Yesterday we crossed the border into Andalucia and spent the day in the Doñana area. It was only our third visit there this year but our second this week! In January we managed to choose a foggy day, last Sunday it was cloudy and it rained; at last, yesterday was sunny and warm!
We often wonder what the Algarve would have been like for birding 50 years ago, before the tourism industry took it over and destroyed so much of the habitat. To some extent that same question about Doñana is answered by Guy Mountfort’s book, Portrait of Wilderness, an account of three expeditions to the area in the 1950s which helped establish the Doñana National Park as one of western Europe's outstanding natural areas. Doñana is unrecognisable now as the wilderness that was explored by Mountfort and his colleagues. Since those days, the area has suffered, like the Algarve, from tourist development and human encroachment, wetlands have been drained, river water has been diverted to boost agricultural production and there is also pollution from surrounding agriculture. In 1998, the area was threatened by a huge spill of toxic sludge from a reservoir at the Aznalcollar mine into the Guadiamar River. Having identified such a wonderful area and recognised its importance for wildlife, how could it be possible to allow so many negative impacts to continue over the following 50 years?
The good news is that, in spite of everything, Doñana is still a wonderful area for birds and other wildlife. There may be times when it is dry and maybe seems rather uninteresting but right now it is teeming with birds, many that are there to breed and many that are just passing through. We had a great day and the question now is how soon can we go again?
If you haven't read Guy Mountfort's book, you really should! Likewise, if you haven't been to Doñana...
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