Two consecutive days exploring the Donana National Park; Sunday at the El Acebuche Centre and Monday at La Rocina followed by the circular drive along the rack to the Jose Valverde Centre and back. Arriving by 9.30 each morning and with over 50 species seen each day in beautiful suuny weather, we were more than pleased before returning to the hotel for a late afternoon swims (in the sea on Monday!) before changing for dinner.
A birthday treat was called for so the message went out that a Kingfisher and Water Rail would be much appreciated. Little did I think that within thirty minutes both targets had actually been achieved! As is usual in this part of Spain, the fifteen minute drive to El Acebuche was accompanied by regular sightings of both Azure-winged and Common Magpies with a Stonechat thrown in for good measure on just about every stretch of fencing.
With shallow water in most of the pools we were off to a good start with Green Sandpiper, Little Grebe, Little Egret and a handful of Spoonbills. Plenty of Mallard about and then a female Red-crested Pochard. We had already had at least 5 Pied Flycatchers before our first 2 Spotted Flycatchers. As already referred to, our presence was greeted by a lovely Kingfisher that kept us entertained and, just as we were thinking of moving on to the next hide, whilst watching a pair of female Mallard, out walked a Water Rail from the adjacent reed-bed. Wonderful! Another wonderful present was to notice a Buethroat whilst observing a feeding Green Sandpiper. In the trees around us a continuing movement of Azure-winged Magpies accompanied by the occasional Chiffchaff and Chaffinch. Back on the water there were a few Coot and a couple of Grey Herons whilst above a lone Marsh Harrier drifted over and away. The long, circular walk through the grounds and back to the car produced a lone Hoopoe plus a number of Crested Lark before we came across a reasonably close Green Woodpecker. Meanwhile, feeding on the grasses, the large flock of House Sparrows contained at least one Spanish Sparrow. Greenfinch, Serin, a large number of Wood Pigeon and the odd Great Tit kept us company until we found a pair of Tree Sparrows. So, with a Kestrel overhead, we made our way to El Rocio to check out the main lagoon.
Being a Sunday, we should have known better! Not only the normal crowd of tourists plus the day coincided with one of the main pilgrimages to the shrine. However, on the way down the road we did record Buzzard, an adult Woodchat Shrike and Southern Grey Shrike on the wires. At the back of the town we also found the occasional Willow Warbler in the reeds plus a small charm of Goldfinch. On the water itself were good numbers of Lapwing and Greylag Geese plus a few Shovelers, Black-winged Stilts and a party of Black-tailed Godwit. A single Zitting Cisiticola was recorded before finding our lone Purple Heron and, finally, a pair of Raven as we made the journey back to the beach.
Little Grebe, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Spoonbill, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Green Sandpiper, Sanderling, Snipe, Yellow-legged Gull, Kingfisher, Hooper, Green Woodpecker, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Crested Lark, Southern Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Robin, Bluethroat, Stonechat, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler,Great Tit, Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Spotless Starling, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie and Raven.
The usual Magpies and Stonechats on our way towards El Rocio and the La Rocina reserve. However, the reserve itself was rather disappointing in both the number of species and totals compared with previous visits. There was a little water (it was completely dry three weeks ago) so Mallard, Coot, Little Egret and Heron were quickly recorded. In the bushes we had Blackbird, Blackcap and Zitting Cisticola with a singing Cetti's Warbler in the adjacent reeds. Add on a couple of Robin and the "resident" Buzzard and by late morning we were done and heading off into the Park proper, along the tracks through the recently-farrowed fields to the Jose Valverde Centre in the hope that there might be some water.
What a journey and what some great birds were seen; numerous Northern Wheatears, Stonechats and Crested Larks but also a magnificent Short-toed Eagle on the ground in front of the car as he gathered in his breakfast, albeit a rather small lizard! In addition to the eagle, we also had Red Kite, numerous Marsh Harriers - but not a single adult male, a Montagu's Harrier, a hunting female Sparrowhawk and at least an hundred Kestrel. However, pride of place must surely go to the pair of sub-adult Spanish Imperial Eagles that were being harried by 3 Ravens. The other large birds included a good number of White Storks and at least 5 Black Storks, not to mention the gaggle of Greylag Geese that passed overhead in true "V" formation as we left the Centre.
Small birds included Linnet, Goldfinch, Hoopoe and Black Redstart whilst we did find a good selection of water birds on the large pool near the Centre. Here we had a large number of Spoonbill and White Storks plus both Little and Great Crested Grebe. Ducks included Mallard, Shoveler, Gadwall and Teal whilst the waders were represented by a handful of Snipe, a Common Sandpiper, Greenshank and many Black-tailed Godwits in the large company of Black-winged Stilts and Avocets. Finally, I must not forget the large flock of Cormorant at the back of the pool or the single Purple Swamphen that popped his head out for a few seconds to see what all the fuss was about. Then, as we worked our way back to the road through the rice fields, a single Great White Egret.
Another vey good day with 59 species recorded before returning to base. Lots of photographs but, alas, if I am to keep the records up to date, insuffficient time to process before posting this and future blogs. I shall have to create a "photographic blog" upon my return!
Birds seen:Cormorant, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Grey Heron, Spoonbill, White Stork, Black Stork, Gadwall, Mallard, Teal, Shoveler, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Kestel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Cetti's Warbler, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Chifchaff, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, House Sparrow, Spotless Starling, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie and Raven.