Thursday, 28 March 2013

Come schnell and high water

'Er indoors said she enjoyed last year’s trip down to Seville and Donana; must be the Lynx effect.  So a return trip was in order. Aha, a chance to check out Baillon's Crake habitat and gauge possibilities of northward movement this year.

Arriving at El Rocio on the western edge of the Donana National Park, it was clear that this was no drought year: it was wet, very wet.  Water levels were very high.  A heavy storm forced us into the local restaurant to debate the finer qualities of Coquinas verses Almejas, accompanied by some fried anchovies, and a little octopus of course.  With full bellies and the rain easing, we ventured out to look over the lagoon.  At the tail end of the storm, Sand Martins and Swallows were moving in numbers. An estimated 10,000 passed through over the next hour, the naked eye view appearing as a mass of midges swarming over the water and all moving northwards with purpose.  Slowly the sun broke through and temperatures rose.  The soft rolling ‘prruup’ noises from above broke into the consciousness as dozens of Bee-eaters streamed through.  Now concentrating upwards, Black Kites, Booted Eagles and Red-rumped Swallows dotted the sky in a steady movement. The odd Monty’s and Purple Heron added interest.  Warm sun on the bones and birds on the move; what could be better?

Early next morning we were out looking around the marshes; they were wet.  Spotted Crakes, Baillon’s Crake and Water Rails crept around the flooded swamps.  Not much chance of a major northward push of Baillon’s this year.  In last year’s drought conditions, Baillon’s, Stilts and Glossy Ibis all moved northwards searching for better conditions.  It also delayed the onward passage of Spoonbills due to poor feeding.  No such problems this year.  Feeding groups of Spoonbills, several colour-ringed, were swishing energetically, belly-deep in water and frequently flicking up and gulping down small fish.

There were many birders around and most seemed to be Germans. A beckoning "Come, schnell" provided me with close views of Purple Gallinule.  Savi’s reeled from every swampy hollow, Subalpine Warblers disappeared around every patch of scrub and Woodchats dotted the tops of bushes.  Nightingales sang and Redstarts flitted.  As lunch time approached, the baby lamb chops needed some consideration (oh the flavour!) and after several glasses of rioja, we were surprised to see a Lynx run right through the restaurant.

Below - Lynx in pine wood

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