ORNITHOLIDAYS' TOUR TO SPAIN COTO DOÑANA & SIERRA DE ANDÚJAR Iberian Lynx & Eagles January Leader: Jaume Soler

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1 ORNITHOLIDAYS' TOUR TO SPAIN COTO DOÑANA & SIERRA DE ANDÚJAR Iberian Lynx & Eagles January 2015 Leader: Jaume Soler

2 ORNITHOLIDAYS' TOUR TO SPAIN Iberian Lynx & Eagles January 2015 A Personal Diary Friday, 23 rd January The group arrives at Seville Airport at midday where they are welcomed with lovely sunny weather, a nice contrast after flying from chilly London in the morning. Today will be a combination of transfer, and some dedication to finding the Iberian Lynx, which is our target in the mountains, although it comes of course, with very good birds. So, with no time to lose, we hit the road passing through Cordoba and arriving in the Andujar area. By mid-afternoon we are already up in the village of Andujar to buy some provisions and petrol before driving up into the mountains. In less than an hour we stop by a river and walk a little way along its bank. All of us are aware that finding one of these big cats is never an easy job. It is a matter of scanning; being patient and working as a team until the results arrive. During our first afternoon dedicated to the Iberian Lynx we do not find any. But step by step we are introducing ourselves into the kingdom of the Iberian Lynx. Once at the hotel we check-in and after a tasty dinner we prepare for the exciting days ahead. Saturday, 24 th January After breakfast we start the day with one of the best corners of Andujar where it is possible to see the Iberian Lynx. It is a vast valley of open scrubland and round rock formations. As we arrive at the location, we have a very showy family of Red-legged Partridge following the track in front of our van. There are also some young Red Deer stags, which show well. We stop the vehicle and spread the group along the road to cover different areas of the valley to give more chances for the Iberian Lynx to be spotted. Time is passes and we don t get to see the Iberian Lynx today, but we enjoy some other very interesting birds, including Spanish Imperial Eagle, Black Vulture, Griffon Vulture and Blue Rock Thrush. A group of male Mouflon are grazing and we enjoy a delightful sunset, with our hotel on a hill against the skyline. Ornitholidays Tour to Spain January 2015 Page 1

3 Sunday, 25 th January Today has to be the day. We made a great effort yesterday, working as a team, scanning and scanning in search of the Iberian Lynx. So, with endeavour and hope we come back to the same place we were at the day before, which is by far the best place to view Iberian Lynx in the Andujar Mountains. An hour after we arrive, an Iberian Lynx shows up very briefly by a track before going behind some rocks. The animal remains hidden and the group s excitement now calms down, despite the expectation in the air. Approximately ten minutes later the Iberian Lynx starts to move again. It is very close and we have clear views. We see the Iberian Lynx once more before it disappears beyond the slope. Calm returns once again while we observe a very smart Iberian Grey Shrike. After enjoying cracking views of the star of the trip, we take the vans and move down the valley watching a couple of Spanish Imperial Eagles. We all notice their characteristic dark bodies and headlights. Some hundred metres down, we stop at a natural viewpoint over the rocks for our picnic. Meanwhile we see some Spanish Ibex sunbathing, Eurasian Black Vulture, Eurasian Griffon Vulture and a pair of Golden Eagles perched on the top of the cliffs. We move down to the reservoir of the river to have a short walk in the area and search for new species. Soon we see a couple of Rock Buntings feeding on the grass and a Black Redstart. We then walk over the dam watching a Grey Wagtail by the water s edge. We enter the tunnel searching for wintering bats with no luck and come back to the van. Just before leaving we are lucky to see a little group of Hawfinches to the delight of Fiona, because it is one of her favourite birds. Ornitholidays Tour to Spain January 2015 Page 2

