Blog Archive

Monday, 2 May 2016

Doñana here I come!

Today was the day of the Corn Bunting.   Everywhere we went there were 'jangling keys' ringing in our ears.   Sitting on fence posts, wires, the tops of bushes, every small bird was a Corn Bunting, except for the very occasional Cetti's and Great Reed Warbler.
Corn Bunting

The land we passed through was mainly agricultural with oranges, olives and cotton being the main crops.   The forests in this part of Doñana were mainly Cork and Oak and at one point we passed a very important area of "Dehesa" which is an open forest area.   This type of landscape has evolved over time where poor soils need help to sustain a viable agricultural community in harmony with nature.

Cork Oaks and Holm Oaks make up the shade providers in summer and their acorns provide food for livestock in the winter, whilst their roots help to stabilise the soil.   The livestock that are grazed below improve the fertility of the soil.   These areas become wildflower meadows in spring and they provide food and shelter for many insects and pollinators, which in turn feed birds and other creatures.   It also gives a most wonderful sight to travel through and enjoy.

Further along the road Stone Curlew were settled in a field and were flushed as the vehicle stopped.

Water at last for the Black-necked Grebes
A visitor centre loomed up but before we entered there was the European rarity of Red-knobbed Coot to find.   Our first challenge was met immediately we alighted our vehicle.   Collared Pratincole flew overhead.   Black-necked Grebe were present in good numbers, apparently as the rest of the area dries up with lighter rains over the last three years, these Grebes have concentrated in the largest area of reliable water.
Welcome to Doñana Bird Fair

As we were in the area, a quick visit to the Doñana Bird Fair seemed appropriate.   Coffee and cake were on hand, and the opportunity to find our first Terns - of the Whiskered variety.   Unlike the British Bird Fair we were met by a White Stork on its nest as we drove in.

A great site for wildlife watching with all the facilities you could wish for.   Lots of wild flowers again, providing excellent habitat for many diverse species.

Cattle Egret were walking around on the grassy banks, completely unperturbed by the people wandering around.   Although the Fair did not call in the huge numbers of the British Bird Fair, everyone was really friendly and welcoming and a great atmosphere across the whole site.    Soon it was time to move on again with our first stop to see some Black-headed Weaver who should be in Africa!   The male stood out well against the green of the willows it was building its hanging nest in.   In the same line of willow there were Black-crowned Night-heron.  We could see four but apparently a colony of them roosts regularly, so there would have been more in the background.
Doñana Bird Fair

A Gull-billed Tern flying overhead was the next excitement, closely followed by Isabelle (Western Olivaceous) Warbler.   A few minutes further on a Black-winged (shouldered) Kite was seen perched on a bush some way back from the road and rather a challenge for some to find!

Iberian Yellow Wagtail, Squacco Heron, Marsh Harrier, Lapwing and Avocet were all notable attendees for our mornings list.