Wetlands, River and Salt-pans
The massive deposits of silt brought down to the mouth of the Guadalquivir River at Sanlúcar de Barrameda has been changing the shape and size of SW Andalucia for thousands of years.
View from space. Spring rains bring heavy sediment down the Guadalquvir River into the Atlantic Ocean
Salt marsh fed by the tide along the banks of the river
Slender-billed Gulls look absolutely stunning in their breeding plumage!
The cause of the huge silt delta, created over thousands of years has been blamed primarily on the Roman occupation of Betica or Southern Spain. Huge forests were cleared for wood burning. Homes, spas and public baths were all heated by wood and the Romans insatiable appetite for timber created barren, hills and ridges that stretched through the whole of the Iberian peninsula. The result erosion led to millions of tons of earth, silt and small stones being transported each winter down to the sea, resulting in the creation of the entire Coto Doñana area on the Huelva province and the marshes, and salt lagoons from a point south east of Seville near Los Palacios y Villafranca to the city of Huelva towards the border with neighbouring Portugal.
Ablaze with pink and reds, Greater Flamingoes provide great subjects for photographers
One of the rarest ducks in Europe, the diminutive Marbled Teal
On this day tour, we travel across to the town of Trebujena, just NW of Jerez de la Frontera. Here we stop and sample a local fino sherry at the town's 'bodega' (included in the day price!). From the town we descend through the vineyards of this rich sherry area and into the lower basin of the Guadalquivir and look across to the Doñana system of parks.
We follow the mighty river southwards passing the networks of fish ponds where Osprey, Red and Black Kites and Booted Eagles are usually present. Checking along the canals and flat salt marshes we'll look for Stone Curlews, Short-toed, Lesser Short-toed, Thekla and Calandra Larks, Common Kingfishers and and Pintailed Sandgrouse.
Mediterranean Chameleon strikes it's prey. It's all over in a 7th of a second!
Continuing on to the Algaida and its large pine forest where White Sorks nest and loudly bill-clap in springtime and Black Kites nest. In the early afternoon we'll take lunch at a local restaurant just on the edge of one of the Doñana's Natural Parks where White-headed Duck, Marbled Teal can be found most months and Black-necked Grebes can be found in winter. It's also a place where we can look for the scarce European Chameleon during warmer months.
An adult Black Stork heads north to breed after wintering around the Guadalquivir River
Resident to Southern Iberia the White-headed Duck is also a rare bird in Europe
Butterflies can include Southern Swallowtails, Scarce Swallowtails, Spanish Festoons, Clouded Yellows, Brimstones and Cleopatra's as well as darters and dragonflies like this Epaulet Skimmer (below).
After lunch we have permission and of course a key to enter and explore the salt-pans where thousands of salt crystals are 'harvested' each summer and where many exciting species of birds can also be found. Slender-billed Gulls, Caspian and other terns can be seen diving for fish and again this is a great place to watch Osprey hunting or sitting atop a pylon or tree eating a caught fish!
Hunting Ospreys are a regular sight
Most people remember the stunning site of the pink blur of hundreds of Greater Flamingoes and the brilliant white of Eurasian Spoonbills and Great Egrets that feed on the many brackish lagoons within this huge area. Pied Avocets and Black winged Stilts flash across the pools as Little Ringed Plovers scurry along the banks. From Autumn through to Spring this is also a wonderful place to watch the rare Black Storks, Bluethroats, Short-eared Owls and masses wader flock from Northern Europe.
A blur of pink as hundreds of Greater Flamingoes move across the landscape
Pied Avocets gracefully glide over the salt-pans