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Greylag geese flock

Doñana in October

By José Antonio Sánchez Iglesias

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Autumn has just started and is now in October when the rainy season usually starts, with them many thousand anatidae, cranes, waders and other wildfowl come to Doñana after a long journey from northern Europe. Among them stand out for their number around 50,000 geese that choose Doñana as their wintering area each year. The almost magical sound of the flocks flying at dawn over the village of El Rocio makes us aware of the arrival of a new season. The sun no longer rises so high above Doñana and the light colouring the landscapes becomes softer and appropriate for nature photography for longer each day.



Red deer rutting becomes less spectacular and is more difficult to see the imposing males with their harems and is becoming difficult to hear them but fallow deer mating season begins now, not as flashy as that of red deer but will allow us to enjoy the views of these elegant and delicate mammals. Also we began to see easily groups of red deer feeding on acorns felt under the oaks; often they even rise upon their hind legs to reach those still hanging from the trees. Fallow deer and wild boars join them in a feast that will last several weeks.


Groups of wild boar and flamingos at Caño Guadiamar

Groups of wild boar and flamingos at Caño Guadiamar


Marsh mares also await anxiously for the arrival of the rain that will increase availability of food in the dry plains. The last pools at Caño Guadiamar still attract large flocks of spoonbills, glossy ibis, herons and flamingos and groups of wild boar and fallow deer come down to drink and eat. Marsh harriers fly overhead in search of careless preys. At Dehesa de Abajo also tend to concentrate large numbers of waterfowl including, water level permitting, some white-headed ducks and marbled teals.



Rice harvest begins, an event that attracts huge numbers of birds swirling on the freshly harvested fields and moving from one to another in large flocks and following harvesters and tractors activity. Rice paddies become for several weeks one of the most attractive areas of Doñana. The dry clay of the marshes begins to disappear under a light sheet of water. The highest areas of the Hinojos Marshes turn green, same as meadows under the pine forests.


Rice harvester surrounded by birds

Rice harvester surrounded by birds


Sightings of Spanish imperial eagle are abundant in October. In the Raya Real, the now wet sands, offer daily good fresh tracks of our most famous mammal, the Iberian lynx, and other species such as badger, fox and egyptian mongoose.

Thousands of wheatears, whinchats, willow warblers, whitethroats, redstart, spotted and pied flycatchers and other small birds keep coming through Doñana each day on their migratory journey to their winter quarters in Africa. The last short-toed eagles, booted eagles, Montagu’s harriers, yellow wagtails and short-toed larks.



Other small passerines like robins, blackcaps and chiffchaffs also begin to arrive as an unmistakable sign of a seasonal change, and their numbers gradually increase until becoming very common. Others, like skylarks, song thrushes, meadow pipits, white wagtails and black redstarts will follow as soon as temperatures drop. We also get now the first flocks of lapwings and golden plovers. Red kites, marsh harriers, peregrine falcons, common buzzards, common kestrels and Dartford warblers also increase their numbers rapidly. They also move away from the cold north.

In the roadsides mandrake (mandragora autumnalis) opens its blue flowers, and sea onions (drimia maritima) it’s clusters of white flowers. In the forests the first white bells of the autumn snowflakes (acis autumnalis), late crocus (crocus serotinus) and white daffodils (narcissus papyraceus) come out. Partridges graze in large groups. Butterflies and dragonflies still abound in marshes, rice fields and meadows.

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 ...