4 We drive back and stop and spend the late afternoon waiting for the Iberian Lynx in the same area we were in this morning, to give it another chance. No luck this time but we see Dartford Warbler, Red Deer, more Fallow Deer, Wild Boar and a fantastic sunset. Monday, 26 th January With less pressure today after the cracking views of the Iberian Lynx yesterday, we spend today differently. We start the day at the monastery of La Cabeza, visiting the inside and the surroundings. We are lucky to see a group of Crag Martins that roost in the building, a very beautiful male Blue Rock Thrush and some Hawfinches with a male displaying. Next we visit the north part of the Natural Park of Andujar; its landscape is open-managed woodland, locally known as the Dehesa. We stop in a couple of places. We walk to a view point and have excellent views of Thekla Lark and Woodlark. A little further on, we spot a magnificent sub-adult Golden Eagle perched on top of an electric pylon. The bird stays for a while so we take the opportunity to shoot some photos. The rest of the morning spent taking a short walk and we enjoy a group of Eurasian Griffon Vultures together with a pair of Eurasian Black Vultures. We look for a sunny and relaxing place for our picnic; it is here we have brief views of a shy male Cirl Bunting. In the afternoon we visit the banks of the Jándula River that crosses the National Park. This time we stop at a different reservoir where we have a well-earned cup of coffee and enjoy a solitary Great Crested Grebe, a group of Great Cormorants and a very elegant Eurasian Sparrowhawk crossing the valley. We all learn how to tell this species from other raptors, by watching its characteristic flapping flight - flap, flap...glide. Ornitholidays Tour to Spain January 2015 Page 3

5 We spend the rest of the afternoon in another corner of the Jándula River, hoping to see another Iberian Lynx. We spread out and wait, although we are not lucky this time we enjoy some of the smaller birds, such as Grey Wagtails and many Common Chiffchaffs in fly-catcher behaviour. This evening the meal is special, as our cook in the hotel has prepared delicious paella. It is a fitting way to celebrate the Iberian Lynx and the good times here in Andujar. Tuesday, 27 th January Today is a combination of transfer day and some birding on our way to Doñana. Firstly we start with a couple of stops in the Andujar region. In a picnic area where we have magnificent views of Crested Tit. We move back down river, the same place we visited yesterday afternoon and soon find a very cooperative Short-toed Treecreeper that shows very well and a Eurasian Nuthatch. Both seen very well! By mid-morning it is time to move on and start our transfer. Once on the main road, after about 1½ hours, we stop and have our picnic at the Zoñar Lagoon. This is one of the best places in Spain to see White-headed Ducks. After scanning the area we locate a group of six to eight birds, and manage to identify the difference between males and females. We continue our transfer, stopping for a coffee in mid-afternoon. We arrive close to Seville in good time and we enter the Doñana National Park from the east and visit Dehesa de Abajo. This is a lagoon full of wildlife. Soon we find a couple of Red-knobbed Coots in a corner of the lagoon. Some other interesting birds are seen here; Glossy Ibis feeding on the rice fields, Great White Egret, White Storks and a roost of Black-crowned Night-Herons. The light is fading so we start our journey to the hotel, finding a Barn Owl en route. Once at the hotel we have a good dinner and talk about what we hope to see in the following days in Doñana, a completely different area from Andujar, and one of the best places to enjoy birding and nature in Spain. Wednesday, 28 th January Today is dedicated to exploring and enjoying the eastern part of Doñana (lagoons, rice fields and marshland) and its beauty of landscapes and birds. We start birding from the vehicle, and as we slowly drive, flocks of little finches composed of European Serins and large numbers of European Goldfinches and Common Linnets are nice to see, complimented by Meadow Pipits, White Wagtails and Common Skylarks. The group soon start to realise how common Corn Buntings are in this region. In such an extensive and large area of land this species does very well, whereas elsewhere in Europe, it has suffered very much from the intensification of agriculture. On our way to the wetlands we first stop to watch a group of mixed waders, finding Northern Lapwings, Dunlin, Little Stint, Little Ringed and Common Ringed Plovers and Temminck s Stint. We take a track that brings us to a group of very interesting rice fields full of birdlife. There is a large group of Dunlin which move very fast in starling-like flight, turning and twisting from one place to another. There are other species too, such as Little Stint, Common Ringed Plover, Purple Gallinule, Wood Sandpiper, Blacktailed Godwit and Water Pipit. Ornitholidays Tour to Spain January 2015 Page 4

