Friday, 30 October 2015

Espera Lagoon's, Braza del Este and the Centro José Antonio Valverde area of Donana, Cadiz and Sevilla Provinces.

More Rice Paddies and wetlands.
Day Five with Abby Turner from New York, USA.

We headed out from the very smart Cortijo Los Naranjos where we had comfortable night and a good breakfast. Our first stop was just down the road at what in a wetter year would have been one of the many Lagoons of Espera but the only one we reached was dry but not a total waste of time as we picked up a Black-winged Kite (Elanio Común / Elanus caeruleus) which was sat in a Tamarisk tree on the far shore. We also picked up the first Reed Bunting (Escribano Palustre / Emberiza schoeniclus) of the trip along with Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Spanish Sparrow (Gorrión Moruno / Passer hispaniolensis), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus) and a fly over Peregrine Falcon (Halcón Peregrino / Falco peregrinus).
From here we went up to Braza del Este where we worked the tracks around a large area of Rice Paddies some of which were being harvested and covered in hundreds of White Storks (Ciguena Blanca / Ciconia ciconia), large numbers of Grey Herons (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea), Little  (Garceta Común / Egreeta garzetta), Great White (Garceta Grande / Egretta alba) and Cattle Egrets (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis), singles of both Squacco Heron (Garcilla Cangrejera / Ardeola ralloides) and Greater Flamingo (Flamenco Común / Phoenicopterus roseus) and several Spoonbills (Espátula Común / Platalea leucorodia). Smaller birds feeding amongst the watery fields included Meadow (Bisbita Pratense / Anthus pratensis) and Water Pipits (Bisbita Alpino / Anthus spinoletta), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita), White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba) and Collared Doves (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto). On the furthest fields before we went up on to the large bank we saw Black-headed (Gaviota Riedora / Larus ridibundus) and Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Gaviota Sombria / Larus fuscus), a couple of flocks of Glossy Ibis (Morito Común / Plegadis falcinellus) and the first of quite a few Marsh Harriers (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus). Along the tracks we also saw large numbers of Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii) and both Lesser (Anax parthenope) and Blue / Common Emperors (Anax imperator).
Once we were on the bank we motored along until we reached the main track through the site near the large sluice gates and the started to check the fields and ditches again and the first birds seen were a couple of very nice Black Storks (Ciguena Negra / Ciconia nigra). We continued on to the first area of water and parked on the track side and checked the two areas of water. We soon had new species for Abby including 2 female Eurasian Wigeon (Sibón Europeo / Anas penelope), Eurasian Teal (Cerceta Común / Anas crecca), a pair of Northern Pintail (Ánade Rabudo / Anas acuta), Gadwall (Anade Friso / Anas strepera), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Little (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis) and Great Crested Grebes (Somormujo Lavanco / Podiceps cristatus), 2x Ospreys (Águila Pescardora / Pandion haliaetus), Purple Swamp-hen (Calamon Común / Porphyrio porphyrio), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinulas chloropus) and a couple of calling but unseen Water Rails (Rascón Europeo / Rallus aquaticus).
We moved down to the second area of water where the commonest species were Black-winged Stilt (Ciguenela Común / Himantopus himantopus) with at least 100 birds in a single flock on the margins along with a few Ruff (Combatiente / Philomachus pugnax), Green Sandpiper (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus) and several Snipe (Agachadiza Común / Gallinago gallinago) which were only seen as the flew in and jumped around in the thick marginal vegetation. On the water there were a few Glossy Ibis, Common Pochard (Porrón Común / Aythya ferina), Great Cormorant (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocroax carbo) and when a female Marsh Harrier flew over the reeds it flushed out a cracking pair of Marbled Ducks (Cerceta Pardilla / Marmaronetta angustirostris) which dropped quickly in to the reeds but we eventually got good enough views of them for them to go on to the green list. Unfortunatually a pair of Ferruginous Ducks (Porrón Pardo / Aythya nyroca)did not get passed the amber list as the floated with there heads under their wings for the whole time we were there and could not be seen well enough for a tick to go on the list. In the same area we did however also see or hear Black-headed Weavers (Ploceus melanocephalus) but only females, Spanish Sparrows, Penduline Tit (Pájaro Moscón / Remiz pendulinus), Kingfisher (Martin Pescador / Alcedo atthis), Great White Egrets and Northern Shovelers (Pato Cuchara / Anas clypeata).
