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TRIP REPORTS. DECEMBER 2005.

2nd December. Today I was guiding David and Juliet Heard from Benalmadena, near Málaga. It was a cold, wet, windy morning as I collected the couple from El Rocío, but we had a quick look on the marshes before moving off. There were plenty of Greater Flamingos, Grey Herons, Coots, Teal, Pintails, Gadwalls and Shovelers present, with smaller numbers of Snipe and Black-tailed Godwits. We then headed out towards Villamanrique, but as we reached the Arroyo de Santa Maria we were brought to halt by the sight of a Black-shouldered Kite, hunting over the stream and fighting against the heavy wind. Ten minutes of watching from within the vehicle resulted in the bird hovering no more that 15 metres from us. Eleven other B-s Kites were seen throughout the tour, but this was a cracking start to the day.
Further along the Villamanrique road we stopped to look at Iberian Magpies, Southern Grey Shrikes and Hoopoes.
It was raining hard as we got to the first of the Lagunas de Mancho Zurillo, so we viewed the site from inside the vehicle. However, the poor visibility did not stop us having excellent views of a Great White Egret, Little Egrets and dozens of Cormorants.
As the weather was so bad, I decided to reverse the order of the tour and visit the northern marshes first, where the JAV Centre would allow us to view the birds from indoors, but on the way, along the Corredor Verde, I stopped beside the Río Guadiamar to show David and Juliet the large roosting colony of Black-crowned Night Herons. There were hundreds of them, hunched up against the wind and rain and looking very miserable.
As we drove out to the marshes, the rain stopped, but not the 30kph cold wind, so again, much of the birding was done from inside the vehicle. This did not stop us seeing and enjoying White Storks, Purple Swamp-hens, Cattle Egrets, Greylag Geese, Green Sandpipers, Stone Curlews, Common Cranes, Ravens, Red Kites, Buzzards, Kestrels and Marsh Harriers.
At the JAV there were plenty of birds, but the only new birds we added were Common Shelducks, Avocets and Little Grebes. The barman at the centre told me he had seen a Marsh Harrier take a Little Grebe, not long before we had arrived and within minutes, David had found a female harrier feeding just 80 metres away. A quick look through the telescope confirmed the meal as a Little Grebe.
As we left the marshes we were able to add White Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Corn Buntings, Serins, Goldfinches and both Calandra and Crested Larks onto our growing total.
As we crossed the Entremuros, on our way to the Isla Mayor, we saw a flock of 12 Black Storks. Elsewhere in this region we also found Ringed, Little-ringed and Kentish Plovers, Lapwings, Little Stints, Black-winged Stilts, Wigeon, Barn Swallows, House Martins, Black Redstarts, Jackdaws and Spotless Starlings.
We finished the day back at the Corredor Verde, adding a Great Crested Grebe, 2 Booted Eagles, 2 Hen Harriers, 2 Red-rumped Swallows, Sand Martins, Greenfinches and Woodlarks to our list.

6th December. With me on today's tour were two Doctors, Huw Wilding and Picton Gibbin from Wales. We began at the Lagunas de Mancho Zurillo and found Little Egrets, Grey Herons, a Great White Egret, Cormorants, Common Pochards, Tufted Ducks, Gadwalls, Coots and Great Crested Grebes.
As we drove through the Corredor Verde we saw 11 Black-shouldered Kites, Buzzards, Red Kites, Kestrels, 3 Booted Eagles, Southern Grey Shrikes, Hoopoes, Iberian Magpies, Crested Larks, Woodlarks, Black Redstarts, Robins, Serins, Gold and Greenfinches, Chiffchaffs, Sardinian Warblers, Great Tits, Red-legged Partridges and over 100 Black-crowned Night Herons at their usual roosting place.
At the Entremuros there were 32 Black Storks, 100's of White Storks, Cattle Egrets, Lapwings, Green Sandpipers, Marsh Harriers and a Short-eared Owl.
We had our picnic lunch at the Dehesa de Abajo, overlooking the Cañada de Rianzuela, where Greylag Geese, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, White Wagtails, Corn Buntings, Stonechats, Meadow Pipits and both Common and Spotless Starlings were seen.
Afer lunch we headed out to the northern marshes and at our first stop near the Casa de Bombas there were more than 500 Common Cranes, several Purple Swamp-hens, Ravens, Hen Harriers and Song Thrushes.
near the Huerta Tejada we found numerous Stone Curlews and a Little Owl.
The Lucio del Lobo and the JAV Centre held thousands of birds and although we had already recorded many of them, we managed to add 100's of Greater Flamingos, Shovelers, Common Sandpipers, Dunlins, Lapwings, Snipe, Little Stints, Kentish Plovers and a Peregrine Falcon to the list.
As we were leaving the marshes, we stopped beside a field where there were Lesser Short-toed Larks, 100's of Calandra Larks and Golden Plovers.

