Listed as a Natural Monument and under the protection of the European Union’s Natura 2000 Network as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), this 270 hectares cliff top coastline situated between the mouths of A Coruña and Ares-Betanzos rias is a core area of the Biosphere Reserve and one of Galicia’s greatest natural treasures. The succession of schist cliff walls dotted with tiny coves, and the fields stretching inland, covered with grassland, heather and gorse, form a unique unspoilt setting.
Bird´s route: Dexo-Serantes coast
One of the highlights of this spot is the magnificent colony of European Shags, the largest on the Iberian mainland. Other attractions include the presence of a number of breeding species that are rare to Galicia, such as the Red-billed Chough, Alpine Swift or Western Jackdaw. It is also home to other species that are common to the Galician cliffs, such as the Peregrine Falcon, Common Kestrel, Yellow-legged Gull, Black Redstart or Common Raven. A Marola island, situated just off this coast, is a breeding ground for Storm Petrels. In the fields behind the cliffs, there are frequent sightings of European Stonechats (and also Whinchats during the autumn migration season, as well as Northern Wheatears, European Pied and Spotted Flycatchers and even Eurasian Wrynecks), Dunnocks, Dartfield Warblers, Winter Wrens, European Goldfinches, Common Linnets and Eurasian Skylarks. Gaze out to sea and you may spot a Northern Gannet, Sandwich Tern, Razorbill, Balearic Shearwater or A Cory’s Shearwater. On winter nights, the cliffs provide shelter for Great Cormorants and it is easier to spot Oystercatchers nestling among the rocks than down below.
This area is suitable for visiting throughout the year. In fact, it is well worth visiting in all four seasons in order to varying range of species that can be seen at different times of the year.
What to see
- Lorbé harbour is a perfect spot from which to watch the Great Black-backed Gull, as well as Black-headed, Lesser Black-headed, Mediterranean and Yellow-legged Gulls. Hundreds of them rest on the mussel nurseries, next to Ruddy Turnstones, Great Cormorants, European Shags and Grey Herons. In winter, Razorbills and even Great Skuas are a common sight in these waters, whilst in summer you will be able to spot Balearic Shearwaters and Cory’s Shearwaters. Keep an eye out too for the Common Bottlenose Dolphins!
- In Dexo harbour, a flight of wooden steps leads from Praza dos Golfiños to a path that takes you along some of the most breathtaking cliff tops on this stretch of coast. Don’t go too close to the edge! In front of you is A Marola island, a breeding ground for Storm Petrels and Yellow-legged Gulls, as well as a resting place for Great Black-backed Gulls. You will also be able to see O Marolete islet, where many of the breeding European Shags gather. The pine groves provide a habitat for Great and Coal Tits, as well as Eurasian Blue Tits and European Crested Tits, Short-toed Treecreepers and other forest birds.
- Coming from Mera along Rúa Celso Emilio Ferreiro and then Rúa Seixo Branco, leaving the entrance to Canabel inlet behind you on your left, park your car where the road ends at the entrance to a pine grove and next to a huddle of houses. As you set off (or continue walking, if you have come from Mera on foot), look out for forest birds such as those listed above, as well as Citril Finches, Eurasian Jays and European Green Woodpeckers. In summer, there are frequent sightings of Eurasian Hobbies. Once you leave the wooded area behind you, look amongst the heather and gorse bushes and you may see European Stonechats, Dartford Warblers, Dunnocks and Winter Wrens. When you come to Seixo Branco point, find a comfortable place to sit and gaze out to sea to watch the Gannets, European Shags and Linnets.
- From Rúa Seixo Branco, the road mentioned above, and just after the turn-off to Seixo Branco, Camiño Carreira will take you past several houses to a spot where you can park your car (or continue your walk) and follow a path that leads to some of this coastline’s most breathtaking scenery. Stop halfway to admire the colony of seabirds on Mera point (to your left) and on the opposite shore of the narrow Canabal bay. Literally dozens and dozens of European Shags nest on the cliff walls during the first half of the year. It is also a breeding ground for a number of other species, including the Yellow-legged Gull and Alpine Swift. You will also be surrounded by the species that are common to the coastal thicket. Further on, the path ends opposite Montemeán Island, which each spring welcomes a spectacular colony of Yellow-legged Gulls.
