Ebro river Delta. Part 3

The Ebro river is born to the north of the Iberian Peninsula and flows into the Mediterranean Sea where the salty waters of the sea converge with the sweets of the river forming what is known as the Delta of the Ebro river.

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On The North-East coast of Spain, the Mediterranean Sea collects the waters of the river with the greatest volume of water in all the Iberian Peninsular, the River Ebro.

Year after year, thousands of tonnes of alluvial soil are transported by the river down to the estuary. Over the centuries, the sea has gradually lost ground and the original estuary has become a delta. Its privileged location, at the halfway point on the migratory routes of European birds and the diversity of its eco-systems have made it a real natural paradise for birds, a magical place halfway between the land and the sea.

70% of the bird species of Spain can be found in the Ebro Delta. The variety of its eco-systems means that you can find typical coastal species, riverbank species, lake birds and those that prefer terra firma. The most abundant are sea birds, but in the inland wetlands the queens are definitely the anatidae or duck family.

There are continuous visits to these waters throughout the year. Many flocks arrive from Northern Europe escaping from the harsh winter. Others have their breeding-grounds here, so they do not appear until spring.

This wealth of fauna would not be possible if the waters were not also full of life. This meeting of river and sea has given rise to a great diversity of habitats. The waters that are nearest to the river are fresh but as the coast becomes nearer the salt level rises. This variety is reflected in the fauna.

In the Delta it is possible to find typical river species, sea species and even some that have adapted to both mediums.

Of these there are two very rare species which in spite of their size are considered to be zoological treasures because of their uniqueness and their tiny population namely the Iberian toothcarp and the Spanish toothcarp. The only European colonies of these birds are in isolated parts of the South-East Spain.

The abundance of life in these waters has not gone unnoticed. The Encanyissada and Tancada lagoons have been National Hunting Reserves since 1966. The fish supplies have also been tapped from ancient times and brotherhoods of fishermen already existed in the 12th Century.

On the beaches, people catch donax clams, small molluscs that live in the sand and are very popular among the local people.

The inland fields of the Delta are fertile thanks to the mud that the Ebro has deposited over the centuries. On the coast however, the vegetation has to withstand a very high salt level, poor soil that does not hold water and an almost constant wind. These factors make them unsuitable for cultivation and this has been their salvation. The immense majority of untouched land in the Delta is on the coast.

The salt lagoons of the Ebro Delta are visited every year by a legendary bird. The ancient Egyptians believed it to be the phoenix, the creature that burnt itself to cinders only to arise from the ashes the next day. Its pink pigment, which was like fire or flama in Latin, gave rise to a legend and is the root of its name: the flamingo.

The only places in Europe where flamingos breed regularly are in the Camargue in France, and the Laguna de Fuente de Piedra in Spain. They are really just passing through the  Ebro Delta, a place of rest at the halfway point on their migratory routes.

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