10 December. Today's tour was with Daniele and Laura Colombo, from Milan, Italy. We began at El Rocio marshes and soon found a flock of about 70 Glossy Ibis, Avocets, Snipe, White Storks, Grey herons, Little Egrets, Pintails, Shovelers, Gadwalls, Red-crested Pochards and Teal. We then drove to the Lagunas de Mancho Zurillo, where I was surprised to find a small wintering flock of 11 Black Kites perched in one of the trees at the side of the first lagoon. Most unusual for mid-December. On the lagoons there were Cormorants, Common Pochards and Little Grebes. Overhead there were about 40 House Martins flying around. In the areas surrounding the lagoons we found Serins, Charrinches, Greenfinches, Souther Grey Shrikes, Black Redstarts, Robins, Meadow Pipits, White Wagtails, Iberian and Black-billed Magpies, Woodlarks and Buzzards.
As we drove along the Corredor Verde we recorded 5 Black-shouldered Kites, 3 Booted Eagles, Red Kites, Kestrels, Ravens, Cattle Egrets and Black-crowned Night Herons.
Our next stop was at the Entremuros where about 20 Purple Swamp-hens put on a fine show for us. as we continued along the east bank there were thousands of waders in the ricefields of the Isla Mayor. Amongst these were Redshanks, Greenshanks, Ruff, Ringed Plovers, Lapwings, Green Sandpipers and Dunlins. Several large flocks of Greater Flamingos were also seen. At the end of the Entremuros we saw numerous Marsh Harriers and 2 male Hen Harriers.
At the Cañada de Rianzuela there were Greylag Geese, Wigeon and Black-winged Stilts.
The afternoon was spent in the northern marsh area, where Black Storks, Common Cranes, Stone Curlews, Calandra Larks, Corn Buntings, Crested Larks and Chiffchaffs were in abundance.

15th December. With me today were Bill Burrows from Wotton-under-Edge, near Bristol and Chris and Sue Blasdale from Worcestershire. We began the birding at the Lagunas de Mancho Zurillo and in the immediate surroundings of the lagoons we found a Booted Eagle, several Red Kites, Buzzards, Kestrels, Southern Grey Shrikes, Ravens, Crested, Thekla and Woodlarks, Black Redstarts, Robins, Meadow Pipits Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Serins and Hoopoes. On the water we saw Tufted Ducks, Common Pochards, Shovelers, Cormorants, Coots, Grey Herons and Little Egrets. We then drove through a part of the Corredor Verde and alongside the Río Guadiamar. As we were passing through this area we saw 7 Black-shouldered Kites, Marsh Harriers, Spanish Sparrows, Chiffchaffs, Tree Pipits, a Hawfinch and hundreds of Black-crowned Night Herons roosting in Tamarisk trees.
Our next stop was at the Cañada de Rianzuela lagoon. There were plenty of birds present and we recorded Avocets, Lapwings, Golden, Ringed and Little-ringed Plovers, White Wagtails, Teal, Wigeon and Greylag Geese.
In the afternoon we visited sevaral sites in the northern marshes. As we drove along the Brazo de la Torre we found hundreds of Common Cranes and White Storks feeding in fields alongside the track. Three male Hen Harriers and a single female gave us some excellent views near the Casa de Bombas, where a large flock of Linnets was also seen.
further along the track we saw a Bluethroat and at the Huerta Tejada we counted over 30 Stone Curlews, a huge flock of more than a 300 Corn Buntings and 2 Little Owls.
During several other stops we found Cattle Egrets, Black-tailed Godwits, Green and Common Sandpipers, Snipe, Greater Flamingos, Purple Swamp-hens, Gadwalls, Black Storks, a Peregrine Falcon and a wintering flock of probably more than 1,500 Calandra Larks.

