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A Report from

The Coto de Doņana National Park,


Doņana is Spain's principle wetland area.  Access is much restricted but there are areas on the periphery where a representative selection of all of the birds can be seen:

John Jennings takes up the story:

"My missus and I spent 2 days in the Coto Doņana earlier this year. (May '99).  There are a few spots that you can visit without using a 4x4 vehicle.  El Rocio is a brilliant place. 

 It is a fantastic village in its own right and all the roads are sand roads with tethers for horses,  just like a Spanish cowboy town.  There is a hide on the side of a lake with huge numbers of birds in attendance.  Also there is a large reserve with hides and a visitors centre you can walk around on the other side of the road.  You can also drive past the visitor centre, here, towards the palace where there are woodland walks.  

We saw a Griffon Vulture here. Further down the road, towards Matalascana's on the coast, is another reserve on the right.  We didn't get much chance to look around here as the heavens opened up big time and it would have been senseless to try.  It looked a useful place though.  We stayed in Villamanrique for a night and the road between El Rocio and Villamanrique was full of Black Kite at first which then made way for Booted Eagle in numbers."

"From here there is another place to visit and that is the Jose Antonio Vaverde visitors centre but I warn you that you are not allowed to view the reserve from outside the visitors centre.  There is a huge plate glass window to view from which hinders distant and  side on views.  Nevertheless Marbled duck are here and quite a few other birds and the birds en-route are numerous.  There is no way I can explain the route as we had trouble finding it but one piece of info that may help is to find your way to the Hato Ranon airport. The centre isn't too far from there.  There are other places as well but you would never fit them in a day.  At El Rocio is an Imperial Eagle site but you would need a 4x4 to reach it or try for a fair walk instead."

Birds seen at the principle sites:

John J. Collins also visited:

"I've been to the Doņana (two years ago -'97) and it is fantastic.  The visitor's center is near the town of El Rocio (beautiful place, right on a lagoon with flamingos, Eurasian Spoonbill, etc. -- avoid it during the pilgrimage season however).  There are blinds at a lake at the visitor's center and there are usually Azure-winged Magpies hanging around the picnic tables there.  There is another wetland area with trails to the south of this.  Both can have White-headed Duck and Marbled Teal."

"I don't know if they will allow you access to the roads in the northern part of the reserve.  I went on an organized birding trip and we made two excursions into the reserve, both with park ranger escorts.  There are roads that are open to the public in the southern part of the reserve that lead to the resorts on the ocean, and it was down one of these roads we turned onto
a side road in the evening to get Red-necked Nightjar.  If you can't get permission to enter unescorted, at least try to get on a tour with a ranger who is knowledgeable about the birds, especially the Spanish Eagle which we saw at the nest there!"

"Don't forget to try Manzanilla, the local version of sherry (very dry and delicious)."

Where to watch birds in Southern and Western Spain
Ernest Garcia and Andrew Paterson: Buy from or

  • "The reprint and update of this excellent book have been long awaited. I have birded in this region of Spain many times and yet I still have much to learn, Garcia and Paterson are the experts. Where else in Europe can you see five species of swift in one day? Did you know that Ruppel's Griffon Vulture is now regular in part of the region? New sites have been added and access details thoroughly updated. Areas covered include birding hotspots such as Extremadura, Gibraltar and Ronda. A "must buy" if you are traveling to Southern Spain."


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