By José Antonio Sánchez Iglesias
Posted in Summer
The two Spanish Imperial Eagles nesting in the far side of the marshes in El Rocío are both perched high on two of the tallest eucalyptus early in the morning, around 7:30, when we start the tour today. A group of red deer is grassing and moving slowly along the edge of the dry marshes where they can still find some juicy food. A black kite passes flying over looking for breakfast and several white storks return from their night rust at La Rocina Stream.
Rabbits and partridges are the first animals we see after entering the National Park. A bit later, a little owl say hello from its usual perch on a cork oak tree as we pass next to it. It is going to be a hot day today, they say, but there is still a pleasant breeze that make us feel cool and nice.
Iberian lynx is our main target today, like every day, while moving through the pine woods. A fresh track gives us hope to keep on searching. But as I say to Carlos it is not difficult to find a lynx track around that area if you know what to look for, they move around every day, but finding the real animal is another matter.
Short-toed treecreepers, woodlarks and crested tits sound in the distance but don’t let us see them. A dark morph booted eagle, that began working early today, overfly us and a common kestrel, still defending breeding territory, chase it away. While moving through the cork oak forest we are lucky enough to suddenly find a lynx up on a solitary tall pine. They spend most of the time on the ground, they don’t like much climbing up trees, but now in summer they do it more often in order to get cooler temperatures and breeze, especially from midday on. This is a great sight to make the tour worth it for Carlos and family.
A bit later we come across a group of reed deer grassing along the forest edge. A few males showing fully grown antlers seem to be already interested on the females and guarding them. Most of black kites have gone now so the skies are a bit empty. Luckily swifts and swallows replace them up there since they are already moving back south. Some short-toed eagles and Montagu’s harriers are also passing through on migration south and they are not difficult to see in the marshes. A few crested larks and woodchat shrikes perched on the cattle fences and a small group of pintail sandgrouses cheer the drive through the dry marshes. They are among the few only species that live in these harsh conditions in the marshes. A solitary marsh harrier and a couple of common kestrels are also spotted from our vehicle.
We arrive at Jose A. Valverde Visitor Centre and take a coffee break. There is not much water left. They let the water go every summer to prevent the proliferation of toxic algae. But now, in the shallow water, there are a good number of waders already returning from the north: little ringed plover, dunlin, little stint, curlew, green and common sandpiper, black-tailed godwit, black-winged stilts, avocets; also glossy ibis and the occasional visit of pintail sandgrouse. To complete the scene a large group of wild boar moving quickly away into the reeds.
Back in the land rover we move to Caño Guadiamar and find a small group of fallow deer resting under the shade of some tamarisks. Females jump and run away while an impressive male half the way to look back to us. We see a couple of lesser kestrels and a little owl that live in the old pumping house and a red kite seating on the electric line. Back in the Hinojos Marshes we find a group of about 15 griffon vultures moving east and several booted eagles moving south to complete a good bird list and build a good tour today.