Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Weekend in Paradise

With the record amount of rain this winter I was keen to see what impact it was having on the wetlands of the region. There is no better place to go than the quintessential Doñana. It is a real privilege to be able to spend time in these marshes, away from civilisation, and get a real feel of what have once been a network of wetlands linking Europe and Africa. Dawn (above) across the vast flatness of huge marshland is undescribable. Here Night Herons return from a night's feeding activity and Grey Herons are starting their day.

The view across the marsh from the elevation of a watch tower (above) is spectacular. I have never seen it like this, not even during the wet 1995-96 winter.

There are waterbirds everywhere, and in large numbers, like these Night Herons (above). Many birds are returning from West Africa and there is so much water that some are delaying breeding until the levels are right. Even so the famous "Pajarera", an emblem of this place, appeared to be in full swing especially with White Storks, Grey Herons and Spoonbills

Pajarera (above and below)

Migrant waterbirds were also coming in from the south to breed. These included Collared Pratincoles, Squacco and Purple Herons (below)

 Grey Heron in flight

Grey Heron and White Stork hunting in shallow water

White Storks are now with eggs (above and below)

 Night Herons (above and below)

Local waterbirds, like these Little Grebes (above and below) are on eggs too and are highly territorial, chasing each other over the water

Red and Fallow Deer (above) are making the most of the fresh growth, feeding on the edge of the marsh amidst a riot of colour

Tortoises are also active along the marsh edge, known here as La Vera

Spoonbills and other waterbirds commute up and down La Vera between feeding grounds and nest sites

This activity attracts the attention of many predators. Red Kites (above) patiently patrol La Vera in search of frogs, small birds and rodents

Marsh Harriers (above) are opportunistic thieves

Viperine Snakes (above) are on the lookout for frogs

the local horses also feed along La Vera

Inland, pools, ponds and lakes (above and below) have appeared on usually solid ground

With the rising temperatures, now reaching 24C in the middle of the day, swarms of tiny mosquitoes and gnats are emerging along with dragonflies, large beetles and butterflies - a larder for insectivorous migrants arriving to breed

The swallows that have been coming in since late January have no shortage of mud for nest building

The colourful Bee-eaters were finally back this week, actively hawking for insects. Many more will move north in the following weeks

We'll continue to look at this wonderful paradise in the following posts

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