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5th & 6th January 2006. For the past two days I have been guiding Jorma Tenovuo from Turku, Finland, around the Doñana area. Jorma is a very keen photographer and many of his pictures from his previous 4 tours with me are featured on my website.
On the first day (5th Jan) we began at El Rocío marshes where there were Greater Flamingos, Purple Swamp-hens, Glossy Ibis, Grey Herons, Black-winged Stilts, Avocets, Black-tailed Godwits, Snipe, Lapwings, Pintails, Shovelers, Teal, Greylag Geese, White Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Robins, Chiffchaffs, Chaffinches, Black Redstarts and Bluethroats.
We then moved on to the Lagunas de Mancho Zurillo and the Corredor Verde. The lagoons held Great Crested and Little Grebes, Cormorants, Tufted Ducks, Gadwalls and Common Pochards. Flying over the water were Barn Swallows and both House and Sand Martins. In the nearby vegetation we saw Crested and Woodlarks, Iberian Magpies, Hoopoes, Corn Buntings, Song Thrushes, Serins, Bramblings, Blackcaps, Sardinian Warblers, Stonechats and Great Tits. As we drove along the Corredor Verde we encountered 11 Black-shouldered Kites, Marsh Harriers, a Booted Eagle, Red Kites, Buzzards, Kestrels, Ravens, Southern Grey Shrikes, White Storks, 46 Black Storks, Black-crowned Night Herons, Little and Cattle Egrets, Common Sandpipers and a Kingfisher.
After visiting the Isla mayor, where many of the previous species were again seen, we made our way out to the northern marshes. In this area we saw Common Cranes, a Great White Egret, Green Sandpipers, Golden Plovers, a Wood Sandpiper, Lesser Short-toed Larks, Hen Harriers, Griffon Vultures and both Barn and Little Owls.
It was pouring with rain at the start of the second day so we headed for the El Acebuche centre. The Centre itself was close, as today was a national holiday in Spain (the day of the Three Kings, equivalent to Christmas day), but we walked around the main building and entered the park to make use of the bird hides, allowing us to continue birding in the rain. From the second hide we visited we had close-up views of a Water Rail, but very little else. It had stopped raining and we walked through the empty (of people) grounds getting good views of many species, especially a group of Woodlarks about 10 metres away. Three Hawfinches were seen well by me, but not so well by Jorma, who was stalking a pair of Hoopoes with his camera. All of a sudden, I froze. The birdcall I was suddenly hearing was the unmistakable call of a Golden Oriole. What was going on? Orioles are summer birds, so why were we hearing one call in the middle of winter? Jorma agreed on the call, but decided to persue his Hoopoes, but I wandered off into the forest looking for the oriole. I found it, but all I got was a fleeting glimpse of a male as it flew out of a tree and promptly disappeared for good.
With the weather now improving we set off for the Laguna Primera de Palos and it wasn't long before I found two Red-knobbed Coots, feeding near enough for Jorma to get some photos. Shovelers, Pintails and Wigeon were present on the water in large numbers and Collared Doves and Tree Sparrows were present on electricity cables. A Kingfisher was seen flashing over the water and a Marsh Harrier scared the life out of the ducks.
The next stop was the Estero de Domingo Rubio, where Purple Swamp-hens and Squacco Herons were the main attraction.
A quick visit to the Laguna El Portil produced a dozen or so Black-necked Grebes, Redshanks, Greenshanks and a lot of ducks, but alas no White-headed or Ferruginous, which are often seen there.
We completed the day at the Marismas del Odiel where there were White Storks, Greater Flamingos, Spoonbills, Curlews, Whimbrels, Bar-tailed Godwits, Oystercatchers, Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings, Dunlins, Grey, Kentish and Ringed Plovers, Razorbills, Gannets, Common Shelducks, Sandwich and Caspian Terns, 3 Ospreys, a Peregrine Falcon and Audouin's Gulls were seen.
Altogether, we recorded 106 species during the two days, which wasn't bad considering the main purpose of the tour was for photographing birds.

