Nature the Spanish way: Cota Doñana

Created in 1969, today the national park covers 50,720 ha and is the largest nature reserve in Western Europe. The diversity in biotopes is as varied as Doñana is large. Secluded beaches, huge flood plains, lagoons, wandering dunes, extensive forests of pine and spruce, and expansive heaths make it a safe place for migratory birds to rest and spend the winter. It is a unique breeding ground for endangered birds such as marbled ducks, white-headed ducks and rare mammals like the Iberian lynx.

 

People are only granted access to a very few areas in the national park. One of the finest experiences is to go on one of the rare four to seven-hour-long jeep tours of the park. These tours start from the El Acebuche visitor centre. From here you can start to explore the park's open countryside and small lagoons on short trails.

The 8x20 T* Victory Compact models are especially suitable for use on the short distances, where you can watch Sardinian and Subalpine Warblers. Their light weight makes them particularly comfortable to carry, which is important in high temperatures. However, it is their large field of view that really sets them apart. It allows you to find small, fast birds like the warblers in the bushes before they fly off.

 

From El Acebuche the tour takes us toward Matalascañas and along the untouched Atlantic coastal strip within the park. The countryside is characterised by wandering dunes, sea and wide beaches. This region is a vital resting place for all manner of ocean birds. Leach's petrels and skuas can be watched at sea from the coast during the winter months using the DiaScope 85 T* FL, and also up close on the beach.

At the estuary of the Rio Guadalquivir the tour leaves the coast and heads to the heart of the park. From here you can catch your first glimpse of the park's great flood plains. Pink flamingos sift the water with their beaks, in search of amiphodas, annelids and mosquito larvae. These expanses of water are an important overwintering place for up to 600,000 waterfowl, geese, ducks and shore birds from Northern Europe. The CONQUEST HD 10x42 allows you to enjoy the entire breadth of the goings-on at the extensive lagoons at 10 x magnification, thanks to its surprisingly wide field of view.

 

The trip continues across Mediterranean brushland, swamps and along flood plains back toward El Acebuche. In the half-light beneath the tall pines, for instance, the VICTORY HT 10x42 lets you watch azure-winged magpies as well as the red deer and fallow deer browsing in the plains. Despite the half-light, the excellent light intensity of the VICTORY HT binoculars allows you to fully enjoy the brilliant colours of the pretty azure-winged magpies, and if you are very lucky, even catch a glimpse of one of the shy Egyptian mongeese.
El Acebuche is only a few kilometres away from the little town of El Rocio. From here you can regularly watch what could be considered the park's most important inhabitant. The Spanish Imperial Eagle. He is often seen circling in the afternoon sun above the park's expansive plain, outside the town.

Supported by Carl Zeiss Optics and managed by SEO/Bird Life, the Francisco Bernis Ornithological Center lies on the outskirts of El Rocio and is ideal for watching the Spanish Imperial Eagle. A broad terrace makes it possible to stand right by the reeds above the flooded areas.

 

The centre is equipped with high-quality precision optics made by Zeiss. For example, interested watchers can observe Common waxbills up close with the Victory 8x32 T* FL. Originating in Africa, these little birds have made their home in the park for several years now, and bob happily among the reeds. With a magnification up to 75x the Victory DiaScope is perfect for enjoying the Spanish Imperial Eagle in all its glory, even at great distances, when he circles in the sky or rests in the afternoon sun on one of the tall pine trees on the other side of the flood area in the park. Purple swamphens search the reeds for food, and the rare white-headed ducks and ferruginous ducks can be watched at leisure as they swim among the flamingos on the water. People who watch this unique spectacle of nature understand once more why it is worth protecting.

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