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Saturday, March 14, 2015

El Rocio and getting out and about in the wilds of Donana

6th - 10th March 2015, Around El Rocio & Donana

El Rocio
After gales of Tarifa it was a a bit of a shock to the system to get up and walk around the sandy streets of El Rocio in hot, calm sunshine that was approaching 30c during the middle of the day! Although El Rocio itself has become more and more touristy every time I come back here it still retains that sense of 'other worldliness' that has made it such a magnet for travellers and pilgrims for centuries.

El Rocio - back of town
Spoonbill, El Rocio, 6th March

If you've never been and find yourself in this part of the world I'd highly recommend at least a day trip if only to sample the atmosphere. More info here.

Lots of birders and wildlife enthusiasts from all over Europe here as usual .. Dutch, British, German all with the gear, some go on the tours (not for me), some stick around El Rocio and do the nearby reserves of Rocina and Acebron, and  there's plenty see .... Spoonbills in full breeding plumage

Spoonbill, El Rocio, 6th March
Glossy Ibis looking incredibly glossy ...this one, like many is clearly ringed and the number clearly visible so in theory possible to track it's movements.
Glossy Ibis, El Rocio, 6th March
.... and small flocks of beautiful Azure Winged Magpies floating around the Stone Pine forests of La Rocina.

Azure Winged Magpie, La Rocina, 7th March 2015
Full on Spring here of course and every day it seems I come across a new wild flower or freshly emerging butterfly species ....

Wild Lavender, Acebuche (Donana), 8th March 2015

Water Crowfoot, El Rocio, 6th March, 2015

This is probably my best Clouded Yellow effort .....

Clouded Yellow, Acebron

A couple of Swallowtail Butterflies around too but never quite got either still enough for long enough!

Swallowtail Butterfly, Acebron, 8th March 2015

Green Hairsteak
... and then another small green winged butterfly, a Green Hairstreak. All because I stopped the bike for a passing raptor that looked a bit different. Different alright ... a Goshawk, an adult male according to my recently arrived amigo Mark.

 Shame it was so distant, hence the thumbnail pics but it's undeniably a Gos!

Goshawk, Acebron, 8th March 2015

Goshawk, Acebron, 8th March 2015

Beyond the easily accessible reserves of Rocina, Acebron & Acebuche and access to the wild and wonderful wilderness that is the real Donana, its either a guided tour on one of big wheeled 'unimogs' or a 40k trek along dusty tracks beyond Villamanrique and Isla Mayor towards the Jose Antonio Valverde Centre, and unless you know the right roads its potentially vehicle damaging but once there you get everything you would on one of the guided tours.

Donana, nr the Jose Antonia Valverde centre

Donana, nr the Jose Antonia Valverde centre

In truth, and this is no excuse for slightly dodgy pics, this wasn't photography heaven. The distances are huge, many birds are distant and heat haze never helps. I was lucky enough to see a Spanish Imperial Eagle from El Rocio, perched on the top a Eucalyptus tree about 2 kilometres away (it was too much of a 'blob' to even attempt a picture!)

Lesser Kestrel, Donana, 9th March 2015
Many more birds about away from El Rocio though ... Lesser Kestrels (including a flock of  22 around an old abandoned farm building), all the waders, all the other raptors, Black and White Storks, Night Herons, Bluethroats and just a sense of being in a really wild place! The Lesser Kestrels were just great to see, so different in their behaviour than Common Kestrels its a wonder they're so commonly confused! Just a shame there was so much heat haze around ... kinda knocked my focus out of kilter!

I knew they hang around in flocks but still strange to see 20 or so come out of one building! They're also migratory so these must be recent arrivals.

Lesser Kestrel, Donana, 9th March 2015

Lesser Kestrel, Donana, 9th March 2015


Spanish Horsemen, Donana
Not sure if these guys were local police or reserve wardens but they came splashing through the water and then ambled right past me casting me imperious looks from on top of there lofty beasts!

Black Stork, Donana, 9th March 2015
In amongst 25ish White Storks there was just one Black Stork ... they winter here and this one is most probably on its way back.

Here's a few more pics from around the Jose Antonio Valverde Centre and if you ever visit Donana this is definitely the place to head for if you want a taste of the real thing; like I said its 'out in the sticks' and tricky to access unless you know the right tracks but so worth it. Here's a few more pics from the area....

Singing Bluethroat, Donana, 9th March 2015

Cattle Egret, Donana

Night Herons behind the Bombeo pumping station, Donana

Spanish Sparrows, Donana
Update March 19th
I've now been joined by my mate Mark and we're currently across in Portugal checking out Tavira and the Castro Marim areas before heading back into Spain to do San Lucar, Bonanza and then up into Extramudura. New birds for the trip recently added have been Common Scoter, Bar Tailed Godwit and a smashing male Montagues Harrier over the motorway as I was driving to Faro.

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