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The Best of Coto Donana - A Beginner Birdwatching Tour

Tour Code: ESP33

A gentle 5-day exploration of the magnificent Coto Doñana National Park in search of the incredible birdlife of both its best and least known corners. This itinerary is especially tailored to beginner birdwatchers.

5 days from £1095(inc flights) Land Only Price: £975 SRS: £95

In spring the marshes of the Coto Doñana attract an amazing variety of birds and offer one of the greatest ornithological spectacles on the continent. El Rocío, a delightful village with sandy streets that overlooks the lagoon, river and marshlands of the Doñana, provides a fine base as we explore in detail the wide range of habitats in the region: the mosaic of marshes, Stone Pine woodland, open grassland and heathland, freshwater pools and coastal sand dunes. On one day we will use 4x4 vehicles to explore the more inaccessible reaches of the park, and on another we'll explore the rice paddies and reedbeds north of the Guadalquivir River.

  • Purple Gallinule, Marbled Teal, Crested Coot & Spanish Imperial Eagle
  • Azure-winged Magpie, Great Spotted Cuckoo & Red-necked Nightjar
  • Collared Pratincole, Slender-billed Gull, Gull-billed Tern & Lesser Short-toed Lark
  • Bee-eaters, Golden Orioles & Nightingales add a splash of colour & song
  • Mammals may include Red & Fallow Deer, Wild Boar & even Iberian Lynx!
  • Comfortable, central base, just a stone's throw from all the action
  • Expertly guided by a patient, knowledgeable, fun Naturetrek tour leader


All included in the price.


Comfortable tourist hotel, all rooms with private facilities.

Azure-winged Magpie (Peter Dunn)

Azure-winged Magpie (Peter Dunn)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly Seville and overnight El Rocío

Day 2/4 El Rocío

Day 5 Fly London

In 1956 a team of distinguished ornithologists organised an expedition to explore the wilderness of marshes and woodland along the Guadalquivir River in southern Spain known as the Coto Doñana. At a time when foreign travel was still a remote dream for most people, the subsequent account of the expedition in Guy Mountfort’s classic book ‘Portrait of a Wilderness’ made exciting reading and inspired ambitions to visit this remarkable area. Six decades later, the Coto Doñana is still regarded as one of the best birdwatching sites in Europe but it owes its continued existence to the efforts of dedicated conservationists, who have fought against a myriad of threats, ranging from encroachment by farming and tourist developments, to a serious chemical pollution incident. Although the central core of the area was declared a national park in 1969, the conservation struggle continues, but each spring and autumn the marshes still attract an amazing variety of birds and offer one of the greatest ornithological spectacles on the continent.

We begin our holiday in Seville, famous for its oranges and Moorish architecture, from where we will drive south-west to the town of El Rocío, a delightful and elegant village that overlooks the lagoon, river and marshlands that lie within the Coto Doñana National Park. With its white-washed buildings (that include a magnificent church) and its unmetalled sandy streets, there is something of the American Wild West about this village! It also makes a fine base as we explore the wide range of habitats in the region: the mosaic of marshes, Stone Pine woodland, open grassland and heathland, freshwater pools and coastal sand dunes. Here we will enjoy the large numbers of birds of prey that are present in the park, together with numerous other migrants, including storks, herons, waders, ducks, gulls and terns. We will also look for some of the region’s specialities, amongst them Purple Gallinule, Marbled Teal, Crested Coot and the rare Spanish Imperial Eagle (seven pairs of which occur here). Additionally, in the drier habitats, we will search for such species as Azure-winged Magpie, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Tawny Pipit, Lesser Short-toed Lark and Red-necked Nightjar. A range of mammals may also be encountered in this part of the park, most notably the Iberian Lynx, of which a handful remain in this corner of Andalucia, together with Red and Fallow Deer, Hares and Rabbits all, potentially, to be found on the menu of this endangered cat!

For the latter half of our holiday we will focus on the marshes and paddy fields in the eastern part of the Doñana, where the birding is excellent. We will focus, in particular, on a vast area of 11,300 hectares at the heart of the Guadalquivir Marshes that is included within the Doñana Nature Reserve and comprises an extensive area of ‘naturally’ farmed fishponds, pastures for cattle grazing, and rice paddies — all areas being organically farmed with great awareness of, and provision for, the vast numbers of birds attracted to this avian paradise. Avocets, Collared Pratincoles, White Storks, Slender-billed Gulls, Gull-billed Terns and many other wetland bird species all nest in good numbers, whilst in winter hundreds of thousands of ducks and waders thrive here. The site also supports large numbers of Greater Flamingoes and Purple Gallinules, as well as Marbled Teal and the occasional White-headed Duck. It is an experience which will undoubtedly provide the highlight of this holiday.

Both in spring and in winter one cannot help but be impressed by the sheer number of birds here. Pools are crowded with herons and egrets, flocks of terns swoop over the marshes, and the sky is filled with raptors. In spring, additionally, we will hear the melodic outpourings of Nightingales from almost every thicket, and the songs of Great Reed, Reed and Savi’s Warblers from the reedbeds, whilst Bee-eaters and Golden Orioles add their liquid tones to the chorus. With practice, some of the less familiar songs may also be identified: the scratchy warbling of Subalpine and Spectacled Warblers in the scrub, or perhaps the persistent rattle of a Cirl Bunting. Chirping tree-frogs and crickets remind us that not all the sounds are produced by birds and the fragrance of a myriad of flowers ensure that the Doñana experience envelops all of our senses!

Raptor enthusiasts will be delighted by the abundance of birds of prey inhabiting the Doñana, amongst them Griffon Vultures, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, Goshawks, harriers and both Red and Black Kites, but it will inevitably be the sights and sounds of the marismas that will leave the most indelible memory of our visit to this fragile Spanish wilderness.

El Rocio (Thomas Mills)Lounge area of our hotel in El RocioAccommodation at our hotel in El RocioNaturetrek group (David Morris)Lesser Kestrel (Kevin Elsby)Marsh Fritillary (David Morris)Purple Swamp Hen (David Morris)Hoopoe (David Morris)Little Owl (David Morris)Clouded Yellow (Tom McJannet)Night Heron (Kevin Elsby)White Stork (Kevin Elsby)Northern Bald Ibis (Kevin Elsby)Greater Flamingo (Peter Dunn)Great Reed Warbler (Kevin Elsby)Glossy Ibis (Peter Dunn)Crested Coot (Kevin Elsby)Collared Pratincole (Kevin Elsby)Booted Eagle (Kevin Elsby)Azure-winged Magpie (Kevin Elsby)Iberian Lynx, Peter DunnIberian Lynx, Peter Dunn
The tour leaders were excellent - informative and helpful.
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Thu 2nd May 2019 - Mon 6th May 2019



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Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are limited. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £975 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: Spain

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The tour leaders were excellent - informative and helpful.
E.J., Derbyshire