The Bonanza salinas are rightly celebrated as one of the region's premier birding localities, a hotspot for waders, gulls and terns. When first I ventured this way five decades ago the entrance was gated but, although we didn't know it at the time, you could ask permission to enter. By the time I returned in the early 2000s access was unrestricted you could drive across the middle of the salinas viewing the waders, gulls and terns as you did so. When you reached the T-junction at the end of the track, you could turn right and drive c1km up to a small pumping station from which you could get still better views across the expanse of salinas and even more birds. Then in **** a barrier appeared across the start of this route. It didn't last long and was soon wrecked. So for years, I and many other birders happily drove up the track to the small white building.
However, when I return this year (2022) I found the track across the centre in excellent condition but discovered a far more robust gate than hitherto on the side turning up to the pumping station. It was open but we decided not to risk driving to the far end of the track. Later driving back past the gate our caution seemed justified as it was now firmly padlocked. So it seems that the owners no longer allow cars to drive up to the pumping station. However, the situation regarding pedestrians seems less clear. Unlike a barrier that briefly appeared here in 2009 and many other side tracks today, there are no signs forbidding access. There's also a well beaten path around the gate which was being used by mopeds/scoters and, quite probably, pedestrians. What this means for access to birdwatchers is unclear but I'd now be loathe to risk driving along this track. Walking may be permitted but it's a long 2 km round trip on a hot day!
Deciding not to risk driving up this turning we proceeded towards the river. The track here was in a poor condition and whilst you could drive down to the river, it seemed unwise to do so given the ruts, slippery surface and, at one point, a narrowed track being eroded by water. The track on the right running parallel to the river was in a similarly poor state too. It's hard to imagine that back in 2011 I drove a hire car along this track past the Observatorio de Bonanza and then on to Trebujena.
Nearby, the water in the nearby Lagunas de Camino Colorado (aka Bonanza Pools) was lower than usual for early spring but not as bad as I feared and the pools still held a dozen White-headed Duck and a couple of Marbled Teal. The extensive muddy margins however were good for waders which included 5 Temminck’s Stint (my first Spanish record of this species). The really good news is that after a campaign by Ecologistas en Acción this unprepossessing but excellent site is now officially protected (although what that means in practise is another thing!).
It’s always been surprising that the narrow poorly maintained road along the Guadalquivir to Trebujena merits official designation as the CA 9027. Unfortunately, it continues to degrade and now needs some care to negotiate but the good news is that this has slowed the traffic down.
The route has now sprouted some handsome tiled information points and a shelter for cyclists.
However, the development of ornitho-tourism here seems to have stalled or at least not given the same priority as attractive tilework. The gateway though which I could see information boards which I optimistically hoped was infrastructure for better access for birders is now boarded over (thus restricting the view), adorned with 'Keep Out' notices and some of the information boards seem to have disappeared. A disappointment. Further along the track the small reserve area with pools and hides (where the road turns inland) was also closed with more signs that it's private. The sign announcing its temporary closure ("cerrado temporalmente"), that during the bird breeding season the reserve will remain closed and apologising for the inconvenience ("Debido al periodo de cria las aves, la finca permanecera Disculpen las molestias") which is fine but it does look (as I have been told) that the sign's been there for some time ... This isn’t a great problem as viewing from the road is good but as a former field-teacher I hate to see the opportunity of educating and informing the public apparently so under-used.
Happily, the track by Cortijo de Alventus was dryso easy to drive along but less happily we missed a Pin-tailed Sandgrouse here by minutes (although it’s good to know that they persist in the area).
About me ...
Hi I'm John Cantelo. I've been birding seriously since the 1960s when I met up with some like minded folks (all of us are still birding!) at Taunton's School in Southampton. I have lived in Kent , where I taught History and Sociology, since the late 1970s. In that time I've served on the committees of both my local RSPB group and the county ornithological society (KOS). I have also worked as a part-time field teacher for the RSPB at Dungeness. Having retired I now spend as much time as possible in Alcala de los Gazules in SW Spain. When I'm not birding I edit books for the Crossbill Guides series.