By José Antonio Sánchez Iglesias
Posted in Spring
We will have to resign ourselves this spring, very few birds will breed in Doñana this spring, last few weeks rain will not be able to amend last winter low rainfall, most of the marshes are still dry, offering few opportunities for herons, ducks, storks and waders this year. Several hundred glossy ibis are concentrated in the Jose A. Valverde breeding colony and a small number of purple herons can see some, but none of them has come to consider breeding this year. Only a few purple swamp-hens, coots, moorhens, red-crested pochards, mallards and gadwalls have made up their mind to. That is nature, some years good, some bad, and they know it, and adapt to it the best they can.
Still on migration time, flocks of ringed plovers fly over the dry plains in search of food or at least, a quiet place to rest on their long journey north. Environmental conditions in Doñana are not good this year due to the lack of rain but they will not have any problems to find good conditions for breeding on the shores of lakes, rivers and seas in the cold Scandinavia. Huge flocks of whiskered terns and collared pratincoles can be seen in the distance feeding over the flooded areas near the edge of the marshes, next to long lines of pink flamingos. A few short-toed eagles also keep coming through Doñana and show themselves very well as they hover in search of a clueless snake. Only a few pairs of lapwings are nesting in the marshes this year and pintail sandgrouse have just began displaying. black kites are abundant, as every spring, working tirelessly in search of something edible over forests and marshes.
But if there is a species that do well in bad years is the vulture, the big griffon vulture which, coming from their breeding colonies in the mountains of Cadiz and Huelva, use the Doñana marshes as a huge feeding ground. In dry years like this, the number of cows, horses and sheep that can not withstand the harsh conditions increases, benefiting these scavengers with unrefined taste. You can see them every day, when the sun is already high in the sky, gaining altitude in groups, in order to control a wide area around and be alert for any of their fellows who suddenly drop on a prey, to redirect their route to that point.
In the other hand, in pine and cork oak woods spring has come late but now, with increasing temperatures and the last rains, there has been a spectacular explosion of color. Yellow and white chrysanthemum and blue viper bugloss dominate in meadows. With the breeze this morning, large clouds of pine and oak pollen, also in flower, emerge from the tops to cover everything as if it were sand dust. I watched it with suspicion, considering the effects it would have on me a cloud of that size of olive pollen, which is just starting to produce their deleterious periodic effects on my nose and eyes.
All are rushing to take advantage of these few weeks of good breeding conditions, black kites and booted eagles, partridges and shrikes, goldfinches and serins, lynx and rabbits; all run to make the most of it while it lasts . Even mushrooms accelerate flowering showing us their mushroom-shaped eye-catching reproductive structures.