Thursday, 31 January 2013


Formed by the volcanic eruptions of 1730 the natural wonder of El Golfo, just up the coast from Los Hervideros, is quite something to see.  It is a natural amphitheatre formed when one side of the volcano collapsed leaving behind a black, volcanic sand beach and a semicircular lagoon.
The lagoon is filled with sea water through the very porous lava and the curious green colour is a result of algae living in the water.  Red ash forms much of the surrounding sides.  The area was considered to be wild and rocky enough to be the backdrop to the film 'One Million Years B.C.' with Raquel Welch not wearing very much!
Very loose and easily whipped up by the wind, this red ash is visually rather stunning, rather like the volcano mentioned yesterday.  But trying to climb down the steep slopes to the beach below was a little tricky to say the least as was demonstrated by a few intrepid people.

We decided not to risk sliding down on our backsides opting for the magnificent views higher up.  The Espresso - sorry, Cafe Solo - we had in the cliff-top restaurant was also very good.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013


Along the South-western coast of Lanzarote, the road snakes its way through the inhospitable lava landscape, taking in some wonderful views to the sea one side and the volcanic, inland areas.  One particularly beautiful spot is known as Los Hervideros or the 'Boiling Pots'.  The coastline here is spectacular.
The cliffs of solidified lava are pitted and cut through by the action of the waves, creating lots of coves and gaps which form 'blow-holes' through which sea spray is forced upward into your face if you look over the edge.
Small 'balconies' have been built into the rocks to provide the visitor with safe viewing platforms set among the jagged lava tunnels and rocky cliffs.  It's all rather beautiful.
Looking inland, across the rough lava landscape, the eye is caught by the red bulk of another volcanic ash-cone.  This one is known as MontaƱa Bermeja.  Altogether, quite a wonderful part of the island to visit.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

More Flowers

Also along the sea shore we found several other plants in flower.  Actually in the dry and shifting sand, was a bright little flower called Lotus lancerottensis, a member of the pea family.
Continuing the 'vegetable' theme, a member of the cabbage family was growing in the volcanic grit nearby.  Known as a Matthiola lunata, it can clearly be seen to be closely related to the stocks we grow in our gardens.
A much larger and succulent plant was in flower in the dunes.  Zygophyllum fontanesii is quite a mouthful, but the plant itself was rather attractive with it's fleshy leaves and small, pink flowers.  Considering that it was still only January, I think we did rather well with our count of flowering things.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Lanzarote Plants

As well as the amazing bird life, Lanzarote has a lot to give when it comes to plant life too.  Among the volcanic grit surrounding the airport, we found several small, rosette-shaped plants flowering in the arid conditions.  Rather hairy and fleshy, they turned out to be Aizoon canariense.
All around the resort the cultivated beds were filled with a much larger plant with far more 'showy' flowers. Aloes grow all over the island, usually they are the variety Aloe vera and are cultivated for their well-known medicinal and cosmetic qualities.  These more ornamental ones were Aloe arborescens, sometimes called the Candelabra Aloe.
Another succulent plant to found in large numbers were among the Euphorbia family.  This is a huge and most diverse family with members as different as Poinsettias, those small, bright-green garden weeds, the Sun Spurge and several types which resemble cacti.  This particular one was rather cactus-like, but without spines.  It grew as a large, almost tree-like plant known as Euphorbia ingens or the Candelabra Euphorbia (candelabras seem to be popular!)
Along the seafront, there were lots of prickly bushes with small, yellow flowers.  These were Launaea arborescens and although interesting in themselves, a couple of them were more interesting because of what was growing through them.  The parasitic plant sometimes called Dodder or Cuscuta (Cuscuta europaea).  Red-stemmed and pink-flowered, it was practically strangling the host plants.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Lanzarote Birds

