Saturday 28 January 2012

Vejer de la Frontera, La Janda, Barbate and along the coast, Cadiz Province.

A change in the order of the days.

View of somewhere in Vejer.
We had originally intended to do this area on our way home but then we thought that the shops in Vejer would be shut so we changed the plan and headed south along the motorways to Vejer de la Frontera a cracking little white village perched on the side of a cliff. We had hoped to link this part of the trip with a visit to stay with friend Steve Dale and his family who run Andalucian Guides from his house between Vejer and Barbate but due to things not panning out back in Granada with a few jobs on the house we need to be back home earlier than originally planned (hope to make it next time Steve). 
A church in Vejer.
Once parked we had a wander around this cracking village, had a coffee in one of the bars up by the castle and then picked up a couple of bits from the nice shops in the centre. The only slight down side was that most of the nice craft type shops we had seen in the past had gone but the place is always worth a visit and I think that if there were not so many hills I could live there quite happily.
Black-winged Kite (Elanio Común / Elanus caeruleus).
Once we had finished in the town we made a brief but enjoyable visit to La Janda but just stayed on the main track along the canal except for a short drive along one of the side roads, so I did not get into the best areas as I had on the last visit when I had been birding with Steve. 
Purple Swamp-hen (Calamón Común / Porphyrio porphyrio).
The bird numbers seemed slightly down on the last trip but we still managed to catch up with a couple of Black-winged Kites (Elanio Común / Elanus caeruleus), a cracking Short-eared Owl (Búho Campestre / Asio flammeus) which hunted up and down the side of the main canal foe around 10 minutes giving us great views, a couple of hundred Common Cranes (Grulla Común / Grus grus), Bonelli's (Aguila-azor Perdicera / Hieraaetus faciatus) and Booted Eagles (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus), Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus) and Purple Swamp-hen (Calamón Común / Porphyrio porphyrio). 
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The birds listed were the highlights but we saw a lot more including a few butterfly species, Bath Whites (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice) were quite common, while Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias crocea), Small White (Artogeia rapae) and Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) were seen as singles. We then went and had some lunch in Zahara de los Atunes before driving north through Barbate and then onwards along the coast back to Chiclana and ending up back in Puerto de Santa Maria. On the way I picked up a group of the introduced Northern Bald Ibis (Ibis Eremita / Geronticus eremita), Western Cattle Egret (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis), Greenshank (Archibebe Claro / Tringa nebularia), Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros) and Rock Pigeon (Paloma Bravia / Columba livia). 
Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea).
Up nearer the hotel we passed through some salt pans whilst we were on the motorway, brief views were had of 6 Spoonbills (Espátula Común / Platalea leucorodia) and a single Eurasian Curlew (Zapapito Real / Numenius arquata).
We went back to the hotel to freshen up before spending the evening trying the local tapas which was very nice but dam expensive but I suppose we are spoilt here in Granada Province.

Friday 27 January 2012

Puerto de Santa María, Rota and Chipiona, Cadiz Province.

Jayne's birthday and a visit to the Osborne's Bodega de Mora.

We started the day with a very nice breakfast in the hotel before making our way through the town to the Osborne Bodega where we had booked a tour of the Ware houses. We arrived and we were met by Christine who was our guide and as we were the only people there we had our own private visit. We started a cinema where we watched a short film which explained how the company was founded and its climb to the one of the most famous Sherry and Brandy producers. It also told us how the company had expanded into different lines so that it was not just dependent on it most famous brands. The most interesting fact for me is that it was all started by an ENGLISH chap called Thomas Osborne Mann from Exeter in 1772, this made my day!!!
We then moved into the first of the ware houses where the Fino is stored and Christine explained what happen once the grapes have been picked, pressed, distilled / fermented and put into the barrels. The barrels are in stacks three high, but the liquid from only the bottom row is use to produce the Sherry and only 40% of this is drained each year. The lower barrel is then topped up from the row above and then that row is filled from the top most barrels which are filled with the new liquid to complete the process. This means that in theory some of the Fino in the barrels could be over two hundred years old!
We then moved on and we were given lots more information on the different production methods, she explained that in the Fino barrels there is always around a 2cm thick layer of yeast that stops the Sherry coming in contact with the air in the top of the barrel which prevents the oxidation process and keeps the liquid clear and pale. In the other types of Sherry the alcohol level is raised so that the yeast dies and the liquid is in contact with the air and the oxidation process can take place which gives the sherry it darker colour. The other types of Sherry are Oloroso, Cream and Sweet. One of the best advertising hoardings ever seen must have been the Osborne Bull; the bull was created in 1956 by Manolo Prieto. Nowadays only two bulls carry the Osborne logo; the other ninety odd are just painted black but will always be associated with the company.
After what was a very interesting couple of hours we were taken to a very comfortable room and sat down with some nibbles and four bottles of Sherry to taste. Christine explained the best times to drink the different types and the temperature at which each was best served before she left us to it. After sometime we made our way to the gift shop and purchased a couple of bit before heading to the car (I only had a couple of sips) and headed out for a walk around an area know as Sherry-port a little way along the coast.
We parked up and had a stroll around the edge of the harbour, whilst there I saw Common Sandpiper (Andarrios Chico / Actitis hypoleucos), Great Cormorant (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocorax carbo), Razorbill (Alca Común / Alca torda) and another Whimbrel (Zarapito Trinador / Numenius phaeopus). We then decided to go up the coast to Rota where we drove around for a while and departed heading for Chipiona a little further west. We soon found what is said to be the tallest lighthouse in Spain and then went to have some lunch. Later we headed down to the harbour are where I was hoping to find some of the Little Swifts (Vencejo Moro Culiblanco / Apus affinus) which are reported there regularly. I checked the area around the disused factory building, the beach and over the town but could not find any birds. I did see a couple more Caspian Terns (Pagaza Piquirroja / Sterna caspia), Ruddy Turnstone (Vuelvepiedras Común / Arenaria interpres), Sanderling (Correlimos Tridáctilo / Calidris alba) and a dozen or so Little Egrets (Garceta Común / Egretta garzetta). On the drive back to Puerto we also added a couple of Marsh Harriers (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus) and a Booted Eagle (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus) to the list. On the evening we decided to try one of the well known and highly recommended seafood restaurants in the town but we were left quite disappointed and headed back to the hotel bar where we had a drink and a Whiskey / Brandy Coffee which went down far to well.
Photographs from the top: Entrance to the Osborne ware-houses, Fino Barrels x2, Jayne outside the giftshop and the Chipiona Lighthouse.

