The irregular rainfall of the Mediterranean climate, for better or for worse, governs Extremadura and especially so in 2013. In spring we were blessed with one of the wettest on record, filling the reservoirs to levels never seen before. The Tajo, which used to be a river is now an uninterrupted chain of reservoirs established almost exclusively for power generation. It is a resource for everyone, used by one of the biggest multinational power companies without respect for legislation pertaining to the protection of species and protected areas. In April (see photo below), voices were already being raised in alarm because the Alcántara reservoir was rising and threatening some of the most famous Black Stork (Ciconia negra) nests in the Monfragüe National Park. Even though the Confederación Hidrográfica del Tajo and Iberdrola had been advised, this was ignored and water was released upstream from the Valdecañas reservoir, with grave consequences for the colonies of birds nesting there on islands (so much so that by mid-June, the islands became connected to the shore and dozens of chicks died and many clutches were lost), the water level in the Alcántara reservoir was rising to 99% of its limit and ended up flooding active Black Stork nests in Monfragüe.
The image of a Black Stork chick on a wooden pallet, in the heart of Monfragüe, is shown below. This nest had two chicks, but when the Monfragüe staff intervened they found the surviving chick perched on top of its drowned sibling. Faced with this emergency, they opted to raise the nest on three pallets and other material. This nest had also been flooded in May 2007 (photo at the top of the posting), when fours chicks had to be removed and taken to the Animal Clinic at Sierra de Fuentes, Cáceres. In the winter of 2008, a new platform was installed at a higher point to try to avoid a future flooding, a solution which clearly failed this year since the artificial nest was situated below the maximum water level of the reservoir.
These events, in Monfragüe as well as at the Valdecañas reservoir, have been denounced by SEO/BirdLife [read here] and by the authorities in Extremadura. We shall see how the story ends and if the surviving chick fledges. At the end of June the reservoir had lowered and it seemed that the youngster would be fine (see photo below), but at the start of July, alarm was raised again because the Alcántara had increased its level dangerously. We have heard that the nest has again been rebuilt by the authorities.
The Government of Extremadura provided explanations that surprised us. On one hand it came out in defence of the multinational Iberdrola. It also blamed the rains of March, a full three months earlier, which would have had no influence over the fluctuations of level in June and July, which are exclusively due to the management decisions of the company. And finally, and as it usual, the present government put the blame on its predecessor.
Translated by Martin Kelsey.