Just back from a weeks birding with Dave in the Coto Donana, so if you read both blogs they are going to look very similar. We had a great time and saw a lot of birds although the weather was far from ideal. We had strong winds, overcast skies and at times torrential rain.
Before we went I had been worried about the marshes being too dry. Up until early January, Spain and Portugal had been experiencing a severe drought, but I can confirm that it is now over. We found fields and roads flooded, fords that we wanted to use under deep and fast flowing water and in one case water coming over the bridge instead of under it. All part of the entertainment really.
There were a couple of locations that we couldn't get to and a few extended journeys to get around the blockages. We also had one occasion where we were lucky to be able to extract the car from a muddy track.
|Sanctuario del Rocio|
Perhaps the best place to start is El Rocio, the town in which we were based for the week. It is in a great location with a large lagoon "La Madre de las Marismas" just to the south of the town and with a promenade and viewing points from which to observe the birds. Be aware, however, that this looks more like a wild west town with sandy pot holed roads and horse rails outside every house. It is a bit touristy, the lagoon can dry up in the summer and you need to avoid the pilgrimage season when the town will be solid with people but it's certainly full of character.
|Typical view over the Lagoon - Flamingos and Spoonbills|
The novelty of seeing the Flamingos, Spoonbills and Black-winged Stilts soon wares off and our early morning walks along the promenade where mostly focused on the smaller birds, the warblers, hirundines and and anything skulking in the foraging areas around the waters edge. A Little Bittern disappearing into the reeds in the half light was a missed opportunity but Purple Swamphen, Sardinian Warblers, Cetti's, Black Redstarts and Red-rumped Swallows were all worth following.
|House Martins looking for somewhere to roost|
|Red-rumped Swallows - couldn't get any closer|
|Mrs Sardinian Warbler - Looks well fed and ready for breeding season|
|Sardinian Warbler again|
|Iberian Yellow Wagtail|
|Zitting Cisticola (Fan-tailed Warbler to the traditionalists)|
It was also good to see a flock of Tree Sparrows but they got very little attention as they were closely followed by a small flock of Common Waxbills. Common they may be but these were a life tick for me and not a bird that I had expected to see in this location. They are usually sedentary in just a few locations in Spain and Portugal but had probably been driven to move by the high water levels.
Not a bad location to use as a base. More blogs on the Coto Donana to follow.