Blog Site by Appointment to His Regal Majesty the Maalie King

He who would be a Leader, let him be a Bridge

Crown Copyright: The Royal Maalie Court

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Coto Doñana

A year or so ago I had a wacky idea to hold my retirement party in the Coto Doñana - one of Europe's iconic wildlife wetlands, situated in the delta of the River Guadalquivir in Andalusia, south from Sevilla in Spain. Since most of my friends have some interest in wildlife, I figured I might be able to tempt a few to join me.

I therefore felt delighted, flattered and honoured when no fewer than 26 representatives of my family, former colleagues and students, Maalie Courtiers and friends (including one from Australia) sat down to dinner with me at the restaurant of La Aldea camp site in El Rocio on 12 May.

The town of El Rocio across the lagoon formed by La Rociana River. The town is host to a Romerio (pilgrimage) of millions of gypsies every summer

Apart from the dinner, the principle focus of the weekend was a birdwatching tour of part of the Coto Donaña guided by John Butler of Donaña Bird Tours (he took us in groups of eight over three days). On these, and other excursions, we were able to accumulate sightings of some 125 bird species, some of which are specialities of the region, for example Azure-winged Magpie, Purple Gallinule, Crested Coot, an assemblage of wetland species of herons, egrets, flamingoes, waders (including Collared Pratincole), waterfowl and spoonbills.

Part of the marismas (marshes) of the Coto Doñana, habitat of huge colonies of wetland bird species

Simon (from Australia) and Pam take a stroll round one of the board walk trails in the Donaña National Park

Trudy, Alun and Simon at the headquarters of the
Doñana National Park

Trips were also made into the surrounding countryside to find such Andalusian goodies as Black Vulture and Griffin Vultures, White Stork and Black Stork, Booted and Golden Eagles and Golden Oriole and Red-necked Nightjar.

Popular on the list of sights was the castle at Niebla which (in addition to housing in the dungeon a museum of instruments of torture dating to the Spanish Inquisition) provides nesting sites in the crevices for colonies of Pallid Swift and Lesser Kestrel, and a White Stork's nest on top of the tower!

Niebla Castle - the crevices provides nesting places for some interesting bird species

Happiness at the realisation of my (completely unexpected) retirement present of a bicycle!
Photo by Davy

Independent reports of the party have been written by the Pretender and Lorenzo the Llama

My guests at the party were: Alun & Trudy; Jill & Peter: Stuart & Christine: Tom & Gisela: Graeme & Marianne; Will: Dave & Jude; Ken; Pam; Richard, Maria & Niki; Kate & Kelly; Dave; Ken & Linda; Simon; John & Rebecca Butler.


Blogger lorenzothellama said...

You were quick to get this posting off! You wait until we get some of the more drunken pictures of the party!

11:08 pm  
Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

Great photos. Will you have time to post any more before leaving for Poland though? What a gadabout!!

The gypsy pilgrimage at El Rocio reminded me of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer where the gypsies also come on pilgrimage 24/25 May each year.
I noticed your "purple gallinule" reference. Funnily enough I was just reading about this bird last night as the possible ancestor of our pukeko and takahe!
And storks' nests are something I have actually seen a few of. There was one on the ruins of the church of St John in Selcuk near Ephesus in Turkey. It was a cold spring (1998)and the locals had actually found a snake to feed it as they were worried about it not moving much. They used the ladder of the local fire engine truck to reach the nest with the snake. Then I saw quite large numbers of storks' nests on some ruins in Morocco. (Too lazy to get my diary out to find out exactly where, probably Marrakech!)

1:39 am  
Anonymous May said...

The night of the party in itself, how was it?
No hurry though.

9:05 am  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Oo May, the party was really wild! Maalie was extremely runcible and as for TCA and Simon, well, words fail me.
Very interested in your storks kiwi. I love them too, and spent many happy hours just watching them fly about. The nests on top of the pylons were brilliant. Little platforms had been built so they could build their nests there. I suppose without the platforms they could have shorted out the electricity supply. When I do my blog in the next couple of days I will include a photo of a storkery.

12:47 pm  
Blogger Davy said...

Nice picture of you smiling Jim, crown copyright? mmmmm.... It looks strangely familiar..

