Where to watch Mediterranean Gulls in Galiza (NW Iberian Peninsula). [C.D. Romai Cousido]
Ria da Coruña area
General details :Coruña is one of the most important cities in the NW Iberia, and the second top city in Galiza (150,000 inhabitants). It has a important port for several activities, including its oil industry (with continuous presence of oil tankers), fishing boats and also for timber merchants. A Coruña is also knowed for its beaches (Riazor, Orzán), its benign climate, its food (shellfish and fish) and also for its football team (Deportivo).
Just S of the city, we can see the big, open estuary of the river Mero, knowed as Ria da Coruña, the main feeding area for Med Gulls. Its innermost part (Ria do Burgo) it's situated in the municipality of Culleredo, only 6 km. S from the urban centre of Coruña, being naturally protected by the beach of Santa Cristina, a knowed touristical centre. Close to the Ria do Burgo, it's a important cosmetic industry ('La Toja'), and also a well-developed hotel industry.
During autumn and winter it's a good point to observe some species of grebes, wildfowl, gulls and waders.
Mediterranean Gull suitable season and area :Med Gulls are observed in the area between July and April, with maximum numbers between October and March. Wintering population is estimated around 90-100 birds, being the most important wintering point for this species in Galiza.
Such numbers are obtained not in the feeding grounds of the Ria da Coruña and Ria do Burgo (green line in the map, here below), but in the impressive night roost in the tyre-dyke of the marina of San Anton, near the castle and the urban centre of Coruña (blue line in the map). There, Med Gulls rest in the night with hundreds of gulls and terns; a good chance to observe colour-ringed individuals.
In the Ria da Coruña, good numbers of Mediterranean Gulls are observed next to or in the middle of Black-headed (Larus ridibundus) and Yellow-legged Gulls (Larus michahellis).
There's also a good chance to observed some birds at the beach of Santa Cristina, swimming in the sea, resting in the sand or, in the evening, flying N with other gulls towards the night roost of San Anton.
How to reach CoruñaThere are good roads to Coruña, e.g. the A9 highway directly into the urban area (from Santiago de Compostela, Vigo and the Portuguese border), the A6 (E70) highway from Lugo, Benavente and Madrid, and N-550 from Santiago, Vigo, etc.
There's no problem to reach the night roost of San Anton (just follow the road-signs to 'Avenida de la Marina' and then, to 'Castillo de San Anton' or 'Náutico').
Ria do Burgo is also easy to reach: follow the road-signs to Culleredo from the urban centre of Coruña; in 7 km. you'll reach the urban centre of Culleredo, and, there, follow the main road to 'Betanzos', facing the medieval bridge. This bridge is a perfect sighting point to observe dozens of Med Gulls and other birds.
Island of Arousa (Ilha de Arousa)
General details :The island of Arousa is situated in SW Galiza, in the area knowed as 'Rias Baixas', just in the middle of the Ria de Arousa.
It has a small size (less than 20 km2), and it's knowed as a quite, beautiful touristical centre, because of this beaches and shellfish. There's a natural reserve in the southern half of the island, with suitable areas for waders and gulls. The main town (San Julian) is in the NW part of the island, and has a small port.
Access to the island is easy by its 2 km-long bridge over the Ria de Arousa.
Mediterranean Gull suitable season and area :Med Gulls are observed in the area between October and April, with maximum numbers coinciding with irruptive birds after sea-gales in autumn (possible wintering area in the sea or even in the outermost part of the Ria de Arousa); it's possible to observe 50-60 birds along the coast in autumn, but most birds are observed in two main nuclei: islets just W of the island (knowed as Xidoiros), and area of the bridge, in the E shore. Wintering population is estimated around 20-25 birds.
Mediterranean Gulls are observed next to or in the middle of Black-headed (Larus ridibundus) and Yellow-legged Gulls (Larus michahellis), feeding in the sea or in the rocky islets. Some individuals prefer to feed in the small, productive beaches among waders and gulls.
How to reach the island of ArousaThere's an unique bridge to the island (not show in the map, despite it was made in the late 70s), and you must to take the C-550 to visit the area. The island of Arousa is in the middle of the Ria, not far away from cities like Santiago de Compostela or Pontevedra.
