Category Archives: Photography

February Fun, Fotos, and Short Walks.

It has been a busy February and so I am glad of the extra day in the shortest month when winter can turn to spring here in Andalucia. The photos below are from our short local walk with Lotti the tibetan terrier. This joins the main sendero/footpath from Castano del Robleda to La Pena and Alajar. At the beginning of the month it is very wintry and all those autumn leaves featured in my Autumn walks post have blown onto the red sandy ground. But it is now so much wetter and the green moss is alive and well after its summer’s rest. Nature is resilient and adapts to many changes and with so many problems facing our planet I would like to focus on that determination to keep on trying and surviving.

 

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We have also enjoyed more walks around our own little valley but with a caveat to avoid falling into badger holes. We have discovered quite a few and also their very clearly marked latrines, carefully excavated to fit their poo. Sorry, I missed taking a picture of that.

 

Winter is also the time for visitors. Some who want to get in from the cold. Our dear old car is a favourite habitat for wood mice nests. We were waiting for the mother to return to rescue her naked, fairly new born babies before we could go shopping. They may even have been with us on previous trips.

 

Other visitors came and not expecting warmth as we have a much colder climate than their home in Portugal. We went to discover our frontier town which we have only ever driven through on the road to and from Seville. However, our day walking around the town of Higuera was full of welcome sunshine and blue skies. There were also lots of storks nesting too and of course the ones with the highest status on the church steeple. Higuera would have been full of people on the 5th of January for their most famous processions for the Three Kings celebrations. Hence the statues and a lovely avenue of orange trees. Higuera is 200m lower than where we are in Fuenteheridos. It was warmer and the Viburnums tinus and carpenters bees were out and about. See featured image.

Another favourite short walk is by the now closed Aracena campsite and source of the great river Odiel. We went on a Sunday when all the families were out for picnics but the walk by the river and  old cork trees was fairly quiet and full of birds but all quite artful and not easy to identify. The rocks by the stream were quite amazing in the sunlight and the old tree with some life at the top.

We have also visited Donana again and I will devote a whole post to that but it was again a marvellous day full of storks, flamingos, a very large flock of coots and some spoonbills that I finally managed to photograph.

The last day of February, when it is the 28th is a holiday for all in Andalucia. It becomes a long weekend a puente, bridge. Our local town was full of visitors and some posh cars. This seemed to be an attraction for photographs too. So there is one of me with my favourite car, Jud, now 24 years old and still going strong over our rough rocky track.

I think I might have to take the view that the old car has done much better on carbon emissions than these new ones. We didn’t stay too long to check whether these were electric but they were certainly worth a lot of money and on show. We bought our local bread and went back to our quiet woodland.

Near the town of Cortelezor there is a very rough road and we didn’t see many cars along this one. We wanted to find the river valley where we had walked along some years ago.In a very small area just by this picnic place we discovered some botanical wonders.

The tiny wild daffodil tops the bill among the heathers. But the rock formations were astounding in the background. There was a thorny acacia, a narrow leaved ash, the stripy leaves of thistles to be and a flower we have yet to fully identify. PS And now we have! Anchusa undulata.

And below the wild hoop daffodils; Narcissus triandrus and this mediterranean mystery. We have scoured the book but no match yet. Yes, Anchusa undulata, alkanet is Anchusa azurea.

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And for extra measure and for the extra day we have been to the Cheese Festival in Portugal, about an hour or so from the Sierra. We missed the rain here and my vegan attempts were sorely tested. However, there is an important rural economy here based on quality produced cheeses and I do think there needs to be a focus on supporting small farmers, traditional food and farming. Here is a photo of one of the local Alentejo choirs which UNESCO recognise as part of our world heritage. The singing was deep and powerful from the male choirs but there are mixed voice choirs and female ones too.

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Isle De France rare breed.

I hope this post brings you some of the vitality of nature and rural life here in this part of Andalucia and the Alentejo and can help revive and restore us as we go through tough times.

