Inspired by Mick Richardson's photos and report from Tablas de Damiel Elena and I drove there on Friday to see for ourselves. I had hesitated before, expecting it to be dried up and over exploited for irrigation, which is the dreary story for most natural water resources in Spain. We were very pleasantly surprised however. It had been virtually destroyed in the 60s & 70s but great efforts have been made since then to restore the water levels and now it is a little wetland paradise for birders.
From a bridge approaching the Visitors Centre we spotted a pair of Rollers nesting in a hole just below an active Storks nest in the same dead tree. Lots of Greylag Geese occupied a flooded area by the road, and a Great Spotted Cuckoo was being closely watched by an attendant Magpie.
From the Visitors Center there are a number of marked trails, yellow, red and blue. They are freely accessible at any time, early morning being the best. The Yellow Trail is particularly productive as it follows a superb boardwalk through the shallow wetland giving superb views of reedbed and ponds with surrounding low trees and bushes. The clear waters are teeming with fish. Purple, Grey and Night Herons are easily seen, as are egrets and a variety of waterfowl, especially Red Crested Pochard and Great Crested Grebe.
A variety of Raptors can be seen overhead, these include Marsh and Montagu's harrier, Osprey, Common Buzzard and Kestrel. I also spotted a Bonellis Eagle along the road to the Reserve from Daimiel.
A Southern Smooth Snake slithered out of the water and across the wooden debris by the riverside.
A young Barn Swallow flexing its wings while perched over the boardwalk along the Yellow Trail.
Reed Warblers and Great reed Warblers could be heard at all times in the reedbeds. Occasionally they would be visible through the tall grass stems allowing some photography.
Tablas de Daimiel is a superb little National Park/Reserve and is well worth a visit by birders. get there early and if possible avoid weekends at it can get very busy with busloads of schoolchildren and tourists. In the quiet hours around sunrise it is idyllic.