Rivers and Waters
The existence of so many water courses with considerable flow is due to the presence of Sierra Bermeja. All the important rivers that the traveller has the opportunity to meet at this stage have their origin in the mass of red coloured peridotite rocks. The Río Verde is the longest; it is followed by the three “sister rivers”: Guadalmansa, Guadalmina and Guadaiza. One shouldn´t jump to conclusions about the volume of the watercourses by looking at what amount of water arrives at the beach, at the river mouths; the first river is regulated higher up by a reservoir which supplies this part of the Costa del Sol with water, and the other three are connected to the whole river network through draining channels that contribute to the Río Verde.
The other rivers and streams have no dams to regulate their courses, although they do suffer losses in the fl ow due to irrigation; similar phenomenon used to occur with the watermills in the past. All of them constitute a separate watershed, the basin of the western Costa del Sol which should be treated as a separate entity, and is situated between those of the Guadalhorce and Guadiaro.
The prevailing vegetation around the streams usually consists of reed beds so dense at times that are can completely block the watercourse. Around large rivers there are poplars and tamarisks accompanied by reeds, bulrushes and cattails. The large pools at the mouths of the rivers, where the fresh water temporarily blends with seawater, are quite important as they offer conditions that lead to the greater diversity of aquatic fauna. This is a known fact to the anglers who come to river mouths in search of predatory fi sh, mostly sea bass, as they like to prowl here at night.
The Padrón, Castor, Guadalmansa and Guadalmina rivers are places declared to be "of European Community Interest” (LIC, Lugares de Interes Comunitario) that is, they receive a special recognition at a European level thanks to their representative ecological values. Each of these zones has an area slightly bigger than 8.30 hectares. One of the species which was behind the special recognition is the European Otter. A large population of these animals usethe beaches as connecting channels between the natural corridors of the banks of the rivers, which actually are very close to one another.
Obviously, given the permanent nature of the watercourses and the river mouth backwaters, the fi sh population is also signifi cant and, similarly, the population of ducks and kingfi shers. It is recommended that you walk through these sites quietly and you should be able to see ducks, Moorhens and herons quite easily.
Guadaiza River and Río Verde are also LICs, with the area of 9 and 108 hectares, respectively, representing the last rivers with headwaters situated in the metamorphic rocks which you walk through at this stage. Other streams have a very meagre fl ow and form part of the “urban maelstrom”, thus losing the environmental appeal that characterizes the previous watercourses.
The Sea Bed
Speaking of the richness of the coast: the traveller has the opportunity to start the tour in another place of Community Interest called The Sea Bed of the Bay of Estepona (Fondos Marinos de la Bahia de Estepona, 552 has) and pass through another, El Saladillo - Punta de Baños (1755 has). Both areas have been declared of to be of European Community signifi cance because of the existence of vast prairies of Posidonia oceanica, a plant exclusively found in the Mediterranean and which has its westernmost population in the Straits. The meadows of Posidonia are the greatest example of plants which can settle on sandy sea bed, stabilizing it and providing refuge for numerous zoological species.
One of the conservation efforts that have been successful in preservation of the coastline and sea bed is the integral purifi cation of waste water. In an area such as the western Costa del Sol this is a tricky issue which, with hindsight, should have been resolved sooner. The complications are caused by the extension of narrow and oblong-shaped populated areas and their high density with hot spots of highly polluting activities. Above all, the biggest problem is the close proximity of houses to the coastline.
Because of all the above-mentioned factors, there is no choice but to transport the wastewater along the beaches themselves. The Great Málaga Path walker will have a chance to observe many inspection covers and pumping stations; the latter are necessary due to the lack of natural incline at the beach. One of the stations is on the left bank of the river Guadalmansa, little more than one mile from the path, cleaning up 35,000 m3 of water per day and providing service to over 140,000 people.
This stage covers exclusively beach environment and inhabited areas. Some sections run along beach promenades, paseos marítimos, and on occasion cross some of the many housing developments in the area and their well-developed stands of pine. Both the rivers and the still persisting remnants of dune systems add in diversity to the list of species you can observe at Stage 30.
