This national park, 19 Kms away from Antequera to the north of Malaga, has been declared of special interest for its birds, as well as hosting a beautiful lagoon, the biggest in Spain (2.5 Kms wide and 6.5 Kms long). It’s a paradise for birds with almost 170 different species.
Apart from its abundant aquatic fauna, this lagoon is very well-known for its flamingo population, the second biggest colony after the French, and the only region in the whole continent where they breed.
In Roman times, salt was extracted from these wetlands and the flamingos were hunted for their tongues, which were considered a delicacy. In 1930, a company that exploited the lake’s salt wanted to get rid of the flamingo population, but luckily the lagoon’s ecological value was finally published and it became a magnet for bird watchers and naturists.
If you visit the lagoon, the best spots are: the Cerro del Palo viewpoint and any spot along the Sendero de la Vicaria (the path of the vicarage).
Here we’ll find halophytic plants (those adapted to a saltwater habitats) in abundance. Amongst many others, we’ll also find saltwort, Mediterranean brushwood and African tamarisks. There are freshwater reeds and rushes by the side of an old canal. All these plants form the basis of the ecosystem of the lake and its surrounding area, and upon which the aquatic bird life survives. Beyond the lake shores are holm oaks and wild olive trees, along with Mediterranean scrub.
From late February onwards, thousands of flamingos fly in and and build nests on the small island on the lake. By the end of April or beginning of May, the flamingo chicks appear beside their parents to wade in the shallow waters of the lake and learn to feed. In midsummer, the flamingos and their chicks migrate to Africa or to other sites in Andalucía, like the saltpans in the Marismas de Odiel, Cabo de Gata or Bahía de Cadiz.
Many protected species fly to this place to spend a milder winter. From November to February, the visitors can see hundreds of waterfowl species that congregate in this area, like cranes, grey herons,black-necked grebes, great crested grebes, teals, mallards, shovelers, red-crested pochards, white-headed ducks, marbled ducks, wigeons and flamingos.
As well as the flamingos, there’s a wide variety of birds in Fuente de Piedra all year round. There’s a water canal surrounding the lagoon that attracts other species like avocets, Montagu harriers, black kites, etc., while in the surrounding areas of this canal we’ll find species like bee-eaters, crested larks, yellow wagtails, stone curlews, great grey shrikes and hoopoes.
There are also a great number of reptiles like lizards and snakes.
There’s an information centre (952 111 715) at the Cerro del Palo. There’s plenty of information available on the lagoon, a lot of which is audio-visual. There are also guided visits to observe the birds and other wildlife of the lagoon...but are only organised during the periods in which the lagoon contains water.
Take the A-45 turnoff to the north of Malaga and then the A-92 towards Seville. Fuente de Piedra is located near the exit and the information centre is located between the village and the lagoon.