Spain: Andalusia 9th to 11th November 2016
For the third year in a row I found myself back in Andalusia, for a birder this is a no brainer. The area around Seville is simply fantastic for birding, with so many prime habitats. I stayed in Dos Hermanas, an area just east of Seville, for a week with my wife and allocated three days for birding from the 9th-11th of November with Luis of Andalusian Birding Holidays, a guide I have used before.
The weather during the week was basically fine 20-24⁰C with two cloudy days and some rain. No doubt the non-birding highlight came on Tuesday night as we watched one DJ Trump become President of the USA. However back to the birding; we went to three sites in the Seville–Cadiz area, which of course included Donana National Park, one of the greatest birding areas in Europe, especially in winter.
9/11/16: GREEN CORRIDOR OF THE RIO GUADIAMAR
The day starts sunny, but it quickly became cloudy, although thankfully the rain stays away and the temperature rises to a pleasant 20⁰C.
The visit to this area consisted of a pleasant walk along the paths on either side of the Rio Guadiamar, whose banks consisted of a mixed woodland of Poplars, Wild Olive, Eucalyptus, Pistacia Lentiscus and Ash trees. The surrounding areas are dedicated mainly to agriculture, interspersed with Holm Oak.
The highlights of the walk along the riverbanks were: Wryneck, Woodlark, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Spoonbill, Black-winged Kite, Booted Eagle [pale form], Green Woodpecker, Common Waxbill, Azure-winged Magpie, Red Kite, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Zitting Cisticola, Cetti’s Warbler and of course all the usual suspects that you would find in this type of habitat.
Male Spanish Sparrows Zitting Cisticola
The sky began to get very dark and heavy rain looked likely, so we walked back to the car and drove back to Seville. I was looking forward to a nice warm bath.
10/11/16: CADIZ, BAHIA de CADIZ and SURROUNDING AREAS [Chiclana de La Fronterra, Puerto Real and Puerto de Santa Maria]
The weather today was sunny with a mild NW wind, with temperatures around 22⁰C.
The golf courses of Chiclana are located in a very urbanized area, dominated by Pine and Pistascia lentiscus, accompanied by several ornamental species of shrubs and trees. In the Bahia de Cadiz NP, the marsh is the main habitat, dominated by halophytic plants. The rhythm of the tides and the artificial management of the habitat have defined the distribution and number of birds that can be seen in the bay. Economic activities such as fish farms and salt production also influence the variety of birds around the protected areas.
The main target today is one of the rarest birds in Europe, but it can be found in the Cadiz area due to a re-colonisation plan by the Spanish Authorities and nature conservation groups in Spain. Surprisingly in the winter months one of the bird’s favourite habitats is the golf courses in the Chiclana urbanization. There are several golf courses in the area, but after searching for twenty minutes, we eventually found the birds at the edge of a course full of early golfers. At last we came face to face [literally] with the Bald Ibis. This penchant for golf courses is both a protector and a danger, already one bird has been killed and one badly injured. They will never win a beauty contest, however they have a certain charm.
Bald Ibis: Adult Bald Ibis: Juvenile
After a light breakfast we then headed to the Bahia de Cadiz NP, a huge area, to search for several trip targets. Criss-crossing the bay area we stopped at several points and picked up the following, amongst many others: Audouin’s Gull, Caspian Tern, Greater Flamingo, Short-toed Eagle, Osprey, Whimbrel, Marsh Harrier, Avocet, Crested Lark, Grey Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Sanderling, Turnstone, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Sandwich Tern & Crag Martin.
Crag Martin Slender-billed Gull
Sunny day with mild NW wind and temperature high of 22⁰C
The rice fields of Isla Mayor and La Puebla del Rio are a very rich habitat, which attracts and maintains huge numbers of bird species during most of the year. The agriculture of rice maintains a large number of invertebrates, which are the food source for the birds.
In the Dehesa de Abajo visitor centre the adjoining reservoir is a refuge for thousands of waterfowl, especially when autumn and winter are very dry and Donana and its surroundings have little water.
The number of birds in the rice fields is truly astonishing; everywhere we turned birds were in the sky flying from one field to another depending on where the cutting was taking place. Unexpected was the large number of Common Cranes in the fields.
The tracks that run along the edge of the rice fields allow you to use your vehicle as a mobile hide, very advantageous when you want to get close to the birds. The following is a summary of some of the birds seen:Black Stork, White Stork, Yellow-crowned Bishop, Common Waxbill, Corn Bunting, Spanish Sparrow, Penduline Tit, Bluethroat, Red Kite, Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Peregrine Falcon, Serin, Booted Eagle, Glossy Ibis, Great White Egret, Cattle Egret, Red-crested Pochard, Kingfisher, Black-winged Kite, Yellow-legged Gull, Iberian Grey Shrike, Spoonbill, Common Stonechat, Greater Flamingo, Crested Lark, Common Snipe, Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Common Kestrel, Greenshank and a few distant unidentified warblers that appeared suddenly out of the reeds and then disappeared as quickly.
Greater Flamingo Night Herons & interloper
Green Sandpiper Wood Sandpiper Common Kestrel
Having been here in September and November, both periods offer some fantastic birding but if I had a preference it would be September, due to the huge numbers of birds that go through on migration. However, with Donana and surroundings as a backdrop, any trip will be rewarding at any time of year.
I would like once again to thank Luismi for a superb three days in the field and his homemade delicacies that we ate en route.
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