Stage 30 starts at the beach promenade Paseo Marítimo de Estepona, because of that you can see marine birds and shore birds from the very first moment, plus birds typical of inhabited areas. Urban birds can be seen practically along the whole itinerary of Stage 30, due to the presence of housing developments built very close to the first line of the beach.
In winter the abundance of birds at the beach is higher and the gatherings of gulls can reach large numbers. The most frequently seen species are the Lesser Black-backed, Yellow-legged, Black-headed, Mediterranean and Audouin´s Gull; during migration periods you can also find Slender-billed and Little Gull. Winter storms can bring, with a bit of luck, the Black-legged Kittiwake. Occasionally, also in winter, there are some individuals of the Great Black-backed Gull, a giant among Spanish gulls. Using a telescope and spending some time, you may see a few individuals of the Great Skua and the Arctic Skua in flight, chasing gulls.
The alcidae family is represented by the Razorbill in winter, either in small groups or single individuals, and using a telescope you may be able to see Puffins. It is a known fact that there are wintering Common Murres (Guillemots) along the coast as sometimes beached individuals turn up after great storms. The alcidae family is linked to gulls and waders (Order Charadriiformes), which are seem similar to penguins and which occupy a similar trophic niche as penguins but their taxonomy is not related.
You will be able to see terns, also closely related to gulls; the Sandwich Tern is noteworthy in winter, and it announces its presence with constant screeching. This tern´s characteristic feature is a black beak with a yellow tip. It is worth paying attention to this “chap” during migration periods as there is a possibility it might turn out to be a Lesser Crested Tern, also with black legs but with an orange beak. This bird is still considered a rarity but tends to be more and more frequent.
Black and Whiskered Terns are also common on migration passages, as well as the Little Tern, which indeed is the smallest of the family. Other species associated with the coastline are Black-necked Grebe, Cory´s and Balearic Shearwater, Northern Gannet, Great Cormorant, Common Scoter, Osprey, Oystercatcher, Black-winged Stilt, the three species of plovers (Common Ringed, Little Ringed and Kentish) Sanderling, Curlew, Whimbrel and Turnstone. Out of the mentioned birds, the Northern Gannet is especially noteworthy with its spectacular dives in search of fish; also Turnstone and Common Sandpipers which keep you company along some sections, always staying between the water´s edge and the beach.
The stage crosses many rivers and streams, for example Padrón, del Castor, Velerín, Guadalmansa, del Saladillo, Guadalmina, Guadaiza, Verde and Guadalpín at the end. This makes it possible to see river birds as well as birds which use watercourses to rest during their migration journeys. For a birdwatcher it is worth making a detour to visit one of the river mouths at the times when water is available, and be able to get close to such species as Mallard, Great Cormorant, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Common Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Kingfisher, Bee-eater, Grey Wagtail, Nightingale, Cetti´s Warbler, Reed Warbler, Penduline Tit and Golden Oriole, as well as migratory birds during passage periods. The river mouth of Río Guadalmansa is a good spot, where a large patch of brambles attracts a great quantity of migrants.
Finally, urban birds present in the town centres along the stage are worth a mention; their list is quite extensive, especially that many urban areas contain pine tree formations which can sometimes compare with a wood, plus, there are also orchards and vegetable gardens. The most frequently seen species are Common Kestrel, Monk Parakeet, Wood Pigeon, Rock Dove, Turtle Dove, Turtle and Collared Dove, Barn Owl, Scops Owl, Little Owl, Red-necked Nightjar, Common and Pallid Swifts, Hoopoe, Wryneck, Crested Lark, Barn and Red-rumped Swallow, Crag and House Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, European Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Common Blackbird, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Firecrest, Spotted Flycatcher, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Crested Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Woodchat Shrike, Spotless and Common Starling, House Sparrow, Common Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Crossbill, Rock Bunting and Corn Bunting.