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Marsh landscape with a fence and yellow flowers in the background

Yellow marshes

By José Antonio Sánchez Iglesias

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The marshes at El Rocío are a great birding spot these days. A good level of water attracts good number of birds including flamingos, spoonbills, ducks, herons, egrets and waders. A walk along the promenade produce a long list that includes collared pratincole, Savi’s warbler, sand martin, bee-eater, great reed warbler and whiskered tern.

El Rocío Marshes from the promenade

Forests are now looking just great, with flowers decorating meadows in the dense pine woods. But is the marshland who is really offering the most attractive landscapes. Numerous but not very abundant rains have run across Doñana over the last few months. This has provided just the right conditions for a solid carpet of yellow daisies to be created. This not very frequent event can be enjoyed this spring.

It was 2016 last time I saw the marshes with this outstanding golden look. Easy times when you look back. Not many have the chance to enjoy these beautiful landscapes nowadays. With no tourists around, Doñana is having a break from us I guess. A visit to the northern forests and marshes these days means to me, more than ever before, a peaceful, serene and relaxed experience in nature.

Marsh landscape with a carpet of yellow flowers

Large flocks of white storks stopover in Doñana on their way north. They can be seen walking slowly across the short vegetation of the dry marshes in search of grasshoppers and other insects. Bee-eaters can often not be seen but their calls float pass high over our heads as they migrate in large groups. Calandra larks, crested larks and lesser short-toed larks perform restless all around as we move on. Groups of griffon vultures join storks at the thermal that will help them gaining altitude in order to resume their trip. A pair of young spanish imperial eagles that never saw the marshes looking like this join them up there too.

Despite of the current beautiful landscapes, it won’t be a good year for water birds. Water accumulates mainly in the areas of the lowest altitudes like Caño Guadiamar and some of the southern “lucios”. Everywhere else is mostly dry. Hopefully rain will come back soon to extend water puddles duration. Meanwhile cows, horses, deer and rabbits eat the green food with pleasure. Black kites and common kestrel fly over the yellow marshes scanning the short vegetation for something crunchy to eat.

Iberian hair and pintail sandgrouse feed among the salty bushes of the pickleweed while a distant stone curlew calls from its chosen patch to attract a willing female. A couple of ravens squawk at low altitude while looking with envy the powerful flying skills of a male peregrine. It beats rapidly its strong pointing wings and fly north faster than my eyes can focus my binoculars on it.

Marsh landscape with clouds on a blue sky and water puddle

Several black-winged stilts feed in the shallow water edges of Caño Guadiamar and a flock of glossy ibis overfly a large group of flamingos. A few great reed warblers sing from their perch in the reeds. The weaker sounds of a reed warbler and a cetti’s warbler can be heard in the background. Nothing to be compared with the symphony of calls and songs of a good spring. But that is what Doñana is like, you never know what the weather has planned.

Flooded marshes with group of flamingos

Large numbers of cattle egrets gather at Jose Antonio Valverde lagoons. A female marsh harrier fly over and put them off every now and then. Several squacco herons rest calmly among the reeds next to each other. And so do a few purple herons hiding in higher reeds keeping distance among each other. Poor expectations they must have. An unexpected surprise comes down from above. A black kite carrying a stick lands on a near tamarisk to work on a nest which looks almost ready. We will have excellent views of the breeding process this year from the visitor centre hides.

Whatever nature has prepared for us over the next few months in Doñana I’ll be around to tell you. It won’t be the same as coming over to see it yourself but that’s all we can do for the moment this year. Hopefully that will change.

See you soon.

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 ...