9th January.. Today's tour was with Umberto and Romana Bressan from Milan, Italy. It was a cold but sunny morning and there were lots of birds about when we began the birding at the Lagunas de Mancho and the Corredor Verde. On the two lagoons there were Tufted Ducks, Common Pochards, Shovelers, Gadwalls, Mallards, Cormorants, Little Grebes and Grey Herons. As we drove through the Corredor Verde and alongside the Río Guadiamar there were plenty of raptors on show and we found 11 Black-shouldered Kites (5 more were seen elsewhere during the day), Red Kites, Buzzards, Kestrels, Marsh and Hen Harriers and Ravens. Amongst the passerine species there were Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Hawfinches, Serins, Chiffchaffs, Black Redstarts, Robins, Crested Larks, Meadow and Tree Pipits, Song Thrushes, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Hoopoe, Iberian Magpies, Black-billed Magpies, Corn Buntings, Southern Grey Shrikes and Sardinian Warblers. At the Black-crowned Night Heron roost, there were over 400 birds present.
As we crossed the Entremuros we stopped to watch a group of birds spiralling on a thermal. The group contained 9 Black Storks, a few White Storks, 2 Buzzards, 2 Hen Harriers, 3 Marsh Harriers, 2 Black-shouldered Kites, a Red Kite and a Kestrel. Elsewhere along the Entremuros we found many Purple Swamp-hens, Little and Cattle Egrets, Glossy Ibis and a Kingfisher.
The next site visited was the Cañada de Rianzuela. I estimated the number of birds to be close to 8,000 and amongst these were over 300 Greater Flamingos, 100's of Black-tailed Godwits, 100+ Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Lapwings, Snipe, White Wagtails, Common Sandpipers, Greylag Geese, White Storks, Teal, Wigeon and 1,000's of other ducks.
In the afternoon we visited the northern marshes, where many of the previously mentioned birds were seen. New birds in this area included 100,s of Common Cranes, Little Owls, Redshanks, Greenshanks, Green Sandpipers, Golden Plovers, Linnets, Dartford Warblers, Calandra Larks and a Merlin. We also found a group of 4 Black Storks in a field. A bonus for Umberto, as he had only seen flying birds before and with bright sunshine on the plumage he was able to see the birds at their best.

11th January. A hastily arranged trip last night found me guiding two Italian birders/photographers for the day. On meeting at the La Aldea campsite it transpired that neither Wiedor or Alberto spoke any English at all and my command of Italian is non-existent. However, one of the guys spoke some Spanish, but more importantly, knew many of the bird names in Spanish, so an interesting day lay ahead of me.
We began by driving to the White Stork colony in the palace grounds in my home village of Villamanrique. The storks have now returned to their nests and are making plans for the forthcoming breeding season, after spending the last 5 months in the rice fields. We then moved on to the Dehesa de Banco and the Arroyo de las Cigüeñas, where there were hundreds of Lapwings and Golden Plovers feeding in the fields. Sizeable flocks of Woodlarks and Meadow Pipits were also present, along with a couple of Black Redstarts. As we drove along the arroyo there were Goldfinches, Serins, Kestrels, Buzzards and Ravens to photograph and a tree Pipit posed well for the cameras.
We then drove along the Corredor Verde and it wasn't long before I spotted the first Black-shouldered Kite of the day. I had guided an Italian couple only two days ago and had picked up a few bird names in Italian, so I casually said "Nibia Bianca" and pointed to the kite. Unfortunately, the light was not good and the bird was too far away for photos but I assured the pair that they would get much better opportunities very soon. Within 3 kms I spotted a pair of the kites perched in the tree and I was able to get the vehicle close enough and manouevre it into position so that both guys could take photos from the car. Once the photos were secure, we got out of the vehicle, and although the birds flew a little further away, they showed brilliantly through the telescope.
At other locations in the Corredor Verde we saw Hawfinches, Greenfinches, House Martins, Barn Swallows, Mistle and Song Thrushes, Corn Buntings, Southern Grey Shrikes, a Dartford Warbler, Sardinian warblers, Chiffchaffs, Hoopoes, Iberian Magpies, Tufted Ducks, Shovelers, Cormorants, Black-crowned Night Herons, Marsh Harriers and Red Kites.
We then visited the Entremuros and the Isla Mayor, finding Purple Swamp-hens, Glossy Ibis, Little and Cattle Egrets, Green Sandpipers, Little-ringed Plovers, a flock of over 200 Little Stints, 9 Temminck's Stints, Dunlins, Redshanks, Black-tailed Godwits, Avocets, Snipe, Black-winged Stilts, Teal, Wigeon, Black Storks and Hen Harriers.
The afternoon was spent in the northern marshes, where we saw a Merlin, 13 Stone Curlews, 5 Little Owls, a Short-eared Owl, Greater Flamingos, Common Cranes, Greenshanks and many of the previously mentioned species. The highlight of the day was watching a Peregrine Falcon at the Lucio del Lobo. There were 1,000's of ducks and waders present and they all took to the air as the falcon dived in amongst them, but although it made numerous attacks, it failed to make a kill.

