Doñana Delights

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White-headed Duck © Inglorious Bustards

5 days – 10th January – 14th January 2021

€1,000 for 5 days – price includes all accommodation, meals, guiding, transport, entrances and taxes but excludes flights.

€200 deposit

€100 single supplement

2020 tour report available to download here

2018 tour report for 2018 available to download here

Tour overview

A trip to beautiful Coto Doñana in all its wintery wonder is perhaps the perfect antidote to those midwinter blues!  With a fascinating range of habitats to visit, including Stone Pine woodland, reedbeds, rice paddies, open grassland and heathland, freshwater pools and coastal sand dunes and of course the famous marshes, it’s no wonder Coto Doñana attracts such a fantastic variety of wildlife.

Thousands of wintering waders, wildfowl and wetland birds fill the lagoons, ponds and saltpans, including Red-knobbed Coot, Marbled Duck, White-headed Duck, Black-winged Stilt, Little Stint, Caspian Terns, Slender-billed Gulls, Common Ringed, Little Ringed, Grey and Kentish Plover, Black-crowned Night Herons, White and Black Storks, Common Cranes, Glossy Ibis, Greater Flamingoes and Purple Swamphens.

As well as treats like showy Bluethroats, Little Swifts, Eurasian Hoopoes, Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, Black-winged Kites, Booted Eagles, and Iberian Grey Shrikes we will also hope to encounter both of Doñana´s most famed Iberian endemics – the stunning Spanish Imperial Eagle and the elusive Iberian Lynx.

It´s amazing how much we pack in to this uplifting five-day trip!  But fear not, there´s always time to enjoy every species at a relaxed pace, to sample sustainably-produced local food during picnics in the sun, and to get to know the fascinating sandy streets and bar-side hitching posts of our base in El Rocío.

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Red-knobbed Coot © Inglorious Bustards

About Andalucía and Coto Doñana

This southernmost province of Spain is perhaps best known for its fantastic tapas, passionate discussions, and welcoming people.  However, it is also the most biodiverse region not only in Spain, but the whole of Europe, thanks to its huge range of habitats.

The Parque Nacional de Doñana itself is one of Europe’s most important wetland reserves and a major site for migrating and wintering birds. It is an immense area; the park itself and surrounding Entorno de Doñana cover over 1,300 square kilometres in the provinces of Huelva, Sevilla and Cádiz.

Doñana is well known for its enormous variety of bird species, whether permanent residents, winter visitors from north and central Europe or summer visitors from Africa. There are three distinct kinds of ecosystem here: the marismas, the Mediterranean scrublands and heaths, and the coastal mobile dunes.

It is also one of the last strongholds of the Iberian Lynx – a beautiful feline that now holds the dubious honour of being the world’s most endangered cat.  If luck is on our side, we may see this awe-inspiring creature on our travels.

Expected Wildlife 

 Freshwater lagoons, ponds, and saline marismas and pans should yield thousands of wintering waders, wildfowl and wetland birds, including Red-knobbed Coot, Marbled Duck, White-headed Duck, Black-winged Stilt, Little Stint, Caspian Terns, Slender-billed and Audouin´s Gulls, Common Ringed, Little Ringed, Grey and Kentish Plover, Black-crowned Night Herons, White and Black Storks, Common Cranes, Glossy Ibis, Greater Flamingoes, Eurasian Spoonbills and Purple Swamphens, as well as passerines like Lesser Short-toed Lark, Bluethroat and Yellow Wagtail.

In woods and on heaths, we will look out for Spanish Imperial Eagles, Eurasian Hoopoes, Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, Black-winged Kites, Hen Harriers, Short-eared Owls, Iberian Grey Shrikes, Thekla Lark, Woodlark, Dartford Warbler, Firecrest, Short-toed Treecreeper and Iberian Magpie.

We will hope for a glimpse of the elusive Iberian Lynx, as well as other mammals including Red and Fallow Deer, Wild Boar, European Fox, Egyptian Mongoose, and of course European Rabbit, the preferred snack of the Iberian Lynx!

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Iberian Lynx © Inglorious Bustards

Itinerary

Day 1

We meet you at Sevilla airport or other agreed arrival point and make the picturesque hour’s drive south-west to our base at El Rocío, a horseperson´s town complete with sand streets, pretty traditional buildings, hitching posts outside the bars, and a laid-back, slow-paced feel.

Our hotel at the edge of the village overlooks the splendid ‘Madre de las Marismas’ – ´Mother of the Wetlands´ – lagoon, which at this time of year will be teeming with waders and waterbirds including Greater Flamingoes, Glossy Ibis, Purple Swamphens.  Black-winged Stilts, Northern Lapwings, Common Snipe, Eurasian Teal, Northern Pintail, Eurasian Spoonbills and many hundreds of wintering Northern Shoveler and Greylag Geese – the emblem of Doñana National park itself.

We´ll take a little time to settle into our rooms before heading out to explore these fabulous wildlife-rich surroundings!

