May in Spain III: Around Daimiel

One week had passed as me and my Dad started our journey through central Spain. We left Sebulcór and headed south through Madrid at mid-day to reach Daimiel 3 hours later. At first sight, the area didn’t look that birdy as enormous vineyards covered the wast plains once covered in poppyfields with great numbers of Little Bustards. The weather was now rather hot, peaking at 27 centigrade as we reached the little pittoresque finca (a Spanish ranch) called Hotel El Cortijo de Daimiel, 10 km’s west of Daimiel in the heart of the vine district.

Driving south through Madrid.

El Cortijo de Daimiel.

El Cortijo de Daimiel.

Originally our plan was to head down southwest from Hoces del Río Duraton through Extremadura and Sevilla back to Málaga. During the stopover at Laguna de Navaseca on our way north a week before, I was so impressed by the amounts of birds in the area plus the opportunities to get close and take photos that I just had to change our itinerary. We decided to stay the rest of the trip in the Daimiel area instead, which would also save us and the car some mileage.

North of Daimiel is a big wetland called Las Tablas de Daimiel which used to be a hunting area for many years until it got protected. It’s a major wintering site for lots of ducks. During spring, it was more quiet with mostly Red-crested Pochards, Gadwalls and Mallards. The area holds a heronry with many species, among them Purple Heron.

Common Nightingale | sydnäktergal | Luscinia megarhynchos

Savi’s Warbler | vassångare | Locustella luscinioides

I found Laguna de Navaseca to be much better with a massive amount of wetland birds of different kinds. In three days I saw 100+ Whiskered and Black Terns, 50 Collared Pratincoles, hundreds of Flamingos, Red-crested Pochards, White-headed Ducks, Common Pochards, Black-necked Grebes, loads of Avocets, Common Sandpipers, Redshanks, Black-winged Stilts, Little Grebe, Cetti’s Warblers, Great Reed Warblers with highlights like Penduline Tit and Western Swamphen.

The view from the car at Laguna de Navaseca.

We took a trip an hour east to reach a complex of seasonal lagoons near San Juan de Alcázar. The goal was to find a Great Spotted Cuckoo which should be present in the area, but we searched all day without finding one. Instead we found lots of northbound sandpipers, like Ruff, Little Stint, Temminck’s Stint, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank and a Marsh Sandpiper plus many more of the ducks mentioned above.

Laguna del Camino de Villafranca near Alcázar de San Juan.

South of Laguna del Camino de Villafranca near Alcázar de San Juan.

Back at Navaseca, I got some sweet evening light to work with as Black-necked Grebes were swimming near one of the hides. Meanwhile, my dad found a group of Collared Pratincoles using a dry field as roosting ground between their swift chases of mosquitoes and flies.

One of the hides at Laguna de Navaseca, great for Black-necked Grebes. Note the camera lens squeezed through the fence, as the Spaniards appearantly don’t do low angle photography.

The view from one of the hides at Laguna de Navaseca.

Black-necked Grebe | svarthalsad dopping | Podiceps nigricollis

Black-necked Grebe | svarthalsad dopping | Podiceps nigricollis

Common Sandpiper | drillsnäppa | Actitis hypoleucos

White-headed Duck | kopparand | Oxyura leucocephala

Eurasian Penduline Tit | pungmes | Remiz pendulinus

Western Swamphen | västlig purpurhöna | Porphyrio porphyrio

Collared Pratincole | rödvingad vadarsvala | Glareola pratincola

Greater Flamingo | större flamingo | Phoenicopterus roseus

Since we still hadn’t found any Great Spotted Cuckoo, we went to ebird.org and decided to go west to Ciudad Real, where three Great Spotted Cuckoos had been territorial for a long time. We actually visited the place the night before to listen for Red-necked Nightjars, and found at least two of them. When we returned to the area it was bright, hot and without a sign of any Nightjars.

Red-necked Nightjar habitat in Ciudad Real.

As we headed uphill we got into prime Cuckoo habitat where the forest got less dense. I didn’t take long until we heard the first pair flying over the ridge as soon as we got out of the dense forest. Other notable birds were 5 Golden Orioles and a Long-tailed Tit family.

Parque Forestal La Atalaya near Ciudad Real.

Parque Forestal La Atalaya near Ciudad Real.

Great Spotted Cuckoo | skatgök | Clamator glandarius

Great Spotted Cuckoo | skatgök | Clamator glandarius

We left the Cuckoos and Daimel behind and drove back ”home” to Costa del Sól after ten very good days of birding.

Before heading back home to Sweden I drove down to Tarifa at the strait and spent the morning at Playa de Los Lances. I chose a strategic spot to photograph from and laid down covered by my camo net. The result wasn’t too bad, with Red Knot, Sanderling, Dunlin and Greater Ringed Plover feeding in the area.

Playa de los Lances in Tarifa.

The view from my camo.

Dunlin | kärrsnäppa | Calidris alpina

Red Knot | kustsnäppa | Calidris canutus

Sanderling | sandlöpare | Calidris alba

Finally I continued northwest to Barbate and found some spring birds like Turtle Dove, Tawny Pipit and big colony of breeding Collared Pratincoles with a Stone Curlew roosting in the colony. A nice trip had come to a end and I headed back home via Ireland to attend a wedding, very content with a lot of good images.

I got a bit surprised by the variety of birds in the Spanish mainland. In a couple of hours you can go from an alpine snow-capped scenery to amazing river gorges in the Meseta (Spanish for Plateau) or the hot and dry vine district and the fauna would change accordingly all the time. As long as you can do a little Spanish, the people are going to be very friendly and helpful everywhere. The roads are exceptionally good while good accommodation and food is never hard to find.

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