Monday, 11 April 2016

1st April - Pedralva to Carrapateira, Algarve, Portugal

I awoke this morning to the song of a Corn Bunting, not something that happens in Four Marks, this was then followed by the twittering of Swallows.  Looking out of a misted window due to the cool temperature I could see the sun just rising above the valley, catching a distant house and highlighting the white wash with a golden glow.

As I waited to go down to breakfast I spent some time outside the house watching the swallows once again as they collected mud from the sandy banks at the back of the house.  There were Red-rumped and Barn Swallows busy flying around, and I was able to catch this Swallow complete with mud as it took it to repair or even build new its nest.

As i stood watching the comings and goings of the swallows I could hear the call of a Cuckoo from the valley, my first of the year and appropriate maybe that today was April Fool's Day.

We walked to the restaurant through the small streets of the village, these always look more impressive at either end of the day when the sun is low in the sky.  Here we have the contrast of the restored and the old in a small square complete with red post box

Looking back is our "house the second red door and shutters on the right.

It is the older ruined buildings that catch the eye, the weathered wood and old paint providing a lot of character.

As we walked down the streets the Swallows twittered above us and from the overhead wires.

It was too cold to sit outside so we had breakfast inside, the restaurant area though i am sure would be very inviting in the summer.

Wild flowers seem to grow everywhere here, even on the roofs of the village houses.

After breakfast we wheeled our bags to reception, checked out and then headed back along the main street, across a road and onto Guided Route 11 that took us along the river valley that supplies the village in the direction of Carrapateira.

being in the river valley afforded some shelter from the cool fresh breeze, and where the sun got through there were some nice warm spots that attracted butterflies.  The first to be seen was of course the Speckled Wood but a little further on we were treated to some lovely close views of a Spanish Festoon.

From the condition of the butterfly and the fact that it was so approachable it could be that this was a freshly emerged individual.  Some wonderful markings and colour.

Everywhere was so lush and green and there were plenty of trees that had taken advantage of the availability of water.  Mainly Cork Oaks, there twisted and gnarled barks provide a wonderful frame for the green grass and wild flowers, while the canopy provides shadows in areas to contrast with the green 

We continued along the track which was quite easy going.  Once again either side of us we would hear the rattle of a Sardinian Warbler, and then that annoying flight call from the Zitting Cisticola.

After about two kilometres we turned off the main track and started to head uphill, the path closing in with Cistus and the shrubby herbs of Rosemary and Lavender.  For the first time on this trip we saw a small party of walkers ahead of us, but soon they turned off the path in a different direction to that we would take.  

As the path wound around the rim of a valley a large hawk suddenly appeared above us, and then was gone.  It was of the accipter species, and quite large and if I was pushed I would have said it was a Goshawk, but I couldn't get any real identification features on it.

The Lavender was attracting many bees and as we stopped for a drink I watched this bee going from the flower heads of the Lavender.

As the path split the area became more open, and on the path were several striking yellow flowers, these are Rock Roses, or to give it's actual name, the Basil-leaved Rock Rose.  It is a member of the Cistus family, and typically thrives on sandy soil in full sun.

We were now heading down the side of another valley through low pine trees.  From the trees there were calls that sounded like Blue Tits, but turned out to be something a lot more interesting.  Moving through the pine tree one appeared at the top of the tree.

The Crested Tit, a bird only found in the highlands of Scotland, and one that eluded me when we were last in the Cairngorms a few years ago.  But here one was giving some lovely views, the crest giving a sort of attitude.

A little further down the side of the valley a familiar song heralded the appearance of the fourth lark species of the trip, a Woodlark.  It was singing from the overhead power lines.

The path then came upon a road, which we crossed and continued up another dirt track, passing several old ruined buildings, one with a small bread oven along side it.  

An interesting feature of the surrounding valley sides was the patterns created by the pine trees.  They grow low, but ball out creating this strange scene.

