Monday, 27 October 2014

Four Days Birding towards and In the Donana - Day One

23 October 2014  

Donana Trip – Day 1

Greater Flamingos Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus at the Dehesa de Abajo
Later away than I had hoped but made good progress with very little traffic and the sun was shining in an almost perfectly clear blue sky so onward and upward as I made to Punta Umbria, just the other side of the Odiel in Huelva Province.   But no one is going to contemplate a direct drive, there had to be some birding on the way. In my case it was to leave the motorway to follow the “Osuna Route” in the hope that I might find a Great Bustard;  I did not.  The next diversion was to take the Coria del Rio route rather than the motorway from Sevilla so that I could stop at the Dehesa de Abajo and then wind my way on via El Rocio, but no stopping, down to Matalascnas and then on through the dock area of Huelva to once again pick up the short motorway extension to my eventual destination.  For two nights I will have the privilege of staying at the Apatamentos Aldetur and very smart it is too.  Top floor apartment with a balcony overlooking the Odiel itself so, once the sun is in the right direction, I should have some great views.

Distant view of a Buzzard Busardo Ratonero Buteo buteo 
What of the forty plus birds seen during the journey?  The usual Collared Doves, House Sparrows and Spotless Starlings as I started off along the back road to pick up the new high speed railtrack and then, at the first high bridge, over a dozen Ravens hanging around.   However, a better sighting near the small patch of reeds on either side of the road where it crosses a small gully was a Sedge Warbler, no doubt fattening up for the coming flight over to Africa, along with a couple of Zitting Cisticolas. But the main bird, indeed for the following four days, was the Stonechat.  It might not have produced the highest total but it certainly was the most seen species; they were here, there and everywhere.

Red Kite Milano Real Milvus milvus
The occasional Buzzard and Common Kestrel but a general lack of raptors until three Griffon Vultures drifted across the shy above and, quartering the fields, two or three Marsh Harriers.  Next up were numerous Crested Larks, the odd Corn Bunting and a very stationary Southern Grey Shrike on the wires after crossing the third bridge towards Lantejuera.  The two shooters were having a rest whilst the dogs sniffed around and not three hundred metres further on I came across two small coveys of Red-legged Partridge.  Perhaps I should have scared them off but with chicken brains they would just as likely have flown straight towards the waiting guns.  At least I heard no shots as I retraced my steps so that I could complete the loop back to the motorway and by way of compensation actually saw a very late Black Kite.  Far better, though, was the lovely Red Kite as I turned left at the crossroads and watched over thirty White Storks soaring above.

Greater Flamingos Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus 
Then the drive via Sevilla down to the Donana and making my only stop at the Dehesa de Abajo where there was plenty of water.  The rice harvest was underway so lots of activity on the fields cutting, transporting and even burning stubble.  How very strange, though, not to find a single Squacco or Night Heron.  Loads of White StorksLittle Egrets and Grey Herons on the harvested rice fields along with good numbers of Cattle Egrets.  On the water itself I soon discovered where all the Flamingos had gone!  There were well over three thousand present along with hundreds of ducks. Mainly Shoveler but also good numbers of Red-crested Pochard and slightly less mallards.  Lots of Coots and at the back of the water hundreds of Black-winged Stilts and scores of Avocets.  The odd Jackdaw was seen on the far bank whilst, back on the water, both Little and Black-necked Grebes were recorded.  Gulls, in relatively small numbers, were represented by Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls along with the occasional Lesser Black-backed.

Stonechats Tarabilla Comun Saxicola torquatus of all ages and gender here, there and everywhere
Also of interest were a small number of hirundines feeding over the water near the road in front of me.  Mainly Barn Swallows and House Martins but also a very small number of Sand Martins.  A Cetti's Warbler always seemed to be calling and Chiffchaffs were very active in the surrounding trees and bushes along with a mall number of Goldfinches.  A single Green Sandpiper took flight from the muddy field behind me and on closer inspection I also found a small number of Ringed Plovers and a good-sized flock of Lapwing.  Similarly, a number of White wagtails were recorded as I made my way on towards El Rocio I had Black Redstart and numerous Azure-winged and (Common) Magpies.  A long tiring journey and then I was at my destination in Punta Umbria ready for Day 2 which would be spent in the Marismas del Odiel.

No shortage of Common Darters Sympetrum striolatum to be seen

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Red-leegged Partridge, Little Grebe, Back-necked Grebe, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, White Stork, Flamingo, Griffon Vulture, Black-shouldered Kite, Red Kite, Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Collared Dove, Crested Lark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Zitting Cisticoal, Sedge Warbler, Chiffchaff, Southern Grey Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.

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