15th January. My tour today was with Roland and Sylvia Bardy from Manheim, Germany. We followed my usual itinerary through the Corredor Verde, Entremuros, the Isla mayor and the northern marshes and nearly all the birds recorded on my previous tour, on the 11th, were again recorded. The highlights of the day were large congregations of waterbirds at the Cañada de Rianzuela and the Lucio del Lobo and 9 Black-shouldered kites along the Corredor Verde.

16th January.. Today I drove to sevilla airport to collect David and Mary Braddock and Ray and Linda Wilson from the Northwest Surrey RSPB group, who are with me for a week on one of my package holidays. After delivering them to their hotel in Hinojos and having a quick lunch, we started off their birding and photography tour with a 4-hour afternoon session at the Entremuros and the Cañada de Rianzuela,
As we drove past Villamanrique, we stopped beside the palace gardens and spent 20 minutes watching and photographing the colony of White Storks that nest in the trees there.
As we approached the Entremuros, I stopped at a Black-shouldered Kite territory, where both of the resident birds showed very well in the bright sunshine. we also saw numerous Buzzards, a large flock of Spanish Sparrows, Zitting Cisticolas, Blackcaps, Crested Larks, Serins and several overflying Black Storks.
We then moved on to the Cañada de Rianzuela and spent well over an hour there. We saw Greater Flamingos, 300+ Avocets, 500+ Black-tailed Godwits, Common Cranes, Redshanks, Ruff, Snipe, Black-winged Stilts, Green Sandpipers, Little and Cattle Egrets, Lapwings, White Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Chiffchaffs, Black Redstarts, Serins, Southern Grey Shrikes, Barn Swallows, House Martins, Shovelers, Pintails, Wigeon, Gadwalls, Teal, Greylag Geese, Marsh Harriers, Kestrels, a Booted Eagle and two Peregrine Falcons.
At the Entremuros we stopped to watch a Short-eared Owl hunting over open land. This turned into a major stop, as we saw at least 6 Short-eared Owls, over 10 Marsh Harriers, 2 male Hen Harriers, a Red Kite and several more B-shouldered Kites.
This short birding session produce 55 different species and certainly whetted the groups appetite for the next six days. Hopefully, we can raise the total to 150 species during the coming week.

17th January. Today was the first full day for David and Mary Braddock and Ray and Linda Wilson from Surrey, who are on one of my 7-day package birding tours.
After collecting the group from Hinojos we made straight to El Rocío marshes. Hundreds of Greater Flamingos were present, the vivid red of the wings showing particularly well in flight in the bright morning sunlight.
Thousands of ducks covered the lagoon, mainly Shovelers and Teal, and large numbers of Black-tailed Godwits, Snipe, Lapwings, Black-winged Stilts and Avocets were also seen. Along the shoreline and in the reedbeds we found 4 Bluethroats, Chiffchaffs, White Wagtails, Black Redstarts, Robins, Glossy Ibis, Spoonbills and a Purple Swamp-hen. Several Marsh Harriers and Buzzards were recorded, along with two Peregrine Falcons.
Our next stop was the La Rocina visitors centre, where Red Kites, White Storks, Great and Long-tailed Tits, Chaffinches, Greenfinches and a Firecrest added to our ever growing list.
We had our picnic lunch at the El Acebuche centre, accompanied by about 50 Iberian (Azure-winged) Magpies and two of the Black-billed variety. David was looking forward to his encounter with the magpies and getting some good photos of them. As I laid out the picnic, I threw a few crumbs on the ground, about 3 metres away. Immediately an Iberian Magpie appeared and David started to take a few pictures. Within a few seconds, there were about 30 birds on the ground, causing David to complain that there were too many of them. Some people are never satisfied! We spent about 90 minutes in the company of these wonderful birds, some of which came down to the table and joined us for lunch. David ended up taking over 170 shots of the birds, whilst Mary and Ray both ran their camera batteries down by taking so many shots.
Apart from the magpies, the centre was very quiet, bird-wise, but we did get to see and photograph Common and Red-crested Pochards, Little Grebes, Stonechats and a Southern Grey Shrike.
As we were leaving the centre we had very close-up views of 4 Red Deer.

