Friday, 8 April 2016

30th March - Salema to Vila do Bispo, Algarve, Portugal

Whilst we didn't wake to the clear skies at dawn this morning, the sun was there but with a fair share of cloud.  From the apartment balcony I was able to watch a steady trickle of Gannets heading west out over the sea.

Today we were moving on, our destination the municipality town of Vila do Bispo, it would though be a walk of differing landscape, stating along the coast and beaches, and then heading through farmland and valleys to our destination.  It would also be the longest walk of the trip, a little under 20 kilometres, so we were setting off early.

As we walked to the cafe the House Martins were collecting wet sand from where the river met the beach.

We left Salema to the west, we had enjoyed the stay here, a lovely village with a certain calmness about it, it would have been a nice location to have finished the trip.  The initial route took us through residential developments, and the out onto a cliff path.

The narrow path took us through the now familiar shrubs dominated by Cistus and Juniper, with the usual calls of Sardinian Warbler and Serin around us.

The cloud cover was almost 100% but despite this the sun was faintly shining through, and the first butterfly of the day was seen on the path.  It was the Iberian sub species of the Speckled Wood, more orangey brown than those seen here in the UK, but like its northern counterparts it is one of the earliest to be seen in the day.

At the edge of the path, and under the cover of the shrubs were several of the Mirror Orchids we had seen yesterday, but we also came across another new orchid.  This is the strangely names Naked Man Orchid, I will leave it to the imagination to work out why.

Considered to be one of the prettiest (despite its name!) and most common of the orchids to grow in the Algarve, this flower is found close to the coast. It usually flowers from the end of April so this is an early one.  In ideal habitats, it can form impressive colonies.

A Sardinian Warbler appeared at the top of one of the bushes after giving away its presence with its rattling calls.

A little further on another new Orchid was found on the path.  I consider this to be on of the Tongue Orchid species.

From the various descriptions I have been able to find, I would expect this to be the Heart-flowered Tongue Orchid.  It has large showy flowers, which vary from brick red to deep blood red in colour. While the flowers have not emerged here, there are signs of these colours.  It flowers in April and the best place to find them is on the edge of mixed cork oak and pine woodland behind the coastal strip in damp grassland, which was similar to the habitat this one was in.

The cliff path took us past the ruin of a fort named Forte da Figueira, then wound downhill and towards the village of Figueira.

Another butterfly flew past and settled in the sandy tracks, at first with its wings closed then they opened to reveal our first Painted Lady.

We passed small holdings as we walked into the village, and from the bushes alongside them the Cisticolas called.  Along the main road there was the ruined front of an old house, there was nothing behind it but in the windows the net curtains still hung.

We turned into a side street, and headed towards a dirt road watched closely by one of the village inhabitants.

Looking down a side track I noticed a white shape sitting on one of the overhead wires.  It was a Cattle Egret, and despite the distance you could make out the buff colour on the crest indicating breeding plumage.  There has not been a lot of cattle around so far which is probably why we have not seen these egrets so far.

We were now moving parallel with the coast, moving through various valleys and heading for Furnas Beach.  We came across this pretty purple flower on several of the shrubs, but I have not been able to identify it.

We walked along a track that was walled on either side, then out into the open where Corn Buntings could be heard singing from almost every top of a bush or tree, and on the overhead wires.  The "jangling keys" sound one now very much missed in the UK.

As we made our way down to the road that leads to Furnas Beach Azure-winged Magpies flew above us, and I finally managed to get a good view of these lovely birds in the top of the trees above the valley.

They may not have the black and white plumage of the magpie, but there jizz and behaviour is almost identical.

The notes we were following recommended going down to the beach and spending some time there.  As we walked towards the sea we started to come across a few camper vans, and pretty soon the whole road and sides of the road were covered in vans of all nationalities, it was like a commune.  Rubbish everywhere, chickens running around and children playing around the streams and bushes.  We continued hoping the beach would be better, but when we got there we found that this was probably the place to go to wash and we suddenly realised that many of the people were not wearing anything.

We decided to leave the beach and continue our walk, retracing our path through the vans, and then back on down the road.  After walking the road for awhile we turned off, and made our way through the scrub of Cistus and Mastic.  Blue flowers like Periwinkle could be seen in the shrubs, and these were being visited by Bumblebees.

We came to an open part of the scrub with Corn Bunting singing, but I noticed a white bird at the top of a bush that was not a Corn Bunting, and was pleased to find the first shrike of the trip, a Woodchat Shrike.

We crossed a more open area, with Swallows hawking low over the short grass, and Thekla Larks singing from rocks, and exploding from under shrubs as we passed.  Our walk was now gradually heading towards rocks and the cliffs, and finally we were greeted with a wonderful view out across Zavial Beach.  We decided to take a break here, eat our picnic and watch the surfers below.

After lunch we followed the track along the top of the cliffs, and surprised this Black Redstart on the top of one of the surrounding bushes.

It would appear to be a male that is still acquiring breeding plumage.

