Bonelli's eagles visit

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Wild flowers in the park

Here are some of the pretty wild flowers I saw on my morning walk. Most of these are on the common just outside the park, but can be seen growing alongside the trails in the park itself.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Fish transfer 2018

A group of Volunteers of La Mata met today to transfer 8 fartet (Spanish toothcarp) to the lake of Torrevieja.  This time all those present had a chance to catch the fish with a small net and to transfer them to a small tank in which they were carried to the place they would be released.  Sylvia an official at the Park, explained that these small fish are unique to the Valencian Community and therefore must be cherished as such.  A breeding program within the Park centre has successfully bred these latest examples.  The group walked to the Acequión canal where the water is less saline so as to avoid a major shock to the the fish, which have been bred in slightly less saline water than the Lake itself,  and they were then released to swim free.
It was a beautiful morning, calm and quiet and we were also lucky enough to see herons which have come here to breed.  A most successful visit to the Park.

Thanks to Jenny Dodd for this post.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Caterpllar nests - Beware!

These nests are in the pine trees just as you approach the cemetery at La Mata
Beware! They'll drop soon....

Thursday, 15 February 2018

New post on Expat Focus

The land known as the Parque Natural de la Mata y Torrevieja belongs to the state, and parts of it are rented to vineyard owners. In 1988 it was declared a protected area and a year later declared a National Game Reserve. In 1995 it became a Parque Natural. It is the southernmost nature park in Valencia province and covers an area of 3700 hectares, 2100 of which are water.
It is important for its vines, its salt, its bird population, its vegetation, and its tourist attractions which include regular educational talks and accompanied walks.

The park vegetation is either natural or cultivated vines, which have withstood plagues due to the salinity of the air and soil. The vines are irrigated naturally by rain and dew, and the grapes are either made into vinegar or wine. A recent project focussed on developing a quality white wine, supervised by an expert.
Salt production
The water of the lake – a salt lagoon-  enters through a canal leading from the sea through the park, propelled by gravity is controlled by a lock. It is important to keep the balance of salt and water level correct. Fish and shellfish enter in this canal. Salt water is then pumped underground from La Mata lake into Torrevieja lake, where the salt sinks to the bottom of the water and becomes solid blocks which are extracted and washed at least three times to remove all mud. These blocks are cut and lifted with special tools onto a conveyor belt to the harbour. From there they are transported to northern Europe and worldwide. Torrevieja lake is the second largest salt producing lake in the world. The salt is used in households for cooking, in the construction industry for roads and in the chemical industry. The area around the lake was divided into strips of land, like allotments, and watch towers stood to prevent thieves from stealing the highly sought-after salt.
Other industries
La Mata was once a centre for soap production, as the plants around the lake are particularly useful for their tolerance of highly saline soil. Esparto grass also used to be cut and used to make baskets and sandals.
Birds and fauna
A large number of ducks take refuge in the Parque Natural during the hunting season, and it is an important resting place for migratory birds. There is a variety of terrain such as marsh zones, reeds and rushes, and woodlands, which means a range of habitats for the birds, of which there are over 100 species, including avocets, black-winged stilts, terns, gulls and grebes. Flamingos are frequent visitors, and kestrels, cormorants, herons and ospreys can be seen. There is a picnic area known as the Pinada where from time to time we can see badgers, lizards, squirrels, snakes, and further varieties of birds including hoopoe, fly catchers and woodpeckers. One source of food which is of particular interest is the artemis salina, a tiny crustacean on which numerous birds feed, including flamingos, which scoop up volumes of them when they stoop to immerse their beaks. A further food source is the larva of the chiromoid mosquito.
Flora and trees
Aleppo pine trees and other pines provide shade in the hot summer months, as well as eucalyptus. Esparto grass and iris, wild gladioli, marigolds, daisies and poppies can all be seen in Spring, visited by swallowtail and marbled white butterflies. The dangerous processionary caterpillars also make a regular annual appearance and we have to be careful to watch out for them when walking with our dogs and little children.
La Mata lagoon was used as early as the C14 when the Crown gave it and Torrevieja lake to Orihuela to develop a possible fishing industry, but the idea never took off as the water was too salty even for the fish. In the C18 the State took the lake over and that’s when the salt industry was born. Eventually salt extraction moved to Torrevieja lake.

There are two main walking routes: one of them is enhanced with hides for birdwatchers and a picnic area for visitors, and the other is a cycle route which rises to the dovecotes on top of a gentle hill. The cycle track is some distance from the edge of the lake so as not to disturb the water fowl. An information and research centre at the park entrance has display boards about the park, a model artemis salina, and photographs of some of the birds to be seen. Various ecological and educational projects and activities are organised from here, including re-introduction of certain species and monitoring of others. There is a group of mixed nationality volunteers who support the work of the park wardens. They meet at 10.00 a.m. in the park office on the first Saturday of every month excluding August to discuss plans for projects undertaken jointly with, or under the supervision of, park personnel. Among their duties are patrolling the paths for signs of damage or abuse of park rules (e.g. dogs off leads), litter picking, removing invasive species and planting indigenous ones, surveying the park’s flora and fauna, protecting shelducks from predators, making wooden signs, placing nesting boxes on trees, and counting and monitoring species of birds and plants. They also participate in regional events related to their work in the park, and they enjoy a lively social life. New members are always very welcome! Their blog site is

Sunday, 4 February 2018

The Day of the Wetlands

To celebrate the Day of the Wetlands the Natural park of Torrevieja-La Mata organized a photgraphic exhibition which showed the surprise snowfall of January 2017 in Torrevieja area, which made history after many years of nothing at all.
There followed a talk by Rubén Torregrossa Soler, one of the people who produce information for the MASTRAL group which monitors the weather in Torre.  By means of graphs he exploded the myths that we have all indulged in, that "it is hotter/colder/wetter/drier, that it has ever been".  The graphs show that both rainfall and temperature remain fairly level over many years with occasional spikes in both rainfall and temperature.  This pattern will continue but we can expect a slight general rise due to climate change, with more intense heat and  rainfall.  It was a most interesting talk, which made our unique weather pattern much clearer. Post by Jenny Dodd

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Nest boxes and owl home

Thanks to Jenny Dodd for this post and photos

A group of members of the public and volunteers of La Mata met on Thursday 25th January to install new bird nest boxes within the Natural Park of La Mata. 
First in line was a larger box intended to provide a home for owls.  This is situated quite deep inside the Park where there are some tall trees.  Then we went back to the walking route and put a replacement small bird box in place in a tall tree.  It is hoped this action will attract birds to make their home in the Park in the future.  Two more boxes were also put in place so a successful morning was enjoyed by all concerned.

Sunday, 14 January 2018