1:01 pm  
Blogger Davy said...

I've a nice storkery on my site, you can see chicks.

1:02 pm  
Blogger Tortoiseshell said...

Nice blog. Glad you're home safe.

Still no sign of a government for Wales!

11:52 pm  
Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

I'll have to look in my Morocco photos and put a photo of some storks nests up too.... even though I was there years ago now!

6:56 am  
Anonymous Ellee said...

What a lovely post and such lovely pics. You are obviously a very special person for people to travel so far to see you and celebrate your retirement. It looks a lovely area.

How long are you home for now before you pack your bag again?

5:08 pm  
Blogger May said...

Did you meet any nice girls in Spain?

8:19 pm  
Blogger Maalie said...

Davy: Due acknowledgement now made, thanks.

Kiwi: yes, some taxonomists consider the Pukeko and Purple Gallinule to be very closely related.

Ellee: Oooh, I've got a whole two and a half weeks at home before I go to Poland for a week's birdwating in the Carpathian Mountains. It's all Ryanair's fault!

May: There were certainly some very attractive women in Andalucia but I'm afraid my Spanish is poor. Anyway, I am much too shy to ask one for a date.

9:11 pm  
Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

maalie.... recent molecular analyses seem to show the takahe is also related - and that there were originally two species of takahe in NZ.. one in the north and one in the south.

6:26 am  
Blogger TCA said...

Are you SURE that's Simon, it LOOKS like John Inman.


9:51 am  
Blogger Merisi said...

Welcome back, Maalie!
I could almost get swamp envy. ;-)
Have you ever been to the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Florida? Best know probably for it being a major wood stork rookery, there's one huge ancient tree that looks like public housing for frogs. The noise the dozens of birds up in that tree alone can be heard from miles away.

2:37 pm  
Blogger Merisi said...

Public housing for storks, of course. ;-) (There are lots of frogs, too, but not up in the tress *chuckle*).

2:39 pm  
Blogger Merisi said...

Oh rats, I have a slight case of language deficiency. Maybe major.

2:40 pm  
Blogger elleeseymour said...

Poland, you are so lucky. I am off to Greece next month, staying in the foothills of MOunt Athos with my mother, being watched over by the monks. We must be on our best behaviour.

4:21 pm  
Blogger Maalie said...

Merisi: Yes, I have been to the Florida Everglades twice and have seen the Wood Storks - lovely! There are actually tree frogs that live in trees of course!

Ellee: I've never been to Greece. Watch out for Eleanora's Falcons, especially if you get near any sea cliffs!

5:15 pm  
Blogger Merisi said...

Tree frogs? Come to think of it, maybe these were tree frogs croaking up a storm on that tree?
Btw, I came in over your profil, and am wondering now about your love for "sea fishing". Would you share with us, which "sea" you've caught so far? Sure sounds intriguing. ;-)

6:29 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

How's your liver?
Nephew, Neice-in-law, Neice and baby grand-nephew are just about to leave.

10:46 am  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

I draw your attention to Raelha's comments on LtL's blog.

9:45 pm  
Anonymous Ellee said...

You have some great comments here from your friends, I would love to see a pic of you all. How is Simon doing?

9:24 pm  
Blogger Maalie said...

Elle, Simon is back down under now. I'm sure you'll hear from him soon.

Merisi, last year was particularly good. I caught the Atlantic, Irish, North, Baltic, Black, Mediterranean, Japan, Pacific, Tasman!

9:42 pm  
Anonymous Ellee said...

Thank you Maalie, I'm sure he'll be writing all about it.

9:59 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

What does a heretic wear?

6:14 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Have you ever visited Abraham Lincoln's blogsite? He has some remarkable bird pictures.

(today's word is dumwyper)

7:08 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I am pleased that you saw my photos on the blog. I would say, at the risk of sounding like I am tooting my own horn, that there are some very solid photos of mine on my website.

If you go there click on the links under the flower. There are four or five to choose from beginning with the air force museum.

After you have a look at some of those in the backyard wildlife category, let me know what you think.

I would greatly appreciate your opinion.

Go to

Thank you again for the visit.


Reference your comment about the American Robin.

