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Sunrise at El Rocío

Doñana in January

By José Antonio Sánchez Iglesias

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The first barn swallows are back from Africa, what they eat during these first cold weeks of the year is a mystery to me 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 59°F during the day, although we you should come conveniently equipped just in case for a windy or rainy day.

A beautiful sunrise is often the first gift of the day, announcing an activity full of beautiful experiences, brilliant landscapes and unexpected observations. Meadows and marsh edges begin to decorate with the first spring flowers; pine and cork trees show off their bright green under nice blue skies. Two of our emblematic species, the Iberian lynx and the Spanish imperial eagle, are on heat and, with some luck you will enjoy a sighting. Passerines like serin, Sardinian warbler, wren, short-toed treecreeper and chaffinch start feeling the coming spring and filling the forests with their songs of courtship.

 

The first great-spotted cuckoos also normally come back now to start exploring options around the usual magpie breeding areas. The abundant caterpillars on the roadsides and dry marshes are their main food sources. Black-winged kites, common kestrels and hen harriers are also exploring these habitats in search of small rodents. Large herds of red deer, grazing peacefully in the open grassland, are mute witness to their different hunting techniques, like the small groups of little bustards that visit us every winter.

Common buzzard perched on a fence post

The marshes normally present an optimal level of water, offering appropriate shelter and feeding habitats for lots of waders such as lapwing, redshank, golden plover and ruffs. Also abound swimming species like coot, pintail, shoveller, teal and greylag goose. Livestock fences in the Park are often used as perches for raptors such as common buzzard, red kite and our Spanish imperial eagle, while merlins, peregrine falcons and vultures more often seat on the ground or on top of a small bush.

The usual flocks of flamingos tend to concentrate in the waters of Caño Guadiamar or lagoons surrounding the José Antonio Valverde Visitor Center, accompanied by spoonbills, grey herons, great egrets, little and black necked grebes, common and red-crested pochards. The osprey is also often seen perched on power pylons in the area.

 

Further east, in the Aznalcázar salty dry marshes and farmland next to the park, we find large flocks of cranes and small groups of fallow deer well camouflaged among the vegetation. Large concentrations of calandra larks and corn buntings concentrate in the vast cereal plains where, with a little skill, you can also find short-eared owls and stone curlews.

Flock of golden plovers in flight

To the north, the Isla Mayor Rice Fields also attract a lot of birds in winter. Large flocks of glossy ibis, black-headed and lesser black-backed gulls, white storks and cattle egrets are still using the already harvested fields for feeding. Grey herons, little egrets and black storks also abound. Fields with shallower water are more appropriate for large flocks of waders which include lapwings, shanks, ruffs, godwits, small plovers and dunlins. In the channels sandpipers and kingfishers are common and with a little luck, you will also find the beautiful bluethroat.

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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