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The common cormorant or shag ......

Cartagena is an important port on the Med. Cruise ships, tankers, gas carriers, container ships, fishing boats, pleasure craft and all sorts of warships are a common sight from the town's seafront.

To the East and the West of us there is a lot of untouched coastline where rugged hillsides drop precipitously down to the sea. We can boast a natural park with unspoiled beaches at Calblanque but, to be fair, we also have the huge port and industrial complex of Escombreras with refineries and all sorts of stinking chemical works as well as one of the most polluted beaches on the Med at Portman.

Heading a a fair way to the West out of Cartagena is Mazarrón and to the North and East you bump into La Manga, the strange narrow piece of land which seperates the Mediterranean from the inland strech of salt water called the Mar Menor. Around Puerto de Mazzarón, La Manga and the Mar Menor there are several typical low key Spanish seaside towns - low key in the sense that they don't have huge theme parks or hordes of drunken Britons on stag dos. Hunstanton, Grange Over Sands and Herne Bay equivalents. Lots of bars, cafeterias and restaurants along with stacks of those shops selling blow up dolphins, buckets and spades and factor 50 sun screen.

Surprisingly, at the North end of the Mar Menor surrounded on every side by resorts is an area of salt pans and sand dunes - the Salinas de San Pedro del Pinatar. The salinas is a strange mix of commercial exploitation of salt through evaporating salt pans, people slapping mud on themselves for health reasons, beaches for sunbathing, a marina full of posh boats and sand dunes and wetlands teeming with plant and animal life. The area has been protected since 1985 with an upgrade in status in the early 90s.

We popped out there today. We sat in the bar staring out to sea just by the marina where the Northern arm of La Manga becomes the mainland proper before having a bit of a walk on the boardwalks that protect the sand dunes. We even tried to decide whether this or that bird was a dunlin or a redshank. The flamingos were easy to spot. Big, pink.

It's a nice spot

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The common cormorant or shag
Lays eggs inside a paper bag
The reason you will see no doubt
It is to keep the lightning out
But what these unobservant birds
Have failed to note is that herds
Of wandering bears may come with buns
And steal the bags to hold the crumbs.

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