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TRIP REPORTS. FEBRUARY 2006.

13th February. After a break of a couple of weeks, it was back to work today at the start of what will be a very busy 3 months. At the current time I have 65 tours booked in the next 87 days and expect even more bookings for March and May (April is full), so there will be plenty of trip reports coming in.
With me today were Victor and Ann Russell from Kiddeminster. I collected the couple from their hotel in Hinojos and we then headed out to the Corredor Verde and the Lagunas de Mancho Zurillo. Both lagoons were absolutely full of water, but a little short of birds, which is often the case after we have had a period of heavy rain. The water is too deep for some birds and the water is somewhat sterile and needs a week or so for the food chain to develop. However, we saw Shovelers, Tufted Ducks, Common Pochards, Coots, Grey Herons, Little and Cattle Egrets and Little Grebes on the water. In the areas surrounding the lagoons there were Black Redstarts, Southern Grey Shrikes, Meadow Pipits, Crested and Woodlarks, Serins, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Sardinian Warblers and Chiffchaffs.
As we drove through the Corredor Verde and alongside the Río Guadiamar we found Red-legged Partridges, Hoopoes, Kestrels, Buzzards, Red Kites, 7 Black-shouldered Kites and Hundreds of Black-crowned Night Herons.
We then drove along the east bank of the Entremuros, looking for Purple Swamp-hens and anything else that may present itself to us. We were in luck as we found a wet ricefield with 40+ White Storks, 2 Black storks and 2 Great White Egrets. We did see distant P-S hens, but not to our satisfaction, although we did get good views later in the day. A Peregrine Falcon sat on a pylon was an added bonus.
We stopped for lunch at the Dehesa de Abajo, overlooking the Cañada de Rianzuela, where a flock of about 100 Avocets, Cormorants and a few Lapwings showed well.
In the afternoon we visited the southern marsh area of the Brazo del Este. Here the water levels were lower and there were far more waders present. We found many more Black Storks, 4 more Great White Egrets, dozens of Glossy Ibis, over 100 Spoonbills, Black-winged Stilts, Common, Green and Wood Sandpipers, Black-tailed Godwits, Snipe and 100's of Purple Swamp-hens. We also saw a Booted Eagle, numerous Marsh Harriers and a female Hen Harrier.
Our last stop of the day was at the La Cangrejera fields, where we had prolonged views of 2 Short-eared Owls, a Hobby and a male Hen Harrier.

14th February. This was my second day guiding Victor and Ann Russel from Kidderminster. There was heavy mist shrouding the countryside when I collected the couple from their hostal, with visibility down to about 100 metres, so I decided that an early morning visit to El Rocío would produce the best chance of seeing anything.

When we arrived there were many birds feeding close in to the promenade and we were able to get good views of Black-tailed Godwits, Glossy Ibis, Snipe, Shovelers, Coots, Grey Herons and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. As the mist slowly cleared we also saw Greater Flamingos and Avocets. Along the muddy margins of the marsh, in the air and in the surrounding vegetation, there were Goldfinches, Black Redstarts, a Bluethroat, Stonechats, Chiffchaffs, White Wagtails, a Grey Wagtail, Crested Larks, Song Thrushes, Black-billed Magpies, Cattle Egrets, Barn Swallows and House Martins.
As the mist was clearing, I felt it was time to move on toward the northern marshes. At our first stop, at the Dehesa de Banco, we saw Lapwings, Golden Plovers, Meadow Pipits, Robins, a Southern Grey Shrike, Buzzards, Kestrels, Common andSpotless Starlings and White Storks.
As we drove through the Dehesa de Pilas and the Partido de Resina we found a flock of Calandra Larks, several Lesser Short-toed Larks, Green and Common Sandpipers, Cormorants, 4 Great White Egrets, Marsh and Hen Harriers, a Merlin, Red Kites, Ravens and Common Cranes.
At the flooded Caño de Guadiamar there were Common and Red-crested Pochards, Great Crested, Little and Black-necked Grebes, Greylag Geese and Yellow-legged Gulls. Just overhead, there were about 15 Griffon Vultures circling.
The lucio del Lobo produced large flocks of Greater Flamingos, Black-tailed Godwits and Avocets, along with many ducks, including Pintails and Teal.
As we were leaving the marshes, a Dartford Warbler flew up onto a post beside the road and remained for about 30 seconds, no more than 3 metres from the car. Other birds seen along this part of the route included Spoonbills, 6 Black Storks, Corn Buntings and 3 Little Owls.
We ended the day by driving through the Corredor Verde, finding Hoopoes, 6 Black-shouldered Kites, Red-legged Partridges, Helmeted Guineafowl, Serins, Greenfinches, Chaffinches and Great Tits.

