We were all excited and eager to get going as we arrived in El Rocio at the start of our 3 night trip to Coto Doñana – one of Spain’s premier birding and wildlife locations trip. It was a beautiful day and the lake on the edge of town shimmered in the early morning sun. There were numerous Flamingos, Spoonbills and Little Egrets. Glossy Ibis flew overhead and Black Kites and White Storks were everywhere. Squacco Herons and Night Herons appeared and were joined by Cattle Egrets. We walked along the lakeside and spotted Black-winged Stilt and Collared Pratincole. We then walked the short distance to El Palacio reserve. In the first hide we could hear Savis Warbler reeling and some diligent searching eventually found him in the reeds. Booted Eagle and Griffon Vulture were easily spotted in the sky. White Storks seemed to be nesting in every electricity pylon. A stroll through the woods produced Nightingale, Cetti’s Warbler, Short-toed Treecreeper, Spotted Flycatcher, Bee-eater and Azure-winged Magpie.
After a picnic lunch birding was resumed in El Palacio and then El Acebuche. Woodchat and Iberian Grey Shrike were feeding from the top of fence posts. Melodious and Isabelline Warblers were singing, Sardinian Warblers were commonplace. In the reeds we found Common Waxbill,which was a first for some of us. A male Golden Oriole was calling as we wandered around the hides with more eagles and vultures overhead and a single Red Kite. A superb first day. We strolled back to our hotel – Hotel Toruño – for a shower and well earned cold beer then a delicious evening meal in the hotel restaurant overlooking the lake.
Day 2 was spent entirely in the area around the Josѐ Valverde Visitor Centre – fields, scrubland and plains, lagoons and lakes. We got off to a great start with stunning views of a pair of Montagu’s Harriers quickly followed by Booted and Short-toed Eagles. Black Kites were again numerous with again a single Red Kite. Around a ruined farmhouse was a colony of about 14 Lesser Kestrel. Several of the fields were flooded in preparation for planting and these attracted Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin and Collared Pratincole. There were also lots of Whiskered and Gull-billed Terns and a single Black Tern. We enjoyed great views of Purple Heron, White Stork, Purple Gallinule and Glossy Ibis. In the dry fields were Calandra and Short-toed Larks. Hoopoes and Fan-tailed Warblers were common as was Yellow Wagtail. We enjoyed lunch at the visitor centre along with incredible views of nesting Night Heron, Squacco Heron, Cattle Egret, Glossy Ibis and Purple Gallinule. The afternoon rewarded us with close ups of Short-toed Eagle and more fields full of herons, Glossy Ibis, terns and waders.
Day 3 started in the cork-oak woodlands where Nightingale and Penduline Tit were our first birds followed by Hoopoe and Raven. We then moved into farmland and were rewarded straight away by four Pin-tailed Sandgrouse flying overhead and Lesser Short-toed Lark. All of the great birds of yesterday were present plus Grey Plover and Great White Egret. We also encountered Ladder Snakes and a huge Wild Boar – and this gave opportunities for some wonderful photographs. Sadly we didn’t find a Lynx – but that is one for next time! We finished the trip a very happy bunch and enjoyed our final night in El Rocio to the full.