Did you know that, despite being traditionally known as a flat and dry land, the Community of Castilla La Mancha is home to the best and largest set of inland wetlands in Spain?

We are talking about the La Mancha Húmeda Biosphere Reserve, where today we are going to visit one of its 67 lagoons: the Taray Lagoon, in the province of Toledo. This wetland area is part of the Network of Natural Spaces of Castilla La Mancha and is included in the Nature Reserve of the Lagunas y Albardinales del Cigüela.

The Taray Lagoon is part of a private estate of the same name, which has a surface area of 1,100 hectares. There, traditional uses such as agriculture, livestock and olive trees are now complemented by ecotourism, where the activity of bird photography, mainly associated with the wetland and the steppe, is providing an important source of income and employment, and also collaborating in the conservation of habitats and species associated with them.

Marsh Harrier, Black-necked Grebe and Bearded Reedling are some of the species most sought after by bird photographers who come from all over the world to El Taray lagoon with the certainty of being able to see them.

 

Today we start the second season of our series Protected Lives. In this first episode we travel to the lagoons of La Mancha Húmeda to meet Francisco, a carpenter turned nature guide in the hides of El Taray lagoon.

In 2014, the owners of the 1,100-hectare private estate where the Taray lagoon is located decided to introduce tourism as a complement to the traditional income from agricultural production, trying to make the farm economically viable.

Francisco, who at the time worked in the village making doors, wanted to join in this strategic change in the running of the estate.

In the last decade, the hides of El Taray have become an international benchmark for bird photography.

Every year, more than 1,000 photographers from all corners of the world come to this wetland to take pictures of bearded reedlings, white-headed ducks, black-necked grebes, lesser kestrels and imperial eagles, among other species.

And Francisco is there to welcome them and take them to the right hide where they will get the photographs they are looking for. This man from La Mancha tells us during the interview that many of the photographers repeat, because no day is the same as the previous one: the lights change, the species that enter the hide, their behaviour… but in our opinion there is something that never changes at El Taray: the kindness with which this host welcomes bird photography fans. For him, they are one big family.