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Flock of flamingos in flight

Summer is around the corner

By José Antonio Sánchez Iglesias

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Summer is knocking at Doñana’s door. Meadows and forests edges are not green anymore although some Spanish iris, daisies, tassel hyacinths, larkspurs, fragrant virgin’s bowers and particularly our halimium halimifolium, one of our yellow rockroses, persist on trying to put a note of colour to it. Rabbits jump around happily early in the morning, watched by the eyes of the iberian lynx from behind a bush. It is not difficult to see fresh prints moving along the sandy road, a bit more difficult is to see the real moving thing, but we hope for it every day, and get it every now and then!. Not far from them, a female red-legged partridge, leading a line of up to little chicks, move its head sideways constantly to be prepared for a predator lying in wait.

Partridge with 12 chicks

Partridge with chicks (photo by David Matthews)

On our way to the marshes we have to stop from time to time to enjoy a black kite perched on its favourite branch not far from the road, some are ringed like many of them in the cork oak forest. The sinuous track of a snake going across the sandy road is also a reason to stop and so it is the pair of booted eagles building a late nest on the ash tree. A young male deer showing two funny still growing little antlers look at us selflessness.


As we get to the marshes edges we start seeing small groups of female deer feeding in the high carpet of dry grass that covers large areas now. Looking carefully we realize that there are several fawns with them, half hidden in the thick vegetation. In our usual stop to look over the grassland we also spend some time looking at the ant lion ants; they abound all over the sandy areas in the forest now and the first adult can be seen flying around clumsily.


A group of black kites resting on a cattle fence give us permission to enter the marshes; the last paddles of shallow water near the road still attract ibis and egrets. Some black-winged kites, lapwings and avocet are still sitting on their nests or are feeding their just born chicks. Mosquitoes are not a problem anymore so you can easily stop for a little while to enjoy the vast plains and try to find the elusive pintail sandgrouse or look at the groups of mares shivering in the distance.


On our way to José Antonio Valverde Visitor Centre we stop to look at some good looking squacco herons on full breeding plumage, or a whiskered tern hovering over the shallow waters. Young yellow wagtails and crested, short-toed, lesser short-toed and calandra larks flying actively over the road and stop on it in front of us. Spectacled warblers come up from the bushes to join the more common zitting cisticolas on the fences to see us passing by.


Upon arriving at Caño Guadiamar, bird activity suddenly raises. Great reed warblers and reed warblers sing their songs from the reeds and play the main roles in a symphony of sounds. Purple swamphens, coots, moorhens, little grebes, cetti’s warblers and little bitterns join them, and some others like flamingos, glossy ibis, barn and red-rumped swallows, come in flight to help. It is the perfect time and place to train your song skills. Further away from us we can enjoy from our watching point on the bridge the beautiful breeding plumages of the black-necked and great-crested grebes, common and red-crested pochards and, with a bit of luck, find rare species like white-headed duck or ferruginous duck. A pair of garganey and marble ducks have also been often seen this spring here.

Male ferruginous duck

Male ferruginous duck


A drive along the adjacent road that goes along the Caño will produce both beautiful landscapes with blue waters and blue reed beds and great birding opportunities like purple heron, short-toed eagle,  reed warbler, corn bunting, lesser kestrel, whiskered tern and others.


Not far from it, the José A. Valverde Visitor Centre offers, apart from a good cup of coffee and toilets, great views of the famous heronry, a must if you visit Doñana in spring.

Jose A. Valverde heronry

Jose A. Valverde heronry

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 ...