6 Before midday we arrived in Dehesa de Abajo, the big lagoon we visited yesterday. In the surrounding rice fields there are a group of Greater Flamingos, several hundred Black-tailed Godwits, Glossy Ibis and others. This fresh water lagoon gives us a good hour of birdwatching that produces some Black-necked Grebes, many Little Grebes and a good selection of wildfowl - Red-crested Pochards, Gadwall, Eurasian Teal, Northern Shoveler and Eurasian Coot. We again see the pair of Red-knobbed Coots from yesterday, plus a third bird with them. We move on to one of the Doñana visitors centre to enjoy a picnic and a coffee. This is a picturesque place nestled on the top of a small hill with good views of parts of the National Park of Doñana and also views of nearby White Stork nests giving the place something special. We make a move to enjoy the rest of the afternoon, with another stop at a Blackcrowned Night-Heron roost which can have close to a hundred birds on it. We drive on into the Marisma which is the local name given to the marshland in the National Park. This is a huge area of land and is a very interesting habitat for birds and wildlife. In early spring it is flooded and in summer it dries out, so has a variety of conditions that many species benefit by. On entry into the marshland we see a flock of Spanish Sparrows in a nearby bush. Females can be a bit tricky to identify, but males can be identified by their characteristic black stripes on their bellies. We walk along the marshland, with regular stops, we manage to see - Common Cranes, Black Storks, Great Egrets, a large number of Grey Herons, groups of Glossy Ibis and Greylag Geese. The canals have little groups of waders with a mixture of Common Greenshanks, Common Redshanks and some solitary Green Sandpipers. Other stops give us views of Peregrine Falcon, Hen Harriers - both male and female and Purple Swamphen. About an hour later we arrive in one of the National Park visitors centre where we have a coffee and use the facilities. From the same building there are fantastic views of a little lagoon where we see Black-winged Stilts, which we hadn t seen that morning. We continue back with a couple more stops that prove to be memorable. The first one provides some Lesser Short-toed Larks and a Calandra Lark, next a small flock of Pintail Sandgrouse appear on the skyline. Before we absorb this, we start hearing Common Cranes coming towards us. They fly over us, and on turning round we can see them flying in a V shape against the red sky of the sunset. We have no words to describe the beauty of this scene. Ornitholidays Tour to Spain January 2015 Page 5

7 Some kilometres down the track we spot a Barn Owl that crosses in front of us, and interacts with another bird... what is that? Yes... a Short-eared Owl sitting in a field about 30 metres from us. We stop the van and enjoy looking at it through the telescope; some of our party even manage to take photographs of it. A minute later the owl flies off low hunting prey. With virtually no light left, we returned to our hotel. It had certainly been a cracking birding day. Thursday, 29 th January Today we visit a different part of Doñana, its size gives a rich variety of landscapes and habitats. Early in the morning after breakfast we move to the western side of Doñana. In a short while we stop to see a Red Kite perched on a fence. We carry on and see another raptor a wintering Common Buzzard and a pair of Common Ravens. We arrive at El Rocio. This is a very picturesque village just beside the National Park. We enter the birding visitors centre. From a balcony we enjoy a different perspective and have very good views of Common Snipe, Purple Swamphen, Cetti s Warbler and Northern Pintail. There is a Spanish Imperial Eagle perched along away off on top of a eucalyptus tree which we manage to see through the telescope. We continue to enjoy the marshland in front by walking along a boardwalk. We have very good views of Northern Pintail and Bluethroat. El Rocio is in the ecotone between three main habitats - the Marisma (marshland), Umbrella Pine (woodland) and the scrubland. In this ecotone habitat it shows us how humans can benefit the biodiversity with their traditional activities. There is a local breed of horse, which is very well adapted to grazing on flooded lands. They keep down the grass and create open areas where the aquatic birds can live. We enjoy a walk before visiting the village, which is full of Andalusian folklore, creating a unique culture around horses and the adoration of the Rocio Madonna. It is very interesting to see that its sandy streets have no pavement this preserves the essence of how it was in ancient times, and makes it more comfortable for the carriages. After a good coffee stop we move to one of the main visitors centres of Doñana. We have our picnic lunches in a very nice spot, under a patch of Umbrella Pines. Some of us take good close pictures of the Azure-winged Magpies. There is something that seems to attract these birds to sandwiches. A visit to the centre and a quick coffee sets us up for the rest of the afternoon. We move close to the coast, and walk along a boardwalk that crosses a unique habitat, based on junipers and Umbrella Pines growing on top of the dunes. I tell the group that, contrary to what visitors may believe, these woodlands are not natural. They were mainly planted during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries for two reasons to provide wood for transport and to fix the coastal dunes, which were covering and destroying agricultural lands. Ornitholidays Tour to Spain January 2015 Page 6

