We have been lucky enough to spend the last 10 days in Andalusia in Southern Spain – five of them on a birding trip to the Doñana National Park.
It has been surprisingly cold at times but we have had wall to wall sunshine and seen Spain at its best with doses of tourism in Seville (3 days), Málaga (2 days) as well as the 5 days immersed in nature in Doñana.
A flavour of Seville – slideshow of some of the sites we visited
A flavour of Malaga – slideshow of some of the sites we visited
The birding holiday was organised by ingloriousbustards.com and was superb. As an accidental birder I know my limitations. I’m a keen amateur photographer who likes taking photographs of birds and so there were certain aspects of the holiday which were a little disappointing. At times I was frustrated that the sightings were so distant and my photographic opportunities were limited.
Previous wildlife trips to Namibia, Kruger and the Western Cape of South Africa had presented better photographic opportunities – see Birds of Southern Africa and Birds of Thornybush Private Game Reserve, Greater Kruger
Yet, I did enjoy the trip and the owners of ingloriousbustards.com, Simon and Niki, were excellent birders who located a huge number of different species (124 and counting) and ensured that we all had the opportunity to see them through telescopes. By the end I was carried along by the enthusiasm and knowledge of all these “real” birders and was wishing I had taken my telescope so that we could have spent more time viewing the birds.
Our group of 10 was picked up by Simon and Niki at Seville train station in 2 minibuses and driven the 80 odd kilometres to El Rocio in Doñana in just over an hour. Throughout the week I always felt comfortable with their driving, which I see as a big bonus on such trips. We were then straight into birding.
We spent the first session birding around the lagoon adjacent to El Rocio and had our first picnic lunch, as all days, in the field with uninterrupted birding. The picnics were simple and nutritious, with delicious hams, cheeses, fruit and other locally sourced products and a glass of juice or wine (organic of course) and plenty of water.
Niki and Simon took our cases off to the hotel and we followed on foot enjoying more birding opportunities. The lake was teeming with waders and waterbirds and, in particular, the Greater Flamingos and Spoonbills looked spectacular.
However, it was just as interesting seeing the small birds around the outskirts of the lagoon such as Chiffchaff, Sardinian Warblers, Waxbills, Common Redstart and two birds which certainly caused me some excitement, a Hoopoe and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (a first for me).
After moving into our rooms we were off out again with another inspection of the lagoon. Close-ups of Western Swamphen, Cattle Egret (at the feet of horses this time), Black-tailed Godwits, and Glossy Ibis and distant deer in the evening sun were my favourite memories of this session.
We had all our evening meals at 8 o’clock in the local restaurant. The meals were all very good but for me the tuna and the swordfish were standouts. I cannot comment on the vegetarian options but I heard no complaints; but I can say that the wines which accompanied meals were good and copious.
Slideshow of photos from Day One
Into the park. Lots of rarities and some very close ups.
Our first sighting in the park was a Booted Eagle. More rarities followed with Marbled Ducks, a male Garganey and a Ferruginous Duck. I achieved some photos but nothing that I would like to publish. We did have good views in telescopes, however.
A quirky Western Swamphen up a tree was little easier to photograph.
Slideshow of photos from Day Two
This was a very special day. We were driven by guides from Doñana Nature in search of the Iberian Lynx – the most endangered of all wildcats in the world.. I was amazed when we had a sighting. I must thank Stuart for his assistance in capturing shots with my camera of the lynx through an open window of the minibus which I could not access. The excitement was not diminished in any way.
Distant views of Spanish Imperial Eagle were also pretty special but my favourite “bird” moment was two little owls brilliantly camouflaged in some tree stumps.
Slideshow of photos from Day Three
We had a long journey in the minibuses via Seville to Chipiona, just south of Sanlucar de Barremeda on the eastern side of the Guadalquivir River. We went to see Little Swifts which roost there. I managed to see the last one leaving the roost but sadly no photos.
Then on to the salt pans at Bonanza, north of Sanlucar de Barremeda.
Top spot for me was an Osprey but a Kentish Plover was also pretty special.
At the third site, from the roadside near three pools north of Bonanza we had good views of White-headed Ducks and large roosts of Black-crowned Night Herons.
Slideshow of photos from Day Four
The group were off again birding for a morning session but we had to leave the group early as we had trains to catch from Seville to Malaga via Cordoba but managed a couple of hours birding on our own around the lagoon. The Glossy Ibis were particularly stunning in the beautiful morning sun, and along with the spectacular views of El Rocio we were left with wonderful memories of this birding trip.
Slideshow of photos from Day Five
El Rocio is a very special place with its sandy roads and cowboy culture. At the end of our stay it was building up for the visit of huge numbers of horses and horse riders. I’m not sure if I would want to be there with such large numbers. It was great fun with just a taste of the culture.
Slideshow of photos from El Rocio
Sadly things are not flourishing in Doñana. Simon and Niki pointed out to us the problems created by strawberry growers in and around the park which are well documented in the following articles which appeared in The Times Newspaper.
Strawberry farmers can take their pick of illegal wells
Signs of life draining away from protected wetland
But some stories are encouraging
Warning light plan to save rare lynx from becoming roadkill
One response to “23rd-27th January 2023 – Doñana National Park, Spain”
Wow, that Lynx. Looks a gorgeous area, bit hot in summer!