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WEATHER: overcast for most of the day, but sunshine later. Top temp 28C

Our day in Donana marshes had arrived, we were quite excited because of the amount of water that was lying around. For the last four years Donana has been totally dry and none, if any, birds had bred out on the marshes, this year should be very different!

We set off in the dark at 7am with our breakfasts in a bag, we drove for forty minutes to reach the Coredo de Verde near Villamonrique. Birds song was everywhere, we ate our breakfast standing on a bridge over the Rio Guadimar.

A few birds were seen, Serin, Woodchat Shrike, Greenfinch, Iberian Magpie, Great Tit and Zitting Cisticola. We walked for a while in open meadows looking for Black-winged Kite without seeing one. Hoopoe, Common Cuckoo (heard), Crested Lark, Zitting Cisticola and several common species went onto the list before we drove off.

Greater Flamingos in flight taken by Tony Moore - a regual sight over the marshes today

Our arrival at the huge reservoir at Dehesa de Abajo was some 30 minutes later, our first bird was another exotic species, an escapee which now breeds in big numbers, the Black-headed Weaver. We then scanned the water and found several new species and lots of common ones.

a female Black-headed Weaver - Tony Moore

White-headed Duck was a nice surprise find, we saw a few of those. Also more Ferruginous Ducks were found and then at least 9 Marbled Ducks were quite close and out in the open. A nest box scheme was in progress and the Marbled Ducks had taken to them well.

White-headed Duck - brewing up for a fight - taken by Tony Moore

an action shot by Tony Moore of the fight

The loser scarpers and the victor gives a vitory wing flap - Tony More

Other species seen included: Night Heron, dozens of Glossy Ibis, Greater Flamingo, Eurasian Spoonbill, Grey & Purple Herons, Little Bittern seen in flight, White Storks, Shoveler, Common and Red-crested Pochards, Gadwall, Common Shelduck and lots of Cattle and Little Egrets.

you don't get much better than this! A photo of the Marbled Duck taken by Tony Moore

The scrub lacked warblers, the reed beds hadn’t recovered from the drought yet, but we did see Reed and Cetti’s Warblers. Behind us, on the open rice fields we saw a Black-winged Kite, it landed in a distant bush and we scoped it.

I love seeing these Ferruginous Ducks - Tony Moore

another shot of Ferruginous Duck

After a stop for coffee and a visit to a smaller laguna, where we found more Marbled Ducks and Little Grebes, we moved onto the tracks that lked us to the Jose Valverde visitor’s centre, found deep in the northern marshes.

We spent an hour or so driving the 25km on dirt tracks, stopping often to look at birds on the tracks and in the scrub or crop fields. Alongside the tracks flooded fields or channels were often full of birds. One place had over 50 Spoonbills with even more Egrets, including our first Great Egrets of the day.

Iberian Yellow Wagtails - we saw many of these along the tracks, taken by Tony Moore

We added a few migrant species to the day list, Greater Short-toed Lark, Common Redstart, Yellow Wagtail (lots of them), Willow Warbler, Whinchat, Northern Wheatear, Bee-eater, but our search for Lesser Short-toed Lark went unrewarded. We also had good views of a Green Sandpiper.

Greater Short-toed Lark, another great shot, taken by Tony Moore from the bus

Near the Visitor’s centre we spent a while scanning a large open area which had many pools and lots of birds. We saw three species of Grebes, Little, Black-necked and Great Crested. Also several Gull-billed Terns and a large flock of Whiskered Terns, the number of Flamingos and Glossy Ibis was phenomenal. A small flock of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse flew over, we saw a distant Short-toed Eagle and a couple of ‘kettles’ of raptors included 50+ Griffon Vultures, Black Kites, a pair of Ravens and a Booted Eagle.

a mix of Egrets ans Spoonbills. The far left Great Egret is in full breeding plumage with red legs, green lores and a black bill. Taken by Tony Moore

We drove along a track towards El Rocio in search of the Lesser Short-toed Lark and found a few new species for the list. Avocets were new for the trip, we also saw Black-winged Stilts, Gull-billed Terns resting and many more Flamingos. On the return journey we found a pair of Slender-billed Gills, wowza!

Greater Flamingos in flight - Tony Moore

the Flamingo flock, shown above giving a true perspective of the distance this flock was from us. 

The Ibis, Egret and Heron colony in the bushes and reedbeds around the pools of visitors centre was alive with hundreds of birds, Glossy Ibis must have numbered over a thousand pairs! Purple and Night Herons were also in good numbers as well as Cattle Egrets,

the pools where all three grebes were seen

Grey Herons and we saw Purple Swamphen, more Avocets and a flock of Black-tailed Godwits dropped in. Generally there was too much water for waders but it was drying up fast.

Black-tailed Godwits coming down to the water at the Jose Valverde Centre - by Tony Moore

We stopped to look at a Lesser Kestrel colony on the way back and kept a vigil on the tracks for larks but found nothing new. We arrived back at the hotel around 6pm and took dinner at the usual time of 8pm. We had seen nearly 90 species today, a true testament that Donana was coming back to its best.