20th December. Today was the first of two days guiding Bob Humphries and Sally Robinson from Perth, Australia. The couple are spending 3 days in Doñana whilst on their way from Equador to India and as this was the first time that Bob has birded in Europe, there were bound to be many new birds for him.
We began by driving through Hinojos forest where a flock of Iberian Magpies were the first birds seen. These were followed by Chaffinches, Crested Larks, Black Redstarts, Sardinian Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Stonechats, Collared Doves and Lapwings.
We then visited the marshes at El Rocío and spent an hour and a half watching the birds on show. These included Shovelers, Teal, Pintails, Coots, Moorhens, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwits, Little-ringed Plovers, Glossy Ibis, Greater Flamingos, Little and Cattle Egrets, Black-billed Magpies, White Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Great Tits, Goldfinches, Spotless Starlings, Marsh Harriers, Buzzards, Kestrels and 2 Bluethroats.
We then drove down the coast to the Marismas del Odiel. At our first stop we found Dunlins, Red Knots, Redshanks, Ringed Plovers, Black-necked and Little Grebes, Gadwalls, Common Pochards, Yellow-legged, Black-headed and Lesser Blackbacked Gulls and 4 Purple Swamp-hens.
Further along the marshes there were Curlews, Grey Herons, Spoonbills, Grey Plovers, Greenshanks, Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones, Bar-tailed Godwits, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Oystercatchers, Cormorants, a Little Gull, Audouin's Gulls, Sandwich Terns and an Osprey.
We ended the day at the Laguna Primera de Palos and although it was almost dark, we managed to add Wigeons and a Red-knobbed Coot to our list. Altogether we recorded 74 species, all but 14 of which were "lifers" for Bob.

21st December. This was my second day with Bob Humphries and Sally Robinson from Perth, Australia. Today we followed my northern marshes route and started our tour at the Lagunas de Mancho Zurillo, where we found Cattle Egrets, Grey Herons, Shovelers, Tufted Ducks, Gadwalls, Common Pochards, Little Grebes, Cormorants, House and Sand Martins, Iberian Magpies and Hoopoes. In the surrounding areas there were Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Serins, Black Redstarts, Robins, Meadow Pipits, Crested Larks, Woodlarks and Ravens.
We then drove through paty of the Corredor Verde and along the Río Guadiamar. The most noteable birds we saw here were Black-shouldered Kites, Red Kites, Kestrels, Buzzards, Marsh Harriers, Southern Grey Shrikes, Common and Spotless Starlings, Stonechats, White Wagtails, Sardinian Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Linnets, Little Egrets, 100's of White Storks, 37 Black Storks, a Great White Egret and several hundred Black-crowned Night Herons.
We then visited the Dehesa de Abajo, where there were a good selection of birds feeding on the Cañada de Rianzuela. Amongst these we recorded Greater Flamingos, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Ringed, Little-ringed and Kentish Plovers, Lapwings, Dunlins, Ruff, 8 Temminck's Stints, Little Stints, Teal, Wigeon, Greylag Geese and a Ruddy Shelduck.
We had our picnic lunch in a small forested area, where Chaffinches and Bramblings were recorded.
In the afternoon we drove out to the northern marshes, finding 26 Stone Curlews, 2,500+ Common Cranes, Golden Plovers, 100's of Calandra Larks, Corn Buntings, a Dartford Warbler, Black-tailed Godwits, Purple Swamp-hens and Snipe.
As we were leaving the marshes we saw a Barn Owl, Hen Harriers and 4 more Great White Egrets.
We recorded 78 species during the day and over the two days we recorded 104 different species, 81 of which were "lifers" for Bob and Sally.

24th December. With me today were Rolf van den Brink and his girlfriend Sandra, from Delft in Holland. We began the tour by heading towards the Corredor Verde, but as soon as we entered the "Camino de Marismas Gallega" we spotted the first of 13 Black-shouldered Kites that we were to find during the day. This was quickly followed by a Buzzard and 2 Hoopoes.
On reaching the Corredor Verde we first visited the Lagunas de Mancho Zurillo, where a Red Kite perched very obligingly for us. On the water we found Tufted Ducks, Shovelers, Pochards, Cormorants and Little Grebes. Around the lagoons we saw Corn Buntings, Crested Larks, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Tree Sparrows, Black Redstarts, Serins, Chiffchaffs, Stonechats and Southern Grey Shrikes.
As we drove alongside the Río Guadiamar there were Iberian Magpies, a Great White Egret, Cattle Egrets, Grey Herons, White Storks, 34 Black Storks, Glossy Ibis and hundreds of Black-crowned Night Herons.
Our next stop was at the Cañada de Rianzuela, where we saw Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Ringed, Little-ringed, Kentish and Golden Plovers, Lapwings, Little Stints, Temminck's Stints Dunlins, Lapwings, Snipe, Ruff, Greylag Geese, Teal, White Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Jackdaws, Marsh Harriers and a Short-toed Eagle.
We spent the afternoon in the northern marshes, finding Little Egrets, dozens of Purple Swamp-hens, Hundreds of Greater Flamingos, a huge flock of Common Cranes (estimated at 3,000), over 40 Stone Curlews, hundreds of Black-tailed Godwits, Hen Harriers, a Little Owl and a Barn Owl.

