Saharan Africa.

The Caño Guadiamar gives us a wonderful summer experience in Doñana full of sounds and images of its inhabitants.

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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