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Summer arrival in Doñana

By Lucía Lozano Villarán

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Temperatures go up, pastures wither, marshes dry out and crack and green is slowly losing its dominance in favour of yellow, it’s summer in Doñana.
El Rocío marshes attract always in the early summer a large number of birds that prey on the shallow and nutrient-rich waters next to the village. Large groups of Flamingos, White Storks and herons and also Black-tailed Godwits, Avocets and some Stilts can be easily observed at close range specially in the early hours of the morning, . Flying over the lagoon there are numerous Whiskered Terns, gulls and Black Kites. It is definitely one of the most interesting spots in the Park these days to anyone who comes close to El Rocío.
In the pine and cork oak forest in the north of the National Park hinds with their calves are hidden in the undergrowth, especially from mid-morning when the sun presses. Partridges, still in family groups, are seen easily, and the tireless Black Kites continue, now in large groups of young individuals, flying over streams, forests, meadows and marshes near Coto del Rey; most are moulting now getting their plumage ready for the trip back to their winter quarters in Africa. Small baby lynx are putting weight daily well fed by their mother in a good year for rabbits. If seeing a lynx is an experience in itself, if you are lucky enough to see an adult accompanied by their offspring then it becomes unforgettable.
In the contact zone between forests and marshes fallow and reed deer herds take advantage only the cooler hours of the day to graze and browse, after which they disappear into the woods. Little Owls in the rabbit warrens stare at us with indifference as usually while some Black Kites stretch their winds on their perches along the endless cattle fences that cross the vast marshes.
It is a good time now to observe the colourful Pintail Sandgrouse; being late breeders as they are it is now when they become more active having to feed constantly their broods. Larks find now in the early summer the best conditions in the vast dry plains with scattered water ponds Iberian Hare feel also at home in these tough conditions for most although they can never forget the presence of several pairs of Spanish Imperial Eagles in the area that would love to carry their chicks a good piece of fresh meat to start the day.
As we move eastward through the Hinojos marshes the yellow dry grass turn gradually to green towards the Caño Guadiamar where water still remains deep. There large flocks of ducks, herons, Flamingos, Spoonbills and some waders concentrate again. Hidden in the reeds Purple Swamp-hens, Moorhens, Reed Warblers, Black-crowned Herons and Little Bitterns are still very active, some facing a second brood as often happens in boom years like this one. Great-crested Grebes are also abundant in the Caño, the young ones have reached adult size but they still look very different with their striped heads. It is also in these good years when several thousand Greater Flamingos find the right conditions to breed in the Doñana marshes, a kindergarten with several thousand chickens has congregated a few kilometres south of the bridge over the Caño, too far from our itinerary to be seen.
At José A. Valverde Visitors Center the breeding of hundreds of pairs of Glossy Ibis, Purple Herons, Squacco, Herons and Egrets continues. Considering how late in the year it is unusual to see such activity in the colony. A little further east, in the Lucio del Lobo also concentrate large groups of waders, herons, storks, flamingos and ducks; small groups of Fallow Deer hide in the tall bushes looking for fresh grass among them. Several Short-toed Eagles use power line poles running along the track to perch get off our way and show us their majestic glides and move to perch a few posts ahead if they have eaten already or take advantage of the effort and continue flying in search of a juicy snake if haven’t yet.
In the old Pump House of Garrido, near the Caño Guadiamar, which still barely stands up, several pairs of Lesser Kestrels have breed successfully this year again. Adults and juveniles perch on the nearby wires if it is not too late in the morning. In the tunnel used to carry the water pumped from the nearby agricultural fields to the Caño several pairs of Common and Red-rumped Swallows have also successfully bred and have not yet started their journey back south.
A promising year that is giving us a very attractive early summer in the woods and marshes north of Doñana. If you are thinking of spending a few days in our area this summer and enjoy our wonderful beaches do not forget that the National Park worth a visit even in summer.

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