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The Game of Nature

By Lucía Lozano Villarán

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The old tell that until not long ago Geese barely had to go away from the secure marshes inside the Park, they used to find in them everything they needed from September when the begun to arrive. But things have changed; now they have to make a short trip to the rice fields every day to come back and rust in the marshes. And partially this is because we have less rain nowadays. Rain season is coming late this year and the scarce rain we have had so far has been only enough to fill the marshes next to El Rocío; there we found a couple of Crested Coot among several hundreds of Common ones. Cold weather hasn’t arrived yet to many winter birds are still hanging around somewhere along the way. There are only about 1,500 geese in Doñana at the moment.
These changes are not for the good from the geese’s point of view but they bring us some advantages; now we can enjoy every morning one of the biggest attractions of Doñana in Autumn: skein after skein, a thousand geese fly over us at Cancela de la Escupidera, at the entrance of the Hinojos Marshes. At low altitude they over fly us letting us hear their powerful calls.
These masters of flying without engine unfold all its abilities before us, what a control of the air, what a power; we can feel the energy they emit, a strong army composed by thousands of experienced soldiers whose joint force would be able to move mountains and to deviate the course of a river.  Those are the sensations they produce in us.
Before arriving at the marsh we have already enjoyed another exciting demonstration of force; stopped at the Raya Real, next to the cork forests of Matasgordas, we are delighted with the manoeuvres of two male Fallow Deer that fight for the right to perpetuate their genes through their harem of females. They clash their antlers with controlled energy, with precision. We see in their faces no gesture of annoyance, fear or hate, simply they carry out their well-trained exercises with a very concrete objective, without apparent strains; it is just a new demonstration of Nature’s Game.
Among Mastic Trees, Blackberry bushes and Tamarisks, with a much more shy behaviour but with clear evidences for trained eyes and hears, the just arrived Chiffchaffs, Robins and Blackcaps have taken command of the forest. Their songs join with those of Sardinian Warblers, Chaffinches, Great and Blue Tits and Short-toed Treecreepers. Timid Black Redstarts also abound already, as well as White Wagtails and Meadow Pipits in the marshes, where the last Wheatears are still passing through. Large flocks of Goldfinches and Serins explore the dry marshes in search of thistles full of seeds while huge flocks of hundreds of Calandra and Skylars feed in the cereal fields next to the Park. Large concentrations of Corn Buntings and smaller groups of Meadow Pipits join them for lunch. In the distance we look at small groups of Cranes flying towards the rice fields.
Many Red Kites, Common Buzzards, Common Kestrels and some Lesser, many Marsh and some Hen Harriers and a few Peregrine and Merlin, each one take possession of its own corner in the vast skies and long fences across the marshes. With a bit of luck we can even find that of the Spanish Imperial Eagle like we did today. There is no need for them to do any demonstration of force to radiate it at first sight. We enjoyed the sight of a second year juvenile perched on a pylon next to the Caño Guadiamar. For Matthew, my client today, it was his first time and he did not miss any detail through my telescope. We saw it in the distance from the bridge over the caño after having enjoyed for a few long seconds at a Water Rail and a Bluethroat in the reed beds. After a coffee break at Jose A. Valverde we headed for Huerta Tejada where we found several dozens Stone Curlew at their usual winter field.
In the rice fields around Isla Mayor we came across huge flocks of Gulls, including several Slender-billed, Egrets and Herons everywhere and some large flocks of Glossy Ibis. We also found large flocks of Lapwings, Ruff, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts and small numbers of Greenshanks, Spotted Redshanks, Common Redshanks and other small waders including Kentish Plover. But the most impressive concentrations for me were at Dehesa de Abajo where many thousands Shoveler spread all over the lagoon. We also found Pintail, Mallard, Gadwall, Common Pochard, Red-crested Pochard, Little Grebe and Great-crested Grebe. At the far side of the water we saw large groups of Avocet and Stilts again.
As usually great opportunities for good birding these days.

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