18th January. Today, my package tour group of David, Mary, Ray and Linda headed for the west of the region, intending to visit the Marismas del Odiel and various other sites in that area.
We began at the Laguna Primera de Palos, where we spent almost two hours watching and photographing the birds. There were hundreds of waterbirds present, mainly Wigeon, Teal, Pintails, Shovelers, Coots, Little Egrets, Snipe and Cormorants, but for the first hour our main target birds remained elusive. Then two Purple Swamp-hens made an appearance and were duly photographed. These were followed by two Red-knobbed Coots (one with numbered white PVC collar and one without) and two Squacco Herons.
Flushed with success, we moved on to the Laguna El Portil, looking for other, scarcer ducks. Almost immediately we found a pair of Ferruginous Ducks, just 50 metres away from our viewing platform. Also at the lagoon were dozens of Little and Black-necked Grebes, Gadwalls, Black-tailed Godwits, Common Sandpipers, Yellow-legged Gulls, an Audouin's Gull a Hoopoe, a Buzzard and a Kestrel.
After a picnic lunch in a forest near Cartaya, we visited La Ribera. It was low tide, so waders were feeding on the mudbanks. I very quickly spotted a Little Stint, which posed almost motionless for the cameras for about three minutes. Elsewhere there were Redshanks, Greenshanks, Ringed, Grey and Kentish Plovers, Curlews, White Storks, Grey Herons, Cattle Egrets and Black-billed Magpies.
Our next stop was at the Marismas de Río Piedras and as we approached the river we saw several groups, numbering about 30, Red-legged Partridges. At the river we were met by a Whimbrel and a Bar-tailed Godwit, both just 40 metres from the vehicle. We soon found several Red-breasted Mergansers, Sandwich Terns and two Caspian Terns. These were quickly followed by an Osprey.
We then took a break fron the waders and seabirds and started scanning the scrubland, which produced Stonechats, Chiffchaffs, a few Sardinian Warblers, 4 Dartford Warblers and 3 Southern Grey Shrikes.
By now it was time to start our journey back to Hinojos and we hadn't had time to visit the Odiel marshes or two other sites that were planned, so I will re-schedule our next four days itineraries to include these important sites.

19th January. After spending so much time on photography yesterday, we did not have enough time to visit the Marismas del Odiel as planned, so today I took Ray, David, Linda and Mary back to that area, plus a few other sites to the west of Doñana. Once again, a lot of photography was involved and a lot of birds were seen.
At the Estero de Domingo Rubia we found Purple Swamp-hens, Grey and Squacco Herons, Cormotants, Shovelers, Crested Larks, Meadow Pipits, Chiffchaffs and Zitting Cisticolas.
At La Rabisa there were Ruddy Turnstones, Grey and Ringed Plovers, Sanderlings, Common Sandpipiers, Whimbrels, White Storks, Sandwich Terns, a Great crested Grebe and an Osprey.
The Odiel marshes was of most interest and we saw Spoonbills, Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, Dunlins, Oystercatchers, Curlews, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Little and Black-necked Grebes, Common and Spotted Redshanks, Greenshanks, Kentish Plovers, Shelduck, Audouin's Gulls, Marsh Harriers, a Peregrine Falcon and a good number of Razorbills.
As we were driving back to Hinojos, we found a pair of Black-shouldered Kites.

