A must for nature lovers is Andalucia´s largest lagoon, Fuente de Piedra, a veritable haven for visitors wishing to lose themselves in the tranquillity of spectacular countryside away from the coast. In 1988 it was designated a 1,364 hectare protected area whose main attraction is the presence of a colony of pink flamingos, the largest on the Iberian Peninsula and the second largest in the whole of Europe.
This huge expanse of water is home to over thirty different species of birdlife and other fauna. Of incalculable ecological value, as home to the colony of pink flamingos who come here to breed, it is second only to its counterpart in the Camargue of France.
One of the best times of year to visit is in mid-July, when a fascinating spectacle takes place – ringing the newborn chicks. Some 300 volunteers, monitors, vets and biologists help to monitor this unusual pink bird. With dawn as a backdrop, they set about the task of measuring, weighing and ringing each newborn in the colony. The birds can easily be seen in the lagoon any time between late February and late August – though watch out for mosquitos in the summer! Being a salt lagoon, a further attraction occurs in the springtome when increased water evaporation leaves crystals of salt on the lagoon surface – a grand photo opportunity especially when captured with the sun´s reflection.
Surrounded by olive groves and cornfields, the reserve also attracts different species of bird including Kentish plovers and black-winged stilts.
Flamingos from all along the Mediterranean and north African coast head for this spot every year to breed. The twenty-four thousand adult birds turning Senrra Island, in the middle of the lagoon, from its winter earth-brown shades to pink in spring, and then to dark grey as thirteen thousand chicks hatch.
Flamingos In summer when the lagoon turns into a salt flat the chicks blend into the island landscape, safe from predators, while their pink and white parents roam around the lagoon.
Flamingos, with their huge wings, excellent sense of direction and enourmous capacity for gliding, are agile and fast. At dusk the adults take flight on food forages and can reach the Odiel wetlands in the province of Huelva, or the salt flats in the province of Cadiz. In two nights they can get as far as the Camargue region in the south of France.
These birds have been coming to Fuente de Piedra for hundreds of years, travelling thousands of kilometres every year. ‘Scouts’ search out the most favourable breeding spots and report back, so that in years of drought alternative places are found.
Once they arrive, courtship commences with the females selecting their mate. The tasks related to breeding and rearing the chicks are shared jointly by the two parents. Just one egg per pair, incubated for 29 days, is laid.
How to get there: Fuente de Piedra is an hour´s drive from Malaga City. Take the A-45 towards Cordoba and Seville and exit at turnoff K-132 for Lauguna de Piedra.