jueves, 27 de junio de 2013

Wind over the Salt Flats - Saladas de Chiprana

Sunday 9th June 2013. When the weather gets really tough, we have to go south for our adventures. Today we've found the only window of not-rain in all of Aragón.   It's sunny for the first part of our journey, but we get lost and take nearly an hour longer than planned. By the time we arrive at the Ermita de San Marcos, located just alongside the single track Madrid-Zaragoza railway line.

The plan is a day out at the seaside.   A seaside surrounded by wheat fields, across the border, just inside the province of Zaragoza

The Salt Flats of Chiprana - Las Saladas de Chiprana. This is a Natural Reserve, and I've read it's the only type of its kind in Western Europe - though I don't understand the tecnical-speak: talks of "endorreica", which I think means that there is no superficial exit for the (salt) water via rivers, for example.  The reserve (declared as such since 2006) comprises a lake of all-year-round (or permanent) salt water - some 31 hectares and up to 5.6m deep - and some smaller periferal lagoons.

Despite the wind and cold, the sound of seagulls make us feel as if we are by the sea. Infact we are very close to El Mar de Aragón (The Aragón Sea) otherwise known as  the Embalse de Mequinenza: A man-made reservoir on the River Ebro, covering some 7,540 hectares, the biggest in Aragón.

It's one of just two places on the Spanish mainland that you'll find the plant Clypeola Cyclodontea, while water-birdlife includes:-

* tadorna tadorna, or common shell duck
* charadrius alexandrinus, or Kentish Plover
* podicipediae, grebes
* himantopus, black wing or common stilt
And on the wing, the * circus aeruginosus or Western marsh harrier.

* With apologies for my spanish-latin-english translations.

But today at the salt flat beneath a grey sky, it's spitting now and we won't be seeing more than the seagull or a duck or two. 

The circuit (signposted near the Ermita) takes just over an hour, all on the flat. A couple of bird-hides allow a slightly closer view of the bird life, but only the final section, "El Calzado Romano", literally "Roman Road", gets us up nearly to the waters edge, between old olive groves and tamarind bushes.
To get here:  5km from the village of Chiprana (near Caspe), take the A-221 in direccion Escatron (west) and just after crossing a bridge over a tongue of the "Embalse de Mechinenza" there is a turning on the left, onto a dirt track, (reasonable condition for a non-4x4 car).
Signs at this turning are not visible when approaching from the Chiprana direction. And if you're looking up the place in Guia Repsol, there is another Chiprana in the south of Spain, (Huelva)!
A solitary Cigüeñuela Himantopus mexicanus

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