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Red deer rutting in the forest

Doñana in September

By José Antonio Sánchez Iglesias

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September is for for all the beginning of a new calendar year in Doñana, especially regarding rain. It is now when we start to count the accumulated rainfall of the year and when we all start wondering how the coming year will go. This is an important question that we face every year, whether we will have enough rain or not to flood properly our marshes and ensure a good breeding season for our waterfowl and, by extension, a good year for all the inhabitants of Doñana. Heavy rain is not expected though in September, the beginning of the rainy season in Doñana usually is delayed until October.

It is now when the large mammals of the Park, red deer, perform the courtship and mating tasks, the deer rut. It is a worth seeing spectacle of nature and is quite easy to get in Doñana. When we enter the forest, the sounds emitted by males to prove their strength are all around us and make us partakers of that awesome power of nature. Other large mammals such as fallow deer, wild boar and Iberian lynx are also observable.


The autumn or postnuptial migration, as it is called in ornithological terms, is in full swing this month. During it, hundreds of thousands of birds of all kinds, from small passerines to large raptors and storks, begin their journey from their breeding grounds in Europe to the sub-Saharan Africa. Bee-eaters continue to announce their passage with his characteristic rhythmic singing and birds like Wheatears begin to cross the marshlands by the hundred every day. Whinchats, spotted and pied flycatchers, willow warblers, sedge warblers, spectacled warblers and other small birds go along with them. Other migratory birds as the Montagu’s harrier also stand out for their number; it is beautiful to watch passing the elegant gray males and the beautiful young with reddish bodies.

Young Montagu's harrier flying at sunset

Young Montagu’s harrier flying at sunset


The dry salt marshes expect the arrival of the first rains. Only in the Caño Guadiamar is still possible to find some water. Large amounts of white storks, on migration, spoonbills, glossy ibis and flamingos concentrate there. Grey herons, little egrets, cattle egrets, black-winged stilts, black-tailed godwits and other small waders also abound. In the nearby power lines we often find perched some short-toed eagles, red kites, black kites and lesser kestrels.


The main activity of our water birds is concentrated in the large area of paddy fields stretching northwest of the protected areas, so it should not be overlooked in a good birding day in the region, or for anyone who wants to get an idea of what Donana is in the summer, a concept that goes far beyond the currently protected areas or listed as such in the region.

Cattle egrets and glossy ibis overflying a rice paddy

Cattle egrets and glossy ibis overflying a rice paddy


The so called rice tables have been flooded since May and four months after a myriad of larvae of dragonflies and other insects, frogs, fish and tons of American crayfish abound in its waters, turning the area into a formidable foodstore and an excellent refuge for thousands of birds, among which stand out for their number, beauty or rarity the white storks, the first black storks of the year, glossy ibis, squacco heron, , black crowned night heron, bittern, flamingo, marsh harrier, purple gallinule , the last purple herons of the season, collared pratincole and a large number of waders on passage.


Next to them, in the Dehesa de Abajo, where usually there is still a good sheet of water, concentrate normally a large number of aquatic birds, among which stand out large numbers of white storks and flamingos, spoonbills, herons, egrets, storks, godwits, terns and the last black kites and booted eagles of the year.

September may not offer the spectacular landscapes of the flooded spring marshes, but gives us beautiful scenes of nature in Doñana and very good opportunities if you are interested in bird watching.


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 ...