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Catalonia’s second biggest wetlands, the Aiguamolls de l’Empordà Park measures 4721.55 hectares, which includes the nature reserves of the lagoons, lakes and Carmany Island. Declared an area of national natural interest in 1983, it is a birdwatchers’ paradise, which is especially well managed and home to around 338 different species. Located on the Costa Brava northern coast, it lies between the rivers Muga and Fluvia and makes up part of the Bay of Roses. It used to be a malarial swampland just like the Ebro Delta.
A lot of the marsh was drained during the 19th century in order to create canals and to convert the land to be used for agricultural purposes, however some virgin marshland and dunes still remained. In 1976 a campaign was started to halt a proposed project to construct a marina for residential purposes, for around 60,000 people. The creation of the natural park of Aiguamolls de l’Empordà was as a result of this very intensive campaign. The campaign was eventually successful but the reality is that if it hadn’t been the magical wetlands that you can see today would have been ruined due to “progress.”
The Government of Catalonia voted unanimously in 1983 to approve the law that is now in place to protect the Aiguamolls de l’Empordà and although at this time the Baix Emporda, which is the lower area was left out, it was later included under the protection law.
The Aiguamolls de l’Empordà is a place where you will find a beautiful cocktail of harmony, colour, serenity and balance. The same can be said for the Delta de l’Ebre, which I constantly find magical, and see different images each time I go there. There is something about these two Catalan wetlands that is inspirational; they both have unique, interesting landscapes. Known locally as Aigamolls (wetlands), 80% of the area is private property and the remainder is owned by the Catalan Government.
Due to the various extreme environmental factors, you’ll find a wide variety of flora and vegetation in the Aiguamolls de l’Empordà. Plants that due well in strong winds, high saline content, long periods of drought and soil that has little or not water retention are native to the park, including some species that are rare in Catalonia.
You can spot plants that do well on the dunes, beach and marsh areas such as Ammophila Arenaria, Aster Tripolium, Agopyron Junceum and Artemisia Gallica. Particular to the dunes themselves is Tamarisk, which is a type of salt cedar.
In the marine lagoons, there are types of Microcoleus, Licmophora, Amphora sp., and Melosira sp. amongst the marine plant life. In the more shallow waters of the bay, there are seagrass plants such as Cymodocea Nodosa.
It’s impossible to name all the plant species here, but it is fascinating to see how they differ throughout all the varous environments that are to be found in the Aiguamolls de l’Empordà.
Wetland birds take refuge in the park, and the latest number of species spotted there is at 338, of which 82 species nest there regularly. Apart from birds you can also see deer, which were introduced to the park in 1987 and their population continues to grow each year. You may need some patience to spot the otters, but they are there to be seen. The wild boar population is also increasing, and you can also see foxes, water voles, hedgehogs and different species of rats and mice. There are around 50 species of fish.
The integral reserves have contributed importantly to being able to manage the wildlife and conversation of the area, and have also made it possible to reintroduce the purple gallinule and the white stork.
Seasoned birdwatchers will know that the best time to observe the bird species is either in the morning or at dusk, and to bring binoculars and mosquito repellent. The reserve areas are very well set up with hiding places to see the birds.
Below are some of the bird species that you can spot:
Dotterel (scarce migrant)
Great Reed Warbler
Great Spotted Cuckoo
Red-footed Falcon (scarce migrant)
Red-rumped Swallow (migrant)
Red-throated Pipit (scarce migrant)
Spotted Crake (scarce migrant)
Here’s some more information on Birdwatching in Aigamolls de l’Emporda
Headquarters: El Cortalet, Crta. de Sant Pere Pescador, km 13.6, Castelló d’Empúries, 17486, Phone: 972 454 222, Fax. 972 45 44 74
E-mail: email@example.com, Website: www.parcsdecatalunya.net
Towns with information points:
Plaça dels Homes, 1
Phone: 972 15 62 33
Av. Pompeu Fabra
Phone: 972 45 08 02
Sant Pere Pescador
C/ Doctor Josep Vidal, 4
Phone: 972 52 05 35 / 972 52 00 50
Plaça de les Escoles, 1
Phone: 972 77 06 03
Centre Cultural Sant Domènec
Plaça Peixateria, 2
Phone: 972 53 88 40
Plaça del Sol
Phone: 972 50 31 55
Av. de Rhode, 101
Phone: 972 25 73 31
Castelló d’Empúries, L’Armentera, L’Escala, Palau-saverdera, Pau, Pedret i Marzà, Peralada, Roses, Sant Pere Pescador.