A rose-coloured oasis of calm amid the coronavirus storm

Fuente de Piedra is one of only a few places in Europe where flamingos nest.
Fuente de Piedra is one of only a few places in Europe where flamingos nest. / Salvador Salas
  • Nature's work is not affected by the coronavirus crisis; for the flamingos at Fuente de Piedra, life goes on as normal

Flamingos are rather unusual creatures. Their legs bend backwards, they open their beaks downwards instead of upwards and if anything startles them they take off and fly in a straight line. Right now, however, they provide a welcome sign of normality in a very strange world.

The lagoons at Fuente de Piedra had almost dried up, but thanks to the recent rain the situation has improved. They are not full, but enough for about 6,000 pairs of flamingos to return home, to the great relief of the local community and ecologists.

A pandemic may be affecting the rest of the world, but this nature reserve is like an oasis of calm. The biological clock of these wetlands, which cover over 1,000 hectares, doesn't change and it maintains its close relationship with life. At the end of May new chicks will be born here. They are usually ringed in September, an event which attracts ornithologists and others from all over the world. Except, nobody knows whether the ringing will be able to take place this year.

Three of us, a photographer, cameraman and reporter, went in two cars to Fuente de Piedra to see for ourselves. We wore face masks and latex gloves, of course, and were stopped by police as we left Malaga and took the exit for the A-92. The normally busy motorway was almost deserted. This crisis makes everything seem surreal.

When we arrived, there was no activity. The town hall is closed and so is the visitors' centre. Nobody knows when they will open again. The mayor, Siro Pachón, who is in his office every day overseeing the crisis, takes some comfort from the return of the flamingos. "This is one of the few places in Europe where they nest. There are more here now than anywhere else," he says, proudly.

For a moment the coronavirus crisis disappears at the sight of a ribbon of pink and white birds appearing on the horizon. Nature continues her work. And normality will return for the rest of us, one day. We just don't know when.