Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Glossy Ibis mystery solved

'Er indoors said she fancied some tapas.  Eager to please as always, a weekend trip to Seville was swiftly organised.   Seville has 300 or more tapas bars, but we didn't manage them all.  We made a start at El Rinconcillo, with a glass of fino and a plate of acorn-fed, luscious, red, iberico ham.  On to La Giganta for a salmorejo of orange and salt cod and some slow-cooked pigs cheek, with a glass of fino or two. Then to the tiny 'one man and his gas ring' Bar Eme for a wonderful plate of coquinas washed down with fino.  And so on.  You probably get the idea.

After many a clam was dispatched, dripping in olive oil and garlic, we moved on to Donana.  Overnight rain and southerly winds had left the bushes dripping in migrants.  Willow Warblers, Whitethroats, Redstarts, Subalpine warblers, Wheatears, Woodchat Shrikes and Nightingales were everywhere.  We set off at dawn with our guide, firstly exploring the Stone Pine and Cork Oak forest. Serins sung from every corner; Woodlark, Crested Tit and Azure-winged Magpie were added along the way.  Mammals were the key target at this time though and an essential first stop was a regular watering hole for an Iberian Lynx.  Further down the track, half a dozen Wild Boar scuttled away.  Lynx have increased in recent years, with around 80 animals now present in the national park.

Once out onto the marshes if was clear that Donana was suffering from a major drought this winter.  There were far fewer birds than normal.  The expanding population of Glossy Ibis, now 1,000+ pairs, is expected to have a poor breeding season this year, with many birds having departed to the north to seek more favourable conditions.   Hence the remarkable numbers in the UK this winter. The remaining pools held a few Ibis, Teal, Garganey and Shoveler.  The reed edge revealed 2 Spotted Crakes, 2 Purple Herons, Little Bittern and Great Bittern.  Isolated bushes all held migrants; best of all, a Ring Ouzel and a splendid male Black-eared Wheatear.  The dried-out wetlands had a column of Griffon Vultures descending to a dead horse and singing Calandra Larks were everywhere.  As the sun rose high into the sky, a spot of raptor watching added Spanish Imperial, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, and Lesser and Common Kestrels to the vultures and ubiquitous Black Kites.

Finally, to the main flood by the town of El Rocio.  Hundreds of Flamingo, Shoveler, Teal, Black-tailed Godwits and Coots worked their way around the shallow, drying lagoon.   Our guide had said check every coot carefully, a technique that finally ‘dug out’ at least 4 knob-less Red-knobbed Coots from amongst their even-more knob-less cousins.  Northward-bound waders fed furiously around the margins, with half a dozen Temminck's Stints being the cream of the crop.  Streams of birds circling down from on-high signalled the first major arrival in the area of Collared Pratincoles and Gull-billed Terns.

It was time for more fino and coquinas before contemplating the agonies of the return flight with Ryanair, the company that puts the customer last.  Pallid Swifts screamed their approval as we snuck a few extra pounds past the hand luggage Gestapo.

Below - Sharp-ribbed Salamander, Jamon Iberico and Black-eared Wheatear.

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