Showing Doñana since 1990


Iberian lynx carrying a rabbit in its mouth

Hooray, they’re confined !

By José Antonio Sánchez Iglesias

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If they thought in human way, that is what the inhabitants of Doñana should be thinking now. There have never been in Doñana’s history days like these; days when its forests, marshes, beaches and dunes have found absolute peace. The unusualness of the situation that humanity is facing has led us to almost absolute confinement, but this same unusual situation is giving them something that they never knew. No one in Doñana, not the most bearded lynx, nor the most horned deer, nor the wisest of the Park’s imperial eagles had ever experienced anything like it. Neither its infinite beaches of fine sand that remain clean of footprints these days, nor the highest of its dunes that for centuries have watched over its extensive marshes from its privileged watchtower, nor the oldest of the cork oaks at the “vera”, that should already be feeling herons and spoonbills tickling on its branches, not even the most worn out by age wild olive tree had seen days like these in Doñana.

Mobile dunes and pine woods

But I can imagine it as if I saw it. I can imagine myself going over the Ajoli Bridge at dawn on my magic carpet and seeing Moreno, the dominant male lynx of the territory, drinking calmly from the waters that flow below it. Crouched on its four legs, with the front ones just out of the water so as not to get wet and its stiff tail protruding from its silhouette. I see him satiated and moving away from the stream with a calm but firm step, just as a stray cat would move to cross a street at night, to get lost behind the mastic trees and start the morning hunt. Jaspe, his female, may still be interested in his attentions, although more likely she must already be choosing the best place to bring her cubs to the world in a few weeks, but this year, much more likely than others, she may decide to choose one of those big mastic trees that grow in the middle of the track, quieter than she has ever seen it before.


I also imagine groups of Iberian magpies that these days will be very entertaining in the morning feeding under the white poplars. The night dew moistens the flower spikelets and makes them fall to the ground, with them small insect larvae that live in them must also fall. The season’s last robins and black redstarts are also approaching to share the feast, as well as Cetti’s warblers, wrens and probably, with the advancement of migration this year, the first nightingales already back from Africa. If they thought in human way, Iberian magpies must actually be missing the usual weekend horse droppings, another typical source of food for them.

Horse riders and carts seaters will not be moving along the Raya Real anymore, a regular flow of people on saddles, walkers and carters who is regularly accompanied by a much less desired flow of glasses, bottles, plastics and other waste that little contribute to the wellness of the local fauna and do much damage to the Doñana landscape. Unfortunately the other usual flow, the one of El Rocío dogs, will not have ceased and I can imagine how they continue to trouble lynxes, foxes, wild boars and deer of the place.


Going unnoticed as I would go on my magic flying carpet. I would see our white storks striding slowly between the tamarisks at the beginning of Raya Real, stopping from time to time to, without haste or stress, lower their neck to launch their beak with a last and quick movement to capture an insect or amphibian that, completely oblivious to what is coming upon it, emits its last vital energy before falling into darkness.


I can see almost as if I were there the first black kites already working at at dawns first light; their sorry moans must be flooding  Matasgordas Dehesas these days. I imagine them giving those typical breaks in their flight path to descend abruptly and pick up in flight a stick of their liking, and rise again to take it to their nest and show their partners how involved they are with the agreed work. The ash tree it’s nesting on must already have a good green foliage. Surely if I continued to fly over the Raya Real with my magic carpet and thanks to the magically increased abilities of my eyes, I could see how the number of trails on the sand of running toads and other creatures of the night has increased considerably in recent days. Unaware of the changes that have occurred far from their ground patches, they continue their night walks in search of food and a partner. Field mice, shrews, lizards, beetles and other crawling vermin should not be the least bit concerned about human suffering, but they surely also enjoying the quietest moments in many thousand seasons.

I don’t really need to imagine it because after having lived it so many times I can almost see it, although I like to see myself flying over Doñana on my magic carpet. In the meadows within Coto del Rey flowers of the already withered daffodils will be losing their snowy white color to appear sizzling and brownish like melted wax. The time for the yellow flowers of the crucifers that dominated large areas under the tall pine tops must over over. Now it must be the white of the snowflake flowers, the yellow hanging tubes of the wax flowers and the blue of the bugloss that decorate the green grass meadows. Ferns should already be gaining height and helping to decorate the forests. Female deers with their young from last year must be grazing quietly in small groups, enjoying the unusual tranquility, without worrying about those who have stopped there to look at them or the one who drags a very loud box behind where they seemed to see someone locked up. Weird they must be somehow feeling for that unexpected situation where calm, true calm, floods everything.

Pinar al amanecer

Tracks must be slowly fading under the grasses that, oblivious to human distress, suddenly find an opportunity to germinate where none has done it for countless generations. I can also imagine clearly seeing from my vantage point the small lion ant larvae relieved not to have to redo their funnels so often without knowing why and the local badgers surprised by the strange event of finding the tracks that left the day earlier when they walked along the human groove.

I imagine myself stopping the flight of my rug over an old cork oak on the edge of the road, where a newly arrived booted eagle finds a wonderful, quiet place to build its nest. The poor thing can’t understand how she missed that perfect place the year before. The same thing happens to the pair of hoopoes that find in one of their broken branches the perfect hole to lay their eggs and raise their offspring this year. And I imagine something similar happening to the woodchat shrikes that must have already spread throughout the open areas of the forest and have begun to dispute their territories, and the first bee-eaters that must already be seeing our coastlines if they have not already arrived.

Águila calzada posada

Fagínea, the lynxess whose territory extends through the Matasgordas cork oak, must be spending the most peaceful days now, without having to worry so much about her two teenage cubs that they must be having most of the time without their mother. This spring they will improve their hunting techniques much easier without the inconvenience of that noise that scares the rabbit away or the nuisance of that short-minded guy that, hidden behind the bushes, thinks that this way they cannot be seen by them.

I imagine a Doñana as the human race has not seen for a long time, a wild Doñana at last, a true natural park, a nature safe from the excesses of those who see themselves above all but that in reality are far from understanding what they do here. I stop imagining for today and put all my real hopes that this little invisible bug, as son of the Earth as we are, will make us better and less harmful bugs for the earth beneath our feet.

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 ...