Saturday, 31 October 2015

El Rocio and other Visitor Centres in the Donana and Osuna area, Sevilla Province.

A cloudy start, then the rain came in the Donana. An afternoon near Osuna.
Day Six with Abby Turner from New York, USA.

We left the hotel and the weather was not to bad but off in the distance it did not look good, on our way towards El Rocio we picked up several good species sat on the wire fences which ran along the roadsides including Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Robin (Petirrojo Europeo / Erithacus rubecula), White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba) and a couple of Woodlarks (Totovia / Lullula arborea). We by-passed El Rocio and drove down to the visitor centre at El Acebuche but we arrived under heavy cloud cover and the odd spot of rain, so we were not hopeful of getting very far and things were made worse when the lady on the desk said that there was no water at all at the site. This I am guessing is caused fruit farmers and mismanagement in the area by the local authorities which is threatening the status of the Donana as a significant European wetland. Anyway we went and had a walk  and had good views of a Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla), Iberian Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), Tree Sparrows (Gorrión Molinero / Passer montanus), Great Tit (Carbonera Común / Parus major) and an elusive Dartford Warbler (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata) which gave us the run around in some small scrappy bushes and did not give us good enough views before the rains arrived. We hurried back to the car before it got too heavy and drove back towards El Rocio and in to the reserve area called El Arroyo de la Rocina but we drove passed this centre and continued on to the car park at the start of the walk out to the Palacio del Acebrón. On the drive down to the car park we had nice views of our first Iberian Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis), another Woodlark and Crested Lark (Cogujada / Galerida cristata). By the time we reached the woods around the car park the heavens had opened and the sky looked full of it so we sat in the car for a while to see if it would stop and it looked like doing so for a short while, just long enough for me to get out of the car and start to get sorted. Just as we were considering starting out it redoubled its load and we decided to give it a miss and have a look at the lake at El Rocio from the SEO centre. We parked and walked to the centre / hide where we set up the scope and had good views of Purple Swamp-hen (Calamon Común / Porphyrio porphyrio), Black-tailed Godwit (Aguja Colinegra / Limosa limosa), Black-winged Stilt (Ciguenela Común / Himantopus himantopus), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinulas chloropus), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Common Pochard (Porrón Común / Aythya ferina), Eurasian Teal (Cerceta Común / Anas crecca), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Gadwall (Anade Friso / Anas strepera), Northern Shoveler (Pato Cuchara / Anas clypeata), Greylag Geese (Ansar Común / Anser anser) and Greater Flamingo's (Flamenco Común / Phoenicopterus roseus). The very helpful young lady that was on duty at the SEO hide told us that the weather was not going to get any better and would probably get worse if anything as the day goes on so we decided to cut our losses and head out of the area and over to Osuna area early. As we drove west the clouds got lighter and by the time we were through Sevilla the sun was coming through and once we reached the area for birding again it was quite pleasantly warm and sunny. We searched the area around the Cortijo de los Ojuelos where we had nice views of a group of Red Kites (Milano Real / Milvus milvus), Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo), 1000s of Spotless (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) and a few Common Starlings (Estornino Pinto / Sturnus vulg aris), lots of Ravens (Cuervo / Corvus corax), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Spanish Sparrow (Gorrión Moruno / Passer hispaniolensis), 3+ Hoopoes, Common Stonechats, another elusive Dartford Warbler and Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus).
We next went for Lunch in La Lantejuela and then had a very quick look at the nearby pools but we did not see anything new so we headed back through the town and out passed the earlier site and on to the road heading towards Osuna. At the first bridge we scanned the fields and located two groups of Great Bustards (Avutarda Común / Otis tarda) in the distance totalling around 27 birds. In the same area we had Iberian Grey Shrike, Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus), Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica), Meadow Pipit, Corn Bunting and a male Hen Harrier. We dropped down off the bridge and turned around in a track and had a third Dartford Warbler flick across in front of us but this time after about 20 minutes work we nailed the id when the bird sat out for Abby to get good views and put it on the green list.
We moved on along a track next to the railway line and made a couple of stops when we were level with the Bustards we had seen earlier and had much closer better views before heading to the next bridge. From here we saw nothing new and continued out on to the fields adding Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Song Thrush (Zorzal Común / Turdus philomelos), Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis) and at a junction in the track we scanned the fields again and added more Great Bustards bringing the total up to 55 for the day. We again moved up to the last bridge and scanned again, it was just starting to go dark when a nice flight of Stone Curlews (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus) flew passed us quite close and we had a female Hen Harrier heading towards a roost somewhere nearby and good numbers of Jackdaws (Grajilla / Corvus monedula) gathering together in a pre-roost flock. The light dropped quickly so we headed off to Osuna and to the hotel in the town where we had another tapas evening meal and then a confortable nights sleep.

Photographs from the top: The approaching storm clouds, a beautiful tiled gate sign, Iberian Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus) and some horses amongst the birds at El Rocio's SEO hide.

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