BirdLife: The Magazine Apr-Jun 2018 - Page 42

Salt of the earth A surprising solution to the decline of migratory birds and sustainable rural development in Andalucía, Spain, is found in a link between culture and nature: food. All that’s needed is a sprinkle of passion (and salt) By Shaun Hurrell Osprey Photo Salarte 7 Saltpans and lagoons: a flamingo haven Photo Julian Hoffman 7 Looking for spoonbills Photo Salarte 7 Traditional saltworker, Bay of Cádiz Photo Salarte 7 ays of sunlight break through a cloud of dark orange dust as the trundling van’s door slides open. It doesn’t feel right to be driving along in an enclosed box, and despite the dust, the warm air is a welcome link with the outside. And what a sight: pink hues in the lagoon’s water, rustling plants, and a blue sky that hums with the presence of birds. More species than some have ever seen in their lives, in fact. In just one glance there’s the clumsy patter of flamingo feet warily moving away, the blacks and whites of Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris, spoonbills, avocets, and countless shorebirds bobbing on the breeze-nudged salty water, whilst two Ospreys Pandion haliaetus eye the whole vista from above. It’s an idyllic scene, somewhere near Doñana National Park in south-western R Spain; surely it’s in a nature reserve. Juan Martín’s voice shocks the tranquility: “Here there are birds because there are saltpans.” Saltpans: large flat areas where seawater is pumped and slowly evaporated in man-made basins of increasing salinity to produce sea salt, at artisanal or industrial scales. You imagine an extreme, barren land of white crystals, not a bird haven, but Juan Martín’s words are trustworthy. He’s a trained ecologist, bird- guide author, ex-Director of the Natural Parks Administration, and has now cast himself a tough life of dedication, to birds, nature, rural development and ecotourism through his NGO, Salarte (which works closely with SEO/BirdLife). After just a brief chat in a van, he’ll enrapture you with his vision for the region of Andalucía: