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Brazo del Este Outing

14 May 2018

May's GONHS outing took place last weekend on a birding bonanza to Brazo del Este, Seville.  Those who attended were in for a treat!

Brazo del Este is at its best at sunrise.  The outing to these extraordinary marshes traditionally also take in wetlands further down the river, around Trebujena and Bonanza.  This is a long day and we decided this year to set off at 4:30 am.  Perhaps unsurprisingly the number of members who joined us was modest, but was well worth the very early start.

We arrived at the freshwater marshes at Brazo del Este just before sunrise and were greeted by the extraordinary sight of hundreds of Collared Pratincoles flitting low over the marsh, hawking for insects.  These dispersed as soon as the sun rose, making it easier to spot Black and Whiskered Terns, as well as Gull-billed and the impressive Caspian Tern.  Amidst the cacophony of singing European Reed and Great Reed Warblers, we were able to pick out the reeling song of Savi’s Warbler, which we eventually got our optics onto.  Cetti’s Warblers occasionally burst into song and one or two offered views.  The metallic blue of a Common Kingfisher flashed across the water, the only one of the day.


Collared Pratincole

            Brazo del Este was its usual self and typical species abounded: dainty but noisy Black-winged Stilts dotted the open water and Western Swamphens were common along the vegetated edges.  Many Glossy Ibises and Eurasian Spoonbills fed busily or commuted between patches of open water, whilst Western Marsh Harriers glided lazily over the reeds.  Herons and Egrets were typically plentiful, but Squacco Heron and Great Egret were strangely absent, perhaps because there is so much water elsewhere this year.  Little Bittern obliged as it usually does here: we had excellent views of a male.  The introduced Black-headed Weaver was abundant and we saw two or three small groups of Common Waxbill.

Black-headed Weaver

            There was an abundance of waders at Brazo del Este, with hundreds of Common Ringed Plovers, some Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Ruff, many Dunlin and a few Common Redshank and Curlew Sandpipers.  A Common Snipe was unusual for May, but the biggest surprise was a single Red Knot in almost full breeding plumage, a brute among the other calidrids.  Wildfowl were less plentiful: only a handful of Common and Red-crested Pochards were among the Mallards.  A pair of Great Crested Grebe was also present.  Some drier fields held nesting Kentish Plover and Collared Pratincole, as well as a pair of Eurasian Stone Curlews.  We had been frustrated earlier by Eurasian Penduline Tits that called but wouldn’t show.  However, a confiding pair eventually sat metres away from us as they came to and from the Tamarisk where they were building a nest.  Nearby, we had good views of Common Nightingale, which delighted all with its song.  Colourful European Bee-eaters swooped after insects and Black-crowned Night Herons patrolled the edges of canals.

Penduline Tit


            We eventually began to make our way south towards the mouth of the Guadalquivir, stopping at a small patch of flooded Tamarisk scrub where we were soon onto our target, Western Olivaceous Warbler.  Further ahead, the Eucalyptus lining the river held plenty of House Sparrows and offered views of a number of Spanish Sparrows, as well as a Eurasian Tree Sparrow.  There was a constant chorus here of bill-clapping White Storks from a nearby colony.  We also watched a pair of Red-rumped Swallows, the most impressive of the four hirundines seen.  A very flooded area finally yielded four Squacco Herons.  Groups of Lesser Kestrels hunted close to the river as we arrived at Trebujena, where we spent some time chasing Larks.  Calandra Larks were busy singing overhead.  Among the very common Crested and Greater Short-toed Larks, we finally picked out one or two Lesser Short-toed LarksCommon Magpie was present too, a rare bird in Cadiz province.  Making our way into the adjacent Bonanza salt pans, Pied Avocets were more plentiful than in the freshwater marshes and a few Little Terns fished daintily over the pans.  Black-headed and Slender-billed Gulls sat together, allowing useful comparisons.  Groups of Greater Flamingoes were everywhere.  Waders were plentiful and we added many Grey Plovers in stunning summer plumage, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone and Little Stint.  

Sanderling in breeding plumage

            Birding was punctuated by a hearty lunch, after which we ended the day by visiting the Laguna del Tarelo and Algaida pinewood.  The laguna held few birds, but White-headed Duck was present as hoped, as were a number of lovely Red-crested Pochard.  The heronry was dominated by Eurasian Spoonbills, but there was an interesting mix of species including Squacco Heron.  We also saw another pair of Little Bittern.  We made our way through the woodland and reached its other end, where a large colony of birds along the edge of the woodland held White Storks, Eurasian Spoonbills and Grey Herons, all squabbling noisily in the canopies.  Black Kites and Booted Eagles displayed overhead.  A solitary Red Kite also soared over.  A Eurasian Hoopoe that flew into one of the trees marked the end of the trip with a flash of colour.  We recorded 104 species during this very special day.

Greater Flamingoes

Photo Credits: Tommy Finlayson, Martin Morony and Albert Yome.


                                              Brazo del Este/Algaida/Trebujena/Bonanza  Total Bird Count
Mallard Collared Pratincole Common Sand Martin
Gadwall Little Ringed Plover Red-rumped Swallow
Common Pochard Common Ringed Plover Barn Swallow
Red-crested Pochard Kentish Plover Common House Martin
White-headed Duck Grey Plover Yellow Wagtail
Common Shelduck Ruddy Turnstone Common Nightingale
Red-legged Partridge Ruff Common Stonechat
Little Grebe Sanderling Common Blackbird
Great Crested Grebe Red Knot Sitting Cisticola
Little Bittern Curlew Sandpiper Sardinian Warbler
Cattle Egret Dunlin Cetti’s Warbler
Squacco Heron Little Stint European Reed Warbler
Little Egret Common Redshank Great Reed Warbler
Grey Heron Common Snipe Savi’s Warbler
Purple Heron Black-headed Gull Melodious Warbler
White Stork Slender-billed Gull Western Olivaceous Warbler
Glossy Ibis Yellow-legged Gull Willow Warbler
Eurasian Spoonbill Little Tern Great Tit
Greater Flamingo Gull-billed Tern Eurasian Penduline Tit
Eurasian Griffon Vulture Caspian Tern Common Magpie
Booted Eagle Black Tern Western Jackdaw
Short-toed Eagle Whiskered Tern Northern Raven
Red Kite Feral Pigeon Spotless Starling
Black Kite Common Wood Pigeon House Sparrow
Western Marsh Harrier Eurasian Collared Dove Spanish Sparrow
Montagu’s Harrier European Turtle Dove Tree Sparrow
Common Buzzard Common Cuckoo Black-headed Weaver
Common Kestrel Common Swift Common Waxbill
Lesser Kestrel Pallid Swift Common Linnet
Peregrine Falcon Common Kingfisher European Goldfinch
Common Moorhen European Bee-eater European Greenfinch
Eurasian Coot Eurasian Hoopoe European Serin
Western Swamphen Crested Lark  
Pied Avocet Greater Short-toed Lark  
Black-winged Stilt Lesser Short-toed Lark  
Eurasian Stone Curlew Calandra Lark