Monday, 5 January 2009

Isla de Canela

This afternoon we popped across the border into Andalucía for a rare visit to Isla de Canela. This is the south westernmost corner of Spain just the other side of the River Guadiana, south of Ayamonte. It’s not very far as the Redshank flies but an hour’s drive away.

The extensive area of salt marsh and abandoned saltpans is part of the Isla Cristina Paraje Natural, a designation that gives it at least some protection. The circular trail makes a pleasant enough walk and for us it was good to have a change of scene. There is even a somewhat randomly sited birdwatching hide here although it is hard to imagine ever wanting to spend much time in it. Unfortunately, we missed the best of the day’s weather - after a sunny morning, the afternoon was cloudy and quite cool.

The range of bird species seen was small. Most of the shorebirds were of the estuarine varieties: Grey Plovers, Curlews, Redshanks, Turnstones, Ringed Plovers, Dunlin, Oystercatcher and Whimbrel with one or two Greenshanks, Kentish Plovers and Little Stints. A handful of Black-necked Grebes and Mallards were on one of the creeks; several Spoonbills (one of them colour-ringed) and a couple each of Caspian Terns and Sandwich Terns were along the main river channel; we flushed Little Egrets and a single Grey Heron. Passerines were few, just Crested Larks, Serins, Meadow Pipits and an occasional Chiffchaff and Sardinian Warbler. The only raptor seen was, not surprisingly, a Marsh Harrier. Fishing boats returning to Isla Cristina were being greeted by hundreds of Lesser Black-backed Gulls with just a few Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls also in attendance. It was very noticeable that the vast majority of Lesser Black-backs were adults.

Tomorrow is Día de Reyes, the Epiphany, the day when the Three Wise Men following the star to Bethlehem, arrived bearing their treasured gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the Baby Jesus. It’s a public holiday in Spain. Today, while on our walk, we watched from across the river, the arrival by boat of the Three Kings for the start of the traditional parade through the town. A brass band played as they set off in their carriages accompanied by children, some dressed as angels, some in various other costume dress - it was a very colourful scene. Sweets were thrown to the children along the way and later as we drove back through Ayamonte we could see that a similar parade had taken place there as the road through the town centre was littered with sweets!

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