Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Thursday 14th - El Rocio and La Rocina (Doñana)

A pale-phase Booted Eagle of Madre de las Marismas
After the intense and non-stop birding of the day before, I decided on a later start on the Thursday. Given that I only had 2 targets (none of them major), and a thick fog obscured visibility for the first few hours of daylight, I began a relaxed scan of Madre de las Marismas around 09:30. The first bird of the day was a Sedge Warbler, singing from reeds next to the hotel, and hundreds of Hirundines were overhead. The usual fare was present in big numbers as I made my way down the west side, with Black-winged Stilts, Spoonbills, Greater Flamingos, Cattle Egrets and Glossy Ibis joined by a singular Common Sandpiper and Squacco Heron.


A showy Purple Heron at La Rocina
The destination was La Rocina reserve, less than a mile from El Rocio, and by the time I arrived the sun was burning off the fog, allowing me to take in the plentiful Azure-winged, Serins, Tree Sparrows and Short-toed Treecreepers near the visitor centre. The restricted visibility was not a problem here, though, as a wondrous cacophony of birds relented from seemingly every bush and tree in the reserve. At least 15 Nightingales and 20 Cetti’s Warblers belted out their songs, with smaller numbers of Reed, Great Reed and Sedge Warblers in the wetter areas. 

My best effort, out of about 200, of a Purple Swaphen
It was here I got my first lifer, a long overdue Savi’s Warbler one of 2 noted throughout the day. A similar sounding Grasshopper Warbler was nearby, and another lifer, an Iberian Chiffchaff, was picked up in the more lush vegetation, along with Melodious Warblers Willow Warblers, Blackcaps, Spotted Flycatchers and Garden Warblers. A calling Lesser Spotted Woodpecker came as a surprise.

Another showy bird, this time a Woodchat Shrike at La Rocina
The hides overlooked lagoons which held similar birds to Madre de las Marismas, bar a few more Purple Herons, Night Herons, Purple Swamphens and Red-crested Pochard, and Marsh Harriers and Booted Eagles joined the numerous Black Kites in the sky. The trail opened out into a heathy area akin to Thursley, and here at least 15 Woodchat Shrikes were going about their business, with Dartford and Sardinian Warblers, Bee-eaters, Hoopoes and an Iberian Grey Shrike also around. La Rocina was lovely, but I decided my best option for more interesting birds would be back to Madre de las Marismas, so I headed back.

A Greater Flamingo on Madre de las Marismas
I chose to scan from the west side, and immediately found several Yellow Wagtails and a couple of Wood Sandpipers feeding among the regular assortment. A flock of about 60 Collared Pratincoles were also around, nosily making their presence known, some resting on the scrape. After a lunch in La Choza looking over the marshes I decided to check out the observatory in the north-east co
rner, where I got nice views of a pale-phase Booted Eagle.

I then decided to spend the last couple of hours in this magical place trying (unsuccessfully) to take some decent pictures of the Purple Swamphens that were seemingly resident in the reedbed right next to my hotel. Certainly not the rarest species I saw here, Purple Swamphens were quite possibly the most enigmatic.

I got pretty much all of my Donana targets in my time here, with only Marbled Duck and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse not seen. The tour was truly memorable, and the hours I spent at Madre de las Marismas equally fantastic. However, without doubt, I must come back to this birding heaven with a car one day, and explore further more.

The video shows Madre de las Marismas in a nutshell, as Flamingoes, Glossy Ibis, Collared Pratincoles and Wood Sandpipers share the same frame.