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The Home of Doñana Bird Tours

Villamanrique de la Condesa. The gateway to Doñana.

Our home town of Villamanrique de la Condesa is a small Spanish village situated in the province of Sevilla and within the boundaries of the Doñana Natural Park. It is surrounded by forests, agricultural land, streams, lagoons, dehesas (meadows) and open plains, where birding is of a very high quality.

The municipalty of Villamanrique covers an area of 57.4 sq/kms, with a population of 3,760 inhabitants, collectively known as "Manriqueños", and although two thirds of the people live in the village, the overall density is only 65 people per sq/km. At the current time, there are four other British families living in Villamanrique, apart from us. The main source of income derives from agriculture and small businesses, although some light industry also contributes to the economy.

The centrepiece of the village is the church, where every year during the annual pilgrimage to the world famous El Rocío religious festival, almost 200,000 pilgrims visit on their way to El Rocío.

The Pilgrims pass through during four days and create a spectacle of colour with their ornately decorated horse-drawn carts and buggies. The women are dressed in brightly coloured flamenco dresses and the men, riding on horses, are clad in traditional Andalusian riding dress.
The village is ideally situated as a birding base due to its' close proximity to all of the best birding sites in the Doñana region (see the chart below). Here you can find fully equipped modern 3/4-person apartments that are ideal for self-catering holidays, comfortable 2-person rooms and a very good B&B facility, all at very reasonable prices. There are several restaurants and numerous cafe/bars where you can find some wonderfully delicious typical "Manriqueño" food.

Also within the village, next to the church, is the Palacio de Villamanrique, one of the homes of the Countess de Orleans. Within the palace gardens there is a White Stork nesting colony, with up to 19 nests and four other nests can be seen on the church tower.

For a more detailed look at Villamanrique de la Condesa, take a look at the official townhall website (in Spanish) by clicking on to the following link VILLAMANRIQUE.

A view of the thousands of pilgrims as they pass through Villamanrique on their way to El Rocío during the relgious festival in spring. Each group (hermandads or brotherhoods) have their own statue of the "Virgin of the dew", transported on ox-drawn carts. Here, two such statues wait outside the church where the oxen will be blessed by the priest for delivering the virgin safely to El Rocío.

A view of the Laguna San Lázaro, which is located in the area of the Dehesa Boyal, just a kilometre outside of the village.

Also within the Dehesa Boyal are the municipal park, the Arroyo de Gato (stream of the cat) and the Centro de Visitantes de Dehesa Boyal, each of which offer very good birding opportunities.

Villamanrique, a great birding area.

Many of the best birding sites in the region are within a very short distance of Villamanrique. The picture on the right shows part of the Laguna de San Lázaro, which is a part of the Dehesa Boyal, a 317 hectare area of semi-protected land just one kilometre from the village. Set in a mixed forest of stone pines and cork-oak trees, it holds many interesting bird species, such as Iberian Magpies, Hoopoes, Short-toed Treecreepers, Crested Tits, Sardinian Warblers, Tree Sparrows and Zitting Cisticolas. Seasonal visitors include Black Storks, Red Kites, Southern Grey Shrikes, Black Redstarts and Woodlarks in the winter and Golden Orioles, Booted Eagles, Black Kites, Common and Great Spotted Cuckoos and Woodchat Shrikes in the summer.

The Arroyo de Gato, a seasonal stream that runs just to the west and south of the village. This is a favourite feeding spot for Little and Cattle Egrets, White Storks, Grey Herons and Black-winged Stilts.

The gateway to birding in Doñana.

In the past, many visitors to this region have stayed in the hotel, hostales or campsite at El Rocío, believing that it offers the best birding in the area. Whilst El Rocío can be very good when there is water in the marshes, for much of the year the marshes are dry and no birds are present. This has resulted in people having to drive quite long distances from El Rocío to find good birding sites.

Below are the driving times from Villamanrique to all of the best birding sites in the Region.

5 minutes. Laguna de San Lázaro, Dehesa Boyal, the Corredor Verde de Guadiamar, Laguna de Mancho Zurillo.

10 minutes. Arroyo de las Cigüeñas, the "turf farm", Dehesa de Banco, Dehesa de Pilas, the Entremuros, Vado de Quema.

15 minutes. Brazo de la Torre, Isla Mayor, Dehesa de Abajo, Cañada de Rianzuela, the "reedbeds", the "heron ponds".

20 minutes. El Rocío, Arroyo de Santa Maria, Arroyo de las Cañadas, La Rocina, the Moguer road, the Casa de Bombas, Cañada de las Pájaros.

25 minutes. Palacio del Acebrón, El Acebuche, Los Guayules, Matalascañas, Huerta Tejada, Hato Raton, Niebla, Las Doblas.

30 minutes. La Cantarita.

35 minutes. Lucio del Lobo, José Antonio Valverde Centre, Caño de Guadiamar, Caño de Rosaliman, Marismas de Hinojos, Laguna de Balestrera.

40 minutes. Lagunas de Palos, Brazo del Este, Isla de los Olivillos.

45 minutes. Estero de Domingo Rubio, La Rábida.

50 minutes. Marismas de Odiel.

55 minutes. Laguna El Portil.

60 minutes. El Rompido, Marismas de Río Piedras.

65 minutes. La Ribera.

The Portuguese border is only 120 kms away and can be easily reached in about an hour. Excellent birding can be had at the Castro Marim Visitors Centre, which is right beside the Río Guadiana, on the Portuguese side.