If you enjoy staying in a peaceful, beautiful hotel with birdwatching within walking distance, then the Melia Atlantico, Isla Canela might fit the bill. It is wonderfully positioned next to a long stone jetty, ideal for seawatching, and less than 15 minutes from the huge Isla Cristina nature reserve. The developers have saved the dunes and vegetation in front of the hotel. They are fenced off and can only be crossed by wooden walkways.They stretch along the length of a huge wide sandy beach for 3 miles. There were three separate habitats each full of birds.
The Isla Cristina Marshes
This area is massive, stretching from Ayamonte to Isla Cristina. A raised dirt track has been created and there is one poorly maintained hide. It is affected by the tides and is best visited at low tide first thing in the morning or late afternoon when there are fewer people around. A scope is essential.
The most rare bird I saw was a Bluethroat which appeared on top of a riverside bush on the 17th.It provided a good view before disappearing in the undergrowth.
On the day we arrived there were reports of 35 Greater Flamingos on the reserve. I finally caught up with them on the 19th when there were 64 in a flock. In the adjacent lagoon there were 17 Spoonbill which were seen on other days[6 on the 16th,26 on the 20th,and 1 on 21st]. Kentish Plover were seen most days often into double figures. Ringed Plover were very common and I counted 38 on the bird hide marsh alone on 20th September.
The marsh opposite the hide was brilliant at low tide,always full of birds. On the 16th there was a flock of 100 Dunlin and 50 Common Redshank. Dunlin and Common Redshank were seen in big numbers every day. Another good area is the sunken boat on the river edge alongside the northern edge of the reserve. Again low tide was the best time. I saw 3 Curlew Sandpiper here amongst the Kentish Plover and other waders. There were also sightings of 2 Osprey and 2 Caspian Tern on two days along this stretch of the river. Black-winged Stilt were seen on two days:3 on the 17th and 2 on the 20th. Singles of Greenshank were observed most days and 4 were spotted on the 20th then 6 on the 21st. Whimbrel, Grey Plover, Grey Heron, Common Sandpiper, Turnstone and Little Egret were very common, seen all over the reserve every day. Common Kingfishers were seen every day with a maximum of 3 seen on two days. Occasionally a few Curlew could be heard in the distance. Four Ruff appeared on 16th September and another one was seen two days later. Yellow-legged Gull,Lesser Black Back Gull,Mediterranean Gull,Common Tern and Sandwhich Tern were seen regularly.
Towards the end of the week singles of Northern Wheatear started to appear along the tracks with 4 seen on the last two days.
As we walked around the reserve numerous Sardinian Warbler and Fan-tailed Warbler appeared amongst the dense shrubs. Two Spectacled Warbler were also seen during the week. A pair of Stonechat guarded the main entrance where I also saw Crested Lark,Goldfinch and Serin. Small numbers of Yellow Wagtail were seen every day apart from the first visit. White Stork were common around here and often seen on the lagoons.
Punta Del Moral
This area consisted of the causeway road, the road through the village and the end of the dirt track where it meets the Isla Cristina Marsh. The causeway road was often productive at low tide. Two Green Sandpiper appeared on the 15th and the area was favoured by Kentish Plover and Common Sandpiper. A Greenshank was seen here on the 20th. An Osprey was fishing at high tide on the 18th and a Common Kingfisher was often hanging around the banks of the causeway. Fan-tailed Warbler and Sardinian Warbler were seen in the shrubs bordering the water- edge. There were 2 Black Redstart near the fishing docks.
The end of the dirt track beyond the houses was a great place to view resting birds on the wooden posts-a roosting spot for Sandwich Tern,Common Tern and Mediterranean Gull. It was also another wader area frequented by Turnstone mainly.A Sanderling was seen here on the 21st. There was another pair of Stonechat here along with Fan-tailed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler and Crested Lark
The Stone Jetty and promenade
If the winds were right it was well worth a walk to the end of the jetty. On the 17th and 18th a brisk westerly blew in several Gannet, Cory's Shearwater and Balearic Shearwater. Another observer noted an Artic Skua and Sooty Shearwater on the 17th.
The Isla Cristina fishing boats would return after 5 pm with hundreds of Yellow-legged Gull, Lesser Black Back Gull and a few Mediterranean Gulls following behind-quite a sight! A Kittiwake came in on the 18th, following one of the boats.
The jetty and promenade was a wonderful location to observe the Common and Sandwich Terns fishing. A Black Tern was loitering around most of the week too. There was a large flock of Sanderling and Turnstone on the beach where it met the jetty. This was yet another area to see Kentish Plover: they are obviously doing well around here.
Towards the end of the week more warblers appeared in the trees and bushes on the promenade. Willow Wabler, Melodious Warbler, Blackcap and Chiffchaff were recorded. This area was very popular with Red rumped Swallow which were very common here [very few Barn Swallow seen]. On the last day two Pallid Swift were seen. A Hoopoe was in the hotel grounds most of the week. Other birds seen - Spotted Starling, Spotted Flycatcher, Stonechat, Blackbird, Serin, Sardinian Warbler and House Sparrow.
A very pleasant typical Spanish town. Looking across to Castro De Marim I saw a Marsh Harrier on the 15th. There was also a Caspian Tern with some Common Terns near the ferry terminal. A flock of Cattle Egret was seen by the river.