VISITING THE AREA: From Santiago, just take the road N-550 to Padron and Pontevedra, and, in the town of Ponte-Cesures (20 km. from Santiago), take the turn-off in a roundabout (traffic-circle) to get the C-550 to Vilagarcia and Cambados. Follow the road for 35 km. (you'll cross the towns of Catoira, Vilagarcia and the surroundings of Vila Nova de Arousa), and, in a big roundabout, there is a road-sign to the 'Illa de Arousa'. The suitable area for Med Gulls is found in the shoreline near the bridge and also in the W coast of the island
Combarro - Lourido area
General details :Combarro is a coastal, touristical village (5,000 inhabitants) in the municipality of Poio, in the innermost part of the Ria de Pontevedra.
It's famous for this traditional architecture in the old, small urban centre, near the coast. Traditional 'hórreos' (small sheds for storing corn), built with blocks of stone just in the shore, are well-knowed along the country.
Most of their people depend on tourism and fishing, being also mussel's culture in 'bateas' very important for the town.
Lourido is a small village (1,000 inhabitats) close to the city of Pontevedra, with economy depending on agriculture and fishing activities.
Mediterranean Gull suitable season and area :Med Gulls are observed in Combarro and Lourido between July and April, with maximum numbers in late-July and August (passage, up to 40 birds) and also between December and January. Wintering population is estimated around 20-30 birds.
Suitable areas are the sandy banks found in front of these villages, where Mediterranean Gulls are observed only during low tide. There, Med Gulls are found mixed with hundreds of Black-headed Gulls (Larus ridibundus), Yellow-legged (Larus michahellis) and Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Larus graellsii), feeding on shellfish and other marine invertebrates. Sadly, there's an evident pollution in the area, due to the nearby paper factory of ENCE and the electrochemical factory of ELNOSA. Alarming concentrations of mercury (the highest in Europe) are detected in the surroundings of the gulls' feeding area…
Mussel platforms (bateas) in front of Combarro are the main resting points for Med Gulls during high tide.
How to reach Combarro and LouridoThe C-550 is the only road to reach the area; however, the A9 highway passes by close to Lourido (in the Pontevedra surroundings).
1.- From Pontevedra, take the C-550 to Poio, Sanxenxo and A Toxa. You must to drive 6-7 km. W, and when you reach San Salvador de Poio (just 4 km. before Combarro urban centre), you have to take the turn-off to Campelo in left-hand side of the road. The road is narrow onwards, always downhill. In 2 km. you will reach a small port (port of Campelo). The extreme of the mole is a good point to observe Med Gulls in the sandy banks or swimming in the sea and, between December and March, up to 25-30 Black-necked Grebes (Podiceps nigricollis), some Red-breasted Mergansers (Mergus serrator), dozens of Black Scoters (Melanitta nigra), Red-throated Loons (Gavia stellata) and hundreds of gulls and waders. If you follow the road, facing SE, you will see a small picnic area with pines and a small beach and, in the other side of the bay, the big factories of ENCE and ELNOSA. During low tide, the big, sandy banks are plenty of gulls, with a good chance to observe Med Gulls.
2.- From Combarro urban centre, you must to drive W to Pontevedra. In 4 km., you'll pass by, at right-hand side of the road, a big pavilion and a football pitch. In only 500 meters you will pass upon a small river and the road starts to get uphill. As soon as you see the beginning of the town of San Salvador de Poio, you must to take the turn-off to Campelo, in right-hand side.
Cangas - Moaña area
General details :Cangas do Morrazo is a coastal village (15,000 inhabitats), situated in the SW corner of Galiza and in the N shore of the Ria de Vigo.
Moaña (11,000) is just 10 km. W from Cangas, situated also in the N shore of the Ria de Vigo.
Cangas and Moaña are both sailor's villages; most of their people depend directly on fishing activities and mussel's culture in platforms ('bateas'). There are good beaches in Moaña (plenty of people during summer-time).
Mediterranean Gull suitable season and area :Med Gulls are observed in Cangas and Moaña between August and April, with maximum numbers between October and January. Increasing number of individuals remain all the summer in the area (10-20 per year, but up to 50 in 2001).
