What a fabulous four days even if the birds were short on the ground, or even in the air, in quantity terms but our little group of fifteen members of the Andalucia Bird Society still manged, as a group, to find 111 species and, no doubt, I will have missed a couple of others. Beautiful weather, lovely apartments at Punta Umbria and, best of all, great company with lots of fun and friendship to add to the birding. My special thanks to John Wainwright for compiling most of the report and, hopefully, I can add to the photos as members email them over to me.
|One of scores of White Storks Ciguena Blanca Ciconia ciconia|
With the meeting point set at the northern Donana lake of the Dehesa de Abajo, most arrived in time to take a coffee or something at the nearby El Croce venta having already discovered very many White Storks. The added attraction on the journey west of Sevilla was to come across the numerous caravans of the pilgrims making their way to El Rocio for the most importantant gathering of the year. Fortunately, we were not held up too long, even on the motorway, as more Guardia Civil than you would normally like to come across, escorted the pilgrims, most dressed in traditional costume, on their way.
No doubt the most numerous birds to be found, other than the white Storks, were the scores of Black Kites. (The previous day near Osuna we found an arable field holding over 100 resting Black Kites.) Similarly, there was no shortage of either Little Egrets, Grey Herons and even Spoonbills.
Stopping at a pool just before the main water, John and Jenny Wainwright spotted a Night Heron landing here - this we subsequently found hiding under a tree. Also there they saw Red-knobbed Coot, Cattle Egrets, Cetti´s Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler in addition to the Grey Herons and White Storks.
|Night Heron Martinete Comun Nycticorax nycticorax (PHOTO: John Wainwright)|
The next small pool produced a very secretive Marbled Duck, Sardinian and Cetti´s Warbler with overhead yet more Black Kites. When all were finally gathered at the laguna at the Dehesa de Abajo, where the sky at times seemed to be just wall to wall Black Kites, the water itself produced numerous Great Crested, Little and Black-necked Grebes, Common and Red-crested Pochard, Mallard, Purple Swamphens, Jackdaws, Ravens and huge numbers of Greater Flamingos. Jenny called our attention to three Spoonbills overhead and still higher were a flock of eight Glossy Ibis, whilst down in the reeds here the main songbird was the Great Reed Warbler, interspersed with a Cetti´s and a few Goldfinches. John also found a female Great Tit and a Melodious Warbler.
|Marbled Duck Cerceta Pardilla Marmaronetta angustirostris|
Other species noted here included Spanish Sparrows, a single Tawny Pipit, Blackcaps and a Little Owl by Steve and Elena Powell. Moving further along the laguna we spotted Gadwall, Little Egrets, Common Coots, Moorhen and a Grey Heron. Two Linnets flew past us and a Purple Heron landed in a reed bed to our front and at the "dam" a Bee-eater flew past us and a Southern Grey Shrike was noted on the power lines. Lots of Common and Scarce Swallowtails about ( mostly around the Spanish Oyster plants) as well as Large Whites, Pale Clouded Yellows, Painted Ladies and several Violet Carpenter Bees.
|Red-knobbed Coot Focha Moruna Fulica cristata (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)|
After the group got together again we all headed for El Rocio, seeing on the way, Hoopoes, Azure-winged and Common Magpies, a few Corn Buntings, Serins, House Sparrows, a Red-rumped Swallow, Barn Swallows, Common Swifts and House Martins. Not a single Buzzard to be seen on the long straight road but we did record both Woodchat and Southern Grey Shrike and even a solitary Raven gave us the "evil eye" from atop a pylon next to the road.
At the SEO Visitors Centre - the place was shut again - we all clambered round the left hand side of the centre to see close at hand Nightingales, Barn Swallows and House Martins, while across the marisma we spotted Spoonbills, Mallard, Greater Flamingos and Glossy Ibis. In the skies above the marisma umpteen Black Kites circled and displayed, then a Booted Eagle and a Short-toed Eagle were seen. A beautifully marked Red Kite came over only to be slightly harassed by a Black Kite. Next, over the tree tops, a male Marsh Harrier gave us some great views and, just as we were leaving, a Chaffinch flew past.
The track running alongside the old road into El Rocio was taped off, but we did gain access a little further down the road, where Barbara and Derek Etherton noted three Greylag Geese on one of the small grassy islands and as we progressed down the track a Woodchat Shrike was seen as well as a male Stonechat, a Northern Wheatear and a single Griffon Vulture.
|Woodchat Shrike Alcaudon Comun Lanius senator (PHOTO: John Wainwright)|
And so on to Punta Umbria and our accommodation in individual luxury apartments at Apartamentos Cost Luz courtesy of the owner and ABS affiliated member, Marta Jariod. A long, but great, start to our birding adventure down west!