Movement by the side of the road made me stop and wait, then slowly a medium sized lizard appeared.  You could see the orange red throat, and just behind the shoulders of the front legs a couple of blue spots.  This is the Algerian Sand Lizard, a common lizard of the area, and this one is a male in breeding colours

Purple thistle like flowers were attracting small insects.  They are a Scottish Thistle, and are characterised by the down pointing bracts under the flower head.  Here is a one with a larger insect on it, a Painted Lady.

As we reached the brow of the hill we could now see the sea, and a little further on we could see our final destination settled behind the sand dunes.

As we walked down the path the yellow flowers either side of the sloped were gorse.  These are a low lying form, and were covered in the yellow flowers shining brightly in the sunshine.

 Finally the track wound it way down to a junction, turning right would have taken us to Carrapateira, but our route took us into the dunes and the spectacular Amado Beach.  As we reached the dunes the ground was covered with succulent leaves and bright yellow flowers.

This is Fig-hottentot, an alien species, originally from southern Africa, and is naturalised in many parts of Europe and the Mediterranean. It is a succulent plant and so well adapted to the hot and dry conditions found in the Mediterranean region, where it forms dense and showy mats of leaves and flowers.  A mauve or pink-flowered form of the plant is often interspersed with the yellow ones.

The beach was wonderful, open and empty, but with some people in the sea surfing.  To the north reddish sandstone cliffs

While to the south, the cliffs were a lot darker.

After lunch on the beach we headed back to the road that runs along the cliff tops.  From a higher position you get a sense of the size of the beach.

In the dunes,and on the bracken were Linnets and lots of Goldfinches that posed very nicely close to the road.

The road gained height giving some lovely views of the crashing waves and cliffs away to the south west, spectacular scenery.

Looking down to the sea below us Helen pointed out a Sandwich Tern fishing in the shallower surf.

We stopped once again to take in the wonderful views of the beach we were walking away from.

We stopped at a lovely cliff top restaurant, the Sitio do Forno, here we had a drink as we watched the ocean that stretched all the way west, next stop the New Jersey Shore.  After the break we were off again, walking inland from the restaurant through an area of Agave plants.  These are Agave Americana which was brought by the Spanish and Portuguese from Central America.  The plant was mainly used to make rope from the fibres, but in Mexico it is one of the plants that tequila is made from.

More thistles, and more insects, this time a Six-spot Burnet Moth.

Our path took us past some more small holdings, and Serins were singing everywhere, this one showing well for once on the flower body of the Agave.

The path then went past a sewerage farm, and a reed bed where even more Cisticolas manged to annoy me.  We then came to the main road, and a small square of the village.  From here we were then taken on a route through Carrapateira passing some ruins once again with plants growing on the roof.

As we came out of the village we made our way down from the village, amd out omto a dirt track.  Our destination was the hotel and resort Casa Fajara.  This is another property that has been renovated and refurbished with a considerable amount of detail.  There were tennis courts and a good sized swimming pool. 

After checking we took the time to relax in the sunshine by the pool.  As we lay there there a very repetitive call coming from the nearby woods.  I can only describe the call as a monotonous repeated beep, and something that could be considered to be mechanical or human made.  When I checked though later there was no doubt that this was the call of a Scops Owl.

Our calm did not last too long as we were joined by other guests, but once they had returned to the hotel the calm returned, and with it the calls of Bee Eaters from the ridge at the back of the hotel.  Several flew over, and I rushed to get the camera and was able to get at least a record shot as one flew over.  Hopefully there would be more over the next few days we are here

While waiting for the Bee Eaters to maybe return I heard the familiar calls of Raven away over the valley and picked up one as it flew across to be joined by its partner on the top of the hill behind the Casa Fajara.

That evening we had dinner in the hotel, which was not exactly what we expected, and then back to the room, tomorrow we had to decide which of the walks we took that had been recommended.  We were here in the Casa Fajara for three nights and this would now be our base to explore the area around this wonderful coast

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