Guadalhorce River Estuary Natural Area
A few kilometres south of Malaga is this 67ha area, which comprises the alluvial delta of the Gudalhorce river, a system of artificial ponds and scrubland. It attracts a huge variety of birds - over 200 species have been recorded here - and is the one of the most important breeding and migration sites in eastern Andalucía. Since the area also provides access to the beach, the increasing numbers of people entering the area can create problems for the wildlife, particularly in summer.
Until the early 1980s, the area was used for sand and gravel extraction and the remains of this can be seen today in the presence of ponds in the eastern side of the estuary. The area has been the subject of controversy in recent years about the widening of the river to help prevent flooding further upstream. Sugar cane cultivation and cattle breeding are the main agricultural land uses.
From Malaga, take the N340 towards Torremolinos. Take the turn-off for Guadalmar and a few hundred metres from the turning is the access point of the estuary. It is also accessible via the EMT Number 10 bus from Málaga Bus Station (to Guadalmar).
The estuary is colonised by aquatic plants, reedbeds and glasswort. On the riverbanks are poplars, willows and eucalyptus. There are also tamarisks and palm trees.
Moorhens, water rails, Cetti's warblers, crested larks and spotless starling are among the most common inhabitants. In summer there are yellow wagtails, reed warblers and nightingales.There are more water birds in autumn and winter, with bluethroats, penduline tits, black-necked and great crested grebes and different types of ducks, including teal, pochard, shoveler and wigeon. It's easy to spot grey and squacco herons here at this time of year, as well as cattle and little egrets. There are a variety of waders here in winter and spring, including Kentish and ringed plovers, lapwings, sandpipers and redshanks.
Other birds are spotted sandpipers, various gulls - including yellow-legged, Audouin's, laughing, Franklin's and ring-billed gulls - and blue-winged, sandwich, common and little terns. Raptors include marsh harriers, peregrines and, to a lesser extent, common buzzards and booted eagles. Birds escaped from captivity like parakeets can also be seen here.
The most common mammals are weasels, polecats and foxes.
The Guadalhorce river branches in two and between these is an estuary dotted with artificial ponds.