Thursday 7 February 2013

More Donana News

John and Jenny Wainwright continue to enjoy the experience of the Donana National Park (lovely to think that I, too, will be there next week-end along with the Odiel Marshes) and John's account of Days 3 and 4 follows:

Donaña Day 3  Huelva area

Bright sunshine, but the wind is so ferocious.

We came off at the 13km marker on the A422 (Matlascanas - Huelva road), this is a good spot for Common Waxbill, our first sightings were of two Purple Swamphens, then Moorhens, Shoveler, Grey Heron, Coot, Little Grebe, Azure-winged and Common Magpies, Cetti´s Warblers, Green Sandpiper, House Sparrows, Linnets and five Common Waxbills.

So onto the Odiel marshes.  The wind was horrendous and several sand-storms were seen over the main road through the marshes, but, we did see -  just prior to the centre - Shoveler, Coot, Gadwalls, Greater Flamingos, five juvenile Sandwich Terns and a Cormorant perched out on old debris, and on the shoreline we saw Yellow-legged Gull, Redshank and Black-headed Gulls.

Cormorant Phalacrocorax caro with a quintet of Sandwich Terns Sterna sandvicensis (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

At the Odiel centre we picked up Whimbrel, Black-necked Grebe, Barn Swallows and Black-tailed Godwit.  Further on in the marshes we came across one of the four Ospreys (that had been seen yesterday), hundreds of Common Redshanks, Little Stints, two Sanderlings, two Ruff, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Yellow-legged Gulls and Herring Gulls, Little Ringed Plovers, Greater Flamingos, Turnstones and several Marsh Harriers.  We stopped for a bite to eat and here we saw Meadow Pipits, Greenshanks, Spanish and House Sparrows and as we approached a small stream a Kingfisher flashed past us.  Also in the area we saw Great White, Little and Cattle Egrets.

We then returned to the centre - but they were closed - so we parked overlooking the mudflats here and we found Grey Plovers, Black-tailed Godwits, Black-headed Gulls and amongst them we found two Slender-billed Gulls (photos nowhere near as good as Gerry´s, but shows the contrast).  As we came away from the centre a Sardinian Warbler put in a brief appearance as did several Chiffchaff.  The return journey gave us Collared Dove, Woodpigeon, Spotless Starlings, Common Kestrels, Black Redstarts and a ring-tail Hen Harrier surprised us as she flew low across the main road.

Comparison between Black-headed Larus ridibundu and Slender-billed Gulls Larus genei (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
I believe that a less windy day would have made quite a difference to total as small birds were at a premium. We are informed that there is a melanistic Little Egret somewhere in the area but couldn´t locate it!!

Donaña Day 4  7th February 2013

A much better day today, sunny with lighter winds.

We went to the centre at El Rocio and the male Spanish Imperial Eagle was in its usual place, and next tree along was a Red Kite.  On the marismas were Shovelers, Spoonbills, Greater Flamingos, Mallard, Greylag Geese, Marsh Harriers, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwits,Coot & Moorhens.  In the small bushes we
found Chiffchaff, House Sparrows, Goldfinches and a few Linnets.

From here we drove over to the Dehesa de Abajo.  Here we found Buzzard, Black-winged Kite, Common Kestrel, Cormorants, Glossy Ibis, Little, Cattle and Great White Egrets, male & female Marsh Harriers,
Jackdaws, Hoopoe, Ravens and Lapwings. On the lake we saw Shoveler, Mallard, Pochard, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Moorhen, Pintail and Ferruginous Duck.  A nice surprise was the Long-tailed duck which gave good views if you could keep up with it´s movements - definitely not photogenic.  Also here were the Tufted Ducks, two Avocets, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked  and Little Grebe.  A single adult Night Heron was seen flying over the lake.  In the reed beds we saw Cetti´s Warbler and Chiffchaff, and in the fields there were Cormorants, Grey Heron and yet more Great White Egrets and the Zitting Cisticola gave us good views as he peeped his way along the hedgerow.

Then back over to the Valverde centre to try to pick up the Great Bittern and the Short-eared  and Long-eared Owls, but alas we dipped out on all three.  Never mind we did see Buzzards, Black-winged Kite, Night Herons, male & female Marsh Harriers, a ring-tail Hen Harrier, two Black Stork as well as masses of White Storks.  A nice sight was a group of seventeen Purple Swamphens all in one huge gathering (I don't know what the technical term for that is!).  In the flooded fields we found Common Cranes, Greylags, Snipe and Black-tailed Godwits.  On the wires and pylons were Common Kestrels, Corn Buntings, Black Redstarts, Stonechats, House Sparrows and Buzzards.  A Dartford Warbler flew across our path and landed on a fence rail, giving us good views of it.

While we were looking for the Great Bittern, a Fox was spotted in the deep undergrowth, and on the banks we found a Common Swallowtail and Bath Whites.  Also, as we were looking for the owls, a Spanish Imperial Eagle was seen.  We stopped at one of the many pumping stations and saw a Kingfisher.

On our return journey we saw countless Robins and Black Redstarts and Southern Grey Shrikes all lined up along the roadside fences, and above us Barn Swallows and House Martins hawked for their evening meals.

A long day but well rewarded. 

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

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