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Saturday, 6 February 2010

When all the birds are singing in the sky, now that the spring is in the air

Donana National Park is the largest area in Europe without roads and other infrastructure; used as a royal hunting ground since the 13th century, this protected landscape includes wetland, salt marsh, beaches and dunes and pine forest. It is designated a National Park, in Spain this is the highest level of environmental protection and little development is allowed beyond some sustainable honey production, collection of pine nuts, horse grazing and charcoal burning and public access is limited to guided tours. Around the National Park is the Donana Natural Park, acting as a buffer zone for the National Park, here some activities are allowed with licences, such as fishing, salt extraction and hunting.

Donana has always been on our list of must visit places and the boat trip from Sanlucar de Barrameda seemed an excellent way to visit the southerly parts of the area. The boat, the Real Fernando, was under-going its annual maintenance during January and we had to stay in El Puerto de Santa Maria a few days more than planned to take the first trip of the year on 6 February. The day dawned foggy, weather that certainly hampers bird watching! However, because of the weather, the boat delayed departure by half an hour and the sun managed to shine on our trip.

The three hour trip includes time on land as well as sailing up the River Guadalquiver. We managed to spot both red deer and fallow deer, wild boar rooting in the mud, a black stork, avocets and other waders and a Marsh Harrier. We have seen a few swallows making their way north, so can confirm that spring is on its way!

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