By José Antonio Sánchez Iglesias
Posted in Doñana today
Spring is here, no doubt, we have only to look at our fields and our skies and see how the green takes over our lawns and as the blue of our skies every day is more ornate with the increasing number of individuals of species such as Black Kites, Booted Eagles, House Martins and Swallows.
Paper-white Narcissus hide among mastic and olive trees; wild geraniums, white and yellow daisies, yellow rockroses, blue borages, wild mustards, asphodels, all participate to varying degrees in decorating our fields. Pinks, yellows, purples and whites begin to take shape against the green background that lines our sand.
Reed and Fallow Deer lose their old antlers and immediately start forming new ones. Females of foxes and other mammals show their swollen bellies ready to give birth, while House Martins, Swallows and Coots are already working in the development or restoration of their nests. Needless to say that some storks are already hatching their eggs and male Great Spotted Cuckoos are already being chased by magpies in order to remove them from their nests while their partners do their work in them.
The first Black Kites and Booted Eagles over fly our forests, they are here to stay, while the first Short-toed Eagles on passage hover over the meadows in search of their favourite food, snakes, which have started to awaken from hibernation. On the other hand, Red Kites and Buzzards begin to decrease their numbers, only some will stay to face stiff competition with their newly arrived relatives. Lesser Kestrel also begin to return to their breeding colonies in our towns and cities, filling the sky with their claims and pirouettes.
The marsh begins to get cover with Salt Bulrushes while huge flocks of many thousand House Martins and Swallows feed over it. Other small flocks of waders, Godwits and Golden Plovers share the space in the vastness of the plain swamp. Flamingo pink lines and large flocks of Shoveler and Pintail also find their place in the horizontal landscape of the Hinojos marshes.
The still abundant White Wagtails welcome their yellow close relatives, the Yellow Wagtail, whose first units are now back from African lands wearing their best plumages. The Lesser Short-toed Larks do the same with her cousins the Greater Short-toed Lark, with which they will share the dry areas of the marsh until the summer. Although is the Calandra Lark, the queen of Larks the one that governs in the dry islands, their twittering stand above the rest of the songs in our early spring here in the marsh.
Further east, in the Caño Guadiamar, the first Squacco Herons are easy to see now. Gallinules, coots, moorhens and grebes calls divert our attention from the delicate song of the Sedge Warblers, which are hidden in our tamarisk and reeds. The scarce Crested Coots display their impressive horns pointing to the sky as if to get rid of their heads. The elusive Bittern can be seen with some luck along the Caño, along with the first Purple Heron detected already this year. Surely both are spotted without difficulty by the first Ospreys that have already begun their migration and its passage through Doñana.
A bit further east, around the Lucio del Lobo, the latest Cranes and Geese share the shallow flooded areas with groups of Fallow Deer and flocks of Glossy Ibis, which have already started their approach to the breeding colony at José A. Valverde Visitors Center.
Also worth a visit the Dehesa de Abajo, where male White Storks are holding nest on a first come and try to attract females to them. The displays may last for long time, unless it is a couple from last year that find each other after the winter. Though storks form monogamous pairs for the duration of the breeding season, they do not migrate or over-winter together. If the same pair reforms in successive years it is largely due to their strong attachment to their nest site.
Down on the lake, besides large groups of avocets and stilts, it should be noted a large flock of several thousand flamingos that perform their courtship together producing one of the greatest natural performances that Doñana can offer its visitors.
I am sure you will find attractions enough to encourage you to visit Doñana this spring.