DOÑANA IN OCTOBER
This is the month when the first rains normally fall and, with them, thousands of ducks, cranes, waders and geese reach their final destination after a long journey from northern Europe. Their number and time of arrival is very variable, being directly related to the weather conditions in the continent. For example, in Autumn 2006 cranes, geese and other waterfowl delayed its arrival over a month and they did it in much smaller numbers than usual, the mild European winter was to blame.
Harvest season starts in the paddy fields, an event that attracts birds by hundred of thousands, huge groups of White Storks, Black Storks, Glossy Ibis, gulls and geese swirl on the freshly harvested fields and follow the harvesters in enormous clouds. Many species of shorebirds, including the latest Imperial Herons, Squacco Herons and waders take advantage of the easy food offered in the area. Rice paddies turn for several weeks into one of the most attractive areas of Doñana.
This is also the fallow deer mating season and males snore as loud as they can in order to attract female atention.
Now it’s posible to see in the marshes the last Montagu’s Harriers, Winchats, Yellow Wagtails and Wheathears, Tawny Pipits, Ospreys and Short-toed Snake Eagles. In the forests some Flycatchers and Booted Eagles can still be seen on passage. Around El Rocío is not unusual to see groups of Swallows and House Martins.
Red Kites, Marsh Harriers, Peregrines, Great White Egrets, Meadow Pipits, White Wagtails and Black Redstarts start to increase numbers. If you are lucky you may see the first wintering Little Bustards and groups of Stone Curlews and the first Golden Plovers appear in the just planted cereal fields.
Short-toed Larks start to be difficult so now it is not so difficult to indentify their close relatives the Lesser-short Toed Larks. However the arrival of the first Meadow Pipits makes things a bit more difficult again. That is how the birdwatching game is like out there.
Spanish Imperial Eagle sightings are common in October, especially juveniles. Griffon Vulture is also easy to see warming wings up while seatting on an old cork oak during the early morning or later in the day cycling high in the sky over the marshes or gathering around the remaining of a cow. The humid sandy soils along the Raya Real offer good chances or mammal tracks like Badger, Fox, Moongose or even the most famous one, the Iberian Lynx..
The parched clay in the marshes begin disappearing under a shallow water table; the higher areas start to turn green, the same as meadows in the pine woods. Mandrakes (Mandragora autumnalis) open up its beautiful blue flowers, and Sea Squills (Urginea maritima) its tall stalks topped with small white flowers along the road edges. The first Autumn Snow Flakes (Leucojum autumnale), Saffron Crocus (Croccus serotinus), Paperwhite (Narcissus papyraceus) come out in the forests. Partridges grase in large family groups and Fallow Deer are engaged with reproductive tasks. Males try to keep their harems or just lay exhausted in among the bushes. Butterflies and dragonflies still abound in forests, meadows and marshes.
The almost magic sound of geese flying in the middle of the night over the village of El Rocío make us aware of the arrival of a new season. To see them early in the morning in coutless numbers flying overflying the marshes towards the rice paddies is something not to be missed by the visitors of Doñana at this time of the year.
You may come across some rain during our visit to Doñana but normally will not prevent you having a good day out, but it is advisable to bring some rain clothes just in case.
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