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El Rocio Marshes under a cloudy sky

Hope in difficult times

By José Antonio Sánchez Iglesias

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El Rocío Marshes continue to compose a perfect postcard every day, with the inestimable complicity of the Sanctuary. Both in a morning with skies covered by grey clouds through which the warm rays of the sun sneak in, or under the blue skies of the midday that enliven colors and cheers hearts, Doñana shows optimisms.

Marisma bajo un cielo azul con nubes blancas

More swallows and house martins than usual fly over them. An unusual number of Craig martins, perhaps push down from the mountains by the recent low temperatures, have also decided to enjoy the charms of the lowlands. Large flocks of flamingos, groups of spoonbills, herons, storks, mallards, teals and godwits feed in its shallow waters. A huge battalion of coots rests by to the shore, close together, and wearing no mask. Geese, glossy ibis, swamphens, bluethroats and cetti’s warblers also join the great gathering of species that are now concentrated at the Mother of the Marshes.

Flock of coots and flamingos in the marshes

In the pine forest, the life of its inhabitants also runs smoothly. Green meadows are beginning to get decorated with the first flowers, those which are not willing to wait for the official spring calendar to run close to show off their charms. Hoopoes are already announcing the arrival of spring with their repetitive songs. Somewhere hidden, male lynx court their females, purring love poems for them.

Sandy track going through a pine forest under a blue sky

In Matasgordas, cork oaks cover their tops with clusters of yellowish flowers, attracting a whole cohort of winged helpers who buzz around them, spreading their pollen everywhere. Relaxing time now for the deer, which graze peacefully in the green winter edge. A young Iberian imperial eagle contemplates its hunting grounds from its perch on the cattle fence.

Caño Guadiamar showing only a small flooded area

The softening of temperatures and the rains that visit us often make many happy, although this year we are still far from reaching the necessary amount for the marsh to fill properly. Some puddles here and there break the monotony of a plain that satisfies calandra larks and lesser short toed larks but not egrets and ducks. At Caño Guadiamar there are only some flooded areas, just enough for some herons, swamphens and bittern to find shelter in.

A bittern coming out of the reeds

Around the José Antonio Valverde Visitors Center, which now opens only in the morning, also  concentrate a large number of birds. Large flocks of shovelers rest silently on the calm waters. Tranquility broken from time to time by the low flight of a marsh harrier. A barn owl contemptuously watches the show from its perch in a tamarisk, and a small group of cranes flies over it on their way to their feeding fields north of the Park. Be aware that coffee bar is close temporarily.

Young Spanish imperial eagle in flight

Another imperial eagle flies over us on the way to Lucio del Lobo, where the water has only managed to accumulate in small pools. Flocks of skylarks rise in the nearby cereal fields as we pass, and a small dartford warbler hops among the salty bushes along the road. Buzzards, red kites, common kestrels, and ravens make good use of poles and power lines that run parallel to our track. For us, it is time to turn around and say goodbye to Doñana until next time hoping to come back soon.

Doñana National Park calmly passes through these difficult times. Away from the deafening noise, its small daily tragedies go unnoticed, crushed by the unprecedented and dire events that overwhelm us. Oblivious to human misfortunes, its landscapes continue to illuminate our souls, promising a near future full of beauty and certainty.

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 ...

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