Wintering population is estimated around 70-80 birds, with a maximum number of birds (110) recorded recently. It's knowed that some birds from Baiona and Samil fly N to Cangas and Moaña and vice versa. Night roost for birds of Cangas and Moaña is found 20 km. SW, in the Baiona bay.
Suitable area is the tidal shoreline found between these towns, being that in front of Moaña the best area for Med Gulls. In Cangas do Morrazo, Meds are observed only during lowest tide, perhaps during one or two hours per day. Birds in Moaña are found more regularly. Punta Balea and the mussels platforms (bateas), both in front of Cangas and Moaña, are the main resting points for Med Gulls (during high tide).
How to reach Cangas and MoañaThe C-550 is the only road to reach Moaña and Cangas; however, the A9 highway passes by close to Moaña, and reaching these cities would be very easy and quick by road.
1.- From Vigo, take the A9 highway northwards, following the blue road-signs to "Pontevedra". In 8 km., you will pass by the big, stunning bridge of Rande, over the Ria de Vigo. As soon as you pass it, you must to take the unique turn-off to Moaña and Cangas in the right hand side of the road (there's a good road-signing). Then you must to follow the road (C-550) for 12-15 km. to Moaña and 10 km. more to Cangas.
2.- From Pontevedra, take the A9 to Vigo and, in 20 km., take the same turn-off before the bridge of Rande.
General details :Baiona is a beautiful town situated in the SW corner of Galiza, only 31 km. N from Portuguese border and 17 km. W from the town of Vigo.
Baiona is a coastal village, in the mouth of the Ria de Vigo (SW shore); it has 11,000 inhabitants, but during summer-time the population increases dramatically up to 200,000 people (because it's well knowed as a touristical centre in Galiza).
Baiona area is famous for its beaches (e.g., Panxon, Praia América, Ladeira,...), its warm and benign climate, its big, luxorious Yatch Club, the Parador of Monte-Real (state-owned hotel), for its good shellfish...
Samil is a 2 km-long beach, just 7 km. SW from Vigo and 10 km. NE from Baiona, having the distinctive 'Blue Flag' for its good quality of water and services. It's almost full of people during summer-time, but during winter it's a good point to observe some species of gulls, waders and seabirds.
Mediterranean Gull suitable season and area :Med Gulls are observed in Baiona-Samil area between August and April, with maximum numbers between October and January. Wintering population is estimated around 50-60 birds. There's a night roost during winter of birds both from Baiona and from Cangas and Moaña (N shore of the Ria de Vigo, already detailed above) giving a total of 90-100 individuals. More birds (irruptive immatures) are found after sea-gales, that may increase the efectives up to 200 birds or more (e. g., 250 birds in January 2002).
In Baiona, suitable areas are found in Praia da Ladeira, a big beach situated not far away from the urban centre. There, Med Gulls are observed in small groups next to or in the middle of Black-headed Gulls (Larus ridibundus).
There's also a good chance to observed them in the Baiona bay (in front of the Yatch Club), swimming in the sea, resting in the boats or feeding with other gulls. It's probably a night roost of this species here, due to sightings of some flocks in the sunset.
There are also some wintering Med Gulls in Praia América, just 3 km. NW of Baiona.
How to reach Baiona and SamilThere are good roads to Baiona, e.g. the A9 highway directly into the urban area and beaches or the C-550 road.
1.- From Vigo, take the A9 following the blue road-signs to "Panxón-Nigrán-Baiona" by highway. In 30 km., take one of the two turn-offs to "Ramallosa" or to "Baiona" (however, I think the first turn-off it's the best one). When you reach the first roundabout (traffic-circle), you'll see there the road-signs to Praia América, Praia da Ladeira and Baiona urban centre.
If you take the road to Nigrán and to Vigo, you'll reach Praia de Samil.
2.- You can take also the C-550 from Vigo; this road follow the coastal line, giving a good chance to observe birds; it's the best road to reach Praia de Samil.
2.- From Portugal and A Guarda, you have to take the C-550 to Baiona, that will bring you directly into the urban centre. Following the road to Nigrán and Vigo, you will found the turn-off to Samil.
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