Parque Nacional de Doñana
Parque Nacional de Doñana is the largest of the Spanish national parks, and perhaps the most interesting, with a fauna which incudes many African species. It lies in the delta at the mouth of the Guadalquivir, on the very edge of Europe and on the route followed by migratory birds on their way to Africa. There are two different ecosystems in the park - the wetlands (Doñana húmedo), consisting of the marisma or fenland in the river delta and the lagoons (only a few hundred hectares of which are within the national park), and the dry area (Doñana seco). The areas which are under water for most of the year (almajales) consist of the abandoned channels of the Guadalquivir (caños), the ojos (springs) and of lucios (''pikes'' - long shallow lagoons); between these are the paciles (small circular hummocks) and the vetas or vetonas (higher and longer expanses of dry land).Rare species found only in the Coto de Doñana are the pardel lynx (Lynx pardinus), which is spotted and smaller than the European lynx, and the snake-eating true ichneumon (Herpestes ichneumon), the only European representative of the ichneumon family, groups of which can frequently be seen trotting through the park in Indian file.
There are sharp differences in water level over the year in the Parque Nacional de Doñana Fenland. During the dry season (July to September, with the water at its lowest point in August) the area is arid and deserted; then at the end of September the first migrants (wild geese and ducks) make their appearance. The usual way of getting about is in flat-bottomed boats (cajones), which are either punted or drawn by horses. The most common plants are sedges - bulrushes (Scirpus maritimus and S. Lacustris L.) and the broad-leaved reed-mace (Typha latifolia L.). Many migratory birds spend the winter here or rest on their way to Africa - wigeon (Anas penelope), pintail (A. acuta), teal (A. crecca), shoveler (A. clypeata), pochard (Arytha ferina), etc. Among birds which nest here in spring are the coot (Fulica atra), the mallard (Anas platyrhyncos), the gadwall (A. strepera), the great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus), the little grebe (P. ruficollis), the purple heron (Ardea purpurea), the gull-billed tern (Gelochelidon nilotica), the whiskered tern (Chelidonias hybrida) and the black tern (C. niger).
Lagoons are distributed widely throughout Parque Nacional de Doñana, the largest ones lying parallel to the coast (Laguna de Santa Olalla, Laguna Dulce, Laguna del Taraje), the smaller ones farther inland (Laguna del Moral, de Navaza del Toro, del Sapo, del Brezo, del Caballo, del Pino, etc.). The lagoons are fringed by clumps of trees - cork- oaks (Quercus suber L.) and pines (Pinus pinea L.) - and by tree heaths (Erica scoparia L.), dwarf gorse (Ulex minor Roth.) and bracken (Pteridium aquilinum L.). The principal water- dwelling species of fauna are marsh frogs (Rana ridibunda), the European pond terrapin (Emys orbicularis) and the Caspian turtle (Clemmys caspica leprosa). All the species of duck found in the Fenland frequent the lagoons, which are also the last European refuge of an endangered species, the crested coot (Fulica cristata). Their shores are also visited by fallow deer, red deer and wild pigs, while otters (Lutra lutra) live in the water.
The cork-oak biotope has become rare in many parts of the national park, but there is a swathe between the marisma and the Monte de Doñana. In these cork-oak forests are the famous nesting-places (pajareras) which house whole colonies of birds during the breeding season. Among birds which nest here are the gray heron (Ardea cinerea), the little egret (Egretta garzetta), the cattle egret (Ardeola ibis), the spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) and a few white storks (Ciconia ciconia). Some birds of prey also visit the colonies or nest there - the buzzard (Buteo buteo), the red kite (Milvus milvus), the kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) and many jackdaws (Corvus monedula), which are great nest-robbers. Wild pigs (Sus scrofa) often come here, and the poisonous Lataste's viper (Vipera latasti) is commonly found.
Monte de Doñana
Parque Nacional de las Tablas de Daimiel Monte de Doñana - monte here means not hill but woodland or scrub. This biotope consists of Mediterranean-type macchia with scattered cork-oaks. The flora includes Halimium halimifolium L., Phyllirea angustifolia L., heather (Calluna vulgaris L.) and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.), and at higher altitudes juniper (Juniperus phoenicia L.), Halimium commutatum Pan., French lavender (Lavandula stoechas L.) and white thyme (Thymus mastichina L.). Among reptiles and amphibians there are the spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca), the ladder snake (Elaphe scalaris), the Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) and the small but very poisonous Lataste's viper (Vipera latasti). In addition to the birds of prey mentioned above there are the magpie (Pica pica), the great shrike (Lanius excubitor), the red-necked nightjar (Caprimulgus ruficollis) and large numbers of red-legged partridges (Alectoris rufa). The commonest mammals are red deer (Cervus elaphus), fallow deer (Dama dama), and wild pigs (Sus scrofa); others include the weasel (Mustela nivalis), the polecat (Putorius putorius), the wild cat (Felis sylvestris), foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and, more rarely, the genet (Genetta genetta). Badgers (Meles meles) are very common, and there are large numbers of rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), which provide an abundant food supply for the larger predators.
The pine forest biotope is found mainly in the southern part of the park. Between the pines (Pinus pinea L.) is an undergrowth consisting mainly of tree heaths, cistuses, the broom-like Osyris alba L. and the mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus L.). Wood pigeons (Columba palumbus), turtle-doves (Streptopelia turtur), blackbirds (Turdus merula), mistle thrushes (Turdus viscivorus), buzzards (Buteo buteo), red kites (Milvus milvus) and kestrels (Falco tinnunculus) are residents; annual visitors are the hobby (Falco subbuteo) and the short-toed eagle (Circaetus gallicus). A very rare bird, found here but hardly anywhere else, is the azure-winged magpie (Cyanopica cyanus).
Along the coast at Parque Nacional de las Tablas de Dunes extend long traveling dunes, which as they move inland enclose little islands (corrales) of pines. The trees eventually die, leaving groups of dried-up and contorted trunks which are known as campos de cruces. The flora is very sparse, consisting mainly of lyme grass (Ammophila arenaria L.) and a shrub called camarina (Corema album Don.), with a sweet-tasting fruit which is eaten by birds. A common species of lizard is Acanthodactylus erythrurus, the spiny-footed lizard; common snakes are Lataste's viper (Vipera latasti) and the Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus). These reptiles provide food for the short-toed eagle (Circaetus gallicus) and the barn owl (Tyto alba).