Anser Birding Andalucia/Coto Donana 14-19 April 2009 trip report

This tour was designed to give some time to exploring parts of the Huelva, Cadiz, Malaga and Seville provinces and look for some their special birds. The weather was milder for the time of year and we had some windy days with showers at times. The marshes were very full of water so this allowed the birds to spread out over huge areas rather than be concentrated. The windy days made it difficult to locate reedbed birds as they were skulking, as a result some easy to see birds were not logged. Overall temperatures were well below the average but on the plus side we had no heat haze and it was a sheer joy to take in grand views across the wetlands in particular with such a variety of skies.

A full list of the birds and wildlife seen follows with images from the trip too. I will add a gallery of views and scenery plus the best of the bird images on another link as soon as I get a chance.

I met six friends at Malaga airort on the morning of 14th and after negotiating the madness of the airport we were soon on the road heading North before stopping off for lunchtime tapas en-route. A selection of great dishes was taken with good coffee and all were ready for some birding. A short way up the road and we arrived at magnificnet Laguna de Fuente de Piedra which has the largest breeding colony of Greater Flamingo in Europe. Thousands could be seen feeding and nesting but we were distracted by the four Lesser Flamingo with them which were lifers for most! We also visited the Donana area staying in Hinojos for four nights as our base. We visited all the main birding sites on 15-16th with a lovely part of the day spent watching the activity at the Jose Valverde Centre where coffee,  toastie and fine birding can all be enjoyed together. We took in El Rocio (memorable for Dave and Martin digging the bogged down bus out of sand), La Rocina, El Acebuche (where we picknicked), Torre de La Higuera before returning for a bit and heading out again to the Dehesa de Abajo. A day out was spent on the East bank of the Guadalquivir (Brazo del Este/Pinzon marshes), La Algaida salinas and pinewoods, Laguna de Tarelo, Bonanza salinas travelling as far as Sanlucar de Barrameda on 17th. We took in the Espera lagoons on 18th, the mountains from Zahara-Grazalema-Montajaque/Benojoan and Ronda. The last day was spent driving back to Malaga.

I have prepared a list of the species I noted with a comment for some.  There is a chance I may have missed some out though.

Black-necked Grebe– seen around Donana’s pools and deeper wetlands, the largest number was of 60+ at Dehesa de Abajo reservoir.
Little Grebe– also noted at many sites.
Great Crested Grebe– seen at Dehesa de Abajo reservoir and a couple of other sites
Gannet– a few off Torre de la Higuera on 15th.
Cormorant-noted
Night Heron-seen on our journeys with many present and nesting in the heronry at Jose Valverde centre on 16th.
Cattle Egret– a very common bird,  in prime breeding condition and atop the sheep make for such memorable sightings.

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Squacco Heron-c6 seen at the Jose Valverde Centre on 16th with a few noted along the Brazo del Este/La Algaida road on 17th.
spain-6-19-april-2009-lumix-mjmcgill-275Little Little Egret-very common but still great birds in breeding plumage, especially at the heronries.
Great White Egret– a few noted in the wetlands of the Corredor Verde and East of the Jose Valverde Centre.
Grey Heron-noted
Purple Heron– seen around Donana but large numbers nesting the Jose Valverde Heronry reedbeds.

