Spring Birding in Spain Apr 26—May 13, 2018

Posted by Brian Gibbons


Brian Gibbons

Brian Gibbons grew up in suburban Dallas where he began exploring the wild world in local creeks and parks. Chasing butterflies and any animal that was unfortunate enough t...

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Spain was wonderful this spring, as always. Wine, amazing food, charming villages, stunning mountain scenery, and a few birds made for an excellent trip through this rich country. Starting in the famed marshes of Doñana, we wound our way north, east, and finally southwest through this diverse country ascending mountains, birding coastal marshes, and birding the dry steppe, home to bustards and larks. Finally, we ended in Madrid with our minds full of wonderful experiences and our checklists burgeoning with newly discovered species. Each day held surprises, but there were a few constants: screeching Common Swifts streaking overhead and diving into cracks of ancient stone buildings; stately White Storks and their precarious nests on glorious church steeples; the call of the cuckoo; and Black Kites wheeling effortlessly overhead through gorgeous countryside.

Greater Flamingo

Greater Flamingo— Photo: Brian Gibbons

The marshes, fields, and woodlands of Doñana held our first lifers. Booted Eagles overhead, White-headed Ducks with young patrolling the pond, Red-crested and Common pochards cruising by, and the furtive Little Bittern that revealed itself for a moment were all tallied on our first morning. After our first of many delicious lunches we sought the rare Marbled Teal; inching along the dike we scanned the reeds for our quarry. Eventually a cooperative pair was found, and we enjoyed great looks at this rare bird. The Bonanza salt works produced many firsts too; Greater Flamingoes vied for our attention while flocks of sandpipers and plovers wheeled past, only to disappear into a distant pond. We worked through this bounty to find some great birds; Bar-tailed Godwit, Slender-billed Gull, Red-necked Phalarope, Little Stint, Kentish Plover, and Curlew Sandpiper were just some of the great birds that we discovered in the salt ponds. Eventually we made it to our lodge for our first wonderful evening meal together. Exhausted after our first birding day, we dined and crashed to do it again the next day. The extensive freshwater marshes of Doñana were productive on our second day as well. Purple Herons, Eurasian Spoonbills, Great Crested Grebes, Western Swamphens, Whiskered Terns, Collared Pratincoles, an amazing Red-necked Nightjar perched on a fence post, and Great Reed Warblers blasting their coarse songs over the marsh all made our day full of wonderful sightings.

The next morning, we birded the woodlands of Doñana to find some of the great birds that call the cork oak dehesa and umbrella pine forests home. Near the Acebron Palace we found Common Nightingale, the legendary singer of writers for centuries, and the Melodious Warbler, neither a stunner, but their famous voices carried them. Iberian Chiffchaff, Eurasian Wren, a nice Great Spotted Cuckoo, and a horde of Common House-Martins all put in appearances for us, but the Eurasian Wrynecks were a bit shy that morning. European Bee-eaters were seen daily, and we always delighted in the sightings; their behavior is a cross between kingbirds and swallows, kingbird-like when perched and graceful yet powerful fliers.

Read Brian’s full report in his Field Report.