15th February. Today's tour was with David and Eleanor Smith from Wrentham in Suffolk and their friend Mike and Ann, also from Suffolk. David and Eleanor were with me almost a year ago, on the 19th of February 2005 and were amazed by the different conditions now that the marshes contain water.
Heavy mist marred most of our attempts at birding in the morning, with visibility down to about 50 metres until well after midday. However, we did manage to see a few birds, such as Black-crowned Night Herons, Little and Cattle Egrets, Lapwings, White Storks, Crested Larks, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Hoopoes, Meadow Pipits, Corn Buntings, Linnets, Serins, 2 Hawfinches (only seen flying by the others, but seen perched by me), Great Tits, Barn Swallows, House and Sand Martins, Buzzards, Kestrels and 2 Black-Shouldered Kites.
Due to the weather, we had an early picnic lunch and at 1pm we headed out to the northern marshes. Visibility was now improving, enabling us to find Purple Swamp-hens, Spoonbills, Black Storks, Glossy Ibis, Green Sandpipers, Marsh and Hen Harriers and a Dartford Warbler at the Casa de Bombas.
Further along the track we found about 40 Common Cranes, Calandra Larks, Red Kites and a pair of Little Owls. A few Lesser Short-toed Larks were seen, but only in flight.
Our next stop was at the Lucio del Lobo, where there were possibly 1,000 Black-tailed Godwits and hundreds each of Greater Flamingos, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts and Shovelers.
At the Caño de Guadiamar we saw Greylag Geese, Common and Red-crested Pochards, Great Crested, Little and Black-necked Grebes, Coots and Greenshanks.
As we were driving off the marshes we spotted a Stone Curlew, Ringed Plovers, Little Stints and several Great White Egrets in the Hato Raton rice fields.

17th February. With me today were Robson and Lana MacDonald from Lucerne, Switzerland and Mike King and his son Peter, from Aylesbury in the UK. Mike and Peter had spent two days with me in July last year, when the area was very dry, so today they saw the other side of Doñana, ie. as a wetland.
Our first stop was at the marshes at El Rocío. The birds seen included Greater Flamingos, Spoonbills, Glossy Ibis, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwits, Shovelers, a Cetti's Warbler, a Kingfisher and a Red-knobbed Coot.
We then moved on to the Corredor Verde and the Mancho Zurillo lagoons. We found Common Pochards, Tufted Ducks, Little Grebes, Grey Herons, Little Egrets, Kestrels, Buzzards, Red Kites, Marsh Harriers, Black-shouldered Kites, Southern Grey Shrikes, Iberian Magpies, Meadow Pipits, a Tree Pipit, Crested Larks, Black Redstarts, Serins, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Sardinian Warblers, Barn Swallows, House and Sand Martins and Black-crowned Night Herons.
We had our picnic lunch at the Dehesa de Abajo, and spent an enjoyable 30 minutes watching White Storks, Avocets, a Booted Eagle and a Little Owl.
We then drove out to the northern marshes and on the way we saw a few Purple Swamp-hens, Greylag Geese, Stonehats, Corn Buntings and Chiffchaffs.
We stopped near the Huerta Tejada and enjoyed the sight of about 40 Common Cranes were feeding in a field beside the road. We then continued towards the Lucio del Lobo, finding 3 more Little Owls on the way. The lucio did not hold the large number of birds that I was hoping to find, but we did add Black-winged Stilts, Green Sandpipers and Plenty of Fallow Deer to our list.
Elsewhere in the marshes we found more Glossy Ibis and Purple Swamp-hens, Great Crested and Black-necked Grebes, Common and Red-crested Pochards, a Griffon Vulture, a male Hen Harrier, a Peregrine Falcon, Greenshanks, a Great White Egret, 4 Black Storks, Lapwings, Golden Plovers and Calandra Larks.

