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short-toed eagle on a pylon

Eagle on a diet

By José Antonio Sánchez Iglesias

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Doñana’s forests and marshes look beautiful under our warm sun light. Creamy sand and green meadows contrast perfectly with our common blue skies these days. Rain has not been as abundant as we need so far but still a good part of the marshes is flooded now and the area is spreading day by day.

An afternoon tour today gave us the chance to see some of the highlights of Doñana in winter. Starting with large red deer herds along the forest edges; beautiful views of several red kites and buzzards; a couple of Spanish imperial eagles displaying high in the skies; a flock of pintail sandgrouses calling while flying; large flocks of greylag geese spreading across the marshes and no smaller flocks of wintering skylarks feeding on the wet meadows.

Horses and cattle have now enough food so their quality of life has improved sensibly and so has done that of rabbits and hares. As you approach Jose A. Valverde Visitor Centre, the number of waders and other aquatic birds increase. flamingos, stilts, avocets, purple swamphens, ducks abound in the lagoons around the center.

To the east, in the just planted cereal fields, groups of cranes keep farmers busy and angry; herds of fallow deer graze quietly in the vast dry plains; our wintering short-toed eagle is moulting (here we have the prove thanks to Mercé Montes, one of our clients) and several dozen short-eared owls patrol in low flight in search of dinner. The eagle must have changed its usual diet since it will be difficult for it to find some of the snakes that normally feeds on in spring.

Large flocks of calandra larks and corn buntings also feed in the cereal fields in winter, as well as a large number of wintering common kestrels and a few lesser kestrels.

Further east from Entremuros we observed enormous flocks of waders flying over Cantarita rice fields and found a small flock of about 30 stone curlew waking up. We turned north to find several barn owls roosting in the tamarisks and some 10 black storks near Casa Bombas. After turning west again towards Caño Guadiamar we enjoyed the hunting maneuvers of a male hen harrier and found a large number of golden plovers feeding on a farmed field.
A flock of cranes overflew us when we arrived at the Caño to contemplate the beautiful and wide views of the vast cereal fields under the light of the end of the day.

To put the best end of a nice day we were lucky enough to see, back in the forest, a female Iberian lynx patrolling serenely her territory. Great last sight for a great day.

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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