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Doñana Natural Calendar

the 12 faces of Doñana

The nature of Doñana, consisting of a complex mosaic of ecosystems and landscapes, is very diverse and that diversity is shaped by the different climatic conditions that occur throughout the year. That is why the look that Doñana offers will be very different depending on the season in which you visit it. We often speaks of the 4 Doñanas, one for each season.

If you are thinking of visiting Doñana, then you will find information on how you are likely to find it or what you can expect to see in a given time of year. All seasons have their identity and attractiveness and that’s what we’ve tried to tell you below. But remember that the weather is often unpredictable and highly variable from year to year; what you will read below is only an approximation to the enormous variability of the nature of Doñana through the year.

For updated information please see regular reports on the actual situation of Doñana we show on the hone page.

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September

male deer bawling

red deer rutting season

It is now when red deer, the largest mammals in the Park, are courting and mating. It is a worth witnessing this nature performance and is quite easy to see here in Doñana. When we enter the forest, the sounds made by the males to prove their strength are all around us and make us appreciate of that force of nature.

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October

bando de ánsares en formación

geese arrival

It is in October when the rainy season usually starts, and with it comes many thousands of ducks, cranes, waders and other birds that come to their final destination in Doñana after a long journey from northern Europe. Amongst them stands out for their number are the 50,000 greylag geese that choose Doñana as a wintering area each year. The almost magical sound of the skeins flying at dawn over the village of El Rocío makes us aware of the arrival of a new season.

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November

cosechadora trabajando en un campo de arroz rodeada de pájaros

rice collection

Cool but sunny days alternate with dull and rainy ones and that rain transforms Doñana, but doesn’t make it lose its beauty, only changes the backdrop for a nice spectacle. The activity becomes frantic in the rice fields. Many thousand waders, herons, storks, ducks and other birds, amongst which the large flocks of black-headed gulls and glossy ibis stand out, concentrate on the freshly harvested fields. Kingfishers become very common. Large flocks of Spanish and house sparrows feed on the ripped rice.

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December

panorámica de la marisma de doñana en invierno

flooded marshes

The low marshes usually reach their optimum level of water at this time of year. The higher emerging areas support large flocks of geese, lapwings, godwits, ruffs and golden plovers. Dense flying flocks of smaller waders like ringed plovers and dunlins execute their pirouettes in the distance. Common and spotted redshanks and greenshanks also abound in the shallow waters. The layer of water stretches to the horizon where the silhouette of the moving dunes in the south of the park is outlined.

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January

críalo adulto posado en una valla de alambre

swallows arrive

The first barn swallows come back from Africa, what they eat during these first cold weeks of the year is a mystery, because the insects are still very scarce. Yet temperatures are usually pleasant compared to northern Spain and northern countries in Europe, and we enjoy abundant sunny days with excellent visibility, ideal to practice nature photography. Thermometers easily reach 15 °.

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February

ramillete de campanillas de primavera

time of changes

February is a time of big though gradual change. Weather conditions are again of vital importance in the calendar of events. It is an interesting month because it usually offers the opportunity to observe most of the wintering species and at the same time provides the first chances to see some of the breeding species having  arrived from Africa.

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March

marisma en primavera con castañuela y manzanilla de agua

a burst of colours

Forests and marshes explode into a beautiful symphony of colour at the same time that temperatures begin to rise. The green of the sea bulrush lining the flooded areas begins to stain here and there with the white of the small floating flowers of the aquatic buttercups. Flowers of orchids, lilies, wild geraniums, rock roses and other shrubs decorate undergrowth and meadows. Endemic species like linaria tursica or as attractive as the pinguicula lusitanica start flowering also in March.

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April

garcilla cangrejera con plumaje nupcial en vuelo

in their finery

April is a great month to visit Doñana, one of the best times for birdwatchers or to enjoy our wildlife and colourful landscapes. It is also a very busy month so it is very important to book your tour in advanced if you don’t want to find out that we and all companies offering tours in the Park are fully booked in the period you request. Forests and marshes look great and most of our animals are now busy with their breeding tasks …

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May

focha común con dos pollos

El Rocío Festival

Undoubtedly this is one of the best months of the year for birding in Doñana. The influx of birdwatchers is not as numerous as in April, temperatures are better and the chance of rain much lower; this means that in an average rainfall year, May is probably the best month to visit Doñana, although you should take in account no to coincide with the celebration of El Rocío Annual Festival, when the tours to the park are suspended and it’s difficult to move around in the area by car and get accommodation unless you pay an exorbitant price.

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June

ganaderos conduciendo las yeguas

The rounding of the mares

The dry season starts; rain becomes unusual and dry areas begin to dominate over flooded ones in the marshes. Bulrush and tule rush go yellow and in grasslands and meadows the green turns into ochre. In wet years the process is delayed but the unstoppable rise of temperatures will eventually give Doñana its parched and dusty summer atmosphere. The yellow rock rose still paints the scrubland in that colour.

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July

marisma de doñana en verano

bye-bye mosquitos

Temperatures rise and harden living conditions for all inhabitants of Doñana, including us, humans. With a bit of luck maximum temperatures stay below 30° and without it they may go over 40°.El Rocío Marshes, if they keep some water at all, becomes one of the most attractive spots in the Park, good numbers of herons, storks, glossy ibis, flamingos, spoonbills, black kites, stilts, godwits and many other species concentrate there to take advantage of the easy food offered to them by the low water level.

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August

bando de moritos en el arrozal

oasis of life

Summer progresses and with it living conditions in the park for animals and plants becomes even harder. Mammal activity concentrates in the first and last hours of the day. The bellowing of the stags can be clearly heard early in the morning, even from El Rocío; in the woods these animals become less shy and allow us a better observation. Fallow Deer are also found in parts of the marshland like Caño Guadiamar or Lucio del Lobo, where they lay down to rest under the tamarisks. Wild boars are easier observed in the lagoons around the José A. Valverde Visitor Center, looking for fresh vegetation and the last water pools.

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