A little further along a yellow butterfly passes us and settles on one of the buttercups.  The shape is familiar, like a Brimstone, but even with the wings closed it is possible to see orange on the upper wing.  This is a Cleopatra closely related to our Brimstone.

They are commonly found in the southern countries - Portugal, Spain, the south of France and across the Mediterranean  The raised veins on the undersides give them the appearance of a leaf when they are at rest.   This is a male which are on average a bit smaller than the females.

We didn't walk down to the beach but continued along a road with more singing Sardinaian Warblers, and plenty of butterflies passing us by, but all of them were ones we have already seem

The skies were now clear, and with little breeze it was becoming quite hot, and walking was not easy.  Our next stop was Ingrina Beach, complete with beach cafe, the perfect place to stop for a drink.

The walk then takes us along the cliff path through more Cistus, the white delicate flowers and the shiny sticky leaves now becoming quite the sight of our walks.

As well as the Cistus this area was also full of the low growing gorse, and Lots of Rosemary, some of which was in flower, the blueish flowers appearing under the scented leaves.

And in larger clumps the purple flowered spikes of the Lavender.

There was the option to walk down to Barranco Beach, but with the heat now our objective was to reach the destination as quickly as we could.  

The path now turned inland following a slight valley.  It was here though that we made our first mistake.  On reaching a junction with a path to the left and a path to the right and one straight on.  The notes said take the Right hand path, and not one that leads to bee hives.  We took the centre path as that was the right hand.  The trail continued for just under a kilometre when we came across a road.  The notes made no mention of a road, we had taken the wrong path.

Fortunately we had maps and I was able to locate where we were.  We followed the road for about 500 metres, then turned down the track we should have been on, and then found the turn we had to take to get down into the valley.  At this time of the afternoon, like yesterday the wildlife goes quiet, even more so when it was as warm as it was.

The walk took us across a stream, and up through private property (we apparently had permission) and then out into farmland.  Ahead of us we could see Vila do Bispo.

Cow bells in the distance accompanied us as we walked, the owners grazing on the horizon.

In seeing our final destination there was a surge of energy between us, this was helped also by the fact that the walk was mainly down hill.

On either side of us were fields, and there were plenty of insects and bees about.  This red beetle was extremely eye catching.

The edge of the fields were lined with what can only be described as a drooping flower.  The flowers are blue but the heads point down all the time.

This is Borage and why such a lovely wildflower should hang its head in shame is a mystery.  Not surprisingly, Borage has been grown mainly as an ornamental plant, although its leaves are used to flavour drinks - notably Pimms. These days the plant is also grown in cultivation for its oil-rich seeds.

Finally a new butterfly passed us and I crossed my fingers for itto stop, which it finally did.  This is the Spanish Festoon and  at rest, when its wings are nearly always held wide open, the Spanish Festoon is a truly magnificent sight. 

It's distribution is confined in Europe to Spain and Portugal; its southern range extending well in to the northern countries of Africa. Its preferred habitat is scrubby grassland and woodland clearings.

Birds had been quite on this last leg other than of course the annoying Cisticolas which were all over the farmland, so it was pleasing when a Buzzard drifted across in front of us.

It flew around the fields but then drifted back to take up a higher position on the valley side where it would hover like a Kestrel as it scoured the grass below.  The hovering behaviour will always identify a larger raptor as a Buzzard.

Finally we reached the road, and we could see our hotel, it was opposite the old church in the central square of the old town centre of Vila do Bispo.

Our room was not ready despite the fact that we had been walking for 6 hours, and with the unforeseen detour a distance of over 20 kilometres.

We managed to find a cafe with tables outside in the square, and sat and had a drink.  I was fascinated by the tiles on the roofs of the nearby houses.

Once we were able to get into our room, I couldn't rest so I set off to explore the town.  Vila do Bispo is a small working town and is the commercial and administrative centre for the municipality which includes other towns such as Sagres and Raposeira.  The church is actually from the 16th century despite its clean looks.

I decided to explore the older neighbourhood where there were typical Algarvean houses.

Everywhere looked immaculate, white washed houses and wall mixing with blues and ochre colours all standing out against the beautiful blue skies.

I came across one property with a Stork weather vane.  I had hoped to see White Storks while we were here.  They are one of those birds like cranes that capture the imagination.  While looking like herons, they are not herons, and have a magical quality that is hard to describe.  I hope that this is not the only stork I see.

On the outskirts of the old town was an old windmill.  The design is a lot different to those we are used to, more like the Greek designs.  The sails would have been positioned to the back of the spindle, and then attached by rope to the front.

We had been given a recommendation for dinner in Vila do Bispo, but when I finally found the Riberia do Poco and tried to book a table I was told that they had decided to close that evening due to the lack of potential diners.  This was a shame because it would seem this is the restaurant in the area.  However we did find a small restaurant opposite the hotel that served very traditional Portuguese food, which was very nice.  Rustic is what we decided to call it.

It didn't take long to fall asleep the walk had taken a lot out of us, lets hope things are a little easier tomorrow as we head further inland to Aldeia da Pedralva.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.