Saturday, 14 March 2015

Still in the Donana

Saturday 14 March

Onwards and upwards for John and jenny as they continue to find some great birds down in the Donana National Park including both Hen harrier and Great Spotted Cuckoo.  John's report follows.

DonaƱa: Day 3   Friday 13 March

A day of contrasts from bright sun to thick fog.

The day was bright - albeit fresh - as we started off from out base at Matalascanas and headed for El Rocio and from there across country to the Dehesa del Abajo.  Just after leaving El Rocio the fog came down but not before we had seen a Black Kite, three Common Buzzards and a few Barn Swallows.  As the fog descended we could still see the park's boundary fence and on this we spotted several Woodchat Shrikes, Black Redstarts, Goldfinches and Blackbirds.  In the fields - as we left the boundary fence - several large flocks of Greenfinches were seen, also about were Linnets, Spanish (being in the majority) and House Sparrows, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Corn Buntings and a couple of Sardinian Warblers.  From a newly-harrowed field a single Stone Curlew lifted off followed by a few Crested Larks and Common Magpies. 

Spanish Sparrow Gorrion Moruno Passer hispaniolensis (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
As we passed the now defunct cotton factory White Storks were to be seen on virtually every conceivable platform, be it man-made or natural.  Lots of Cattle Egrets about in the groves and as we approached the turn-off to the Dehesa del Abajo ( which I note has now been newly signed) several Little Egrets and Cormorants and two Night Herons came out of the ditches, which had copious amounts of water in them, as well as a lot of the fields hereabouts.

In the meadows approaching the lake we disturbed a large flock of Glossy Ibis, Little Egrets and a Great White Egret, while at the lake we could just make out a few Common and Red-crested Pochards, Great Crested Grebe, Little and Black-necked Grebe, Mallard and Shovelers.  The fog suddenly lifted and we could then see the trees at the back of the lake crammed with White Storks while above them Black Kites circled.  A female Common Kestrel sat on the power lines and above her a Sparrowhawk soared lazily across, whilst in the fields opposite the lake, good numbers of Meadow Pipits and Crested Larks were seen.   In the reed beds we spotted five Purple Swamphens and a female Marsh Harrier arose from the reeds and started quartering the area. Spoonbills and Greater Flamingos were about in the lake and in the reeds along the banks Grey Herons were feeding.  In the bushes along the front of the lake we found Spanish Sparrows, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaff (both singing),Cetti´s and Sardinain Warblers, Goldfinches and Spotless Starlings. 

Purple Heron Garza Imperial Ardea purpurea (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Moving from here and making our way over to the Valverde Centre, as we left the metalled road, a large flock of Corn Buntings were seen and along this track the following were noted; Common Buzzards, Marsh Harriers, Common and Lesser Kestrels, Grey Herons, Little and Great White Egrets and hundreds of Glossy Ibis.  As we pulled up alongside the old pumping station, we counted at least seventy Night Herons - a lot of juveniles included, and as we continued along the main track two juvenile Black Storks in company with White Storks were spotted.  Lots of raptors about mostly Black Kites and Marsh Harriers although we did spot one Red Kite a bit later on, and while we were parked here watching the raptors, two groups of Common Cranes numbering sixteen birds were heard, then spotted, very high up ( I wonder if they are leaving??). 

Black Storks Ciguena Negra Ciconia nigra (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Moving on we located Lesser Kestrels, more Great White Egrets and Grey Herons, Spoonbills and Greater Flamingos, White Storks and the inimitable Glossy Ibis.  The hedgerows held Spanish Sparrows, Chiffchaffs, Zitting Cisticolas, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Corn Buntings and Woodchat Shrike.  Two Black-eared Wheatears - spotted by Jenny - on the fence posts as were two Green Sandpipers and our first of the year Great Spotted Cuckoo.  From one of the many flooded meadows a large number of ducks took off due to the arrival of two female Marsh Harriers and a Short-toed Eagle and then a Peregrine Falcon took off from a pylon - I would not have seen it, if it hadn´t called as it left its perch as we had passed by. 

Great Spotted Cuckoo Crialo Europeo Clamator glandarius (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
At the centre itself, the only new birds were Black-tailed Godwits and Ravens, so we had coffee here and moved off in the direction of the new water catchments.  On the waters to our left we found Common Coot, Moorhens, Pochard and Shoveler, Black-necked, Little and Great Crested Grebes,Spoonbills and Greater Flamingos, Grey Herons and Great White Egrets, two Black-headed and a Yellow-legged Gull.  In the meadows opposite a small group of Short-toed Larks, Meadow Pipits and good numbers of Yellow Wagtails (iberiae). Carrying on down the track we put up three Purple Herons and located over a dozen Purple Swamphens , Green Sandpipers and more Yellow Wagtails.  A few House Martins had now joined the Barn Swallows and two Crag Martins were noted also.  Another female and a juvenile Marsh Harrier were seen hunting over the reeds and in a long grasses by a new screen-hide another Marsh Harrier was seen, resting.

Great White Egret Garceta Grande Egretta alba (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
A group of seven Common Cranes were coming into land across the fields and then from a ditch a ring-tail Hen Harrier flew out, the male Hen Harrier was seen about half an hour later.  At the bridge (where the Marbled Duck was seen last year), we locate Little Ringed Plovers, Redshanks, White and Yellow Wagtails, a female Black Redstart, Green Sandpipers, more Great White and Little Egrets.  As we headed back towards Matalascanas a pair of Red-legged Partridges were seen as well as two more Ravens.

Off to the Odiel Marshes on Saturday (14th).

What a fabulous day's birding and such a variety of good sightings.  Purple Herons, Hen Harriers Stone Curlew and departing Cranes never mind the Black Storks and a Great Spotted cuckoo.  I obviously went too soon!  Not only great birds but very evocative photographs by Jenny, who was obviously in charge of the camera today!

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

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