Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Five days in the Donana National Park area

Wednesday 30 April

With the special Bird Fair to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the saving of the Donana and foundation of the Spanish Bird Society SEO (Sociedad Espanaol de Ornitologia) due to start tomorrow and run for up to four days at the Dehesa de abajo Visitors centre to the north of the Donana National park, I managed to book i at a very reasonable price in the Hotel Lince in the small town of Aznalcazar.  A question really of how to sped the first day travelling to the far west and where to stop on the way?

In the event I was driving up to the car park at Fuente de Piedra just before 9am and enjoying the sight of so many Curlew Sandpipers still in residence along with a good number of Little Stints.  The flooded filed is rapidly drying up but there were still both Avocet and Black-winged Stilts along with Dunlins, Little Ringed and Ringed Plovers.  Even a good number of Coot had joined the party to see what food was still on offer.  Over the water numerous feeding Barn Swallows so I parked up and made my way across the boardwalk to try and get some closer pictures with the sun behind me.  A few more Dunlin, Curlew Sandpipers and both small Plovers but the best sighting was the fleeting double appearance of a Water Rail.

Purple Swamphen Calamon  Porphyrio porphyrio
Returning to the laguneta behind the Visitors Centre via the lower path I could not help but notice the thousands of Flamingos.  A White Wagtail put in an appearance as did Spotless Starling, House Sparrow and Jackdaw.  On the back pool, apart from a couple of Little Grebe, most of the ducks were Common Pochard but also a good number of Red-crested Pochard, a few Mallard and Shovler plus a single male White-headed Duck.  Returning to the mirador overlooking the main water I had a Corn Bunting singing from the top of a bush immediately below me along with a Nightingale to the side.  The nearly dry scrape produced a couple of Turnstone whilst Moorhens wandered about and Gull-billed Terns started to appear.  In addition to the Hoopoe at the rear of the sight I also found a small group of House Martins and a couple of Cattle Egrets.

Some of the fifty plus Sand Martins Avion  Zapador Riparia riparia were quite restless
Time to set off for the eastern bank of the mighty Guadalquivir and a visit to the that wonderful birding area know as the Brazo del Este.  The journey was not without pleasure as it produced first a Common Kestrel the White Stork followed by Black Kite, Buzzard, a single Raven and a couple of good-sized flocks of Common Swifts.  Perhaps not the best time of the year to visit this site as all the fields as far as you could see in every direction were brown and bare having been ploughed and, mostly, also harrowed ready for the planting of the next rice crop.  No shortage of Crested Larks on the track and the occasional Grey Heron drifting over but the birds came as I reached the respective water holes and streams.  There is certainly no doubt as to where many of our local Black-winged Stilts and Purple Swamphens are residing.

Glossy Ibis Morito Comun Plegadis falcinellus
Spoonbill Espatula Comun Platalea leucorodia
Purple Heron Garza Imperial Ardea purpurea
These pools held not only the above but a good number of Glossy Ibis, a Spoonbill, many Mallard and Black-headed Gulls plus feeding Whiskered Terns overhead.  Again, no shortage of either Cattle or Little Egrets and the a couple of Purple Herons.  having been amazed to come a cross a hundred or more Sand Martins gathered on the wires, I was rather taken by surprise when a lone Squacco Heron dashed out from the bank below me.  Stopping a the same trees as last year I was rewarded by a beautiful male Black-headed Weaver, but just the one as far as I could see and well hidden in the branches most of the time.  Below the tree a Reed Warbler was busy singing for his supper and a lonely Lesser Black-backed Gull rested in the dried-up canal.  The opposite side produced a Yellow Wagtail of the Iberian race along with a couple of Linnets and then it was off towards Sevilla leaving all the White Storks bust feeding in the neighbouring fields.  The last birds to be recorded before leaving these dry fields was a group of about thirty Collared Pratincoles.

The very active Whiskered Tern Fumarel Cariblanco Childonias hybrida
Taking the usual journey towards El Rocio via Isla Mejor, I was able to stop at the Cattle Egret heronry and also find a number of Night Herons sharing the estate.  Just a hundred metres later I had first a Red Kite followed by a Black Kite in the sky to my immediate right but, at that particular moment, the camera battery gave up the ghost which necessitated a stop at the next opportunity to make the necessary change.  A Woodchat Shrike was followed by a couple of Buzzards and then a small feeding flock of Bee-eaters.  Approching El Rocio I had first a couple of Common Magpies then regular appearances of individual Azure-winged Magpies.  Time to head out of "Sand City" with a Blackbird and Marsh Harrier for company but driving towards Aznalcazar through the trees an added bonus when a Great Spotted Cuckoo decided it was tome to fly across the road giving me an excellent sighting.

Nigh Heron Martinete Comun Nycticorax nycticorax keeping watch at the heronry
So, to the Hotel Lince with a final tally of 63 species for the day.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Squacco Heron, Night Heron, White Stork, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Red Kite, Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Water Rail, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Collared Pratincole, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Little Stint, Dunlin, Redshank, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Gull-billed tern, Whiskered Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Common Swift, Crested Lark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Yellow Wagtail (Iberiae), Nightingale, Blackbird, Reed Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting, Black-headed Weaver.

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

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