26th December. Today's tour included John and Sonya Harvey from Buxton, Derbyshire and Philip Gould, his wife Janet and mother Dorothy, from Cheltenham, Gloucester. We bagan at the Lagunas de Mancho Zurillo, but for some reason the lagoons did not have the usual number of birds present. We saw Tufted Ducks, Common Pochards, Gadwalls, Shovelers, Teal, Little Grebes, Cormorants and Grey Herons on the water and in the surrounding areas we found Red Kites, Kestrels, Southern Grey Shrikes, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Stonechats, Sardinian Warblers, Robins, Tree and Meadow Pipits, Chiffchaffs, Black Redstarts and Crested Larks.
We then drove through the Corredor Verde and along the track beside the Río Guadiamar and in a distance of less than 10 kilometres we spotted 19 Black-shouldered Kites, breaking my day tour record by one. The next bird, a Great Spotted Cuckoo, was a bit of a surprise as it flew directly in front of the car and perched in a small tree no more than 10 metres from us, allowing good close-up views.
We then proceeded to the Black-crowned Night Heron roost where there were hundreds of them on show, along with a few Cattle Egrets and a Great White Egret. At least 5 Marsh Harriers were also seen along this track.
In the Isla Mayor we found White Storks, about 20 Black Storks, Little Egrets, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Ruff, Lapwings, Greylag Geese, Purple Swamp-hens and the first two of nine male Hen Harriers that we saw during the day
The afternoon we drove out to the northern marshes area and at the regular field near the Huerta Tejada we were able to clearly count 83 Stone Curlews. Two fields further along we encountered a large flock of about 1,500 Common Cranes.
At the Lucio del Lobo there were many of the previously recorded species along with hundreds of Greater Flamingos and thousands of Black-tailed Godwits.
As we were leaving the marshes we found a flock of several hundred Calandra Larks and just after that we had two unexpected bonuses. The first was a Spanish Imperial Eagle that I spotted flying low over a field about 250 metres away. I stopped the car and we had time to set up the telescope and follow its course for five minutes as it was moving slowly into a strong headwind.
The second bonus occurred five minutes later when I pointed out a male Hen Harrier that crossed the road in front of us and then landed in a field, about 100 metres away. As we were looking at the bird it was suddenly "buzzed" by what I first thought was a Kestrel, but as the bird pulled up into the air I could see it was a Merlin, which then turned its attention onto a small flock of Corn Buntings, causing great panic amongst the smaller birds. We were able to watch the bird for over a minute before it disappeared from view.

28th December. Today's tour was with Christian and Chantal Rousseau from Paris and their grandchildren Lea and Baptiste. We headed for the Lagunas de Mancho Zurillo and the Corredor Verde and had immediate success in finding seven Black-shouldered Kites, Red Kites, Kestrels, Hoopoes and Crested Larks on the way. At the lagoons there were Tufted Ducks, Shovelers, Pochards, Cormorants and both Little and Black-necked Grebes. As we drove along the Corredor Verde we recorded Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Hawfinches, Bramblings, Serins, Black Redstarts, Sardinian Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Robins, Woodlarks, Grey Herons, Cattle Egrets, a Great White Egret, Black-crowned Night Herons, Buzzards and Marsh Harriers.
In the Isla mayor region we found Black-winged Stilts, Avocets, Ruff, Snipe, Little-ringed Plovers, White Storks, Greylag Geese, White Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Spotless Starlings, Iberian Magpies, Southern Grey Shrikes and Hen Harriers.
A few hours spent in the northern marshes produced Greater Flamingos, Black-tailed Godwits, Purple swamp-hens, Teal, Common Cranes, a Peregrine Falcon, Little Owls, Corn Buntings, Calandra Larks and Stone Curlews. A Spanish Imperial Eagle was seen as we were driving off the marshes.

