Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Birding Tour: Odiel Marshes and Donana

Monday 23 February

Day 4:  Odiel Marshes and Donana

Up, up and away by 8 o'clock so that I could find a bar for breakfast before spending the morning exploring the Marismas del Odiel (Odiel marshes) with Derek and Barbara Etherton.  Once more we seemed to have lost the sun and clear skies as the day remained calm and dry but very overcast.  I had intended to make an early start back to Lake Vinuela but when told that Derek and Barbara had found a few Long-tailed Ducks and Squacco herons in the Donana yesterday, visiting the main Juan Valverdes Centre which I had decided to give a miss, I decided to make the extra stop with a repeat visit just to try and locate these wonderful birds.  Again, I was to be sadly disappointed for no matter what else I found, the Long-tailed Ducks and Squacco Herons eluded me.  On the other hand, I did finally manage to record 70 species for the day giving me a final count of 102 for my stay down in Cadiz/Sevilla.  Indeed, the four days produced 18 new species for the year to take my running total up to 156.

Approaching the Visitors Centre at the Odiel we had already recorded White Stork, Spotless Starling, Magpie and Cormorant and were soon adding both Yellow-legged Gull and Cormorant. Passing the small adjacent pool we could not but notice all the Shovelers and then the Flamingos over on the salinas so it was time to park up and check out the river.  Whilst the tide was on its way out there was still very little exposed mud so we mad our way round the back to look at the Odiel itself where, thankfully, small waders were in abundance.  Strange to relate, rather than Black-tailed it was Bar-tailed Godwit that we the predominant large wader.  Also running around and feeding on the receding tide were numerous Ringed Plovers, SanderlingKentish Plover, Dunlin and Redshanks.  A couple of Whimbrel put in an appearance and even a Sandwich Tern graced us with its presence. Black-headed Gulls were moving up and downstream and, eventually, we had a single Black-tailed Godwit - but many more were to follow during the course of the morning.  We even found a couple of Black-necked Grebes feeding in the main river.

Continuing our search of both the main river and neighbouring pools near the road bridge we soon added Little Stint, Greenshank and Snipe.  Meanwhile, near the small adjacent fresh water pool, both Robin and White Wagtail were noted along with feeding Barn Swallows.  In addition to the many Shoveler, the pool also held mallard, Gadwall, Coot and Little Grebes.  The same could be said for the Black-winged Stilts and Shelduck that were seen on the neighbouring salina and a small flock of Avocet flew past overhead..

Whimbrel Zarapito Trinador Numenius phaeopus with Ringed Plover Chorlitejo Grande Charadrius hiaticula in front
A hard-working Curlew Zarapito Real Numenius arquata
Continuing down the spit we found many more Redshank and Greenshank along with Herons, Little Egrets and Spoonbills.  Soon after crossing the high road bridge a Wood Pigeon flew in front of the car and we began to see the first of the Crested Larks that frequent this area in general.  It was a very distant Osprey but a little later on we were to get very good views of a yellow-tagged bird resting on a sand bank in the Odiel.

Osprey Aguila Pescadora Pandion haliaetus - raptor to savour
One of the particularly dense banks between the salinas held both a number of Linnets and Sardinian Warbler whilst a Cetti's Warbler was bursting its little lungs with song.  Also heard was our first Curlew of the day.  Great White Egrets to the left and then Spoonbills to the right with the occasional Stonechat and Black Redstart.  However, the best views of the Marsh Harriers, along with more sightings of small waders, Grey Plover, Curlew and Whimbrel came when we made our stop at the Juan Carlos viewpoint.  There were also Chiffchaffs flitting around the area and, eventually, we managed to find a single Mediterranean Gull.