As always when on holiday in these 'exotic' places, I spent a lot of time looking for the local wildlife and in Lanzarote, there is quite a lot of it to see.  The birds on offer were not rare or particularly exciting, but nonetheless good to see.
Among the dry, dusty and sandy areas you find birds well suited to the desert environment, including the Trumpeter Finch (Bucanetes githagineus).  Looking rather like a sunburned sparrow, it has a thicker beak and an endearing call - rather like that of a child's toy trumpet.
The sands of the beach provide feeding and rest for several other species.  Turnstones (Arenaria interpres) were quite abundant.
Whimbrels (Numenius phaeopus) too were present in fairly good numbers.  Like a smaller Curlew, it has an impressively long bill for probing the sand in the search for food and a bubbling call rather like that of the Curlew, but faster and more 'trilling'.
Around the more cultivated areas we found a solitary Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis).  A beautiful and small member of the Heron family, this individual was probably hunting for lizards among the rocks and plants.
Back out on the beach, my attention was attracted by a slumbering Greenshank (Tringa nebularia).  This, I think, was a juvenile bird and was overwintering here before returning to more Northern parts for the Summer.

Saturday, 26 January 2013


Our apartment in Matagorda, was situated just 500 yards from the airport's perimeter fence.  Ordinarily, this would seem like a disadvantage, but it all added to the 'excitement' of the holiday.  We spent quite a time standing, watching planes land a take off, both from the raised ground close to the end of the runway and from the footpath which runs the whole length of the airport, between the sea and the runway.  Standing on the path at the end of the runway was particularly exciting as planes roared in over head to land just the other side of the fence.  Particularly when the plane happened to belong to Ryanair, who always seem to come in at high speed and higher volume.  Standing here when the planes took off was dramatic too and on one occasion, the 'whoosh' of air from the jets almost knocked us off our feet.  All rather thrilling.
The viewing area was popular with plane-spotters, both casually like us and more 'professional' who turned up in cars and vans and took notes of planes and numbers.  It was easy to overlook the Great Grey Shrikes and Trumpeter Finches in the surrounding sand and gravel when faced with much larger flying objects.
On the Friday, we were treated to a much more exciting arrival.  Two F-18 jet fighters of the Spanish Air Force turned up with a great blast of jet-noise.  Later that evening, they took off again with an even bigger roar which vibrated the windows of our apartment.  Although it's been many years since I went to a air-show, my love of these noisy and frighteningly powerful machines remains undiminished.
Fortunately for the aid of sleep, the airport closes between 11pm and 7am so we had plenty of quiet nights.  No need for alarm clocks though.  The departure of the first Ryaniar flight of the day was sure to wake us up in time for coffee!

Friday, 25 January 2013


Malcolm and I got back from our break in Lanzarote last night.  Landing at about 8pm in temperatures touching zero and snow to scrape off the car, was a bit of a shock to the system, but it was nice (for me anyway - I can't claim the same is true for Malcolm) to get to see the snow before it melts.  There will be numerous pictures from Lanzarote over the next few days, but until I get them sorted out, here are a few to be going on with.  Firstly the sunrise on our first day...
We stayed in Matagorda, close to the Airport and the beaches which run along one side of it.
We're not the type to spend our holidays laying on the beach, preferring to take long walks beside the sea instead - and we did plenty of that.
More to follow...

Thursday, 10 January 2013


Following days of mild, wet weather, we awoke this morning to fog and frost.  So, well wrapped up against the biting cold, we set out for a walk around Shipley Park.
Slippery under foot and with hoar frost clinging to almost everything, the scene would have been beautiful had it not been for the fog which made it tricky to see much at all.  Despite the fog, the sun was trying to break through and as we climbed Shipley Hill and got closer to the top of the fog layer, it made a lovely picture against the dark and ghostly trees.
Home for a warm I think!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013


