Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Portugal's Southwest coast Sagres to Sines.

The storms of yesterday seem to have abated, the morning bright, we take an early morning walk across the cliffs. The scrub bushes are full of Sardinian Warblers as the breeding season is underway here. The male birds busy attracting the attention of female species to possible nest sites.
With a good appetite we breakfast, and prepare for our onward journey up the coast.

A cheeky looking male Sardinan warbler.

They perch on the tallest branches and call to females.

Further up the Atlantic coast we stop at Praia de Monte Clerigo.

Above the village of Monte Clerigo, there is a lovely track that you can drive along and admire the  rock formations.

Along this section of coast line the cliffs reflect the geological convulsions they have gone through. The layers of schists, occasionally sloping steeply then horizontally and here worn down by the sea, are forming such interesting patterns at low tide.

Having a coffee, admiring the view.

The view and our route Northwards.

Pedra da Agulha ('Needle Rock") at Arrifana. A slim pinnacle of rock polished over time by the sea, and pointing skywards.

At Almograve we drop down to the Praia Grande. The cliffs much lower here. This will be our view for the evening.

There is still some  time left to explore.
Linda heads out over the unspoiled sands.

The sand dunes behind the cliffs harbour many endemic plant spices. You can observe the tracks of ocellated lizard and the smaller spiny-footed lizard imprinted in the sand.

This shows the layers of the schists, which are course grained rock made of layers of
 different minerals and can be split into thin irregular plates.

Another day over.

Onwards and we reach the Rio Mira and Vila Nova de Milfontes.

Vila Nova de Milfontes is an attractive town and gives the impression of  being
"far from the madding crowd"
It is said that Hannibal and his Carthaginians sheltered in the little port here during a storm.

Here, just to the north of Porto Covo, the natural park ends. To the north the deep water port and refineries of Sines.

Here you get the feeling of man's presence, huge container ships and oil tankers. We will leave this corner of the park to the gulls and head for the cereal growing steppe lands of the Alentejo and
Castro Verde.

Goodbye Yellow legged gulls and the coast.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Storm watching on the Southwest coast of Portugal

We have visited friends in Lagos on Portugal's Algarve coast, the time spent with our friends was great, but now it is time to get back to nature. We have not visited the west coast of Portugal for some years. A quick stop at Cabo de Sao Vicente, the Romans called it Promontorium Sarum and believed the sun sank into the sea beyond here each night. Imagine the water temperature! Not exactly what Linda said on testing her toe's!
At the light house we feel the full power of those strong Atlantic winds,
 many tourists braving the gale.
For us it is North, into the area that has been designated a natural park.
"Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina"
The first stop is "Portal" with cliffs of limestone and marl. The coast here is markedly jagged.

Our lunch time view, in fact so good a vista, we shall stay the night and walk the beach.

It is windy and the sea quite heavy but the young gull's are enjoying it.

On the sand dunes the grasses are blowing in the wind.

It takes little time for the whole sky to have changed, since our entry to the bay.

As we eat our lunch, it certainly looks like rain!

We walk out on to the beach as the sky starts to darken.

The light is fantastic, extraordinary, one minute here and then gone.

The ocean seems to become panic stricken with the darkness.

The dunes catching the last of the light, the hills beyond cast into blackness. Standing there it was clear to see how the dunes are formed, the wind has become quite savage.

Now we have a squall.

We are getting wet and I have to protect the camera, the aggression is hard to believe,
it's all happening so fast.

Then as quickly as the squall started, the sun starts to penetrate the cloud.

From a far corner of the bay it all looks quite calm!

As the  early evening approaches, yet another mix of colour. The sea also changes, it becomes oily and limp.

What a day!

All looks peaceful, those Romans would  have been happy tonight, as the sun sinks into the sea.

Night drawing down on the beautiful and wild West coast of Portugal
and a good night from us.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Medieval Morella and the journey home

It is time to start the journey home. Our Autumn trip nearly behind us but we have such good memories of Switzerland, Italy and Spain, not to be forgotten, also our journey through southern France which is of course the country that we will return home to in a few days. Having had breakfast with friends and said our goodbyes we make a late start on the road.
Leaving the coast behind us at Benicarlo we head inland. The N232 is an old road zig zagging up the steep hillsides, lovely views, across the now changing surroundings.
The hill top town of Morella comes into view, one of the most attractive towns in the Province of Castellon. A medieval fortress town rising out of the plain, with commanding views all around, recovered from the Moors in the thirteenth century. 

With the short days of winter, Morella will be our night stop. Earlier travels had brought us this way, only stopping for a distant photograph that time. On this occasion, we visit the town and watch the sun set over it.

In the morning, fog shrouds the town, but as the sun rises higher it is diminished.

A fictional feel as the battlements appear, an El Sid moment!

Further north now and we leave the sun behind us and enter the gloom. A murmuration of Starlings head into their roost, as we should soon.

Across the border into France. Tarnos seems a good place for a lunch stop. I take a wind blown walk out on the dyke, in anticipation of spotting the Lesser Crested Turn, it has been resident for some time. 
Allas it is not to be. 

The Turnstones look smart for the camera.

How good is that! My first good photo's of Purple Sandpipers. Calidris maritima, the latin name, how fitting in this environment.

Purple Sandpipper (Calidris maritima).

Now that is showing off! the Turnstone nudges the Purple Sandpiper out of camera shot.
What a poseur! 

Having spent so long photographing the waders, it has become to late to continue the journey.
We head down to Tarnos-Plage for the night.
We arrive at the beach, just in time to see the last ray's of the sun go down, behind the ferocious sea.

We both stand windswept, as the darkness creeps over us and the beach, our thoughts with the seamen out there, as we turn and head back to the cosy warmth of the camping car. 
Glad to be on dry land!

Monday, 9 February 2015

African Monarch butterflies (Plain Tiger) & Mediterranean Slant-Faced Grasshopper.

The Gulf of Roses, stretches from L'Escala around to Roses, halfway around you find the Parc Natural Dels Aiguamolls de L'Emporda. It is a important wetland reserve that was set up in 1983 to save what was left of the Emporda marshlands. It now attracts many birds and is especially important during the migration periods.We have visited before but it is always nice to return.

Walking out on to the reserve, the weather is not looking to good towards the Pyrenees.

It takes Linda no time to attract a little friend, at first unknown to us, then we realise it is a Mediterranean Slant-faced grasshopper.

During our picnic lunch, we catch site of a distant Osprey, some distance up the river Emporda. Then Linda spotted these stunning butterflies, she was sure, they were of the Monarch species by their leisurely flight and colouration.

A correct presumption, this the Plain Tiger also known as the African Monarch.
A milkwood butterfly.
Danaus chrysippus chrysippus.

The plain Tiger was the fist butterfly used in art. In the Egyptian city of Luxor,
 there are frescoes featuring them, dated around 3500 years old.

They are lucky to be unpalatable to predators, they are full of alkaloids, digested during the larval period. Hence why they fly slowly and leisurely also at times close to the ground. If they are digested by a predator it causes vomiting, whereby they soon learn their lesson.

A mating pair, on what we think is ragwort. Interestingly, this is of course also full of alkaloids.
They are supposed to favour dry terrain, not sure on that, as we are on marsh land, albeit very sandy as well.

Part of the reserve runs along a section of the beach, here we do a little sea watching,
before cycling home.

A nice Little Egret.

A lone Blackheaded gull and that was it! Another great day out.

Tomorrow we will go to the area around Les Talaies d' Alcala, further south.