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Flooded marshes with clouds

Doñana in March

By José Antonio Sánchez Iglesias

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Forests and marshes burst into a beautiful symphony of colour as temperatures begin to rise. If the winter brought us enough rain, our marshes look with splendour. The green of the bulrushes that covers large parts of it begins to get decorated with lots of white patches of the small floating flowers of the water crowfoot. The white chamomile flowers cover large areas of the dry salt marshes and road edges. Large flocks of ducks and waders fly in the distance, preparing their trip north. At this time of year, we are visited by huge groups of many thousand flamingos, offering us a wonderful performance of colour with their courtship dances and later their mating exercises. Sometimes they are distributed in groups throughout the great wet expanse while feeding, sometimes they are grouped in compact flocks to rest.

Flock of flamingos and horses

Flock of greater flamingos and horses with El Rocio in the background

The species that have spent winter with us enter the main phase of their migration back to the north. Geese and cranes that have not left yet do so, and so do the large flocks of golden plovers, black-tailed godwits, lapwings, and other shorebirds. The last black storks also go now. Red kites begin to become scarce, as do the numbers of other raptors such as marsh harrier, peregrine falcon, common buzzard, hen harrier and merlin. White wagtails and meadow pipits, which occurred in the marshes in abundance in winter, also begin to become scarce. Short-toed larks, back from Africa, gradually fill the gap left by then.

 

First booted eagles, short-toed eagles and ospreys come through, the number depends on weather conditions at the Gibraltar Strait. Other species on passage such as garganey, wheatear, common redstart, whinchat, willow warbler or sedge warbler, that sings actively hidden in the tamarisks, are common sightings. Subalpine warblers also begin to come in now.

 

First purple herons and squacco herons also arrive now in March. In good years, we get with certain assiduity species such as ferruginous duck, red-knobbed coot and white-headed duck in deep water places such as Caño Guadiamar. Great crested grebes, little grebes, black-necked grebes, common coots, morhens, common pochards, red-crested pochards, mallards, shovelers, and some common teals and gadwalls display in open waters and begin their reproductive tasks. Purple swamphens begin to become more difficult to see as the aquatic plants increase in density and height, although the squawks and laments of their squabbles and courtships are still heard. The first coot chickens are already fed by their parents

cano-guadiamar-primavera-nubes-cielo

Caño Guadiamar in spring

The heronry at Jose Antonio Valverde Visitors Centerof is slowly being set up by the first groups of glossy ibis and egrets, that come to choose a breeding spot in the reeds and tamarisks. Frogs sing happily all over the flooded areas.

Huge flocks of barn swallows, red-rumped swallows, house martins and sand martins continue to pass through Doñana on their journey to northern areas. Pallid swifts also come through but to a greater height. Great spotted cuckoos are still relatively easy to see, sunbathing on some shrub on the marshes edge.

 

In the forests, blackcaps prepare their departure, but sing actively from their hiding places in the bushes, filling the pine woods with their melodic songs. Song thrushes do the same from their perches in ash and wild olive trees. The numbers of black redstarts, robins and chiffchaffs drop gradually as the month goes on. They all contribute to compose the great symphonies of sounds of the forest in spring. The first woodchat shrikes arrive, which will choose the best breeding territories before the competition increases. Towards the end of the month the best songs of our forest begin to be heard, those of the first nightingales newly arrived from their winter retreats; also the first fluttering songs of the first bee-eaters flying over our heads and the first cuckoos calling around.

 

Flowers of orchids, lilies, white narcissi (narcissus papyracesus) and yellow (narcissus bulbocodium), snow drops (acys trichophylla), honeyworts (cerinthe gymnandra), Italian bugloss (anchusa azurea), crane bills, wild radish and other herbaceous flowers, decorate underbrush and meadows. Among our scrubs, the yellow flowers of halimium calycinum are the first to accompany the Mediterranean gorse (ulex parviflorus), which have bloomed throughout the winter, followed by those of the sage leave rockrose (cistus salviifolius), the broom (cytisus grandiflorus), lavender and others as the month progresses. The wild pear trees also decorate now in white the dominant green of the cork oaks. Endemic species such as linaria tursica or as attractive as the pinguicula lusitanica begin their flowering also in March.

Partridges now go in pairs along the forest edges. First snake zigzagging trails can be seen on the sandy paths and the first antlion traps along their edges. Red deer lose their antlers and black kites invade the forests and behave very active in their reproductive tasks. Number of butterflies increases as the month progresses. Small bath whites, small whites, and clouded yellows, painted ladies, swallowtails and Spanish festoons, pullulate around in road edges, meadows and forests. First dragonflies also come out now.

Iberian lynx carrying a rabbit in its mouth

Iberian lynx carrying a rabbit in its mouth

The first Iberian lynx cubs are born in a hollow cork oak dead tree or inside a mastic tree somewhere in the forest. White storks and Spanish imperial eagles are incubating their eggs.

The weather at this time of year can be very variable, so if you visit Doñana in March you may find a wonderful, sunny and warm spring day, or a windy, rainy and unpleasant winter day, so you should check the weather forecast before coming. In any case, Doñana will not disappoint you and will offer you beautiful landscapes and good wildlife sightings.

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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