|Birds of Spain|
by Mark Swan
A portfolio of birds from Coto Doņana National Park and Grazalema Natural Park in western Andalucia Province of southwestern Spain. Frames selected from digital video footage shot with a Canon GL2 videocamera during 16-20 April 2003 by Mark Swan (twenty-year resident of Baton Rouge, recently transferred to San Antonio, Texas), accompanied by Bill Shepherd (from Little Rock, Arkansas).
The Sierra de Grazalema was the first area to be declared a Natural Park (a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1977) in the province of Andalucia and is one of the most ecologically important areas of Spain. The area is famous for its spectacular limestone cliffs and landscape of gullies, caverns and gorges, the most spectacular being La Verde, with rocky walls that rise almost vertically for 400 metres. It contains the highest point in the province of Cádiz, El Torreón, at 1,654 metres. The diverse flora includes cork trees whose trunks are stripped for bark revealing a smooth and dark red trunk that recovers with time.
The 100,000 hectares of Parque Nacional de Doņana have become a key center in the world of conservation. Its configuration is a result of its past as the estuary of the Guadalquivir river. Here there are beaches, coastal mobile dunes, marshes, and Mediterranean thickets of narrow leaved cistus heather, mastic tree, rosemary, cistus scrub, and red lavender. The cork oaks are known as "las pajareras" for the enormous quantity of birds that nest in them and large expanses of stone pine. Fauna here has a rich variety, some in danger of extinction, such as the lynx, the Egyptian mongoose and the imperial eagle. Centuries ago, one of the duchesses of Medina Sidonia, Doá Ana de Silva y Mendoza, indulged her antisocial instincts by building a residence there that was more hermitage than palace. Subsequently, the land passed through many hands before the official creation of the parque nacional in 1969. Doņana comprises delta waters which flood in winter and then drop in the spring leaving rich deposits of silt and raised sandbanks and islands. These conditions are perfect in winter for geese and ducks but most exciting in spring when they draw hundreds of flocks of breeding birds. Doņana is well known for the variety of species of birds, either permanent residents, winter visitors from north and central Europe or summer visitors from Africa, such as numerous types of geese and colonies of flamingo. You may catch a glimpse of a Spanish Imperial Eagle - 14 breeding pairs (1/3 of the world population) use the park. You can explore the park in a safari jeep, and there are organized camping trips for children, as well as audio-visual shows and exhibits. Entrance to the park is strictly controlled. You can take half day trips with official guides or explore the environs of the visitor centers on foot.
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