18th February. My tour today was with Brian and Bridget McGinn from Dublin. We spent the first hour at the El Rocío marshes watching Greater Flamingos, Spoonbills, White Storks, Grey Herons, Little Egrets, Avocets, Black-tailed Godwits, Shovelers and Pintails. A Sparrowhawk drifted by, with 3 House Sparrows mobbing it, and Common Chiffchaffs, Goldfinches and Greenfinches were seen in the trees beside the marsh.
We then drove through the Corredor Verde and visited two lagoons. The lagoons held Cattle Egrets, Cormorants, Common Pochards, Tufted Ducks and Coots, whilst overhead there were Barn Swallows and House Martins. As we drove along the Corredor Verde we found a Black Stork, six Black-shouldered Kites (including two breeding pairs), two Booted Eagles (one light and one dark morph), about eighteen Red Kites, a Black Kite, Buzzards, Kestrels, another Sparrowhawk, Ravens, Jackdaws, Southern Grey Shrikes, Iberian Magpies, Black Redstarts, Song and Mistle Thrushes, Linnets, Serins, Crested Larks, Woodlarks, Stonechats, Robins, Corn Buntings and Black-crowned Night Herons.
At the "heron ponds" we saw Hoopoes, Blackcaps and a Red-knobbed Coot.
A tour of the northern Marshes produced Marsh and Hen Harriers, Purple Swamp-hens, two Great White Egrets, over 100 Common Cranes, Great Crested and Black-necked Grebes, Green Sandpipers, Lapwings, Golden Plovers, Little Stints, Greenshanks, Glossy Ibis, Sand Martins and both Lesser Short-toed and Calandra Larks.


19th February. Today was the first of four days that I will be guiding Juhana Piha from Turku, Finland and his son Samuel. I collected the pair from the La Aldea campsite and drove straight to the old SEO bird observatory overlooking El Rocío marshes. We were immediately faced with hundreds of Greater Flamingos, Black-tailed Godwits, Common Coots and Shovelers, even before we could get out of the vehicle. After setting up the telescopes, we set about scanning the open water and the reedbeds and within a couple of minutes I had located a Red-knobbed Coot, feeding no more than 20 metres from us and allowing good photos.
Next to be spotted were a flock of Glossy Ibis (60+), Spoonbills, Grey Herons, Pintails, Teal, Avocets, Lapwings, Golden Plovers, Barn Swallows and House Martins.
We then moved to the western end of the marsh and found Redshanks, Greenshanks, Black-winged Stilts, a Purple Swamp-hen, Greylag Geese, Black-headed Gulls, White Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Black Redstarts, Chiffchaffs and a Bluethroat.
We paid a quick visit to the La Rocina reserve, but there were very few birds on the water. A pair of Marsh Harriers and a Buzzard kept us entertained for a while, before we decided to look for forest birds. A very strong wind was keeping the passerines well under cover, but we did manage to find 3 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Great Tits and a Firecrest, which was so active that we had difficulty getting a real good view. Very frustrating, as it was a "lifer" for Juhana and Samuel.
We then took the road to the Palacio del Acebrón, looking for warblers, but the strong wind was working against us and all we saw were a few Stonechats, 2 Red Kites and a Booted Eagle.
We had our picnic lunch at the El Acebuche picnic area, surrounded by 40 - 50 Iberian Magpies and 3 Black-billed Magpies, which between them, probably ate as much of our meal as we did.
After lunch we visited 6 of the bird hides in the reserve, but apart from White Storks, Little Egrets and Little Grebes, there was very little to interest us. I spent a few minutes scanning the canopy of the stone pines and found another Firecrest, showing much better than the previous one and enabling Juhana to get such good views that he was pleased to count it as a "lifer".
The next area we visited was Las Guayules fields. Here we found Kestrels, Cattle Egrets, Corn Buntings, a flock of Calandra Larks, Crested Larks, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Greenfinches and 2 Stone Curlews.
We spent the last 20 minutes of the day back at the El Rocío marshes and added Red-rumped Swallows and Sand Martins to our list.

