Tuesday 20 June 2023

The Spanish Tour for WINGS - Day 4 - 3rd May 2023

We were up and outside the hotel in El Rocío before sun up to the croaking of Night Herons as they headed back to their day roosts and with squadrons on black looking Glossy Ibises heading off to feed for the day.  The crew assembled and ambled along the frontage picking up a Squacco, glowing Flamingos, more Ibis and a good selection of waders that included seven Greenshank, 12 Black-tailed Godwits, at least two creeping Temmminck’s Stints and a distant flock of Curlew Sands, Ringed Plovers and Little Stints. 

Glossy Ibises

Two Quail sang from out on the marshy island  and seven Whiskered Terns briefly patrolled before heading off strongly. Spotless Starlings were noisily singing I the day from the Tamarisks and Hobby and Hawfinch were both surprise flyovers before we reached the pines where Common Magpie was seen well and a Western Olivaceous Warbler was merrily chattering away in the Willows but we had no hope of actually seeing it. 

Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis


Black-winged Stilts

Early White Stork

Red Deer were feeding around the margins with the herd of Horses and disturbed little groups of Swallows that were still reluctant to get up and start feeding.


Reed Warbler

Ragwort sp

Hemlock Water-Dropwort

Yellow Flag

After breakfast we had to try and clean the deluge of Wild Olive pollen from my van! It was everywhere!  

Fortunately our first stop was just a couple of miles away into the Doñana park and we spent out time initially along the road side through the shrubby heathland of El Acebon.

Larks were well in song with Thekla’s performing very well with the accompaniment of Corn Buntings, Stonechats, Dartford and Sardinian Warblers.  An Iberian Grey Shrike hunted from some tall tree guards and the first Bee-eaters likewise hawked from a dead snag.  Singing Woodchats were tracked to the fenceline and a pair were busily seeing off any bird that came into their patch.  Hoopoe, Golden Oriole and Cuckoo were all heard before we moved onto the surrounding woodlands.

Thekla’s Lark

Thekla’s Lark

Iberian Grey Shrike

Dartford Warbler

Erica scoparia - I think

Halimium halimifolium 

Halimium halimifolium 

Tolpis barbata

Cistus clusii

A circular walk along the trails and along the boardwalks gave us all a good selection of species with Nightingales actually seen as well as heard, Spotted Flycatchers, Wrens and Robins, Long-tailed Tits of one of the dusky Iberian races, Blackcaps and glowing Melodious Warblers but it was actually quite hard work and you could feel the heat trying to get through the canopy to us below.

Cork Oak

Wild Grape

Royal Fern

Strawberry Tree

Butcher's Broom

Short-toed Treecreepers were encountered and four Iberian Chiffchaffs were singing although calling Wryneck and Cirl Bunting eluded us.  Up near the impressive Palace there were dozens of active House Martin nests with some also occupied by House Sparrows and some glowing Greenfinches were down on some Thistles.

House Martin

Grevillea robusta - Australian Southern Silky Oak

Synema globosum

There were a few insects to be had with both Spanish Gatekeeper and Speckled Wood along with several Scarab and other chunky Ground Beetles.  A large Bee on the Centaurea pullata seemed to be Andrena hattorfiana that I see at home but I am not sure.  There were a few Hoverflies with several Syrphus and Eupeodes seen but it was just too warm for most small stuff.  The only reptile we saw was a fantastic male Large Psammodromus with his red lip gloss.

Spanish Speckled Wood

Spanish Gatekeeper

Spanish Gatekeeper

Dung Beetle - Scarabaeus sacer and his tiny fly buddies

Pimelia costata

Akis ilonca

Syrphus sp

Andrena hattorfiana

Centaurea pullata

Leaf mine on a Cork Oak - probably Ectoedemia sp

Large Psammodromus

The place was filling up with school parties so we retreated back towards the main gates where we had seen the lagoons at La Rocina that border the main one at El Rocio across the road. The views may have been a little obscured but the birding was great with hoards of preening Spoonbills and Glossy Ibis along with a few White Storks, Little Egrets and Grey Herons.  A pair of Gadwall were amongst the Mallards and Pochard and we were very pleased when Jim picked up the solitary Red-knobbed Coot grazing up on an island where the slightly odd ‘Coot shape’, flat gape profile and lumpy forehead could all be seen.

Glossy Ibises




Red-knobbed Coot

Three Purple Swamphens, Moorhen, Coot and even a family of Water Rail with three black youngsters added to the Raillidae fest. A male Golden Oriole sung continuously out of view from one of the screen and several Tree Sparrows were coming down to forage in the grasses along with Iberian Magpies and ever watchful Woodchats while a Savi’s Warbler gave several brief bursts of its insectoidal song from a large stand of mega-juncus.

Purple Swamphen

Iberian Magpie


Lunch beckoned and John took us for lunch at the very nice Aries de Doñana that overlooked the El Rocío lagoon and from there we counted 60 Ringed Plover, 30 Collared Pratincoles and watched Marsh Harriers hunt.   The wind was getting up and getting back in the vans afterwards was a somewhat dusty challenge!

El Rocío

Black Kite


A change of direction now took us down to the coast at Tapón De Matalascañas where we stood up on the cliff at the end of town and scanned the shiny blue sea in the buffeting wind.  It was hard work but we ended up with 40 Little Terns, 12 Sandwich, a couple of Blacks and a surprise adult Arctic along with four Med Gulls and three Lesser Black-backed Gulls amongst the hordes of Yellow-legs.  A Bar-tailed Godwit flew south with a Curlew and 25 Sanderling spangled up the beach.

Retracing our steps we visited the Doñana main Visitors Centre at El Acebuche, where Crested Tits were heard and seen along with Bee-eaters, Sardinian Warblers, Iberian Magpies, Long-tailed Tits, Stonechats and a single female Pied Flycatcher.  White Storks were noisily nest tidying on the roof.  What I believe was a young European Pond Terrapin was on the pools around the Centre.

White Storks 

Iberian Magpie

Iberian Magpie

European Pond Terrapin 

European Pond Terrapin 

Red-rumped Swallow nest

With the day waning we headed back to the hotel before another fine dinner of local fayre.

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