Our Wild and Wonderful World

The human world seems to be distracting me from blogging. But I have been out and about at Navasola and also able to try photographs with a friend’s lumix camera. It was quite disturbing at first as all I wanted was an ordinary still photo and it was set on 4K! It’s been quite a learning curve and I have also been busy in my veg plot trying to create some beds which will retain moisture. I am trying out Hugel Kultur as I have lots of wood and have laid down branches at the base. More on that another time.

April and May have seen Navasola full of wild flowers so here is a glimpse of that glory as the heat from Saharan Africa has already reached us and the Spring flowers have given way to the more drought and heat resistant scabious and mulleins.

First the peonies. There were the most I’ve seen on the Finca this year. It was hard to photograph the overall effect  so there are some close ups with the new lumix camera.

Some of my favourites here in Spring are the tassel hyacinths, palmate anemone, celandine and the knapweed.

But there’s always the Spanish broom and Spanish lavender or French unless you are in Spain! Photo angle courtesy of Steve Schwartzman’s very informative blog for photography tips and botany.

I also had difficulty cultivating one of the vegetable beds. It was full of poppies and a first for me. I couldn’t then remove these beauties! Dig up the ground and they will come!

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We have had had plenty of birds around too but it is our water bath that is the draw not any food we put out! One day red rumped swallows checked out our new porch but didn’t return. Another day the sky was full of vultures. There must have been over 30 gathering and some flew so low over us you could hear the wing beats.

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Greetings to all those bloggers out there who follow me. I have been keeping an eye on your posts but needed to get back in gear. A new blogger and follower from a place I lived in 30 odd years ago sparked me to return to share. Landscaping Nature from Hyderabad in South India. I have got further with my novel about the wild world  and hope the blog can also help inspire us with nature and it’s diverse wonders.

Photos taken with Panasonic LUMIX FZ300

Quote Challenge 2: What would the world be, once bereft Of wet and of wildness ? Let them be left,

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness ? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet ;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

Gerard Manley Hopkins from his poem about  Inversnaid

Today on the second day of the quote challenge it is certainly wet here in the Sierra Aracena.  This is not surprising as we live within a triangle of some of the most rainfall for Andalucia. The hill or mountainside we are on is 730 metres  above sea level. The peak of Castano is about 861m. It can often be in the clouds. However in the summer it can be very dry and hot. The area has been cultivated for many centuries, there are many megalithic sites and later the Romans grew vines here. Settlements after the Spanish Inquisition developed more chestnut orchards and pig farming. There are some areas which are more wild and these tend to be on the higher parts and deep valleys. However, the trees have given a green and moist canopy to the hills. It is now a natural park and conservation of the environment is high on the agenda while balancing some of the needs of farmers. It is also home and inspiration to many artists, photgraphers and film makers. Soledad Fenandez Coll is a naturalist and artist from this region and her name will link to her art currently on display at the virtual gallery of Artagora.

There are some more  photographs of the old and abandoned chestnuts on the footpath to the village of Galaroza.  Photographs are by  Ruth Koenigsberger. Some were featured in Quote 1 and an earlier post on Autumn Walks. Ruth and Sol  are currently exhibiting their art at the ARCO  event in Madrid where both are involved in the alternative way to show art: Room Art.  Some of Ruth’s art is also on the November 2015 archive on the virtual gallery Artagora.

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I’ve always loved this verse of Gerard Manley Hopkins. He was an artist with words but who saw the challenges of keeping wild places. I hope we can all speak out, write, draw, paint and inspire others to protect the wild world.

 

 

 

The Quote Challenge

Thank you Jenny for nominating me and we seem to be on similar journeys finding out more about the natural world but on the opposite sides of this globe!

jennylitchfield.wordpress.com

For this second day challenge I nominate the three blogs  below with a focus on photography and inspiring a love of nature. This is all just part of a fun challenge which may bring to our attention more interesting blogs. Nominees should feel no pressure to create their own quote challenge. I have nominated these blogs as they all capture some wonderful photographs of the diverse world we live in.