20th February. Today was my second day guiding father and son, Juhana and Samuel Piha from Turku, Finland. Our tour today included the Marismas del Odiel and several other sites to the west of the Doñana region. The first stop was at the Laguna Primera de Palos, where I soon spotted 3 of the resident Red-knobbed Coots. We also found Black-winged Stilts, Purple Swamp-hens, 2 Squacco Herons, Teal, Shovelers and Gadwalls.
At La Rábida there were Whimbrels, Redshanks, Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings, Ringed Plovers, Common Sandpipers, Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls and an Osprey.
A quick visit to Laguna El Portil produced Black-necked and Little Grebes, Spotted Redshanks, a Grey Wagtail, another Osprey and 2 Ferruginous Ducks.
We then moved on to the marshes at the Río Piedras and were rewarded with good views of Sandwich and Caspian Terns, Curlews, Grey Plovers, Oystercatchers, Spoonbills, Cormorants, Red-breasted Mergansers and 2 Southern Grey Shrikes. Just as we were about to leave, I found 3 Brent Geese, which are very rare birds in this region. A report will be sent to the Spanish Rarities Committee.
Our last stop before lunch was at La Ribera, Where White Storks, Dunlin, Kentish Plovers and Greenshanks were added to our daily total.
The Odiel marshes were fairly quiet, but we did manage to see Common Shelducks, Greater Flamingos, Red Knots, Bar-tailed Godwits, a Razorbill, Marsh Harriers, Kestrels, Lesser Black-backed Gulls and about 60 Audouin's Gulls.
A 10 minute stop at the Estero Domingo Ribia produced a 3rd Osprey, more Purple swamp-hens and another Squacco Heron, but nothing new to add to our list.
I had estimated that a few early migrant Lesser Kestrels could have arrived at the castle at Niebla, so I decided to make that the last stop of the day. A 10 minute search of the skies proved successful and we had very good views of a male and female.

21st February. This was my third day with Juhana and Samuel from Finland, but today they where joined by John and Gay Bows from near Cambridge in the UK. An early visit to the El Rocío marshes produced Greater Flamingos, Black-tailed Godwits, Spoonbills, Shovelers, a Red-knobbed Coot (a second one was seen later in the "heron ponds"), Barn Swallows, Sand Martins and a close-up view of a Cetti's Warbler.
At the Corredor Verde we saw Southern Grey Shrikes, Red Kites, Buzzards, Kestrels, Black-shouldered Kites, White Storks, Little Egrets, Cormorants, Grey Herons, Tufted Ducks, House Martins, Black Redstarts, Hoopoes, Crested Larks, Serins, Iberian Magpies, a Red-rumped Swallow, Tree Sparrows, Sardinian Warblers, Blackcaps and Corn Buntings.
We spent the afternoon driving around the northern marshes, where we saw numerous Black Storks, Glossy Ibis, Purple Swamp-hens, Cattle Egrets, Black-crowned Night Herons, Common Cranes, Greenshanks, a Great White Egret, Green Sandpipers, a Little Owl, Marsh Harriers, Lapwings, Golden Plovers and Lesser Short-toed and Calandra Larks.
A great pleasure for me was seeing the first migrant swifts of the year. As we were stood beside the Lucio del Lobo, looking for larks, I spotted a small flock of swifts passing overhead. My initial sighting was of Common Swifts, but following behind were at least 5 Pallid Swifts.