Thursday 26 January 2012

Travelling to and at El Puerto de Santa María, Cadiz Province.

A visit to another Provincial City.

Rear view from the boat.
Jayne and I set off early and started to make our way over to El Puerto de Santa María which lies on the Eastern side of the Bahia de Cadiz. On the way we stopped of a coffee just to the west of Antequera and the pulled in at a very foggy Laguna Dulce where apart from Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis) and Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos) all of which were within a foot of the bank. Any birds further out were invisible in the fog, in the trees around the hide I also added Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) and Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus). We continued on passed Olvera, Villamartin, Arcos del la Frontera and Jerez till we ended up along side the Rio Guadalete in El Puerto de Santa María. 
Tavira Tower.
From here we caught the ferry over to the City of Cadiz, on the way a few birds were picked up including Razorbill (Alca Común / Alca torda), Great Crested Grebe (Somormujo Lavanco / Podiceps cristatus), Sandwich (Charrán Patinegro / Sterna sandvicensis) and Caspian Terns (Pagaza Piquirroja / Sterna caspia), Black-headed (Gaviota Riedora / Larus ridibundus), Mediterranean (Gaviota Cabecinegra / Larus melanocephalus), Lesser Black-backed (Gaviota Somria / Larus fuscus), Yellow-legged Gulls (Gaviota Patiamarilla / Larus Michahellis), Great Cormorant (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocorax carbo) and on the margins at least 5 Common Sandpipers (Andarrios Chico / Actitis hypoleucos) and a single Whimbrel (Zarapito Trinador / Numenius phaeopus).
Camera Obscura.
Once we were in the City we walked the narrow street until we found the entrance to the Torre Tavira Tower and the Camera Obscura, we had some great views form the roof terrace and then a talk about the city whilst looking at it via the Camera. After finding something to eat we wander the street once more before catching the ferry back to Puerto, Whilst we wandered I added Ruddy Turnstone (Vuelvepiedras Común / Arenaria interpres), both Monk (Cotorra Argentina / Myiopsitta monachus) and Ring-necked Parakeets (Cotorra de Kramer / Psittacula krameri) and lots of cryptically coloured Feral Pigeons.
Once back on dry land we went to find our Hotel the Monastero San Miguel, we arrived and were very pleased with the place and would recommend it as a place to stay for anyone wanting to visit Cadiz as in just 30 minutes you can be in the City and you do not have the hassle of parking and driving through the its very narrow streets.
view of the Cathedral from the tower.
Later we went out have a look around the town and have a meal, this proved harder than anticipated as many of the bars were shut for the winter, we eventually found some where and had a very nice meal and later found that we had been very close to but had not found the main eating area near the port. We then headed back to the hotel and had a very good nights sleep.

Sunday 22 January 2012

Alhambra Woodlands/General Life and El

Hoping for a Province tick.

Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus).

After getting a text from Juan Perez yesterday I went up in to Granada for a walk around the Alhambra gardens to try and see the Tawny Owl (Cárabo Común / Strix aluco) he sees fairly regularly. I parked in the main car park and walked down the hill through the mixed woodlands which surround the famous attraction till I was just above the city and then looked into the hole where the bird had been yesterday to find it empty as I had the last time when we met Juan and Beatriz at the site. I did manage to see the almost completely albino Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), along with more normal coloured birds. High up in the trees I also picked up several Hawfinch (Picogordo / Coccotraustes coccotraustes), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), a couple of Redwings (Zorzal Alirrojo / Turdus iliacus) and lower down there were singing Blackcaps (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla) and Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita).
I then returned to the car and headed up the Sierra Nevada to the area called El Purche which is an area of open grassland and Hawthorn scrub with some Walnut and fruit tree plantations where in the past I have seen some large flocks of finches and bunting but not today. 
Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata).

Unfortunately the snow from the beginning of the week was still covering most of the ground below the fruit trees so birds were a bit thin on the ground. I did get some nice views of Cirl (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus), Corn (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) and Rock Buntings (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia) together in the same Hawthorn bush. Also seen were a few Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis) and a cracking really brightly plumaged Iberian Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus sharpei) which yaffelled it's way through the Walnut trees.
I then moved down the hill a little and added Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica), Iberian Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) and a flock of about 6 more Hawfinches. I then drove back to the city to meet Jayne but I was a tad early so I walled back to the Owl site from the opposite direction from this morning but the result was the same, just an empty hole perfect for a Tawny Owl.