  • Post for three consecutive days
  • Posts can be one or three quotes per day
  • Nominate three different blogs per day
  1. https://foxduplanty.wordpress.com/  Beautiful focus on the plant world and its importance.
  2. http://picturethisbyfrank.com/  Amazing range of nature photos
  3. http://photographyofnia.com/  Brings the cat and bird world of the city of Istanbul to our attention

 

Quote Challenge 1: No man is an Island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

It has taken me over a week to get round to this quote challenge and it has challenged me. Any advice on quick ways to make links to other blogs would be helpful. I was thinking about how to have links to some of the key nature blogs I follow around the world and to those who have inspired me so much when I first started blogging. Jenny in New Zealand has nominated me and it is interesting to find out so much about nature and the lives of others around the world. I first fell in love with this quote and John Donne’s poem when I was at secondary school and we had an assembly on the United Nations. It resonates with me still and the whole poem is at the bottom of this post. It also seems to speak to me about the UK referendum on  being a part of the European Union. I would rather see joined up thinking on a planet that needs some drastic action to improve the environment for all species.

The weather here in Navasola is still wintry but can be quite warm when the sun comes out. There are a few flowers about but it is the tree shapes which are so fascinating. So I am featuring some photographs taken by my friend and artist Ruth Koenigsberger. I have put my own haiku underneath as a response. I have been quite inspired to write poetry again because of DVerse poets very original ideas of a poetry bar where we can all have a poem together.

 

 

Peep through my inner trunk, all hollowed out with age Adorned with velvet
Peep through my inner
trunk, all hollowed out with age
Adorned with velvet

Young pines tall and straight Old arms embrace with kali Hug the earth with wood

Young pines tall and straight.
Old arms embrace with Kali,
Hug the earth with wood.

 

 

For this quote challenge I am going to focus on nature blogs that I like to follow . There is no compulsion to accept the challenge if I have nominated  a blog. I hope though that others might be able to explore those they haven’t come across.  There are also so many good blogs out there that I love that it is difficult to choose.  I have not chosen the ones that first inspired me but will mention these now: Donna at gardenwalkgardentalkCindy Knoke and  Steve  Schwartzman.  He has very good photographic tips and botanical skills but also has another blog on Spanish/ English etymology. Having studied linguistics and now living in Spain that find was a double treasure.

The Quote Challenge

Thank you Jenny for nominating me and we seem to be on similar journeys finding out more about the natural world but on the opposite sides of this globe!

jennylitchfield.wordpress.com

I will try and run the challenge for three days. So for this first day challenge I nominate the three blogs below from three different parts of this planet. This is all just part of a fun challenge which may bring to our attention more interesting blogs. Nominees should feel no pressure to create their own quote challenge. I have nominated them because they all have wonderful ways of exploring this wonderful world.

  • Post for three consecutive days
  • Posts can be one or three quotes per day
  • Nominate three different blogs per day

 

Sarah                                    AWildflowermelody

Julie                                       Frogpondfarm

Morgan                                Thereremouse

 

John Donne

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

Peep through my inner trunk, all hollowed out with age Adorned with velvet

Ruth Koenigsberger is currently exhibiting some of her art at the ARCO  event in Madrid. She is involved in the alternative way to show art: Room Art.  Some of her art is also on the November 2015 archive on the virtual gallery Artagora. Our friend and nature artist is also currently being shown on there. Soledad Fenandez Coll.

Misstery Bird, Missing binoculars, Missing Birds. How many birds will we miss?

My first ventures at bird photography with the LUMIX was more successful than the dear old iPhone. It was also quite good to zoom in on birds to identify them as our binoculars have gone walkabout. In this photo I was trying to identify a large looking  egret but missed seeing the other two. It was only later, on the computer, I spotted the two other birds.

