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
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
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
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.
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