20th January. This was my fifth day with David, Mary, Ray and Linda from Surrey, who are enjoying one of my week-long birding package holidays. As with the previous four days, the weather has been very good, with all-day sunshine, hardly any wind and temperatures up to 19ºC (68ºF). This morning we visited the Lagunas de Mancho Zurillo and the Corredor Verde. At the first lagoon there were at least 5 Red Kites, Common Buzzards, Cormorants, Grey Herons, Shovelers, Common Pochards, Black Redstarts, Tree Sparrows, Corn Buntings, Hoopoes, Iberian Magpies, Zitting Cisticolas, House and Sand Martins, Barn Swallows, Crested Larks and Meadow Pipits.
At the second lagoon there were Tufted Ducks, Gold and Greenfinches, Serins, Spotless Starlings, Blackcaps and a Booted Eagle.
We then drove through the Corredor Verde and followed a 5 km stretch of the Río Guadiamar. This produced 11 Black-shouldered Kites (a pair were seen mating), Kestrels, Southern Grey Shrikes, Woodlarks, Chiffchaffs, Stonechats, White Wagtails, Little and Cattle Egrets, White Storks, 300+ Black-crowned Night Herons and a Little Owl.
As we crossed the Entremuros we had good views of 3 Black Storks.
We had our picnic lunch at the Dehesa de Abajo, overlooking the Cañada de Rianzuela, where Greater Flamingos (400+), Avocets (500+, Black-tailed Godwits (1,000+), Shovelers (1,000+), Teal, Gadwalls, Black-winged Stilts and Lapwings were busy feeding.
In the afternoon we drove around the Isla Mayor, stopping occasionally and finding Purple Swamp-hens, Glossy Ibis, Spoonbills, Snipe, Dunlin, Ringed, Little-ringed and Kentish Plovers, Common and Spotted Redshanks, Greenshanks, Ruff, Linnets, Spanish Sparrows, Marsh and Hen Harriers and several more Black Storks.
We spent the last hour of the day at the fields of La Cangrejera, watching 3 Short-eared Owls, 2 male Hen Harriers, Marsh Harriers, Buzzards, Kestrels and 3 Black-shouldered Kites hunting in the fading light.

21st January. This was my sixth day with the group of photographers/birders from the North Surrey RSPB group. We started our birding in rather dense fog at the Dehesa de Banco and the Partido de Resina. Limited visibility made any hope of photography impossible, but we managed to see Greenshanks, Green Sandpipers, Golden Plovers, Lapwings, Linnets, Corn Buntings, Crested Larks, Buzzards, Red Kites, Black-shouldered Kites, Kestrels, Common and Spotless Starlings, Iberian Magpies and White Storks.
Luckily, the fog began to clear at 10.30 and we spent the rest of the morning in the northern marshes area. We found several Black Storks, Glossy Ibis, Purple Swamp-hens, Greater Flamingos, Common Cranes, 1,000's of Avocets and Black-tailed Godwits, Black-winged Stilts, Shovelers, Gadwalls, Greylag Geese, Black Redstarts, Lesser Short-toed Larks, a flock of about 300 Calandra Larks, Marsh and Hen Harriers and Little Owls.
In the afternoon we re-visited the Corredor Verde and managed to find 2 Hawfinches, a species we had missed yesterday. There were also Gold and Greenfinches, Serins, Southern Grey Shrikes, Corn Buntings, Hoopoes, Booted Eagles and more Black-shouldered Kites.

22nd January. This was my final day with David and Mary Braddock and Ray and Linda Wilson from Surrey, who have been with me for one of my week-long birding package holidays. Today's itinerary took us to the Brazo del Este, on the east side of the Río Guadalquivir.
On the way to the ferry we stopped several times and saw White Storks, Greater Flamingos, Avocets, Red-legged Partridges, Lapwings, Golden Plovers, Southern Grey Shrikes, Iberian Magpies, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Stonechats and Crested Larks.

At our first stop, in the northern area of the Brazo del Este, we found Glossy Ibis, Purple Swamp-hens, Little and Cattle Egrets, a Great White Egret, Buzzards, Kestrels, Marsh Harriers, Greenshanks and Green Sandpipers.
In the southern areas there were over 20 Black Storks, 50+ Spoonbills, Black-crowned Night Herons, Black-tailed Godwits, Wood and Green Sandpipers, Black-winged Stilts, Snipe, another Great White Egret, dozens of Swamp-hens, Little Grebes, Shovelers, Teal, Cormorants, 7 Common Waxbills, 3 Cetti's Warblers, Reed Buntings, Peduline Tits, 3 Bluethroats, 2 Kingfishers, a female Hen Harrier and, surprisingly, 3 Whiskered Terns.
I delivered the group back to Sevilla airport at 7pm and we said our goodbyes. During the week we recorded 125 species, not a bad total considering that much of the time was spent photographing the birds and I look forward to seeing some of the results and reading their trip report on the Northwest Surrey RSPB groups' website www.nwsurreyrspb.org.uk in the near future.