8 Afterwards we make a stop beside a river path, here it is possible to see some tracks and signs of the Otters living there. From here we have another look at the marshland with El Rocio Village in the background. This is certainly one of the most picturesque scenes of the area. Returning to the hotel we finish our day on a high, watching two Black-winged Kites hovering and hunting mice from very close by. Friday, 30 th January Today we transfer to the airport. However, we have a little time before our midday departure. We stop en route, seeing some great birds including Eurasian Hoopoe, European Serin and a pair of Red-legged Partridge. Acknowledgements Thanks for all your company and I hope you enjoyed the tour. Jaume Soler Ornitholidays 29 Straight Mile Romsey Hampshire SO51 9BB May 2015 Ornitholidays Tour to Spain January 2015 Page 7

9 CHECKLIST OF BIRDS SEEN DURING TOUR Greylag Goose Common Shelduck Mallard Gadwall Northern Pintail Northern Shoveler Eurasian Teal Red-crested Pochard Common Pochard White-headed Duck Red-legged Partridge Little Grebe Great Crested Grebe Black-necked Grebe Great Cormorant Black-crowned Night Heron Cattle Egret Squacco Heron Little Egret Great Egret Grey Heron Purple Heron White Stork Black Stork Glossy Ibis Eurasian Spoonbill Greater Flamingo Eurasian Griffon Vulture Eurasian Black Vulture Golden Eagle Spanish Imperial Eagle Booted Eagle Red Kite Western Marsh Harrier Hen Harrier Common Buzzard Eurasian Sparrowhawk Black-winged Kite Common Kestrel Lesser Kestrel Peregrine Falcon Water Rail Common Moorhen Eurasian Coot Red-knobbed Coot Purple Swamphen Common Crane Pied Avocet Black-winged Stilt Stone Curlew Little Ringed Plover Common Ringed Plover Kentish Plover Northern Lapwing Sanderling Dunlin Temminck s Stint Little Stint Common Sandpiper Wood Sandpiper Anser anser Tadorna tadorna Anas platyrhynchos Anas strepera Anas acuta Anas clypeata Anas crecca Netta rufina Aythya ferina Oxyura leucocephala Alectoris rufa Tachybaptus ruficollis Podiceps cristatus Podiceps nigricollis Phalacrocorax carbo Nycticorax nycticorax Bubulcus ibis Ardeola ralloides Egretta garzetta Ardea alba Ardea cinerea Ardea purpurea Ciconia ciconia Ciconia nigra Plegadis falcinellus Platalea leucorodia Phoenicopterus roseus Gyps fulvus Aegypius monachus Aquila chrysaetos Aquila adalberti Hieraaetus pennatus Milvus milvus Circus aeruginosus Circus cyaneus Buteo buteo Accipiter nisus Elanus caeruleus Falco tinnunculus Falco naumanni Falco peregrinus Rallus aquaticus Gallinula chloropus Fulica atra Fulica cristata Porphyrio porphyrio Grus grus Recurvirostra avosetta Himantopus himantopus Burhinus oedicnemus Charadrius dubius Charadrius hiaticula Charadrius alexandrinus Vanellus vanellus Calidris alba Calidris alpina Calidris temminckii Calidris minuta Actitis hypoleucos Tringa glareola Ornitholidays Tour to Spain January 2015 Page 8

