Monday, 31 October 2011


Malcolm had an appointment with the GP again this morning, for his third and last steroid injection into his shoulder.  Fortunately, the hypodermic behaved itself this time and hopefully, that should be an end to it.  So, no walk today, just a few pictures from the last few days.
It was foggy on Friday morning, which led to some ethereal scenes as we walked around the park.
The early sunshine fell on the wooden fence near our home and illuminated the many spider webs constructed along it's length.
The warmth of the sun also created a fog of it's own as the wet posts 'steamed' with water vapour in the cold, morning air.  All very misty.

Saturday, 29 October 2011


On one day while we were in Portugal, the breeze got up a bit and as a result, the waves began to get a bit more 'interesting'.  That day, we took a walk along to the small village and beach of Santa Eulalia.  The walks along the cliffs are very rewarding and the beach was being well used.  I was more interested in the waves crashing on the rocks below.
Seeing these waves hitting the cliffs, it's easy to see why the crumbly texture of the rocks, doesn't stand up to the battering too well.
The sunshine, twinkling off the sea made it rather wonderful.
Malcolm was enjoying the scene too, looking out from his vantage point a little higher up the cliff from me.  See any ships Malcolm?

Friday, 28 October 2011

More flowers

A few more flowers today.  No trip to Southern Europe is complete without enjoying the ever-present Oleanders (Nerium oleander).  As poisonous as it is beautiful, this large shrub comes in pink and white varieties with single and double flowered forms.  This is a double pink.
Recently however, extracts from the Oleander have been investigated as a possible cure for some form of cancer as well as some skin conditions.
Another pink flower found everywhere around the area were the Pink Trumpet Vine (Podranea ricasoliana).  Also called Port St. John's Creeper, it is a native of South America and parts of Africa.  Related to the Jacarandas we saw in Madeira and the Indian Bean Trees which we sometimes see in our parks and gardens, they make a great show in the gardens of Southern Europe.

Thursday, 27 October 2011


Being autumn, there were, naturally, not very many plants in full bloom while we were in Portugal.  Having said that, we were still treated to some beautiful floral displays, both natural and cultivated.  The first was this rather scrubby shrub seen growing on the cliffs.  It is a Daphne gnidum, a native of Southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
Don't be fooled by the pretty flowers, it is a highly poisonous plant and contact with the sap can lead to dermatitis.  Next is a very common plant on dry, sandy soils all over the Western parts of Southern Europe.  Yellowish, papery flowers sit atop grey, hairy leaves and the whole plant smells strongly of Curry.  It is Helichrysum Stoechas or 'Stinking Everlasting'.  Touching and crushing the plant to smell the curry scent, can lead to you not getting rid of the smell from your fingers for many hours, as I have found to my cost!
Two cultivated plants next.  Almost everywhere you look, you will see Hibiscus plants.  They are planted as hedges and grown as specimen shrubs all over the place, but when you see them in full bloom, it's easy to see why.
Lastly, an invasive species, introduced as a garden plant from more tropical regions, the Lantana (Lantana camara) has become quite a problem in some areas.  For all that, it does produce some magnificent flowers of several different colours on the same plant.  They have another, greater benefit.  Their flowers are rich in nectar and so are highly prized by Bees, Butterflies and all manner of insects.  They're pleasing to the eye too.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


Around some parts of the cliffs of Olhos d'Agua, there are some boardwalks.  These not only make walking around the area much easier, but also help to preserve the rather delicate cliffs.
All over the wooden structure, the surface has been scraped off in small 'scratches' by wasps, harvesting the wood to make their paper nests.
The boardwalks provide a great vantage point to look out to sea, through the pines.
It's also worth looking the other way, up the cliffs to the pines on the cliff tops.  You get some interesting perspectives from this angle.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011


Two new species for me to tick off my life-list today.  Both were seen in the sandy soils on the cliff-tops of Portugal.  The first was a large, pale grasshopper which flew in and settled just long enough for me to get one shot.  It turned out to be a Red-winged Grasshopper (Oedipoda germanica).
Although quite common around much of Europe and the Near East, this was the first time I had seen and positively identified one.  Next came a much more active insect.  It twitched constantly, flicked it's antennae and seemed to be hyperactive.  as it settled on the sand it began digging furiously, kicking sand up behind it, searching for prey.  It was a Sand Digger Wasp (Ammophila sabulosa).
Hunting mainly for caterpillars and other insect larvae, they are also fairly common around Europe.  When a prey item has been located, they sting to disable it before dragging it down a hole (often one which they have dug themselves) and lay an egg on it so that when their own larvae hatch, they have 'fresh meat' on which to feed.  Despite this gruesome start to life, the adults are actually not carnivorous, preferring to feed on pollen.

Monday, 24 October 2011


The Beaches around Olhos d'Agua are wide, golden and rather busy.  Last time we were there, we had the beaches almost to ourselves, but this year, a couple of weeks earlier and a good few degrees warmer and the beaches were much more crowded.  It didn't make much difference to us as we picked our way along the coast, rock-pooling and enjoying the views.
The rock pools were filled with tiny shrimps, fish and crabs.  The rocks themselves were covered in a very slippery layer of algae which required much care to traverse.  Limpets and barnacles clung to them, doing their best to put up with the hot sun and increased salinity of the water around them.  Among the more colourful members of this community were the Beadlet Anemones (Actinia equina), looking like bright red blobs of jelly with their tentacles withdrawn.
Some of the sandy inlets and small bays revealed fishing boats, hauled onto the beach until dusk, when they were cast off for the evening.
Others were almost devoid of people except for the odd, lone fisherman after his dinner.

