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Terres de l'Ebre 
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MuseumTerres de l’Ebre

Foia reservoirs, a sanctuary of life in Mediterranean surroundings

This natural beauty spot, Foia reservoirs, is an area of interest in terms of nature which is situated on the boundary of two villages, Masdenverge and Godall, where La Galera gully meets Solsó ravine. Masdenverge Town Hall and Terres de l’Ebre Museum have taken action over the years, in this area covering 21,000m2, with the aim of promoting recovery of native vegetation and starting a wildlife refuge there, as well as maintaining traditional agricultural and livestock practices and encouraging other touristic and leisure practices by adapting a leisure area of natural interest. Likewise, Masdenverge is currently backing a project to improve signposting for access to this area to make it easier to find and be used more by the public.

Human settlement in this area goes back a long way and ancestral paths meet at Foia, one of which is the old path from Amposta to Godall. Here, we also find “lligallos” (livestock paths) from Solsó to La Galera gully, where flocks of sheep could rest and drink water. These paths have been used to signpost different cycle routes for visitors. The route along La Galera gully takes you up towards Els Port or down to the Ebro River.

La Galera gully is typical of the Mediterranean with its pebble and gravel bed, which is dry most of the year, and only active in periods of torrential rainfall. However in the area of Foia reservoirs there are different wet parts caused by the upsurge of ground water as well as small clay basins which retain runoff water. This has formed a wet area which although small in surface area is valuable in the context of arid plains and nearby reliefs.

This area has a highly diverse natural landscape due to a combination of factors such as the primitive Mediterranean vegetation, characteristic of coastal plains (Holm oaks and scrubland), damper environments linked to La Galera gully (oleanders, reed beds…) and rural countryside created by livestock or agricultural use.

The habitat created by the gully, reservoirs and vegetation present favour the diversity of wildlife in the area. Linked to the presence of water and aquatic vegetation, there is an abundance of amphibians and reptiles such as the marbled newt (Triturus marmoratus), Perez’s frog (Phelophylax perezi), common toad (Bufo bufo), Natterjack toad  (Bufo calamita), common midwife toad (Alytes obstetricans), and reptiles like water snakes (Natrix sp) plus rich aquatic macroinvertebrates. Regarding land insects, there is an abundance of Lepidoptera communities in spring and summer, with many Mediterranean species which are normally found in areas of scrubland and bushes.

However, if there is one group of really important wildlife in this natural area, then it is bird life. Foia reservoirs in Masdenverge represent a place where we can find two important yet very different Mediterranean ecosystems: scrubland with bushes and the riverside forest which is associated with small volumes of water, this fact conditions and enriches the biodiversity to be found and is also the reason for the high number of bird species we can observe.

In spring and autumn passerine birds are plentiful, such as the common chiffchaff (Pylloscopus collybita); common reed warbler(Acrocephalus scirpaceus); fan-tailed warbler (Cisticola juncidis); Cetti’s warbler (Cettia cetti); melodiouswarbler (Hippolais polyglotta); Eurasian blackcap(Sylvia atricapilla); Sardinian warbler(Sylvia melanocephala); and the Dartford warbler(Sylvia undata). Along the edges of the paths there are goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis), European serin (Serinus serinus), common greenfinch (Carduelis chloris), corn bunting (Emberiza calandra) which accompany us with their birdsong. In the magnificent elm tree forest there are birds which are extremely difficult to find in other areas, however in Foia they still remain, where among the trees and bushes along the gully they find protection and can feed or nest, and there you can see species like the common chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), the European robin (Erithacus rubecula), wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos), common blackbird(Turdus merula), Eurasian bluetit (Parus caeruleus) and the great tit(Parus major). Many of these birds, as well as other species like the song thrush (Turdus philomelos), mistle thrush (Turdus viscivorus) and the common starling (Sturnus vulgaris) migrate here during the winter from the north.

Fields with dry crops which surround the gullies are home to species like the common hoopoe (Upupa epops), common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus), crested lark (Galerida theklae), woodlark (Lullula arborea), European nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus) and the red-necked nightjar (Caprimulgus ruficollis). Also in the gully as well as the crops you can enjoy the magnificent spectacle of flight of the European bee-eater (merops apiaster), common swift(Apus apus), barn swallow (Hirundo rustica), or observe the woodchat shrike (Lanius senator) sitting in its watchtower.

Birds of prey are also present, both during the day and at night.  If you are lucky you can see Bonelli’s eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus) flying over the area looking for prey to feed on. Easier to spot than this are the common buzzard (Buteo buteo) and common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus). Regarding other nocturnal birds of prey, at night it is easy to hear the song of the Eurasian scops owl (Otus scops), or little owl (Athene noctua) and at farmhouses or rural buildings nearby the common barn owl(Tyto alba) is still present.

These birds share the area with other species linked to an aquatic environment, which come to visit Foia from places not so far away like the delta and Ebro River. The common mallard (Anas platyrhinchos), common moorhen (Gallinula chloropus), white wagtail (Motacilla alba) and grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) are regular visitors. You can also find some herons like the grey heron (Ardea cinerea), little egret (Egretta garzetta), cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis), black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus), common redshank (Tringa totanus) and Kentish plover (Charadrius alexandrinus). Sometimes there are little grebes (Tachybaptus ruficollis), common kingfishers (Alcedo atthis) and common little bittern (Ixobrychus minutus).

All in all, this small area is considerably important because of its preserved biodiversity and the ecological purpose it develops in the middle of surrounding plains of cereal crops, as it is a place for drinking, feeding and resting for much of the wildlife around, making it an irreplaceable area in the green gully of La Galera.

Educational and touristic services at Museo de las Terres de l’Ebre (Terres de l’Ebre Museum) recommend that you visit Foia de Masdenverge to discover the natural and cultural heritage of this area. For more information: www.museuterresebre.cat send an email to info@museuterresebre.cat or phone: 977 702 954