Lugar de Baixo pond is ruined for birdwatching!
Lugar de Baixo was a really nice, once natural pond, which used to attract many different species of birds, especially waders and ducks. It was a tidal lagoon next to Lugar de Baixo beach which was also supplied by a small brook of fresh water, turning its water brackish and was once used as for the production of Grey mullets.
As for birds, several first records for Madeira were recorded there, such as American Coot Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper or Blue-winged Teal to name just a few…
Despite the Muscovy ducks that live there, every autumn and winter the pond was full of life with species like Little Egret, Grey Heron, Dunlin, Sanderling or Common Sandpiper as regular visitants while many Coots and Moorhens would spend the winter on this brackish water lagoon. The first record of breeding Moorhens was recorded here in 1998 and 10 years later Coots were also breeding between the reeds of this pond. This abundance was mainly due to a lady who everyday gathered peels of fruits and vegetables and old bread from its neighbours and from a school nearby and went there to feed the birds. The city hall from Ponta do Sol contributed with 50kg of corn grain per month.
Since the regional government started building Lugar de Baixo marina - a disastrous project, they started ruining this natural pool. First they covered the natural south margin which was a pebble beach with big rocks. Then, after the floods of February 2010, the pond was covered in mud and so they excavated it but since then hardly any sea water came in through the gaps of its rocky margin as the mood blocked them. So the only water supply now is from the streamlet which mainly carries the excess water from the agriculture fields. As we all know, agriculture in Madeira is not very organic and people throw garbage anywhere, so the water at the pond is not so clean anymore.
After the lady that used to feed the birds died, the hungry Muscovy ducks started to wonder around the restaurant - a structure built by the government for an Ecotourism centre but never used as such - looking for food. So the decision was to fence the pond not allowing anyone to get closer to the water, not for birdwatching, to photograph, to feed the birds nor to clean the debris thrown by people…
Nowadays that pond is disgusting and we are ashamed to take any tourist to visit it, so we no longer stop by the pond on our full-day birdwatching tour and even the vagrant birds are no longer attracted to that polluted area.