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A census team

Last weekend saw the latest census on marine wildlife conducted along the Valencia coastline, with ornithologists from across the region coming together to monitor and report their findings on a day that presented calm conditions and good visibility.

The complete data is now being collated and will be released once complete, but Elías Gomis from the Amigos de los Humedales del Sur de Alicante reporting that the Balearic shearwater, or Puffinus mauretanicus, was particularly intense in the first two hours.

The high atmospheric pressure had caused the lowering of sea levels and the appearance of small islands, many of which effectively tripled the surface area, much to the delight of the endangered Audouin’s gulls who frequent the area, although one took even more advantage of the extra land by catching and eating a small squid, according to the report from the spotter at Cabo de las Huertas.

One of the Audouin’s gulls spotted was well known to the spotters, having been ringed as a chick in the Delta del Ebro in 1999. Now approaching its 16th birthday, the bird has joined in the census on numerous occasions and always located in the province of Alicante, usually in Torrevieja or the Salinas de Santa Pola, but never too far away, with the exception of having been seen once in Cabo de Gata and another time in the port of La Vila.

There were also numerous sightings of Turnstone, Kentish Plover, Sanderling, sandwich tern, little egret and, at times, a cormorant. At the end of the census time, a female Kingfisher was also spotted catching a fish and eating it before flying south.

In total, the data reveals that there were at least 16 marine species spotted during the census, a total of more than 10,000 birds, and at least two of the watch points also had the pleasure of observing bottlenose dolphins, perhaps curious of the activity taking place.

The data will play an important part in indicating the strength and risk to the marine wildlife in the area, and with threats to the environment ever present, such as the construction of homes on protected land at Cala Mosca in Orihuela, and the threat by Torrevieja´s mayor, Eduardo Dolón of the Partido Popular, to allow a new DIY store to be built on protected land, the information has never been more important than now, in order to help protect the delicate environment that we, as humans, continue to invade.

Whereas some may not value the importance of environmental protection, for others it forms a key part of both their current and future manifestos. The Sierra Escalona and Dehesa de Campoamor have become the latest areas to be provided with information posters in an attempt to ensure protection of such animals as foxes, bobcats and genets.

Protecting wildlife in Pilar de la Horadada is a priority for the Department of the Environment which is run by Iván Romero of the Unión Pilareña political group, and for that reason they have installed five information boards, of some 2 metres in height, at the edges of the areas recognised as in need of protection, under both the LIC standard recognising the areas to be of community interest, and with ZEPA classification, the Zona de Especial Protección de Aves which specifically aims to protect birds.

In line with the Red Natura 2000, a European-wide conservation program, the posters carry pictures of owls and Bonelli’s eagle emblems indicating some of the birds residing in the roads and cattle trails that traverse these natural and protected areas, and are aimed at a warning to drivers of the presence of the creatures, and the need to drive with extreme care so as to avoid risks to the natural animal residents, including the birds and the foxes, bobcats or genets.

In fact, drivers who may travel through the Murcia area may well have already come across some of the signs before, which offer warnings for protection of everything from frogs to birds. On behalf of his department, Romero explains how Pilar de la Horadada has over 4000 hectares classified as ZEPA protected land, representing 52% of the entire municipality, including the Sierra Escalona and Dehesa de Campoamor areas which are shared with neighbouring Orihuela and San Miguel de Salinas.

As the protection standards in the south of the area are starting to creep further north, hopefully the efforts of those monitoring wildlife movements across Alicante and Valencia will find their tasks a little easier in the future, as the onus on environmental protection is finally being given importance, although most environmentalists acknowledge that there is still a long way to go.

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/46120/

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