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Santa Pola Salinas
The Santa Pola Salinas (saltworks) nature reserve is 2,470 hectares in size, comprising two working salt factories and an expanse of protected area. The site lies to the Southwest of the town of Santa Pola and is crossed by the N-332 road from Alicante to Torrevieja. This area along with El Hondo used to form a large wetland which was known as the Albufera de Elche, and is known to birders as part of the wider area called the Cabo de Santa Pola. To the south of the Salinas is a separate reserve called El Pinet which preserves an area of the Salinas in its original state.
 Notable Species
The former delta of the River Vinalopo now consists of salt-pans, freshwater pools and reedbeds, saltmarsh and a long sandy beach. Greater Flamingo, Little Egret, Red-crested Pochard and Kentish Plover can be seen throughout the year at the Santa Pola salt-pans. Other residents include Lesser Short-toed Lark, Moustached Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Spotless Starling and Bearded Tit. These are joined in summer by Little Bittern, Squacco Heron and Purple Heron, Marbled Duck, Black-winged Stilt and Gull-billed Tern and Whiskered Tern.
Rarities have occurred with some frequency at the Santa Pola salt-pans and vagrants have included all three phalaropes and Pectoral Sandpiper, Laughing Gull and Royal Tern. Richard's Pipit is now an almost annual winter visitor to the beach area between the sea and the salinas.
Birds you can see here include:
Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Great Cormorant, Mediterranean Shag, Little Bittern, Black-crowned Night Heron, Squacco Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, White Stork, Glossy Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo, Common Shelduck, Eurasian Wigeon, Common Teal, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Garganey, Northern Shoveler, Marbled Duck, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, Common Scoter, Western Marsh-Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Booted Eagle, Osprey, Common Kestrel, Common Quail, Water Rail, Common Moorhen, Eurasian Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Eurasian Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Northern Lapwing, Red Knot, Sanderling, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Ruff, Common Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew, Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Arctic Skua, Little Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Caspian Tern, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Little Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Whiskered Tern, Black Tern, Rock Dove, European Turtle Dove, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Common Kingfisher, European Bee-eater, Eurasian Hoopoe, Greater Short-toed Lark, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Eurasian Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Northern House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Spanish Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Bluethroat, Eurasian Robin, Black Redstart, Common Redstart, Whinchat, European Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Savi's Warbler, Moustached Warbler, Eurasian Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Spectacled Warbler, Blackcap, Wood Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, European Pied Flycatcher, Bearded Tit, Penduline Tit, Woodchat Shrike, Common Starling, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, European Serin, European Greenfinch, European Goldfinch, Eurasian Linnet, Reed Bunting, Corn Bunting
 Other Wildlife
The lagoons contain Mullet, eels and other fish including the "Fartet" or Spanish Pupfish which is endemic to the area. Amphibians are also found in the pools and lagoons, and reptiles live among the coastal sands and other areas of dry land, including the surprisingly large Ocellated Lizard.
 Site Information
 History and Use
The transformation of this area took place in the early 20th century as a consequence of salt exploitation. Seawater is allowed through sluices from the Mediterranean and made to circulate through a succession of reservoirs to attain a gradual concentration of salt which is then gathered after evaporation has taken place. The operation takes place throughout the whole year, which means that the ecosystem is maintained. Birds feed on the fish and invertebrates which occur in the system, and it is said that the salt production benefits from the mineral deposits left by the birds - remember that when you next salt your fish and chips! This is one reason why the area is designated as a nature reserve to guarantee the continued existence of salt production.
 Areas of Interest
The Santa Pola Salt Museum (Museo de la Sal) is housed in a restored former salt mill and has a visitor centre describing the area and salt production. It is suitable for visitors with reduced mobility.
Accommodation is widely available in the area, from hotels to camping sites in Santa Pola, La Marina and Guardamar to the south. As Santa Pola is a busy fishing port, the seafood option in local restaurants is always to be recommended, and there is a small aquarium near the castle in the town centre which is worth a visit.
Santa Pola market on Saturday and Monday mornings is a bargain-hunter's paradise, particularly if you are after cheap shoes and clothing. The fruit and veg stalls are also stocked with high-quality produce.
 Access and Facilities
From Santa Pola the N-332 road gives access to the main part of the Salinas. As you leave Santa Pola going south, on the left is the Salt Museum, where you can park and view the small pool containing many of the birds to be seen in the larger pools further south. On the other side of the road from the museum is a marshy area often containing a good selection of waders.
Proceeding south, opposite a somewhat ramshackle funfair on the left, there is a track which goes off to the right which is worth exploring, and in the winter is good for Bluethroat. Further on, after passing under the gantry of the Bras del Port saltworks, you come to a recently restored tower with a pull-in to the right where you can look over the lakes to see a good selection of the water birds, and cross over the road to view more marsh areas.
There are two further parking areas on the right, but both are unmarked and need caution to enter. The first gives better views of the birds than the tower pull-in, and despite the traffic thundering past you can often obtain spectacular views of the Flamingoes. The second pull-in is opposite the smaller Bonmati saltworks entrance and leads down to an iron gate - this area is often better for waders.
Internal access to the Salinas is not permitted, however most of the birds in the area can be seen from the road.
Warning - the N-332 is a dangerous road to traverse, despite the speed restrictions in force along the whole stretch which are often ignored. Any manoevres should be done with great care. Also you are advised not to leave any valuables in your car.
There is a walk through the seaward side of the Salinas starting at the southern end of Playa Llissa beach in Santa Pola, leading past the old salt quay and the remains of a beached salt barge. You will also find old Spanish Civil War bunkers and at the end of the route the drainage channel where the remains of the saltworks water are channelled back to the sea. You should note that parts of this area are used by nudist bathers, so your binoculars may be viewed with suspicion!
 External Links
Content and images originally posted by Mark Etheridge