We moved on along the track but added nothing new so we put the Satnav on again and headed over to the other bank of the Guadalquivir into the Donana proper, we drove across country to the ferry across the river at Coria del Rio and I was surprised it was just €3:10 one way with a car and only took a couple of minutes. Once we were across we drove back down the far side of the river and had a medocar lunch at the bar at Venta del Cruce before checking the White Stork nest at an old quarry / working where e tried some digiscoping with Abby's camera. In the area we had good numbers of Northern Lapwings, Glossy Ibis, Black Storks, Lesser Black-backed Gulls and lots of Egrets of 3 species.
We again moved along the road a short way to the large lake called Cañada de la Rianzuela where we scanned the water from a couple of points along the road seeing several hundred Greater Flamingo's, hundreds of Northern Shovelers, Gadwalls, Mallards, Common Pochards, Eurasian Coots, Little and Great Crested Grebes, White-headed Duck (Malvasia Cabeciblanca / Oxyura leucocephala), Red-crested Pochard (Pato Colorado / Netta rufina) and in the reeds several Reed Warblers (Carricero Común / Acrocephalus scrpaceus), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricailla) and Common Chiffchaffs. We moved on from here and drove the long track down towards the Centro José Antonio Valverde where we saw many of the same species we had already seen but got Red Kite (Milano Real / Milvus milvus) from Abby's amber list up to green along with nice views of Great White Egret, several clumps of the beautiful Narcissus serotinus a new plant for my plant list and a family group of Fallow Deer (Dama dama). Once we reached the Visitor's Centre we parked and had a look from the building and had views of Gadwall, a male Eurasian Wigeon, Greylag Geese (Ansar Común / Anser anser), Eurasian Teal, Eurasian Coot, Common Moorhen and a male Ferruginous Duck which disappeared before Abby got on to it properly. Next we went for a drive along the road a little further passed the centre out into the field which in wet years are pools but were dry. We did however see a good number of Greylag Geese, White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba), a photogenic Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), masses of Red-veined Darters, Lesser (Anax parthenope), Blue / Common (Anax imperator), at least 2 of the less common Vagrant Emperors (Anax ephippiger) and some croaking Perez's Frogs (Rana Común / Pelophylax perezi),. We returned to the centre hoping the Ferruginous Duck was on show but it remained hidden so we decided to head for the hotel near Villamanrique as time was pushing on. Instead of retracing our way back along the track we had come on we took a different route which payed off nicely as just a short way into the drive we had two Short-toed Eagles (Culebrera Europeo / Circaetus gallicus), more Fallow Deer, an immature Peregrine Falcon which sat nicely on the top of a pylon, a flock of Common Cranes (Grulla Común / Grus grus), Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo) and Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros) which was sat on a post just a we approached the hotel along the sandy tracks on the edge of town. We settled in to our rooms and then later had a walk in to the Pines nearby. We heard and saw Iberian Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus), Little  (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) and Tawny Owls (Cárabo Común / Strix aluco), Robin (Petirrojo Europeo / Erithacus rubecula) and Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula) before heading back for some Tapas and another good nights sleep.

Photographs from the top: Osprey (Águila Pescardora / Pandion haliaetus), Spoonbill (Espátula Común / Platalea leucorodia), Glossy Ibis (Morito Común / Plegadis falcinellus), 2x White Storks (Ciguena Blanca / Ciconia ciconia), 2x Narcissus serotinus, Red Kite (Milano Real / Milvus milvus), 2x Fallow Deer (Dama dama), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), Greylag Geese (Ansar Común / Anser anser), Short-toed Eagle (Culebrera Europeo / Circaetus gallicus), Peregrine Falcon (Halcón Peregrino / Falco peregrinus) and Common Cranes (Grulla Común / Grus grus).

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