A pair of Purps

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White Stork– very common, we took a look at the large tree borne colony at Dehesa de Abajo on 16th.
Black Stork-one was seen at the La Algaida saltpans on 17th.
Glossy Ibis– huge numbers nesting at Jose Valverde Centre with squadrons coming and going all the time. Seen in flocks at La Rocina on 15th and around Donana generally.spain-6-19-april-2009-coolpix-lumix-mjmcgill-063
Spoonbill-seen virtually everywhere in Donana including in the ditches but a pair on an island tamarisk nest at Laguna de Tarelo were notable for the views and study of behaviour on 17th.
Greater Flamingo– no counting but 10,000+ at Laguna de Fuente de Piedra on 14th, 100 El Rocio on 15th and 400 at La Algaida on 17th. The former mentioned site had many active nests.
Lesser Flamingo-four among the larger relatives at Laguna de Fuente de Piedra on 14th. I have since heard there are six and a pair are nesting.
Greylag Goose– two on rice fields near Dehesa de Abajo on 16th.
Shelduck– two at Laguna de Fuente de Piedra on 14th.
Mallard-noted.
Gadwall– noted.
Shoveler– noted.
Teal– a pair noted.
Pochard-very common everywhere in Donana.
Red-Crested Pochard– seen at Dehesa de Abajo reservoir, El Rocio, Brazo del Este and many other sites in good numbers.
White-headed Duck– a male at Laguna de Fuente de Piedra on 14th and 7 males and one female at Espera Lagunas on 18th.
Griffon Vulture– seen over Donana and in the mountains around Ronda but not in great numbers.
Short-toed Eagle-seen well in a number of locations with prolonged views at Dehesa de Abajo on 16th.
Booted Eagle-both colour phases noted at a large variety of sites.
Bonelli’s Eagle-one flew past the bus near Zahara near Ronda on 18th but did not stay to be enjoyed.
Black Kite– very common in most places.
Marsh Harrier-seen hunting around Donana and Brazo del Este.
Black-winged Kite-one seen mobbing a Buzzard near Hinojos on 17th.
Montagu’s Harrier-best views were of hunting birds around Espera Lagunas on 18th. A first summer male was watched well here.
Common Buzzard– seen at a variety of sites.
Sparrowhawk– seen at a variety of sites.
Kestrel-seen commonly.
Lesser Kestrel-distant birds seen whilst travelling, the poor weather in Ronda put paid to good views.
Peregrine-one recorded.
Red-legged Partridge-seen commonly in the Espera area and at other sites.

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Quail-heard around Donana.
Pheasant-noted.
Moorhen-noted.
Coot-noted.
Red-knobbed Coot– one seen well in thick emergent vegetation at the Brazo del Este. See below.

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Purple Swamphen-seen well at a number of sites around Donana.
Great Bustard-2 seen flying N over the Antequera-Seville road near J43.
Avocet-seen in numbers at a number of sites.
Black-winged Stilt-very common at all wetland sites.

Black-winged Stilt at Laguna de Fuente de Piedra

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Stone Curlew-6 seen around the Espera Lagunas.
Collared Pratincole-very common in a variety of areas.

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Little-ringed Plover-seen at Laguna de Fuente de Piedra.
Ringed Plover-noted.
Kentish Plover-seen at a variety of sites.
Grey Plover-seen at Bonanza.
Sanderling-seen at Bonanza.
Dunlin-seen in numbers at many sites.
Curlew Sandpiper– lots at Laguna de Fuente de Piedra and Bonanza.
Little Stint-as above.
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Wood Sandpiper-singles at Fuente de Piedra, Jose Valverde centre and in large numbers at Lagunas de Tollos.
Green Sandpiper-noted.
Common Sandpiper-noted.
Redshank-noted.
Spotted Redshank– small numbers at a variety of sites but 10+ at Lagunas de Tollos.
Greenshank-noted.
Black-tailed Godwit-noted.
Bar-tailed Godwit-noted.
Curlew-noted.
Whimbrel-noted.
Snipe-noted.
Ruff– breeding garb birds were seen in flocks.

Male Ruff in breeding dress, Fuente de Piedra

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Black-headed Gull-noted.
Slender-billed Gull– 2 at the Laguna de Tarelo and 200+ at Bonanza, mating birds and calls all noted and feeding flocks watched at close range. See below.

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Mediterranean Gull-a first winter at Brazo del Este.
Yellow-legged Gull-common.
Lesser-black backed Gull-noted past Torre de la Higuera.
Little Tern-seen at Bonanza especially.
Sandwich Tern- seen on the coast.
Gull-billed Tern-seen feeding in flocks over marshes and fields and even following the plough. Resting bird below.