22nd February. This was my final day with Juhana and Samuel Piha from Turku, Finland. In the morning we visited the reserve area of Las Doblas and the vast rolling plain/steppe arera between Sanlúcar de Mayor, Aznalcóllar, Gerena and Olivares, looking for any bustards or sandgrouse, but we were completely out of luck. We did, however, manage Thekla Lark, Common Quail, Red-legged Partridge and many other species.
In the afternoon we visited the Brazo del Este area and found Glossy Ibis, Spoonbills, Black Storks, Purple Swamp-hens, Black-winged Stilts, 6 Great White Egrets, etc, etc. but the only new birds we added to the tour list were Zitting Cisticolas, Song Thrushes, Reed Buntings, Muscovy Ducks, Wood Sandpipers, Snipe and a Marsh Sandpiper.
After crossing back over the river, we stopped at the La Cangrajeras fields, where at least 4 Short-eared Owls and a male Marsh Harriers were seen.
Juhana and Samuel are off tomorrow to spend 3 days in Extremadura, after running up a total of 142 bird species in this region.

24th February. On my tour today were Ken and Maureen Newton from Plymstock, Devon and Peter Wells and Phil Smith from Dover, Kent. We began at the two lagoons inside the Corredor Verde and found Shovelers, Tufted Ducks, Little Grebes, Common Sandpipers, Cormorants, Cattle Egrets, Grey Herons, Snipe, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows, House and Sand Martins, White Wagtails, Black Redstarts, Crested Larks, Chiffchaffs and Corn Buntings.
As we drove along the Corredor Verde, following the Río Guadiamar, we saw Red and Black Kites, 9 Black-shouldered Kites, Buzzards, Kestrels, Booted Eagles, Marsh and Hen Harriers, Ravens, White Storks, Black-crowned Night Herons, Hoopoes, Serins, Greenfinches, Goldfinches and Southern Grey Shrikes.
Our next stop was at the "heron ponds", where Little Egrets, Green Sandpipers and a Red-knobbed Coot were seen.
The Cañada de Rianzuela is once again full of water and birds, waterfowl especially, are starting to return to the site. We managed to see Greylag Geese, Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Marbled Ducks, Common and Red-crested Pochards, Wigeon, 2 White-headed Ducks, Lapwings and Dunlins.
In the afternoon we visited the northern marshes, using the route through the Partido de Resina and Hato Raton rice fields. At our first stop I picked out a Merlin and were able to get reasonable views with the telescope. Further along the route we found Black Storks, Black-necked and Great Crested Grebes, Spoonbills, Greenshanks, Kentish Plovers, Linnets, Zitting Cisticolas and several Yellow Wagtails.
The next bird to show was a Spanish Imperial Eagle carrying some source of food and being harried by two Black Kites. We had prolonged views as the eagle landed twice to escape the attentions of the kites.
At the JAV centre there were Glossy Ibis, Black-winged Stilts, Purple Swamp-hens and Avocets and near the Huerta Tejada we saw 4 Stone Curlews, 20 Common Cranes, 2 Great White Egrets a Little Owl and 2 Short-eared Owls.

26th February. Today I was guiding two brothers, Ken Mather from Stafford and Graham Mather from Stockport. The pair were with me in February 2004, so it was good to see them again.
The first site we visited was the Laguna Primera de Palos. Here we found Purple Swamp-hens, Red-knobbed Coots, Wigeon, Teal, Shovelers, Gadwalls, Cormorants and Black-winged Stilts.
We then stopped at the La Rábida site and saw Whimbrels, Grey Plovers, Common Sandpipers, Sandwich Terns, Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls, Redshanks and an Osprey.
Our next stop was at the Laguna El Portil, where Little and Black-necked Grebes, a Buzzard, a Hoopoe, House Martins and Barn and Red-rumped Swallows were recorded.
The two sites at the Marismas del Rio Piedras and La Ribera produced Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlews, Ringed Plovers, Greenshanks, Dunlins, Snipe, Red-breasted Mergansers, White Storks, Grey Herons, Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 4 Southern Grey Shrikes.
Our last stop of the day was at the Marismas del Odiel. Here we found Spoonbills, Little Egrets, Greater Flamingos, Sanderlings, Turnstones, Oystercatchers, Little Stints, Curlew Sandpipers, Common Shelducks, White and Yellow Wagtails, Chiffchaffs, Crested Larks, Stonechats, Marsh Harriers, Audouin's Gulls and a Ring-billed Gull.
Other birds recorded during the day included Black-billed and Iberian (Azure-winged) Magpies, Collared Doves, Kestrels and a distant Booted Eagle.