Just a quickie this morning after the domesticity of household chores, so it was off into town via the Nutbrook Trail and the golf course.  The weather has taken a turn for the better this morning but along with the bright sunshine, comes the falling temperature and a touch of frost more in keeping with the season.
Only one picture from this morning, taken as we walked along the trail with the old canal to our right shrouded by the trees.  Although, how long the trees will last is debatable as the local farmer seems to be doing his best to cut everything down.  The chainsaw has been in almost constant use for months!
The sun was a very welcome sight, although as it sparkled through the branches and into our eyes, it made it rather tricky to see where we were going.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013


The 'Ratty' of Kenneth Graham's stories is, of course not a rat at all, but a Water Vole.  Due in part to unsympathetic farming, building, pollution and water-course management, the poor old Water Vole has had a bad time of it in recent years.  Then, the spread of American Mink in our countryside has taken it's toll on the species.  As a result, populations of these charming little creatures, has plummeted by up to 95%, a decline which is still happening.  So, it was with great surprise and delight that I saw one this morning.
I have read with interest in recent months, about people seeing signs of Water Voles in these parts, but sightings of the animal itself have been very few and far between.  But, there it was, swimming across the Nutbrook before scrabbling out of the water and disappearing into the shrubbery on the bank, close to Straw's Bridge.
Sadly, it all happened within a couple of seconds and I had no chance of getting a picture, but what a  wonderful sight it was.
Meanwhile, on 'Swan Lake' the Canada Geese were creating havoc and the Mallards were displaying like mad to each other, so no change there!

Saturday, 5 January 2013


Walking round the lakes of Straw's Bridge this morning, you could have been forgiven for thinking that Spring had sprung.  The birds were all singing in the trees, the Alder and Hazel trees were opening their catkins, the Mallards were pairing off and the Coots were fighting (no change there).  At 'Swan Lake' there was a large congregation of Black-headed Gulls and they were all either squabbling among themselves, preening on the shore or dipping for food in the water.
Some were showing signs of regaining their black (actually chocolate brown) heads, another sure sign that Spring was closer than you might think.
Among the ducks, swans, geese and gulls, a few, delicate-looking Moorhens were to be found picking their way through the shingle of the lake shore, in search of morsels of food.
All very Spring-like.  The very mild temperature is most welcome, not least for the reduction in Winter gas bills, but one cannot help thinking that we might yet be in for a very cold shock to the system.  But for the moment, we're enjoying the nice weather and the birds seem grateful too.

Thursday, 3 January 2013


It's that time of year again.  The 'Post-Christmas' depression has set in and it was not helped by the dull, grey, overcast weather this morning.  The gloom was lifted by the sight of more Waxwings in the trees around Shipley Park.  Indeed, there were around 60 or more and they seemed to be displaying a hitherto unseen characteristic.  Instead of feasting in groups, on those berries which are still left, they were all sitting in the tree-tops in singles or pairs and flying out to catch insects mid-air before returning to their perches.  The very mild weather was obviously responsible for there being enough insects to be bothered with, but the Waxwings were clearly very pleased with this unseasonal bounty.  Strangely, they were all silent as they went about their food-gathering labours unlike when they are foraging for berries, when their silvery trilling is constant accompaniment.
Unfortunately, the Waxwings were too far away, too quick at flitting after insects and the weather too dull to capture any pictures, so here are a couple more from New Year's Day.
What little beauties they are!
Back home to get on with that most depressing of tasks, the taking-down of the Christmas decorations.  Hey Ho, that's it for another year I suppose.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

A Good Start

Well, following an evening seeing the New Year in with a smile and a 'tincture', this morning we woke to blue skies and a beautiful day.  So it was out and about to welcome the new year with a stroll around Straw's Bridge.  On the way we encountered a flock of about 40 Waxwings in the tree tops.
Despite being a good way off, a convenient tree trunk helped to hold the camera still and with the camera zoomed in, I managed to get a few decent shots.
With the sun shining on the birds and a darkening sky behind them, they looked wonderful and made a wonderful start to the day and the New Year.