Albufera de Adra Natural Reserve
Ten kilometres east of the industrial port of Adra is this small wetland reserve of 217ha on the Mediterranean coast, a wildlife oasis in an area of intensive agriculture. It is comprised of intertidal marshes and a series of permanent coastal lagoons (albuferas) of varying depths and degrees of salinity, which have been created by a former river delta of the Río Adra. Albufera Honda (Deep Lake) and Albufera Nueva (New Lake) are the two largest lakes and there is a third one, which is much smaller, just outside the reserve's boundary.
Despite the ugly plastic greenhouses surrounding the reserve, it is well worth a visit for its exceptional birdlife; the lakes are an important breeding site, most notably for the white-headed duck, and thousands of birds overwinter here or use the wetlands as a stopping-off place during migration. The wetlands are also a site of great botanical importance.
Sadly, the intensive agriculture surrounding the lakes has caused the drying up of several channels that used to feed into the lakes. There are also problems with agricultural pollution from run-off of chemical fertilisers and pesticides and rubbish dumping near the lakes, which has killed some of the lakes' vegetation.
The lakes are located between the N340 and the beach. Take the road that leads off the N340 at Km 66. This branches in two; take the fork to the lakes, not the beach (playa). The numerous plastic greenhouses can make access to the lakes difficult. There are three bird observatories, of which one is open to the public.
The lakes are fringed by phragmites reeds, cattails (typha dominguensis, t.latifolia), sea rushes (juncus maritimus) and spiny rushes (juncus acutus), which provide nesting sites for birds. Beyond the reeds and rushes are tamarisk, giant reeds (arundo donax) and extensive beds of sea club rushes (scirpus maritimus).
The lake with most vegetation is Albufera Honda, since it receives more freshwater than the other lakes. As well as reeds and rushes, this lake also has some areas of great fen-sedge (cladium mariscus).
Outside the saltmarsh area is esparto grass (stipa tenacissima) and Almerian rock roses, (helianthemum almeriense).
The site is home to eastern Andalucia's most significant population of the white-headed duck, which nests and overwinters here. It is also an important site for the endangered marbled duck, which can be seen during migration periods.
In the winter, flocks of aquatic birds arrive at the lakes. Tufted ducks and pochards are the most numerous; wigeons, coots, tufted ducks, little egrets, cattle egrets and black-necked grebes are also common.
With more reeds and rushes than the other lakes, Albufera Honda has the most nests in the reserve. Breeding birds here include red-crested pochards, moorhens, white storks and little bitterns.
In the water is one of the few populations in Andalucia of the endangered Iberian toothcarp, which is native to the Iberian Peninsula. Spanish terrapins and Canary Islands hyla are the amphibians that inhabit the lakes.