Sunday, 23 October 2011


We were blessed with wonderful weather during our stay in Portugal.  For the whole week, not a cloud obscured the sun from dawn till dusk and the temperature was just right.  Not too hot to make you want to flake-out and not move, but warm enough for us to enjoy sitting on the balcony until well into the evening.  Of course, the sunshine made for some good views over the coastline and out to the sparkling sea.
The bright sunlight also served to show off the beautiful Bougainvillea which seems to adorn most villa fronts.
There can be few more iconic sights than the various colours of this group of vines - despite the fact that they are not originally from this part of the world at all, but from South America.
Pink is the most common colour, but they come in several shades from white to deep purple as well as a few pale orange ones which, to my eye, look rather insipid and not very nice.  These however, against a blue sky backdrop and the ubiquitous Portuguese chimneys, looked quite stunning.

Saturday, 22 October 2011


The cliffs of the Algarve are famous for many things, not least of which is their tendency to collapse at a moment's notice.  To this end, it is always vital to keep a good look out for where you are putting your feet when walking along the tops.  The cliffs are made of various layers of fluvial sandstone - deposited by Triassic rivers - thin bands of river-smoothed pebbles and a few layers of intruded volcanic magma.
This layering gives the cliffs the appearance of those bottles of coloured sands you used to get on childhood, seaside holidays.  It also leads to some seriously crumbly edges, seemingly held together by nothing more than the roots of the numerous pine trees clinging to the precipice.
It all leads to a rather picturesque scene, stretching as far as the eye can see.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Home again.

After a four-and-a-half hour delay at Faro airport, Malcolm and I returned from our week in the Algarve last night.  We have had wonderful weather with wall-to-wall sunshine every day and temperatures in the mid to high twenties.
I had hoped to tick off a few more 'firsts' for my life lists, but managed only one new bird.  There will be many pictures over the next few days as I get around to sorting them out, but for now, a couple of general views of the coastline where we walked each day.
The blue sea was complimented by the multi-coloured cliffs and green Pines.  Stay tuned for more...

Wednesday, 12 October 2011


Yesterday, the forecast had been for a cloudy, but mostly dry day.  So, it rained all day!
Today, the forecast was for a cool, drizzly day.  So, it was beautiful, warm sunshine as Malcolm and I stepped out for our walk.  Honestly!  Could the forecasters get it any more wrong?
Just a couple of pics for today.  Firstly of the sunny scene across Shipley Park, looking South.
Secondly, the view across Shipley Lake and the rapidly defoliating trees.  Another few days of high winds like we've had recently should see most of the trees bare.
The diminishing number of leaves had one advantage this morning.  We were able to get a good view of a pair of Greater Spotter Woodpeckers and single Green Woodpecker, high in the bare branches.  Sadly, too high up for a good photo, but you can't win them all.

Friday, 7 October 2011


After a pretty wild night with high winds and squally showers, there were lots of twigs, branches and leaves everywhere this morning.  Thankfully, the wind has now died down a bit and despite the threat of further showers, it stayed dry for us to have a walk around the lakes (what's left of them) of Straw's Bridge.  All was quiet on 'Swan Lake' this morning.  Quiet is not usually a word you would use to describe the Squabbling gulls and bickering geese which live there.  But this morning, the Canada Gees were all too busy slumbering to care about us.
Quiet as they seemed, they did all have a beady eye open, looking out for the first signs of someone arriving with a bread bag when things would certainly have become a lot less peaceful.

Thursday, 6 October 2011


The weather forecast said it would be dull and showery today, so of course, it was a beautiful, sunny and clear (though very windy) morning as we set out for a short walk after we'd completed our household chores.  The reservoirs around here are still drying out rapidly and a look at Shipley Lake (often now referred to as 'Shipley Lagoon', I notice), shows this well.  The swans on the lake didn't seem to notice the falling water levels.  There is even a lone Gadwall (Anas strepera) in the picture.  Can you spot it?
There is a smaller lake attached to the main one via a tunnel under the footpath where once a decorative bridge straddled the water with a boathouse nearby for the residents of the Hall.  Today, with the water levels low, there seems to be a quantity of rubbish exposed in the mud, still, this is Britain so what can you expect?  We seem to be slowly drowning under a sea of rubbish in this country, dropped by the ever-expanding number of human rubbish, hell-bent on ruining everything - I'm starting to rant again..!

Saturday, 1 October 2011


Having taken our friend Winnie for her flu jab this morning, Malcolm and I had a walk along the Nottingham Canal.  Very warm again with the sunshine stronger than we've had all summer, we also took in a small climb up a hill at the eastern extreme of town, close to the canal.  The hill was once the site of a dry ski slope where, according to Malcolm, you could sit at a Swiss-style chalet with veranda and sip a coffee before taking to the slope.  All that is long gone, but the views from the top of the hill are still rather good.  Here, looking North towards the listed building of Bennerley Viaduct.  Built in 1876-7, it used to carry the railway lines of the Great Northern Lines, transporting coal from the mines of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.
The viaduct was the focus of a bombing mission in 1916 when nine Zeppelin airships tried to demolish it.  It survived that but did not fair so well under Dr. Beeching.
Looking towards the town, the views are almost as good.  Here, a wide angle view taking in almost the whole town.
Zooming in a little, you get to see the Church of St. Mary's sticking out over the trees on top of the hill and the town museum just below it.  The trees making up the green space through town are showing the signs of Autumn even though the weather is so hot.