Thursday, 21 October 2010

Odds and ends

It's now a week since we got back from our Portuguese trip and, having had a rather chilly walk around Shipley Hill this morning, the warm sunshine of the Algarve seems a lot more distant.
One of the most exotic sights we were privileged to see were the Greater Flamingos (Phoenicopterus roseus) which live on the Salgados Wetlands.
Flamingos are extraordinary birds and these are the largest species of the family.  Standing up to 5ft tall on their spindly legs, they feed in shallow water holding their heads upside down and filtering tiny animals from the muddy water.  Greater Flamingos are also very long lived - or at least they are if not predated in the wild. The oldest known specimen is to be found in Adelaide Zoo, Australia and is at least 77 years old!
Another exotic species to be found within a short walk of where we were staying, was a small tree flowering along the roadside.  The Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia) has some beautiful, blue/purple flowers.
The Jacaranda is a sub-tropical species from South America, but is widely planted in parts of the Mediterranean for its long-lasting flowers and feathery leaves.  These leaves give rise to its other common name of 'Fern Tree'.
Separating the wetlands from the sea, were some extensive sand dunes.  Dunes are an increasingly rare habitat these days as we tend to like to build holiday resorts all over them.  These dunes were at least protected from too much disturbance by the construction of wooden walkways across them.
These dunes also provided a great place for the Curry-scented everlasting plants (Helichrysum stoechas) which formed clumps of dessicated foliage all over and filled the air with their perfume (Poor Malcolm doesn't like the smell of curry, so he didn't think much to them).
When the sea is rough, it is able to breach the dunes in places, flooding into the fresh waters of the wetlands, turning them brackish.  The introduction of salt water had a strange effect on the fish of the wetlands as they all began to get 'excited' and leap from the water.  Here you can see the sea breaching the dunes as each large wave broke over the sand.
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