Friday, 27 March 2015

Two days in Doñana

We can always find more than enough in Portugal to keep us interested and occupied but now and again we do like to pop across the border into Spain, usually to the Doñana area in Andalucía.

It takes only a two-hour drive from Tavira before we can be through Villamanrique de la Condesa and heading for the Dehesa de Abajo or to the José Antonio Valverde Visitor Centre.  We usually see a few bird species in Doñana that are seldom found in the Algarve or that occur in Doñana more frequently or in greater numbers than they do here but as much as anything it’s nice to have a change of scene occasionally.

 Doñana has huge numbers of Glossy Ibises

Our visits to Doñana are usually day trips, which limits how far we can travel so it was nice this week to have a two-day trip over there with an overnight stay in El Rocío.  This gave us time to have a look at sites that we have been to less often and some we haven’t visited for quite a while.

We saw exactly 100 species over the two days.  The highlights were probably White-headed Duck and Red-knobbed Coot, simply because they are birds that don’t occur very often in the Algarve but it was good to see our first Northern Wheatear, Sedge Warbler and Collared Pratincole of the year and to hear our first Nightingale and Savi’s Warbler. 

Red-knobbed Coot

Another highlight was to look out of the window of our hotel room and see Greater Flamingos, Spoonbills, Glossy Ibises, Common & Red-crested Pochards, Northern Shovelers and Black-tailed Godwits.  We fell asleep to the ‘honking’ calls of Flamingos and the croaking of frogs!  The shallow lagoon and marshes right beside the village of El Rocío make a marvellous sight at this time of year with countless hundreds of birds.  It does seem strange that the place is best known for the annual pilgrimage that attracts one million or more people in May every year.  The object of the pilgrimage is a 13th-century statue of the Virgen Del Rocío and you can read more about it here.  Suffice to stay that it is a date that is always in our diary…as a time to stay well away from the area!

 Ermita de la Virgen del Rocío

 Las Marismas Del Rocío

The view from our hotel room

Close to El Rocío is the La Rocina Visitor Centre where the boardwalk trail known as the Sendero Charco de Boca was well worth the visit and nearby the Palacio del Acebrón has an interesting exhibition depicting the history of rural life in the Doñana area.

 Palacio del Acebrón

Inside the Palacio...

...and on the roof

Taking the little ferry across the Rio Guadalquivir, we made the long drive to the Bonanza saltpans and the Laguna Tarelo and we also managed to spend an hour or two at La Dehesa de Abajo Visitor Centre where it’s nice that you can now get food and drink.

 Bonanza saltpans

Other than Great Flamingos, Slender-billed Gulls were the most numerous species at Bonanza

La Dehesa de Abajo has a huge breeding colony of White Storks

Two days were better than one but still nowhere near enough to fully explore this wonderful area.

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