A stop further on down the spit near a small corner filled with shrubs and small trees then managed to provide a range of small birds including Meadow Pipit, Goldfinch, Serin, Greenfinch and Zitting Cisticola but, maybe best of all, a number of Spanish Sparrows mixed in with their close relative, the common House Sparrow.  On the other side of the road we had a lovely view of a Slender-billed Gull and, very nearby, a pair of Hoopoes that seemed to have decided on a drainage hole on an overflow as their prospective nesting hole for the coming breeding season.  We hardly seemed to notice the Common Kestrel that drifted over.

The beautiful Hoopoe Abubilla Upupa epops at their prospective nesting site
Finally time to make our way back to the Visitors Centre and stopping on the bridge to look down at the now very depleted tributary to the Odiel we eventually found a handful of Turnstone, very well concealed on the stones so thank goodness for Derek's very sharp eyes.  This was where we said our goodbyes with me heading off for a return visit to the Donana to take the long drive down to the Valverdes Centre in the hope that I might find the Long-tailed Duck seen yesterday by both Derek and Barbara.

Distant Grey Plover Chorlito Gris Pluvialis squatarola

Azure-winged Magpies as I approached and no sooner had I entered the track than I was recording many Crested Larks, Stonechats and a pair of Magpies.  A good number of White Storks about and certainly many, many charms of Goldfinches some in quite large flocks.  The Barn Swallow numbers were building up as were the House Sparrows and, again, a few Spanish Sparrows in their company.  Never a shortage of Marsh Harriers including some most handsome adult males and even small groups of Cormorants resting on the arid fields.

Every now and again I would find Chiffchaffs, in almost every group of small trees and/or bushes, and Cattle Egrets away form the water with Little Egrets in the flooded ditches.  By now I had reached the large water reservoirs on the left of the track which were followed just beyond by some seriously flooded fields.  Lots of Shoveler and Mallard, Flamingos, Spoonbills, Black-winged Stilts and even the odd Avocet but no, as far as I could see, Long-tailed Ducks.  I was sure that I had a lovely, almost white head in my scope but then moved nearer the bird in question but could find nothing but Shoveler. Did I see an individual?  I thought so but will not record a sighting until I am absolutely positive.

No shortage of Black-winged stilts Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus
Moving on down the track i began to see more Coots and even a handful of Great White Egrets along with more Spoonbills, Flamingos and Black-winged Stilts. Purple Swamphen and Gadwall were added but still no Squacco Heron.  No sooner had I seen a few Lesser Kestrel near their favoured breeding site in the old run than I not only began to see more and more Common Kestrels but even a couple of Buzzards.  Five Griffon Vultures passed overhead along with one individual resting on top of a wooden electricity pole.

The magnificent Great White Egret Garceta Grande Egretta alba
The area around the end of the track produced a number of Corn Buntings and Meadow Pipits along with more of the same but, this time, also a number of Moorhens.  The waters near the Visitors Centre held Teal and Little Grebe in addition to Mallard and Shovelers an I even found another Purple Swamphen and more Glossy Ibis.

Still more Glossy Ibis Morito Comun Plegadis falcinellus
Driving back towards Isla Mayor in an anti-clockwise direction I cam across many more Kestrels and, Marsh Harriers and even a Black Kite.  Great White Egrets, Spoonbills and Glossy Ibis were in the main ditch as well as more Herons and Little Egrets.  A number of Raven were resting and working the nearby fields and I came across a Black Stork towards the end of the drive.  Finally, I had to wait until I was in the town itself to find my first Collared Dove of the day!  Not sure whether this is good or bad news.

Black Stork Ciguena Negra Ciconia nigra

A long day but very productive and enjoyable followed by the three hours plus journey back to Lake Vinuela.  Good job that Jenny was away in the UK!

Six Griffon Vultures  Buitre Leonado Gyps fulvus seen

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Great White Egret, Heron, Black Stork, White Stork, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Osprey, Black Kite, Griffon Vulture, marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Sanderling, Little Stint, Dunlin, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Curlew, Redshank, Greenshank, Turnstone, Mediterranean Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

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

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