Then it will be time to head out for our first three-course meal of local specialities at our favourite restaurant, perhaps beginning with a glass of the famous local manzanilla dry sherry before dinner. 

Day 2 

This morning we´ll head out at first light to explore the woods and heaths of Doñana National Park.  Our friends from Doñana Nature will guide us in a custom 4×4 minibus, allowing us to reach areas of the park where others are not permitted to go! We will also have their local knowledge and skill to help us look for the beautiful Iberian Lynx and these two factors combined with a dash of luck could well give us views of this Critically Endangered and enigmatic cat.

We´ll visit the northern edge of the reserve, an area holds the densest populations of raptors in the Coto Doñana with Red Kite, Common Buzzard, Marsh and Hen Harriers, Black-winged Kite, Short-eared Owl and even over-wintering Booted Eagles present. Soaring flocks of Griffon Vultures are joined by the occasional Cinereous Vulture, and we will hope to encounter the Spanish Imperial Eagles that breed in the area.

The Stone Pine woodlands and heath mosaics are home to roving flocks of Iberian Magpies, Eurasian Hoopoes, Woodlarks, Eurasian Stone-curlew, Short-toed Treecreeper, and Firecrests, as well as Red and Fallow Deer, Wild Boar and European Fox.

After a picnic lunch back in El Rocío, we´ll take some time to relax and explore before heading back into the National Park later in the afternoon.

We´ll enjoy the freshwater wetlands at the Jose Valverde visitor centre, a favoured hang-out for Black-winged Kite and Marsh Harrier, as well as thousands of wintering Common Cranes and Greylag Geese.  We can also hope for views of Ferruginous Duck, Black-winged Stilts and Purple Swamphens amongs the many hundreds of Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Gadwall and Eurasian Wigeon.  As the sun sets, we´ll make our way back to El Rocío hoping once more to glimpse the crepuscular activities of the Iberian Lynx.

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Bluethroat © Inglorious Bustards

Day 3

After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, we´ll set out to explore another aspect of Doñana – the salt pans and pools of the eastern side of the Guadalquivir – but first, we´ll head to a nearby harbour to enjoy the comings and goings of a Little Swift colony over coffee.

Our next stop will be the salt pans at Bonanza, to enjoy the wealth of winter life there.  Swirling flocks of thousands of waders can include Dunlin, Sanderling, Common Ringed, Kentish and Grey Plover, Common Redshanks, Pied Avocets, Black-tailed Godwits, Eurasian Curlews, Common and Green Sandpipers and Little Stint.  We´ll also be looking out for Caspian Terns, Slender-billed and Audouin´s Gulls, Black Storks, Western Ospreys, Bluethroat and Lesser Short-toed Larks. 

On the numerous freshwater irrigation pools in the area lurk some real treats, including Black-necked Grebes, White-headed and Marbled Ducks, Red-knobbed Coot, Purple Swamphens and Ferruginous Duck.  We should also see large roosts of Black-crowned Night Herons, adorning the bushes like seasonal decorations!

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Black-winged Stilt © Inglorious Bustards

Day 4

A more locally-based day will take us to the rice fields of Isla Mayor and the Dehesa de Abajo nature reserve.  The farmland itself will be positively hooching as Black Storks, White Storks, Eurasian Spoonbills, Glossy Ibis, Green Sandpipers, Northern Lapwings, Spotted and Common Redshanks, Little Ringed Plovers and Greenshanks make use of the bounty of the recently-harvested rice paddies. 

Small mammals, reptiles and amphibians should attract raptors such as Common Kestrel, Merlin and Black-winged Kites.  These areas also host some of Spain’s resident “exotics” such as Common Waxbill, Yellow-crowned Bishop and Black-headed Weaver.  Large flocks of Spanish Sparrows, Calandra Larks and Eurasian Skylarks provide an uplifting soundtrack!

We´ll have our picnic lunch – featuring delicious local sustainably-produced food – overlooking the still waters of the lake at Dehesa de Abajo, enjoying views of its many wintering Greater Flamingoes.

Looking out across waters, we´ll hope for views of Marbled Duck and Red-crested Pochard amongst the many hundreds of wildfowl.  Reedy edges are home to, Penduline Tits, Bluethroats and large numbers of wintering Common Chiffchaffs and Eurasian Blackcaps.

We´ll celebrated our last night in style with another fantastic array of local specialities while we reflect on our trip highlights!

Day 5

Today our trip comes to an end and we take you to your chosen departure point.  But hopefully departure times will allow a little more time to enjoy the local wildlife in the morning.

The quiet heaths and peaceful woodlands at Palacio Acebron should offer views Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, Short-toed Treecreepers, Crested Tits, Long-tailed Tits, Common Firecrests and Great Spotted Woodpecker, Dartford Warbler, Thekla Lark and Iberian Grey Shrike amongst others.

At Acebuche Heath, we can enjoy our last lunch of the trip in the company of flocks of cheeky Iberian Magpies.

Then finally it is time to say goodbye to the delights of Doñana, and head home.

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Doñana is a truly special place to be in winter © Inglorious Bustards
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