10 Green Sandpiper Common Greenshank Common Redshank Spotted Redshank Black-tailed Godwit Ruff Black-headed Gull Yellow-legged Gull Lesser Black-backed Gull Pin-tailed Sandgrouse Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Common Wood Pigeon Eurasian Collared Dove Short-eared Owl Tawny Owl Barn Owl Little Owl Eurasian Hoopoe Common Kingfisher Iberian Green Woodpecker Great Spotted Woodpecker Common Skylark Crested Lark Thekla Lark Woodlark Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandra Lark Eurasian Crag Martin Barn Swallow Common House Martin Meadow Pipit Water Pipit Grey Wagtail White Wagtail European Robin Bluethroat Common Stonechat Blue Rock Thrush Song Thrush Mistle Thrush Common Blackbird Blackcap Sardinian Warbler Dartford Warbler Cetti's Warbler Zitting Cisticola Common Chiffchaff Firecrest Winter Wren Great Tit European Blue Tit Crested Tit Long-tailed Tit Eurasian Nuthatch Wallcreeper Short-toed Treecreeper Iberian Grey Shrike Azure-winged Magpie Common Magpie Eurasian Jay Western Jackdaw Carrion Crow Tringa ochropus Tringa nebularia Tringa totanus Tringa erythropus Limosa limosa Philomachus pugnax Chroicocephalus ridibundus Larus michahellis Larus fuscus Pterocles alchata Columba livia Columba palumbus Streptopelia decaocto Asio flammeus Strix aluco Tyto alba Athene noctua Upupa epops Alcedo atthis Picus viridis sharpei Dendrocopos major Alauda arvensis Galerida cristata Galerida theklae Lullula arborea Calandrella rufescens Melanocorypha calandra Ptyonoprogne rupestris Hirundo rustica Delichon urbica Anthus pratensis Anthus spinoletta Motacilla cinerea Motacilla alba Erithacus rubecula Luscinia svecica Saxicola rubicola Monticola solitarius Turdus philomelos Turdus viscivorus Turdus merula Sylvia atricapilla Sylvia melanocephala Sylvia undata Cettia cetti Cisticola juncidis Phylloscopus collybita Regulus ignicapillus Troglodytes troglodytes Parus major Cyanistes caeruleus Lophophanes cristatus Aegithalos caudatus Sitta europaea Tichodroma muraria Certhia brachydactyla Lanius meridionalis Cyanopica cyanus Pica pica Garrulus glandarius Corvus monedula Corvus corone Ornitholidays Tour to Spain January 2015 Page 9

11 Common Raven Common Starling Spotless Starling House Sparrow Spanish Sparrow Eurasian Tree Sparrow Common Rock Sparrow Common Chaffinch Common Linnet European Goldfinch European Greenfinch Citril Finch European Serin Hawfinch Common Reed Bunting Rock Bunting Corn Bunting Common Waxbill MAMMALS Red Fox European Rabbit Red Deer Fallow Deer Otter Iberian Lynx Wild Boar Spanish Ibex Mouflon Wood Mouse Corvus corax Sturnus vulgaris Sturnus unicolor Passer domesticus Passer hispaniolensis Passer montanus Petronia petronia Fringilla coelebs Carduelis cannabina Carduelis carduelis Carduelis chloris Serinus citrinella Serinus serinus Coccothraustes coccothraustes Emberiza schoeniclus Emberiza cia Miliaria calandra Estrilda astrild Vulpes vulpes Oryctolgus cuniculus Cervus elaphus Dama dama Lutra lutra Lynx pardinus Sus scrofa Capra pyrenaica Ovis orientalis Apodemus sylvaticus This list represents those birds and other animals as seen by party members of this tour. Front cover: Iberian Lynx All photographs J Soler Ornitholidays Ornitholidays Tour to Spain January 2015 Page 10

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