29th December. With me today were Birthe Gawinski from Denmark and her daughter Sarah and friend Hanna. The morning part of the day involved driving to the Dehesa de Pilas and then passing through Partido de Resina and on to the northern marshes. At the "dehesa" we found many Lapwings, Golden Plovers, Crested Larks, Meadow Pipits, Common and Spotless Starlings, Kestrels, Buzzards and a Red Kite. As we drove through the "partido" we saw Serins, Goldfinches, Little and Cattle Egrets, Common Cranes, Marsh Harriers, Grey Herons, Little Grebes, Green Sandpipers and a Barn Owl.
At the JAV centre and the Lucio del Lobo there were Greater Flamingos, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Black-tailed Godwits, Purple Swamp-hens, Snipe, Shovelers, Teal, Greylag Geese, Calandra and Lesser Short-toed Larks, Ravens, Hen Harriers, a Bluethroat, Black Redstarts, a few distant Stone Curlews and a pair of Little Owls.
We had lunch at the Dehesa de Abajo, overlooking the Cañada de Rianzuela. There were many birds feeding on the lagoon and in the surrounding areas, including Wigeon, Common Pochards, Gadwalls, Little-ringed Plovers, Stonechats, Southern Grey Shrikes, Jackdaws, White Storks and a Booted Eagle.
We ended the day by driving through the Corredor Verde. Here we saw Cormorants, Black Storks, Black-crowned Night Herons (300+), a Great White Egret, Hoopoes, Sardinian Warblers, Blackcaps, Robins, Iberian Magpies, Woodlarks and a number of Black-shouldered Kites.

30th December. With me on today's tour, the last of 2005, were Andrew Sisson from London and his friends alan and Jenny. We began the birding at the Lagunas de Mancho Zurillo were there were Little and Black-necked Grebes, Common Pochards, Tufted Ducks, Gadwalls, Shovelers, Common Sandpipers, Cormorants, White Storks, Grey Herons and Little Egrets.
As we travelled through the Corredor Verde we saw 10 Black-shouldered Kites, Red Kites, Buzzards, Kestrels, 3 Booted Eagles, Marsh Harriers, Hen Harriers, Southern Grey Shrikes, Ravens, Serins, Goldfinches, 2 Hawfinches, Crested Larks, Woodlarks, Meadow Pipits, Stonechats, White Wagtails, Robins, Sardinian Warblers, Blackcaps, Great and Blue Tits, Hoopoes, Iberian Magpies, Chiffchaffs, Black Redstarts, Corn Buntings, House Martins, Cattle Egrets, Hundreds of Black-crowned Night Herons and a pair of very unseasonable Turtle Doves.
As we crossed the Entremuros to the Isla Mayor we found a small flock of Glossy Ibis and at the Cañada de Rianzuela we saw Greylag Geese, Greater Flamingos, Wigeon, Teal, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts and Lapwings.
As we were driving out to the northern marshes, I stopped at the regular field where the Stone Curlews are usually found, but to my great disappointment, not one was to be seen, so we moved 500 metres along the track to another field were over 200 Common Cranes were feeding. As we were watching the cranes a large flock of birds flew over our head from behind us. They were Stone Curlews and as they circled overhead for a couple of minutes I was able to count about 140 birds.
At the Lucio del Lobo there were thousands of birds present and although there were many we had already recorded, we also found a flock of over 1000 Black-tailed Godwits, some Snipe, a few Ruff, Green Sandpipers and 2 Little Owls.
At the JAV centre we had excellent views of several Purple Swamp-hens.
As we were leaving the marshes I stopped at a regular field for Calandra Larks and we were rewarded with the sight of hundreds of them flying back and forth along the field. A short distance later we were watching more Common Cranes when a male Hen Harrier drifted by. All of a sudden a Merlin appeared and began buzzing the harrier, just 50 metres from the car. This was the second time I had witnessed this Merlin/harrier confrontation in less than a week.
Further along our route we found a Barn Owl and two Black Storks.
Our last bit of excitement came near the Dehesa de Pilas. A Buzzard flew off a fencepost just in front of it and as we watched it fly away, this too was also attacked by a Merlin. Ok! it could have been the same Merlin, but this was 15 kms away from where we saw the first one, so we decided to claim 2 separate birds.