Yes, they are different in several ways. And Georgia, especially around Columbus is not the best place to find them unless you are there in the winter months. They migrate, for the most part, and would be 'up north' from Kentucky on to Michigan and above where they raise their young and build up some body fat for the trip south in the early winter. While I do feed robins in the winter, it is usually one who has staked-out a dwarf crabapple tree's dried fruit as their own, and gets hungry for something fresh. I think they are a great bird but certainly no better than any other.

I have Brown Thrashers here and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Chipping Sparrows (a delicate little bird with a delightful song) and Song Sparrows and Tree Sparrows plus all the woodpeckers including the Pileated, Red-bellied, hairy and Downy.

I hope you can stay in touch.

Abraham Lincoln
Brookville Daily Photo

5:05 pm  
Anonymous Ellee said...

Jim, I am staying at the foothills of Mount Athos, there should be lots of falcons around there. Do you know the Greek word for this, btw?
I would love to do some scuba diving too, not sure I'll have time on this trip, I have done my Padi 1 and it is available at our hotel.

6:31 pm  
Blogger Maalie said...

Ellee, in Greek it is known as Varvaki or Mavropetritis.

6:56 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Re ferral cats. I know they do kill a lot of little creatures in order to survive, but compared to what humans do to the enviroment its chicken feed.
Ferral cats for instance very rarely travel on Ryanair or use petrol guzzling cars. Surely these things should be addressed before animals are slaughtered. I think it was Merisi who said that the Coto Donana was a sanctury for wild life simply because people are not allowed in.

12:23 pm  
Anonymous Ellee said...

Maalie, I'm very impressed by your knowledge of Greece, and thanks for the reference you made on my site about it.

6:50 pm  
Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

lorenzo... it depends partly on what country you are in. As maalie says, feral cats have a worse impact in an isolated island nation like New Zealand, because our ecosystems have evolved without any mammalian predators. Many birds became flightless or poor fliers when they didn't need to fly to escape. We have had many unique species of lizards and invertebrates that have been decimated. So the introduction of such predators has had massive impacts. Of course, the creature with the worst impacts have been humans. we have cleared away a lot of the habitat that used to exist.

10:24 am  
Blogger simon said...

May:- there are no such thing a beautiful Spanish girls... they ALL need to shave their 5 o'clock shaddows by the age of 20 IMO.

11:05 am  
Blogger simon said...

ps WHO is John Inman?

11:06 am  
Blogger TCA said...

Look it up on the internet...



5:29 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Kiwi: Do the cats have any natural predators? I do take your point about decimating wildlife. I once had a very bad cat called Splat (who incidentally unfortunately lived up to her name on the road outside out house, sob) who even took on a pair of magpies, and not surprisingly lost. I just feel that until humans clean up their act, stop eating tons of meat while half the world starves, we are not in a very strong position to criticise cats! I take Raelha's comments on my blog very much to heart.

Simon: You would adore John Inman. He is just your type and would not mistake your gesture for 'grande' in any way whatsoever!

Today's word is oggylisc.

8:01 pm  
Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

No lorenzo... cats here have no natural predators. The only mammals we have naturally are two species of bats. Stoats are the worst in their direct effects on our fauna, but we also have millions of introduced possums eating our vegetation every night.
But you are right..... humans have had the worst effects.... clearing huge amounts of forest that used to be here has had the most major effect.

5:43 am  
Blogger Maalie said...

I would agree that cats have no natural predators in New Zealand. Elsewhere, they can be eaten by bigger cats, crocodiles. In Europe, Eagle Owls are rather fond of them!

7:27 am  
Blogger TCA said...

>"eating tons of meat while half the world starves"

I think you're mixing up your food groups: The plight of the 3rd world is primarily associated with staple sources of complex carbohydrate. I'm not sure foregoing my protein will directly impact this issue. What we need is more genetically modified crops which will tolerate the harsh environment in these area.

2:25 pm  
Blogger Ju's little sister said...

TCA is right - we should genetically modify crops so that poison, sprays, insects and other environmental factors have no chance of killing them or making them sick. They should be able to flourish with hardly any water, too much sun and wind and poor nutrients. Fire should only increase the growth rate and flooding should spread them further afield. That way we will never have any problems ever again.

;-) Tee Hee.

Todays word - deqtc

3:07 am  

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