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marshes with a carpet of yellow daisies and three bulls

Unusual winter

By José Antonio Sánchez Iglesias

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umbrella pine forest

 

In the forests things go right this year; forests and meadows look beautifully and the green is getting decorated with flowers day by day. Serins, goldfinches, great and blue tits, wrens and cetti’s warblers, they all display restless in order to attract the nicest female for their own. Penduline tits, crested tits and long-tailed tits are also busy with the reproductive preparatives.

Great spotted woodpeckers can be heard all around keeping themselves busy, testing different trees and drumming on them to get the perfect note; lesser spotted woodpeckers produce a fastest sucesión of drum beats and can be found if you follow the sound, feeding on an ash tree that is getting its leave back very quickly. Short-toed treecreepers are also busy feeding already their chicks in the nest under the peeled bark of an eucalyptus tree.

Sardinian warblers compete for the branch with robins and chiffchaffs; subalpine warblers, just arrived from Africa watch them playing the game from the near bush.

Reed deer move in large herds of males and females in separated groups; found dropped antlers here and there, they will immediately start to create the new ones. Wild boars also move through the marshes edges in small groups and feed incessantly on anything the find along or search actively in the soft mud.

The number of black kites is increasing very quickly and we have also seen the first booted eagles and short-toed eagles back from the south. Marsh harriers and hen harriers still fly low over the marshes in good numbers. Groups of just arrived lesser kestrels hover a bit higher in search of insects and the first lizards coming out of hibernation.

two young wild boar feeding
three griffon vultures on the dry marshes

Crested and Calandra Larks perform their courtship from above us when we stop the car to look around us. Most of the marshes remain dry ;we haven’t had enough rain this year the flood them so they have turned yellow these days with an extensive carpet of yellow daisies instead of the usual green of the aquatic plants, giving the marshes an unusual winter look. Lots of meadow pipits and white wagtails prepare their journey to the north while the first wheatears pass across and stop here and there to capture an insect.

 

Large flocks of griffon vultures rest calmly on the plains, waiting for the sun to create the first thermals to lift them high over Doñana and explore the area for food. We set off those resting just on the road and they go and seat not far from it, gathering again in a group. A common kestrel here, a common buzzard there and a pair of ravens a bit further seat on the cattle fence and use it as an advantage perched to look around for a prey.

A bit further east I stop the car all of a sudden because there is an elegant young great-spotted cuckoo on a tamarisk on the left near the road. We enjoyed for a little while and keep moving and hearing the sound of the cranes, calling far away somewhere in the far marshes. I have to stop the car again because there something else that catch my attention on the right this time. Not far from us, the cattel fence on the right is closer that than on the left. A pair of great-spotted cuckoos behaving strangely, well one of them, the other one was pretending not to be interested on the other one’s performing. That is what the crested is for !! Another individual fly pass and put an end to the show, shame, but still I got some good shots.

A hundred meters further, another cuckoo with a fresh capture in its beak and a second one showing beautiful with is yellowish chest catching the morning light

young red-knobbed coot

The compulsory stop at Caño Guadiamar offer us the chance to look at a large flock of flamingoes accompanied by groups of small waders like kentish plover and ringed plover. A few beautiful black-winged stilts picking little things in the water and a couple spotted redshanks and ruffs. Barn swallows, sand martins, house martins and pallid swifts keep on coming in and take advantage of the concentration of insects on the flooded areas.

By then, we deserve a coffee break at Jose A. Valverde Visitor Centre. There is a good concentration of species there. Red-crested pochard, common pochard, gadwall, common teal, mallard, shoveller, little grebe, purple swamphen, black-tailed godwit, marsh harrier, common kestrel, spanish sparrow and a good number of just arrived sedge warbler, that sing actively from the bushes. But what attract our attention the most is a coot, but not an ordinary coot, it is one that, looked carefully, shows certain small differences with the ordinary ones. It is a young red-knobbed coot whose knobs are still tiny compared to those of an adult in full breeding plumage, but still looks great to us.

With our energies restored, we resume our tour and head east to Lucio del Lobo. Along the drainages birds like green sandpiper, black-winged stilt and spotted redshank find the perfect place to feed. Lesser short-toed larks and calandra larks display restless over our heads. Red kites, black kites and groups of white storks overfly us a bit higher. We found a large remaining group of cranes that must be nearly ready to leave and a bit later we count up to 4 different individuals of short-toed eagles perched along the electric line that goes parallel to the road. We stop at the Caracoles lesser kestrel colony where there is also a pair of little owls living. Later, on the way back, we are lucky enough to catch an elegant adult spanish imperial eagle being chased by a black kite.

A great day out in this unusual dry winter that still offer great birding opportunities.

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 ...

2 Thoughts to Unusual winter

  1. Dorothé Reply May 21, 2016 at 7:48 am

    It was a great day!!! Still thinking back at that trip. Thanks again for the guiding and hope to see you and donana again!

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    • José Antonio Sánchez Iglesias Reply May 21, 2016 at 4:12 pm

      I am glad you enjoyed the day Dorothé and hope we will meet again sometime soon in Doñana. Best regards

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