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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The wild Southwest of Bonanza and Brazo Del Este... thousands of birds, a fab tractor and some stunning location shots.

'Tis with a slight tinge of sadness that I leave Tarifa and begin my northward journey back, but its a fool who dashes away when the riches abound and its the wetlands where most of the action seems to be occurring, so rather than head due North, I dally awhile around the Rio Guadalquivir and my first port of call is Bonanza, just outside Sanlucar de Barameda and now part of the Donana nature reserve. Been here before many times in the Spring but never at this time of the year. Surrounded by Parcel Pine forest on one side and salt pans on the other, Bonanza never disappoints!!
Booted Eagle, Bonanza

Booted Eagle, Bonanza

These shots of a Booted Eagle flying over the pine trees was my first of the morning ... no idea what its doing on the 2nd shot!

Black Stork, Bonanza

I'd seen my first Black Storks over La Janda the day before and boy are they wary! Unlike the White Storks they fly at the first hint of camera movement ... one distant shot here followed by one flying away .... I do manage a few better shots later.... ugly critters really aren't they!

Black Stork, Bonanza

It's difficult to convey the sheer number of birds here in Spain in the Winter, on a daily basis down here I witness massive flocks of Meadow Pipits, White Wagtails, Larks, Finches as well as huge numbers of Chiff Chaffs, Black Redstarts, Robins, Stonechats ... and that's without mentioning raptors, storks, egrets, ducks and waders! Almost too much to take in sometimes. Here's a bit more of Bonanza and then its on to Brazo Del Este.
Banks of the Guadalquivir, Bonanza

Bar Tailed Godwit, Bonanza

Caspian Tern, Bonanza

Chiff Chaffs galore... not the best of pictures but this is typical. Point your bins or camera just about anywhere and there'll be up to half a dozen around .... only 3 in the pic below but you get the picture! 
Chiff Chaffs.... typical vista!

Common Waxbill, Bonanza

Greater Flamingoe, Bonanza ... off centre, dammit!!

A little further North and on the East of the Guadalquivir lies Brazo Del Este - a subsidiary river and system of drainage dykes that again hold huge numbers of Storks, Waders, Raptors as well as smaller birds in the many wet fields, many of them rice paddies .... its yet another birding heaven!

I kid you not, when I arrived in the late afternoon, the first thing I witnessed was a field full of about 300 White Storks .... and then I realised this was just one of many fields, with just as many Storks, some Black Storks, Glossy Ibis, Lapwing, Lesser Black Backed & Black Headed Gulls, Marsh Harriers everywhere... even had a flock of Golden Plover (new bird for the trip!)

Here's a photo montage because time is short for blogging and I'm doing this in bed in a hotel in El Rocio and its already gone midnight!!

One White Stork ...

Lots of White Storks!! Brazo Del Este

In total, I don't know, but over 2500 White Storks at Brazo alone.

Black Stork, Brazo Del Este

Several Black Storks here too... maybe 15 in total.

Black Storks, Brazo Del Este

 ........ nice Spoonbill pic
Spoonbill, Brazo Del Este

Always been drawn by birds following the plough in the UK .... usually its looking for something different amongst Black Headed Gulls (almost always to find just that), but how about this for something different .....ace retro tractor for a start! Sky in the background is a bit weak but still a good action shot ....

Storks, Ibis & Gulls following the plough, Brazo Del Este

Wet field, Eucalyptus Tree, Pumping station and van pic! Brazo Del Este

Talking about 'locations' - this was not staged, just where I happened to park the van for a stroll, but what pic for the scrapbook!

I'd stopped to scan for Bluethroats, seeing this as a likely old spot .....
Likely Bluethroat location

Bluethroat from loads away!

.... and sure enough if I zoom in on one particular spot on the above (can you see it?!) there was indeed a Bluethroat. Slight cheat involved here because admittedly, I knew there was one there somewhere, but again its the sheer numbers of birds here that continues to astound ... I must have had 20 Bluethroats at Brazo!

Rubbish image of course and highly cropped but here's the zoom in on the right.

Interesting irrigation structures around here, shame I didn't get the birds in focus.....!
Irrigation and Cormorants, Brazo Del Este

Nowt much to write home about, neither bird and certainly not the photograph, but this has to be one of the most difficult birds to get anywhere near to even a distance shot ..... its a Lesser Short Toed Lark, only included here as a record shot and my first ever pic of one. At least you can make out the diagnostic eye ring!
Drainage dyke & Penduline Tit location

This is where I had my 2nd 'lifer' of the trip, a smashing view of a Penduline Tit ... just on the top of one of the nearest mast heads!

Dragonfly species, Brazo Del Este

Lots of dragonflies about here still, maybe they last right through the year? Have to get the field guide out to this one .....

Nice female Marsh Harrier coming down a drain, just before she clocked me!

Female Marsh Harrier, Brazo Del Este

2 awesome and bird filled locations in 2 days and then I hit the Donana national nature reserve proper and El Rocio is my base for another couple of days before I head up to Extramadura. More from here in my next post.


  1. What I've enjoyed about your posts sof far Tim has been the sheer numbers of birds that you've encountered on your trip I think your phrase " watching three hen harriers quartering the shore" really hit a chord with me, what a shame we can't get this sort of experiences here in the UK.
    Can't wait for the next post and if the transit makes it back to the UK you'll have to give it a name :o)

  2. Totally agree, on both counts ... has to be down to habitat. You should see some of these fields and natural pasture here... puts the minutea that is our set aside land into real focus! Glad you're enjoying the posts ... internet access is actually very good over here, even in El Rocio!