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Whiskered Tern-common over all marshes.
Woodpigeon-seen at Espera lagunas.
Collared Dove.
Turtle Dove-seen in the Northern woods of Donana.
Little Owl-singles spotted from the car on two ocasions with a showy bird along the Brazo del Este to La Algaida road.
Swift-common.
Pallid Swift-seen at a variety of sites but studied in detail over Dehesa de Abajo.
Hoopoe-seen everywhere in small numbers.
Bee Eater-seen at many sites.
Crested Lark-very common.
Woodlark-seen at El Acebuche.
Short-toed Lark-seen around the dry marshes and fields. One individual was at home in wheel ruts, see below.

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Lesser Short-toed Lark-seen well at La Algaida and other salt scrub areas.
Sand Martin-recorded at many sites.
Crag Martin-seen at Ronda and in the mountains.
Barn Swallow-common.
Red-rumped Swallow– seen at many sites and on our travels.
House Martin-common.
White Wagtail-seen a few sites.
Spanish Wagtail-common around Donana and in crops around Espera lagunas as seen below.

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Wren-heard at Puerto de las Palomas near Grazalema.
Robin-noted.
Redstart-one in the bushes outside the Jose Valverde Centre on 16th.
Black Redstart-seen and heard in the mountains around Grazalema.
Black-eared Wheatear– seen at Espera Lagunas on 18th.
Black Wheatear-a pair at Grazalema, a male nearby and a further pair near Montajaque all on 18th. One of the formers birds atop a boulder below.

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Stonechat-seen commonly.
Blue-rock Thrush– recorded in the mountains.
Mistle Thrush-recorded.
Blackbird-recorded.
Blackcap-recorded.
Sardinian Warbler-common.
Common Whitethroat-seen around Espera.
Spectacled Warbler-seen at Espera.
Subalpine Warbler-heard at a variety of sites but seen very well near Grazalema.
Sedge Warbler-recorded.
Zitting Cisitcola-common.
Savi’s Warbler-seen and heard well around Donana but La Rocina gave the best views.

Savi’s Warbler, La Rocina MJM

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Cetti’s Warbler– heard at many sites.
Reed Warbler-heard and seen well at La Rocina.
Great Reed Warbler-common around Donana.

Great Reed Warbler in full song, El Rocio MJM

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Melodius Warbler-three at the Jose Antonio Valverde Centre on 16th and 30+ around Espera Lagunas on 18th. See image below.
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Bonelli’s Warbler– one at Grazalema on 18th.
Iberian Chiffchaff-watched and heard well at La Rocina on 15th and one or two other sites subsequently.
Great Tit-noted.
Blue Tit-noted.
Crested Tit-seen nesting at El Acebuche and seen in woodland at some other sites.
Penduline Tit-males at La Rocina on 15th and Brazo del Este on 17th.
Short-toed Treecreeper-noted.
Woodchat Shrike-common.
Southern Grey Shrike-seen mostly from the bus.
Azure winged Magpie-common.
Magpie-common.
Jay-noted.
Jackdaw-noted.
Red-billed Chough-seen at Grazalema and great views at Ronda gorge.
Carrion Crow-noted.
Raven-noted at Grazalema.
Spotless Starling-common.
House Sparrow-noted.
Tree Sparrow-noted.
Chaffinch-noted.
Linnet-noted.
Goldfinch-noted.
Greenfinch-noted.
Serin-common.
Cirl Bunting-seen near Montejaque.
Rock Bunting-noted.

Singing Black-Masked Weaver ?, Brazo del Este

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We also noted a few dragonfly species around Jose Valverde Centre especially with Scarlet and Red Veined Darters, Lesser Emperor and a few damselfly species. A variety of butterflies were noted but hard to track on the windy days.

Pick of the mammals would be Iberian Hare Lepus Granatensis but deer sp and Red Fox were noted.

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