Saturday, 17 June 2017

A Day in Doñana

Regular readers of this blog and those who have visited the Algarve will know that our base in Tavira is only 30km or so from the border with Spain.  This allows us occasionally to make a day trip to Doñana, still regarded as one of the most important wetlands in Europe and an excellent location for all sorts of wildlife.  We were there just recently and although only a small part of the area can be seen in a single day, we had reasonable success visiting the Dehesa de Abajo and the José Antonio Valverde Visitor Centre.

There aren’t many bird species available in Doñana that don’t occur regularly in Portugal but notable exceptions are Marbled Duck and White-headed Duck, both of which are classified by BirdLife as Globally Threatened, and Red-knobbed Coot, which is widespread in Africa but scarce in Europe.  However, finding any of these in Doñana isn’t guaranteed and on this recent occasion we found only one of them: there were four White-headed Ducks at Dehesa de Abajo, three males and a female. It’s quite possible that there were Red-knobbed Coots present, too, but on this occasion there wasn’t much enthusiasm for standing in the blazing sun peering through a telescope trying to find them amongst hundreds of distant Eurasian Coots.
What Doñana does offer is better opportunities to see species such as Great Reed Warbler, Savi’s Warbler, Black-crowned Night Heron, Squacco Heron and Black Kite, which are not ‘every day’ birds in the Algarve and much greater numbers of European Reed Warblers, Purple Herons and Glossy Ibises.

 Glossy Ibis

Purple Heron

We have written before including  here, here and here about previous visits to Doñana.  One of the features of visits in the breeding season has been the spectacle of hundreds of nesting herons, egrets and Glossy Ibises at the José Antonio Valverde Visitor Centre so it was disappointing this time to find virtually none there at all.  Fortunately, it wasn’t long before we were able to at least find where they had re-located to but it is no longer possible to view them at such close range.  However, there were countless birds constantly flying to and fro and endless opportunities for flight photography.

 Squacco Heron

Black Kite

Short-toed Eagle

Other than Lesser Kestrels and hundreds of Black Kites we saw disappointingly few raptors but at least one Short-toed Eagle allowed close approach.

Mid-June would not be our recommended time to visit Doñana but if you can put up with temperatures of 40ºC and higher, it still offers some good birding.  Better, though, to go in April or early May when more birds are singing and there’s the prospect of seeing some migrants.

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