Rivers and Waters
The main watercourse of Stage 1 is the Guadalmedina River, which crosses the walk at the very start of the journey. Originally the river was known as the Río de la Ciudad, the City River, and indeed Málaga has been built on both sides of it. The river reaches the sea in the western part of the port, practically in the city centre. Málaga and its river have shared a difficult past and despite recent efforts, there is still no solution of how to integrate the river into the modern city combining conservation and exploitation.
The Guadalmedina has its source in the Sierra de Camarolos in Central Limestone Arch, El Arco Calizo Central, and flows south along the Natural Park of the Montes de Málaga on its left side. This Natural Protected Area was created when pine trees were planted as part of a reforestation and water conservation plan, which also included construction of dams and two reservoirs: El Agujero and El Limonero.
The plan was triggered by the violent flooding in September 23, 1907, which resulted in many deaths and extensive property damage. This was just one of the last in the series of events caused by deforestation. An additional problem was the necessity to abandon the hillside plots dedicated to vine growing due to the epidemic of phylloxera. Growing vines was the main force behind the nineteenth century Málaga´s economy, with additional profits coming from marketing as well as selling the main product. Today the whole length of Guadalmedina is channelled as it crosses Málaga and the river harbours small numbers of fish where it is deep enough. This does not always happen as the river climbs for nearly 50 kilometres. The river runs through fragments of galleried woods, remnants of what the river banks should look like. From the bridge across the access motorway to the port, between Puente del Carmen and the railroad, it is easy to find large mullet fish browsing around in the still waters of the delta as well as some sea birds seemingly not bothered by the traffic noise.
Other watercourses which cross the Gran Senda de Málaga at this stage are smaller, however they form an integral part of the city’s fabric.
El Arroyo Toquero flows into the sea at La Caleta and it is barely perceptible to the walker. Next you will pass by the Arroyo Jaboneros, which comes from Los Montes de Málaga. The riverbed is quite wide; however there has still been some fl ooding, especially during torrential rains. From the bridge across the stream you can make out in the distance El Monte San Antón, a limestone outcrop which is quite iconic to the “malagueños”. There are a few reed beds and small clumps of tamarisk here and there; little more can be sustained in the stream delta due to its entirely urban character. The bank of the watercourse is used as a footpath, the PRA-119 and a place to stroll or walk your dog.
El Arroyo de Gálica, its waters significantly reduced during the summer season, flows into the sea at the El Palo beaches, while the Judío stream ends at the Peñon del Cuervo. Both streams trickle off the shale slopes that the Autovía del Mediterráneo motorway cuts through; this gives the names of the streams some exposure, as the high road bridges have been named after them.
El Arroyo Totalán marks the end of Stage 1 of the walk and the start of the city limits of Rincón de la Victoria. It is quite a long watercourse which comes from the Totalán village (named after the stream) in the Axarquía region and then flows through the district of the Málaga province area called Olías. The vegetation along the stream delta consists of thick cane and of some tree copses upstream. On the right bank of the delta, bordered by the N-340 road, there are a few reddish limestone outcrops whose origins partially stem from cliffs shaped by marine environment and gullies carved out by flowing water. The outcrops have been used by a rock climbing school.
Finally, it is noteworthy that the Gran Senda de Málaga passes over, from time to time, waste water channels leading from Málaga city. The proximity of houses to the coast calls for the use of 26 pump stations to carry the waste water up to the two main water treatment facilities situated on the left bank of the Guadalhorce (quite close to the start of Stage 1) and at the Peñon del Cuervo (km 13.3) about a kilometre inland along the Arroyo del Judío valley. Drinking water management in Málaga is completed at the main stations for drinking water Estaciones Potabilizadores El Atabal, Limoneros y Pilones, which store drinking water mainly from the three El Chorro reservoirs, from La Viñuela in La Axarquía and the Concepcion one in Marbella.
The first stage of the walk takes you along the coastline of Malaga and, partially, Rincón de la Victoria municipal areas, and because of that the predominant species here are the ones adapted to living in an urban environment, as well as the species associated with the coast. The cities and villages, places which do not lack biodiversity, make for an ideal settings to familiarise yourself in detail with some of the bird species of your interest and to discover behaviour patterns difficult to find in other types of environment. Some species have adapted to living together with humans to the point where they practically depend on us to be able to survive.
One could say that the urban landscape offers a great number of microhabitats which are used by species with different ecological requirements. The Malaga Park harbours typically forest-dwelling birds which can also be found in the best-preserved woods in the province. The cathedral resembles a sheer cliff and serves as a breeding spot for typical mountain dwellers such as the Peregrine Falcon. Malaga port and the beaches where this stage of the walk takes you serve as a resting place for a great quantity of marine and shore birds along their migration voyages.
Without a doubt the typically urban and coastal species play the leading part at this stage. Among the coastal species the Great Cormorants and Grey Herons deserve a mention. They frequent Malaga coast, especially the area of Pedregalejo and El Palo, attracted by the food source provided by the breeding enclosures containing Gilt-head Bream and Sea Bass at the Chanquete beach.
As far as birds of prey are concerned, the Booted Eagle needs to be mentioned, an increasingly usual bird around the port and Gibralfaro during winter months, and the Common Kestrel and Peregrine Falcon in the vicinity of Malaga Park and Wharf One. At the beginning of the stage there are factory chimneys, witnesses to the industrial past of Malaga city. They serve as regular perches for the Peregrine Falcons which nest at the cathedral and use the mouth of Guadalhorce river to find food. At the Plaza del Obispo below the nest at the cathedral tower it is not unusual to find remains of waders and other birds which were used to feed the Peregrine chicks.
The Yellow-legged, Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls are very frequent, mainly in winter, together with Sandwich Tern and waders such as Sanderling and Turnstone. The Sandwich Terns are quite easy to identify as they tend to gather on the same shore, following the rhythm of the waves as they seek out small invertebrates and try to avoid getting their little legs wet, this way creating a continuous in and out movement. In winter, with the help of binoculars and/or a telescope you can watch skuas following the gulls to steal their food and albatrosses diving hard into the water to fish. The domesticated variety of Rock Dove and Collared Dove can be seen along the entire stretch of the itinerary, though the major concentrations of them happen in the area of Malaga port where they find food easily.
In spring and summer at this stage of the walk Pallid and Common Swifts constantly fly across the sky, with each incessant movement greatly reducing the number of flying insects in the environment (thousands of swifts consume a daily amount of insects which is far from negligible). Notable passerines are the swallows, Common Swift, White Wagtail, Blackbird and Robin, Common Chiffchaff, Sardinian Warbler, Great Tit, Raven, Spotless (year round) and Common Starling (during winter season), House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Serin and Greenfinch.
A species which has recently joined the urban birdlife of Spain, and which you will doubtlessly hear and see during the first stage of the walk, is the Monk Parakeet, increasingly more abundant all along the province´s coast. This is a bird originating in South America, which has managed to form a population thanks to being released or escaping, and it is a species which is currently expanding.