Monday, 30 March 2015


Commonly known as Sloes, the Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), is a member of the Plum family, native to the British Isles. At this time of year it is also one of the most colourful in the hedgerows.
Things have been a little tardy this year, but the Blackthorns were doing their best this morning, despite the very stiff breeze.
The wind was a bit of a nuisance, not just to us, but to the Blackthorns too as the confetti-like petals were being ripped from the branches.
Still, it seems there are plenty more to come.

Thursday, 26 March 2015


No walk this morning because of a light and infuriating drizzle. It's all rather annoying after the few lovely days we've had. So instead, a few more pictures from those sunnier days, starting with the sight of frog spawn appearing in the puddles around Straw's Bridge.
The old Nutbrook Canal where the Pike was lurking a couple of days ago, was looking a bit green and murky as we stood on the bridge - even with the sun glinting on the water. No sign of the Water Voles yet this year.
Across the farmland of Shipley Park, with the sun shining and the hedgerows starting to bloom, it was the perfect opportunity for a couple of panorama pictures.
The blue sky and fluffy clouds made it look almost summery - almost!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Bark and Pike

The forecast rain did not happen this morning, so we had some nice warm sunshine on us as we walked through Shipley Park this morning. Part of our walk took us across the top of Shipley Hill and it was here, that I was impressed by the craggy nature of some of the bark on the trees.
Getting a closer look, you could make out circular marks where old branches had once been attached, as well as various scars and clefts in the bark.
The patterns made by the bark was quite beautiful.
Turning homeward again, we passed across Parker's Bridge where our attention was caught by a Pike lurking in the shallow water.
Absolutely motionless, it waited for it's lunch to swim past.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Early Flowers

Everything seems to be a bit late this year. In recent years, the hedgerows have been in bloom for several days by this time, but this year, things are only just starting to kick off. Among the best of these flowers late on parade, are the Blackthorn trees.
That's not to say that all the Blackthorns are in flower. Still most are reluctant to open their buds, but one or two have started ahead of the crowd.
This tree was flowering this morning as we walked through Shipely Woodside.
Close by, another tree was in full flower, although the blooms on this particular tree are markedly different to the Blackthorn. The Male flowers of the Alder take the familiar form of 'catkins' hanging in tassel-like formations.
Above these catkins, the female flowers are rather more colourful, forming ruby red cone-shaped structures in clusters on separate twigs.
So, despite the dull and chilly weather, things are slowly starting to happen in the countryside. No doubt there will be much more to come over the next few weeks.

Friday, 20 March 2015


Of course, there was only one story today. As we set out for a walk this morning, we were experiencing a partial solar eclipse.
It wasn't at all certain that we would be able to see anything of the eclipse due to cloud cover, but when we woke up, there were beautiful, clear skies. So the beginning of the eclipse was clearly seen. This proved problematical however, as it was just too bright to get a photo. But some time into our walk and at the eclipse maximum, cloud started to cover the sun, which made it easier to get pictures.

The best views were as we passed the observation platform on Shipley Park.  If you look carefully, the eclipsed sun is visible in this picture toward the top right hand corner.
So, that was it. The next partial eclipse seen in these parts should be in June 2021.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Boats and Final Views

As I have said, there was not a lot to do in Albir. Of course the walk to the lighthouse was beautiful, but other than that, the only decent walk we got was along the sea front towards Altea and the small harbour there. Typically for the Mediterranean, the harbour was full of everything from small, beaten up old craft, to high-end luxury yachts.
The town of Altea was visible beyond the harbour, rising up on a hill behind.
Unlike Albir, Altea seemed to have an old part of town as well as the modern sea-front buildings. The blue-domed edifice of the church of the Virgin del Consuelo rising above all.
Returning for the last time to the Serra Gelada and our walks to the lighthouse, the warm, humid weather made for quite a lot of sea mist. as the mist rose and condensed on the mountains, it produced some lovely effects.
It was all rather atmospheric as we sat looking over the edge of the precipice.
Not a bad few days away.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Into the Whale's Mouth

