Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Birding Tour Donana National Park

Sunday 22 February

Day 3:  Donana National Park

After yesterdays rain and cloud this morning, if a little on the cold side, started out bright and sunny with clear blue skies; and so it remained all day whilst I explored the Donana National Park in search of a Squacco Heron, without success, before finally ending up at a pleasant hotel in Palos de la Frontera where I was joined by Barbara and Derek Etherton.

Black-necked Grebe Zampullin Cuellinegro Podiceps nigricollis
Driving down the beautiful, scenic valley road from Aznalcazar to the Dehesa de Adajo there was not a car to be seen and fifteen minutes later I was at the latter, my first stop for the day.  Surprisingly cold with the sun yet to warm up the air but already loads of White Storks, Little Egrets and Grey Herons. Jackdaws on the old ruins as I approached and, even ,more exciting, a roost of over sixty Night Herons.  Add on the first Kestrel and Marsh Harriers for the day and I was ready to start looking at the water and neighbouring fields.

Part of the roost of sixty plus Night Herons Martinete Comun Nycticorax nycticorax including some in juvenile plumage as in the centre picture above, bottom left
Following on from the previous two days it would appear that just about every Shoveler must be in this part of the world judging by the numbers seen and to be seen.  Some Mallards but also both Common and Red-crested Pochards plus a good number of Shelduck and a few teal on the water. No shortage of Grebes with all three species, Little, Great Crested and Black-necked, present. Lots of Flamingo at the back of the water along with lapwings and Black-winged Stilts plus, of course, the large breeding colony of White Storks, this being one of very few sites where the birds actually nest in trees.  No sign of any Red-knobbed Coots to accompany the ever-present Common Coots but I did manage to find a few Purple Swamphen.  Finally, I also managed to record a small number of Gadwall.

White Storks Ciguena Blanca Ciconia ciconia in trees, on nests and up, up and away.
On the fields behind the road a resting group of Cormorant and a few feeding Ringed Plover.  First one then many Glossy Ibis put in an appearance along with the numerous Little Egrets and Herons. A Kingfisher paid a very brief visit to the trees at the side of the road adjacent to the water and there were many House Sparrows and Goldfinches present along with just the two Greenfinches.

Female Common Kestrel Cernicalo Vulgar Falco tinnunculus

Leaving the water to drive through Isla Mayor and see the bare paddy fields I passed a large flock of Black-tailed Godwits and a small number of Redshank.  A couple of Snipe were bust feeding in a flooded field ad then I was driving through the above bare rice fields but plenty of water in the ditches and the occasional wet field offering feeding opportunities to the Egrets and Grey Herons. The first of a few Great White Egrets added to the list and, of course, whenever I found trees I also found feeding Chiffchaff.

Great White Egret Garzeta Grande Egretta alba
Eventually I arrived at that wonderful little town of El Rocio; very busy on a Sunday with the masses that visit at week-ends.  On the way I had managed to record many Crested Larks, a few Buzzards, Barn Swallows, Stonechats, Corn Buntings, Serins, Lapwings and Magpies.  No sooner had I arrived and reached the SEO Centre than I was also able to add Spanish Imperial Eagle as the birds went about their nest building on the far side of the lake.  Also present on the water numerous Shovelers and Teal but also a good number of Pintail.

House Martins were bust collecting mud at the side and in the shallows we had Lapwings and a good flock of Little Ringed Plovers.  Lots of Black-tailed Godwits present and the occasional Snipe to add to the Coots, Moorhens and Black-winged Stilts whilst, to the rear, many Flamingos and even a small number of Spoonbill.

House Martins Avion Comun Delichon urbicum busy collecting their building material
The two Interest Centres offered mixed viewing with plenty of water at Rocina but absolutely dry at the further Acebuche site near Matalascanas.  The former produced Purple Swamphen, Chaffinch and even a Short-toed Treecreeper whereas the latter had numerous Azure-winged Magpies, Black Redstarts and the resident breeding White Stork.

Still no sign of a Squacco Heron and even a stop at the Laguna de la Mujeras and neighbouring pool failed to produce the goods albeit there were more Great Crested Grebes, a large flock of Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls, a couple of Purple Swamphen and I even found another Kingfisher resting in the reeds.

Yet more Glossy Ibis Morito Comun Plegadis falcinellus - feeding or resting?
Time to call it a day and head off to my hotel for the night at Palos de la Frontera having recorded, as far as I can remember, 59 species for the day.

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Night heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Great White Egret, Heron, White Stork, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Kingfisher, Crested lark, Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Short-toed Treecreeper, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.

 Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

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