- Rúa Celso Emilio Ferreiro leads to a car park next to the Sea Visitor Centre, which is definitely not to be missed (more details below). In spring, as soon as you get out of your car, look up to observe the Red-billed Chough, Common Kestrel and Alpine Swift. With luck, you will also be able to spot a Common Buzzard and Peregrine Falcon. From here, and facing the Sea Visitor Centre, a narrow path takes you down to the ruins of some 17th century defence batteries perched on the cliff edge. Once again, take great care as you make your way down. In addition to the spectacular views of the mouth of A Coruña ria, you will also be able to spot European Shags, more Choughs and, sweeping low above the waves, Gannets, Sandwich Terns, Cory’s and Balearic Shearwaters and other seabirds.
Getting there, accessibility and recommendations
A combination of driving and walking is the best way of exploring this area. There are public bus services, but the stops are a considerable distance from the most interesting areas. Nevertheless, a walk from the village of Mera, which has a regular bus service to other places in Oleiros and A Coruña, to Mera lighthouse or Seixo Branco point will take you little more than an hour. The Sea Visitor Centre website (see below) offers more details.
- A visit to the Sea Visitor Centre, housed in the former Mera lighthouse keeper’s home, is an absolute must for everyone who is exploring this area for the first time. Inside is a permanent exhibition located in two rooms and two glass lookout points, as well as a laboratory, spaces for showing audiovisuals, a large terrace and birdwatching points. Guided tours are also available for groups.
- The ‘Bahía de Santa Cruz’ website includes a number of ornithological routes similar to those featured here: https://www.baiasantacruz.org/gl/panel/costa-de-dexo-serantes.
Nearby sites of ornithological interest
Situated next to the town, a gentle stroll along part of the shore is an excellent opportunity to spot Great Cormorants, Common Moorhens or Mallards, and in winter, Little Grebes and Eurasian Coots. On the shore, look out for Common Sandpipers and the occasional Grey Heron and, with luck, the Common Kingfisher. The Swans, Ducks and Geese that live on the lagoon are semi-domesticated.
Santa Cruz bay
Crossing over to the island of Santa Cruz, site of the magnificent castle that houses the University Centre for the Environmental Promotion of Galicia (CEIDA in its Galician initials and definitely well worth a visit!), you will be able to spot numerous species. Look for the large guano-stained rock to the right of the bay. It is known as O Corval, and is favourite resting spot for the Cormorants that live in this area. At low tide, the rocks and the beach are dotted with Ruddy Turnstones, Common Sandpipers, Little Egrets and Black-headed, Mediterranean, Mew, Lesser Black-headed, European Herring and Yellow-legged Gulls, as well as Great Black-backed Gulls. And, swooping low above the waves, the Sandwich Tern. From inside the walls of Santa Cruz castle, and from the outer section overlooking the river, you will be able to spot Black Scoters and, with luck, the Odd Diver.
Birds of the Mariñas
Other places to visit:
Church of Santa María de Dexo (12th century) and Church of Santa Eulalia de Liáns.
“José María Kaydeda” pottery museum housed in Pazo As Torres manor house in Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz Island and castle.
Useful telephone numbers and addresses:
For details of bus times, call A Coruña bus station on 981 184 335
Emergency services: 112
Oleiros Town Hall: 981 610 000
Oleiros Tourist Information Office: Avenida das Américas, s/n, 15172 Santa Cristina-Perillo-Oleiros (A Coruña). Tel: 981 904 052 / 981 631 706. firstname.lastname@example.org. http://www.oleiros.org/web/concello-oleiros/turismo.
Aula do Mar da Costa de Dexo: http://www.ceida.org/es/aula-del-mar-costa-de-dexo
Centro de Extensión Universitaria e Divulgación Ambiental de Galicia (CEIDA): http://www.ceida.org/es. Telf.: 981 639 618.