Along the path which leads to the lighthouse, we were presented with the sight of a large cave, set high on the escarpment.  Unfortunately, the sun was a bit of a nuisance for taking pictures, always seeming to be in the wrong place. But I managed a few decent pics nevertheless. The cave goes by the name of 'The Whale's Mouth'.
Indeed the whole area was pitted with caves and holes of varying shapes and sizes.  This was just the biggest of them.
Looking in the other direction, the hill tops showed many more smaller caves.
As well as the natural holes, there was a man-made one too. This hole in the ground was once a red ochre mine and some of the old mine buildings were still visible in a ruinous state, dotted about the hill side.
Red Ochre was mined as a non-toxic pigment used for painting, right up to the 1970's and was once also exported - even to Britain. Despite the hard work involved getting the red ochre out of the ground, the workers would have had a decent view - if they had time to look at it!
At the end of the trail, we reached our objective, the Lighthouse.
Again, the views were spectacular from this vantage point and we even got to look around inside the lighthouse on our second visit.
And it was free!!! As we remarked at the time, if this had been in Britain, there would have been a car park charging at least £2 and an officious person in a cap charging you £5 entrance fee, but here in Spain, nothing!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Birds and Flowers

It has to be said, I was a little disappointed by the number of flowers we saw while in Albir. I was hoping that the onset  of Spring would have resulted in a flush of seasonal blooms, but it was not to be. Having said that, what few plants there were in flower, were well worthy of note. The only new species 'tick' we found, was an attractive, white flower called Mountain Sandwort (Arenaria montana).
Of course, there were quite a few of the ubiquitous Grey-leaved Cistus (Cistus albidus) shrubs flowering about the place. Their papery, pink flowers are something of a feature in Mediterranean parts.
Not a new 'tick' as such, we did find a new sub-species of a Common Thyme plant (Thymus subs. aestivus). The small but beautiful flowers adding their scent to the warm air.
Moving on from the plants, we were treated to the sight of a few birds while on our way to the lighthouse. One of the most colourful was this delightful Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa)
Malcolm was otherwise engaged as he was roped in to taking a photo of a group of Scandinavian tourists nearby. So, while he was busy working out how their camera worked, I was able to sneak up on the Partridge and get a good picture. What a beauty!
Less colourful, but no less gorgeous, was a pair of Black Wheatears (Oenanthe leucura). A smallish member of the thrush family, again, it was not a new 'tick' but a welcome sight nonetheless as it is a species we don't get in the UK.
All in all, not a bad collection for the few days we were there.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Blue Water

Continuing our walk on the Serra Gelada, we were never far from some nice views across the blue waters of the Mediterranean.
Looking north-east towards Calpe, you could just make out the massive rocky outcrop of the Peñón de Ifach, another natural park over eight miles away.  At 1,089ft tall, it's quite a rock!
We were very lucky with the weather and the bright sunshine (although a bit tricky when taking photos), glinted beautifully off the calm sea.
From our viewpoint high above the sea, looking south along the ridge of the Serra Gelada, we got some wonderful scenery.
You never know, there might be more pics tomorrow..!

Saturday, 14 March 2015


Malcolm and I, returned yesterday, from a few days in Albir, Spain.  From the nearby Nature Park of the Serra Gelada, the sea-side town was laid out like all other Spanish Sea-side town.
The mountainous terrain in the background, known as the Prebaetic System,  was difficult to make out because of an almost constant haze. The tallest mountain in these photos, is the famous 'chipped' mountain of the Puig Campana at 4,613ft.
Albir itself was not very exciting.  All the usual things - cheap shops, road-side cafes and supermarkets of varying sizes. So we spent a good deal of our limited time there, walking through the beautiful nature park.
The rocky sides to the hills were covered in such delights as the shady pines and Lentisc bushes. These were under-planted with Thyme and Rosemary, while the flowers were provided by varying species of Rock-rose.  Al rather beautiful.
All with the prospect of rounding a corner to be confronted with another panoramic view.
There will be more of that over the next few days....