La Janda, formerly amongst the most important wetlands in the Mediterranean Basin, was drained during the second half of the last century. A telltale sign of its past ornithological relevance can be found in nearby Palaeolithic cave paintings in “El Tajo de las Figuras”which show large concentrations of birds. Likewise, accounts by the 19th Century British naturalist Howard L. Irby in his reference work “The ornithology of the strait of Gibraltar” (1895) evoke the period of splendour in La Janda. Nowadays, despite its transformation into agricultural land, the region still holds outstanding bird populations. This is especially true during the migration and overwintering period. Birding off the beaten tracks in La Janda is certain to be rewarding, and offers unparalleled opportunities for wildlife photography.
Birding in La Janda
Spanish Imperial Eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Montagu’s Harrier, Hen Harrier (even a few Pallid Harriers every winter since 2011!), Black-winged Kite, Short-eared Owl, Purple Swamphen, Collared Pratincole, Great Spotted Cuckoo and Spanish Sparrow are some of the most interesting species in La Janda. The last Great Bustard disappeared from La Janda at the beginning of the current century. However, its smaller relative, the Little Bustard, still breeds and winters in the quietest fields. The large extensions of flooded rice paddies attract sizeable numbers of Storks and Egrets. These include species such as: White Stork, Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Purple Heron, Squacco Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron and Great Egret. With luck you can even find Bitterns!
Besides the rice crops, the sunflower seeds scattered on the ground after harvesting are a precious food source. The colourful flocks of Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Serins and Linnets conveniently feed on them. Moreover, La Janda is the southernmost wintering quarter for hundreds of gloriously trumpeting northern European Cranes.
Other wildlife and Status of Protection
Equally remarkable is the abundant presence, during the warmest period of the year, of the inquisitive Banded Groundling. This is one of the rarest dragonflies in Europe. This former lagoon has been included in the Spanish inventory of IBA (nº 257). However, it is not on the catalogue of Special Protection Area for Birds (SPA). The achievement of a legal figure of protection in conformity with the natural values of La Janda, along with the restoration of lost habitats, is a dream for every local birder!