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Monday, December 9, 2013

Donana, Villmanrique ... warmth and succour!!!

Ah but I was spoilt at that hotel in El Rocio ... felt like easy livin for a while, what with steak & chips, coffee, beer on tap and a nature reserve just beyond your window!
I'm now far to the North, having done Extramadura and found it full of Spanish walkers (fair do's ... I was silly enough to visit on a w/e!) .... I've experienced snow and freezing fog around the plains of Salamanca and Zamora ... so extreme that it wasn't worth staying, especially since the forecast for the next 3 days was for the same. Well behind on updates of course but as I sit in a bar some 30k north of Burgos and approaching the Pyrenees again this is as much a recollection of warmer times as it is that promised photo catch up of Donana.

Lets start with some non birding pics and I can't believe it was just a week ago I was watching these Deer (Fallow I think) going head to head just outside El Rocio.

Fallow Deer, El Rocio

 .... and believe me they were really going for it, think I was quite lucky to witness this

To be brutally honest, the usual haunts around El Rocio .... Acebuche, Acebron and Rocina were all a bit quiet birdwise, as was Matalascanas, but the flooded fields and dykes around Villmanrique and the Jose Valverde reserve proved quite fruitful .... already posted a bit from around here with pics from my mobile but here's a few more ...
Drainage dyke nr Villmanrique

Black Shouldered Kite, Vilmanrique

Never quite got close enough to this Black Shouldered Kite, but as distance pics go this ain't too bad, especially since this one chose a prickly pear cactus to perch on!

Great White Egret, Vilmanrique

Grey Heron, Vilmanrique

Purple Swamp Hen, Jose Valverde .... run away!!
Purple Swamp Hens I like ... big, blundering and noisy as f*** they may be, these giant purple coots, but actually very shy once you get within shooting distance and I struggled to get a full on decent pic of the several I've seen down here. Here's my best couple of efforts ......

Purple Swamp Hen, stomping into the reeds!..... bad light on this one.

Stacks of birds around Villmanrique ... all the usual Storks, black and white, common waders, Bluethroats, lots of Greylag Geese (and I mean lots .... c2000!), Raptors too with Red & Black Kite, Kestrel, Lesser Kestrel, Peregrine, Marsh & Hen Harrier, Griffon Vultures and my first Short Toed Eagle of the trip ... pic is too bad to post! 

On my last day down here I took an early morning walk around the lagoon at El Rocio and popped into Rocina too, enjoyed the light and the sense of calm this place bestows on the traveller ..... here's a few choice pics
Black Tailed Godwit, El Rocio
Cattle Egret .... on a horse's back, El Rocio
I really wanted to get that 'glossy' look on the many Glossy Ibis that were feeding around the fringes of the lagoon ...

Glossy Ibis, El Rocio

Glossy Ibis, El Rocio

This Common Teal was looking good and attracted some good light too ......

Common Teal, El Rocio
This is possibly one of my best efforts at photographing the tease that is the Hoopoe!
Hoopoe, Rocina
 .... and always there when there's nothing else to photograph ..... so much prettier than our own but I'm sure just as voracious, Azure Winged Magpies always evoke a sense of Southern Spain.
Azure Winged Magpie, Rocina

Azure Winged Magpie, Rocina

..... and to round off this post of what seems like a million miles away now that I'm freezing cold in Northern Spain, here's a few landscape and pics of the famous horses that roam wild around El Rocio. 

El Rocio, Dec 2013

Horses of El Rocio... Greylags in the foreground, Parcel Pines in the background
Stray Parcel Pines in the middle of a sunset lit field, nr Rocina

Here's a couple more pics of El Rocio, the first of which is the famous Hermatige and home to the Virgin of El Rocio, a small carved and much venerated statue that is the destination of many on pilgrimage to this historic site.

Hermitage of El Rocio

El Rocio
Ok, that's me ... getting the nod for closing time at yet another bar so have to sign off ..... pics and report from Extramadura next ... some nice Black Vultures that's for sure! Here's a sign off pic of yours truly, still looking reasonable I think after 4 weeks on the road ....



  1. Looking startled in that image Tim :o) Really nice to see a Black Shouldered Kite, well done. But I really liked the Cattle Egret hitching a ride and the Azure Winged Magpie what a stunning looking bird

  2. Cheers Doug .... I've photographed cattle egrets before always believing that in good light and filling the frame they'll be cracking shots but they're so white that exposure and flare have always ruined the shot so was more than happy with the above effort!