Tuesday, 22 February 2011

El Rocio, Andalucia.

We have spent an enjoyable few days at El Rocio, which rests beside "La Madre De Las Marismas Del Rocio," the mother of the marshes. It seems we make our annual pilgrimage here, but come the month of May & more than 1 million people gather here to celebrate Pentecost. An extraordinary spectacle, with whole villages & local "brotherhoods"converging on horseback & in lavishly decorated ox carts, commemorating the miracle of Nuestra Senora del Rocio (our Lady of the Dew) It is a pretty white town with sand streets where horse drawn carriages sweep by. 

Cowboy hatted horse riders parade, stopping for a tipple, whilst on horseback, at one of the many bars dotted along the streets, a bit like a wild west town.
While the boys are out on the town, the ladies might be looking for a new flamenco dress!
Surrounding the town is the Donana National Park, the largest in Europe, where huge flocks of birds over winter & many migrators use this area on their passage & it is one of the most important conservation sites for the Iberian Lynx & Spanish Imperial Eagle.
Glossy Ibis flying to their roosting ground.
Male Marsh Harrier.

Little Grebe
Great White Egret (tap dancing)
Glossy Ibis (Fan dancing)

They say that one swallow does not make a summer, but we have seen so many that spring must be coming your way soon!!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Fuzeta footnote. Birding on the Ria Formosa


    Black- Winged Stilts

Male&Female Sardinian Warblers

Egrets feeding on the rising tide.

Cormorants driving the fish into the shallows, whilst Mr Heron & Gulls wait!
Purple Gallinule
Greater Crested Grebe eating a crayfish, swallowed whole, eventually!
Snipe hiding in the reeds.
Avocet taking a bow. 
Caspian Terns resting with Yellow Legged & Lesser Black Backed Gulls.
Grey Plovers with Dulins on the salt pans.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Fuzeta. Eastern Algarve. Portugal.

Fuzeta Harbour

We left Sagres, taking the route East instead of going up the West coast, as snow showers were forecast as far South as Beja. Arriving at the little Fishing town of Fuzeta, we decided to stay awhile and explore.  
We have now been here two weeks!! Fuzeta is one of the undiscovered resorts retaining character as a working fishing port, where colourful boats line the river, set on the Ria Formosa Natural Park, running from Cacela-a-Velha to beyond Faro. Across the lagoon is the Ilha de Armona, a vast sandbank that stretches to the far horizon, but the little ferry only operates from April - Oct...... no we will not swim for it! There is an old lifeboat station, long disused, but a landmark for all that, standing proudly alone and shabby on the sand.

Lifeboat station

There is a regular little train to Olhao & Faro in one direction, Tavira & the Spanish border in the other. We visited Olhao on this, and at the price of €4.40 return for two, it doesn't break the bank..... British railways take note!!! We also cycled there along the cycle route, beside the old salt pans, full of birds, Spoonbills, Black Winged Stilts, Avocets, Red & Greenshanks, Black & Bar tailed Godwits, all the European Plovers, Stints, Terns and so many more. Wild and desolate, big vistas, and changing skies.


Black Winged Stilt (yes those legs are real!)


Cattle Egret (bad hair day!)

At Olhao we visited the Parque Natual da Ria Formosa, set in Maritime and Umberella Pines, a 3km walk with an old Tuna Station and one of Portugals last remaining tide mills, still with the interior preserved, showing six great flat grinding stones and all working parts. We enjoyed our lunch sitting on the roof of the tide mill in the sunshine with the most amazing view out to the far islands of Farol & Culatra.

The tide mill at Parque Natural de Ria Formosa

Taking the cycle route towards Tavira, passing again through marshlands and old salt pans and pretty painted low roof houses, where the landscape is punctuated with old water pumping wheels, one is reminded of the history and almost unchanging lifestyle of this place.

Roadside waterwheel and wash house

We arrive at the Pedras D'el Rei, crossing the causeway on a rickety bridge to the terminal of an ancient miniature train, that used to transport Tuna from the Tuna station on the beach of Barril, (Ilha de Tavira)
in the heyday of the Tuna fishing. The Tuna station and the fishermens cottages have been turned into cafes and restaurants, but the dunes stand a stark reminder of days long gone. Like giant fish bones, the huge anchors that held the Tuna nets in place stand stark against the sky, perhaps still waiting for weather beaten fishermen to wrestle out the catch, with great iron hooks.

Tuna net anchors

At every low tide figures appear as if by magic all over the mud flats digging for shellfish, mostly Clams, and stay until the tide turns again, lugging their bounty home.

Reaping the tide

The light is awesome here, the skies huge and the weather can come suddenly, from the mountains, bringing huge downpours, then in the blink of an eye the sun is out again. You don't have to walk far from the town to discover an older Portugal, still living its life, fishing, digging for Clams, but in itself content with the life though hard, and as for the bird life, its all there, hidden in old salt pans, and waiting for the tide to turn.

Big sky near Fuseta