It was a pity to be leaving Bens so soon but we were soon packed and tidied and heading back towards Seville but still with birding in mind before our late afternoon flight home.
|A final farewell from one of our juvenile Iberian Magpies|
The usual assortment of roadside birds were seen as we headed back East into Spain with Iberian Magpies, both Shrikes, Black Kites and White Storks along every road.
We were aiming for the town of Bolullos Par del Condado and a small church of Ermita De Nuestra Señora de Las Mercedes on the outskirts that was reputed to be in the heart of Bushchat country. It was seriously hot but our searching was not in vain and three birds were seen including two singing males but they seldom stayed in the open for long and we were all glad of our prolonged views on day one.
|Ermita De Nuestra Señora de Las Mercedes|
|Hot and dusty...|
|Western Rufous Bushchat|
Quail sang and two Hoopoes flopped across the church grounds with Bee-eaters and Ibe Mags adding more colour.
|Spotless Starlings - the juvs are very dark - bit like Shetland ones|
|Common Blue - Small Copper was also seen|
A male Montagu’s Harrier actively hunted the adjacent sunflower fields with Swallows in attendance and up above Short-toed and Booted Eagles, Buzzard, Raven and Black Kite were all seen.
Our time was at a premium so we pushed on to the nearest part of the Donana and in fact no sooner had we entered it then we left it again and found ourselves in the Reserva Natural Concertada Dehesa de Abajo with a patchwork of paddy fields similar too but nowhere near as birdy as Brazo del Este. The fact that we were in prime Iberian Lynx country was pointed out by the coolest Banksyesque road signs!
There was the usual scatting of Grey and Purple Herons, Great White, Cattle and Little Egrets and Glossy Ibis. Great Reed and Fan-tailed Warblers sang in the reeds with Iberian Wagtails for company and White Storks and Black Kites were constant companions.
The lagoon at the reserve was superb and deserved hours rather than the 30 minutes we had but in that time we even added a few species to the trip list with 30 Great Crested Grebes, a brood of seven Red-crested Pochards and two drake Shoveler. Little Grebes, Pochard, Mallard and plenty of Coot were present but we could not find a Red-knobbed amongst the closest birds and the rest were too far and too hazy.
|Iberian Bluetail - Ischnura graellsii|
|Spoonbills and Great Crested Grebes|
There were literally hundreds of Spoonbills sieving the waters with a splodge of pink Flamingos and a line of perhaps a hundred or so rusty Black-tailed Godwits.
Squaccos and Night Herons were in and out of the vegetated islands and Western Olivaceous and Reed Warblers sang while around the visitors centre Jackdaw became our last trip tick with dozens in close proximity to the White Storks that were nesting at eye level on posts and pine trees.
|Spoonbills and Black-tailed Godwits|
|Shaun of the Storks|
Bee-eaters prukked from the wires and I can’t think of a better bird to round up any trip...
Seville airport was painless and we almost left on time for a swift journey back to Blighty after four successful days, jammed with memories.
Overview and Logistics
- This was a short, low-cost birding break to southern Spain and Portugal. We had two aims: to see a handful of late-arriving spring migrants – White-rumped Swift, Western Olivaceous Warbler and Rufous-tailed Scrub-robin – and to enjoy as many as possible of the local specialities on the Castro Verde plains and the Rio Guadiana valley.
- We flew Easyjet from Gatwick to Seville. This cost c. £140 return each, booked just over a month in advance of the trip.
- We hired a car from Europcar, via Easyjet. This turned out to be a Skoda Octavia diesel for a bargain £65. Collection and drop-off were both relatively quick and fuss-free.
- We stayed in an Airbnb rental in the tiny Portuguese village of Bens, east of Mertola, for three nights. This was very convenient for the White-rumped Swift site and also another bargain, coming in at a total of just £130 for three nights! The traditional cottage was very comfortable and peaceful, with Iberian Magpies outside during the day and Red-necked Nightjar calling (once, at least!) during the night.