Park birds’ birth­day blues

Costa Blanca News (South Edition) - - News - [email protected]

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

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