Park birds’ birthday blues
By Alex Watkins EL HONDO is marking 30 years since it was declared a natural park, but ecologists from the friends of the south Alicante wetlands association say there is nothing to celebrate.
The latest regional environment department census of birds nesting in the park shows the continuing decline in the number of breeding pairs over the last few years. They record the lowest numbers in the park’s history, from 8,932 pairs of 33 species in 2015, to 863 of 26 species in 2018 - a drop of 90% in just three years.
For the AHSA, the most worrying is the white-headed duck, which is classified as in danger of extinction and used El Hondo as one of its principal refuges in Europe.
Its numbers in the park have dropped from 85 breeding pairs in 2015 to just three in 2018.
Other birds that used to be plentiful, such as the blacknecked grebe, which had 1,972 pairs and the whiskered tern, which had 602, stopped nesting in the park in 2017.
Even species which are plentiful in local wetlands – such as the common pochard, little grebe and Eurasian coot – have also lost over 90% of their breeding population.
The AHSA has repeatedly warned that the decline is being caused by the overpopulation of common carp in the wetlands, about which no effective action has yet been taken.
The common carp is one of the 100 most damaging invasive species in the world, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The recently published regional government plan to control the carp did not even mention the need to install devices along waterways to prevent more carp from entering the park, nor the possibility of draining the reservoirs, even though this tactic has been successfully employed there before.
The ecologists pointed out that El Hondo has managed to overcome very complicated situations before, such as pollution of its waters, bird die-offs and its reservoirs drying up.
However, they assured that although the carp problem is also complicated, the regional government can still make the necessary means available to restore balance to the ecosystem of this emblematic wetland.
For a list of free 30th anniversary activities at El Hondo this weekend (December 1-2), see the What’s On section.
Flamingoes in El Hondo