Photo of egret but includes a mystery bird camoflaged on the shore; largish with possibly long beak; curlew? and small wader paddling. Perhaps the zoom on the camera is better than the binoculars we have left in London!
Photo of Little Egret  but includes a mystery bird camoflaged on the shore; largish with possibly long beak; curlew? and small wader paddling!
Ringed plover
Ringed plover little, Charadrius dubius

I never thought how important binoculars would be some years ago when I tried using them and couldn’t focus at first. But the distinct colours and antics of birds became so vivid that now I feel lost without them. I remember the little brown bird in my garden, a dunnock,with its tawny golden streaked feathers.

Grey plover in adult winter plumage. Pluvialis squatarola.
Grey plover in adult winter plumage. Pluvialis squatarola.arden.
Another curlew on a sand bank
Another curlew on a sand bank, numenius arquata

In 2010 we walked along this stretch of the Ria Formosa by Cabanas Fort. This is a sandy dune habitat and a protected place for conservation of a range of habitats and seabirds. My eyes were opened to the variety of birds and trying to look for the leg or beak colours. This was another eye opener to the amazing range of birds I had never really thought about before.

But the curlew had always been a part of my imagination. A book read long ago in childhood described the haunting cry of the curlew. Now we need to listen to their plaintive cries and protect their habitats. Maybe the mystery bird is a curlew?  But could it be a whimbrel, a godwit or one of those green or red shanks… .? It was far too far  away to see and when I saw the photo it was also well camouflaged on the shoreline.  A bird to haunt me!

Now for the missing binoculars, not just one but two pairs. Is this what happens travelling between UK, Spain and Portugal? Unfortunately am still looking and having to use the camera to zoom in and capture a little bird.

More of a concern than the binoculars are the decline in bird numbers. How many different birds will we miss if we have never known the amazing variety that there are?    Just for starters…. Kentish plover, Ringed plover, Little ringed plover, Golden plover, Grey plover, Dotterel and let’s not confuse Dunlin, Sanderling and Knot or take a Stint or two.

Maybe they all deserve a poem or a shipping forecast with their amazing names.

More seedy thoughts and photographic art

Some follow up photos and thoughts on  waking up the seeds at Wakehurst Place, the  Royal Botanical Millenium Seed Bank. Many of the seeds conserved so far have been UK indigenous and endangered. Some of these seeds collected are being used to restore wild flower meadows in UK.  I am pondering how to maybe use some of the wild flower seeds on the Finca. Should I offer a helping hand?  Or interfere with natures’ ways? Is too much endangered and we need carefully planned conservation of  habitats that support biodiversity. IMG_2509 The view walking down to the Millenium seed bank looks as if you are walking towards greenhouses! However the Southern roofs all have solar panels to give the power needed to conserve the seeds that are in deep freeze way down below in the vaults of the building.

Phaenocoma prolifera Cape Strawflower Banked 2006
Phaenocoma prolifera
Cape Strawflower
Banked 2006

IMG_2498 This seems all very high tech as you can watch the botanical scientists at work in the airy and light atrium.   There are also some photos and beds of seeds from the seed bank. Some of the endangered seeds from hot dry habitats are shown. These have been grown from seeds once frozen.BUT not all seeds can be preserved by deep freezing. This seems to support the case for trying to conserve habitats but in some areas this is difficult due to many human factors and I will include drought in that as it is likely that is due to man made climate change. IMG_2500 IMG_2507 Another thought that occurred to me having read a fascinating blog on orchids and their seductive nature for key pollinators is the need to conserve the pollinators too! Thanks to Pipmarks for that and the comment on previous post should link anyone interested in orchids. I will end with one of the photos that had won the photography competition on display at Wakehurst. Such detail and so complex a beastie!

Paul Harcourt Davies 1st place Wildlife in the Garden
Paul Harcourt Davies
1st place Wildlife in the Garden