Bugs, Frogs & Walkers

Foot bath at the Fabrica
Poplar woods at the Fabrica

September can be a great month here, with the rain coming back and bringing new growth and life. Canillas de Albaida’s Fabrica de la Luz is one of the best places to enjoy this, and river and trees are beautiful. It’s a great place to start and end a walk.

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Rescuing Skimmers

Epaulet Skimmer

Seeing lots of dragonflies right now. September seems to be the moment: my best dragonfly shot was taken this time last year when magnificent Epaulet Skimmer that paused on a wall for me. I’m surprised because I have only ever spotted exuvia – the somewhat creepy empty body-shell of the nymph form – in late spring. Must be missing some.

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Views among the Villas

Lagartija sign, near SayalongaComing from Sayalonga to get to Cómpeta the shortest walking route given that you shouldn’t walk the main road, (it is neither pleasant nor safe) is the wide, well used track that runs along the top of this side of the valley ending at Portichuelo, one of the upper entrances to the second town. You can reach it by heading up the hill that rises on the right hand side from the main road to Cómpeta and is used by many to find a space to park; at the top the track goes left and winds on and on and on.

We went in the early afternoon – a bit hot for walking – but we were in no hurry, kicking up dust on the quiet road, enjoying the views, admiring the villas. These are rural lands, alternating between small farms or country houses bedded in among the vineyards and olive groves and little knots of (often) foreign owned villas, many of which are beautiful.

If you go left at the ‘Lagarjita’ lizard sign, you join the track that winds down to Bodegas Bentomiz. This is the home of the gorgeous Ariyanas wines and is worth a visit – they do almost daily tours and wine-tastings, as well as an elegant restaurant serving wine-centred lunches. We went the other way – up and on to reach the ridge and continue towards Cómpeta.

Grapes in the raisin-beds
The vines leaves are just taking a hint of yellow as we head into autumn, but the grapes were still being dried into raisins in the white-walled paseros, darkening to a rich sweet red. vineyards in the valleyLooking across the valley the breadth and depth of this ridged and channelled land striking. It is easy to forget how long and deeply this region has been farmed and, eager to reach the natural park, miss the beauty of the vineyards and olive groves on all hands.

Corumbela

We reached the ridge, opposite Corumbela, with wonderful views of Cómpeta and Canillas de Albaida ahead.

Canillas and Cómpeta

 

 

 

Our route was enlivened by a pair of kestrels in airborne courtship display: we heard the sharp cries, saw them tangle in midair, land briefly and then they flew again.

In these tamed lands you are not likely to see anything wildly unfamiliar, but the garden escapes mixing with wayside plants are very pretty. And Cómpeta is more beautiful than ever in the evening light.dscf7113

 

 

 

 

 

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Moths and Mantids

September and October are usually good walking and wildlife months. We have been a bit dry this autumn, though; just a small shower so far, though a good downpour is predicted before we pass mid-October. This dry spell may be why I haven’t seen quite as much wildlife as usual. These are some of the smaller beasts I might be expecting:

Milipede on the Cajula valley upper track
Milipede on the Cajula valley upper track
Adult ant-lion on the Collado Huerta Grande track
Adult ant-lion on the Collado Huerta Grande track

 

 

 

 

 

 

Praying Mantis, Árchez
Praying Mantis, Árchez

 

Praying Mantis, Cómpeta
Praying Mantis, Cómpeta

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mediterranean Tiger Moth, Canillas de Albaida
Mediterranean Tiger Moth, Canillas de Albaida

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Seen anything exciting this autumn?

  • Grasshopper
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Shooting Atalaya

Had a visit mid September from an old friend. Andrew Clifton is a very keen photographer – the sort of man who never takes just one camera out at a time and always has another lens on him somewhere. As it happens he also loves wildlife and walking and asked me to find him somewhere with good views, lots of interest. No problem. Time to revisit Atalaya.

by Casa Buena Vistalandscape viewWalking with a photographer makes you look with a fresh eye. My own shots suddenly made more use of of light and shade and the landscape’s inherent drama.

Female Red Crossbill
Female Red Crossbill

To my amazement I even got a good shot of a female Crossbill, using a camera that Andrew lent. Small birds are always hard to capture, being adept at finding the thickest point in the tree to hide in, but there is the odd one, like this lovely bird, that will perch very openly. But you still need a good zoom.

My pocket camera does not have one, so very few of my shots of bird are any good. However, it is excellent at macro, which suits me down to the ground for shots of all kinds of small things – bugs, bees, spiders, flowers. I think my favourite of my own shots of wildlife on this one was a close up of lichens on Atalaya’s crest: they are so beautiful if you take the time to look.

on Fuente Borriquero  Striped Grayling (Hipparchia fidia)

on the firebreak

lichen, Atalaya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I was done taking pictures of ‘more bugs’ – and especially as we got into the rough lands around the crest of Atalaya – I also noticed that photographers are photogenic themselves. Landscapes, which fill the mind and soul when you are in them, can easily seem dull in the flat after-image of a photograph. A person gives the picture a focus, especially if that person is working rather than merely grinning at the camera. All the better if they are standing on the edge of a precipice at the time. Like I said, drama!

Andrew Clifton, Cerro Atalaya Andrew Clifton, Cerro Atalaya Andrew Clifton, Cerro Atalaya Andrew Clifton, Cerro Atalaya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now I wait till Andrew has recovered from his holiday here enough to process the hundreds of shots he took. Hope he will send one or two my way.

Great walking with you Andrew!

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Festival Arabe Andalusí

IFSalares is a gorgeous little village tucked in a river valley with a deep gorge crossed by a neat ‘Arabic’ bridge. It’s ancient church tower was once the minaret of the town’s mosque, and can be seen above a beautiful maze of houses, that are dissected by steep, narrow paths. How does modern life fit in? It fits in well; there is one good broad ‘paseo’ from the main road that runs in beside the town from the main road, giving the town access and space. This is where they set up the stalls, the marque and the displays for the Festival Arabe Andalusí.

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It is a very Spanish Arabic festival, with flamenco dancing as well as belly-dancing and a brass band and clowns as well as dressage and falconry, but it is all the better for its variety: all the more fun.

José Manuel Carrascal of Fauna SurI missed the first day this year, having gone down the valley to see a flamenco performance at Bodegas Bentomiz in Sayalonga. But on the Saturday I wandered up at midday, when not so much is happening, between the plastic-toy stalls, the donut stand, and past the marque where the brass band would shortly perform to almost bump into José Manuel Carrascal near the henna-tattoo stand. I’m glad I didn’t crash right into him though; it might have upset the boa constrictor he was wearing.

José Manuel, who runs
Fauna Sur, is a falconer with an interest in other exotic animals. His birds include eagles, owls, crows and falcons and they are wonderful.

 

 

He had them in a covered pen, these gorgeous birds. “They are not tame,” he told us, as he brought one out and then another. “They belong to themselves. They come to the glove when they are hungry for their meat reward. They will not fly unless they are hungry”. Then he hurled the bird upward and it soared to a balcony ledge and perched there glaring round to see what lay below, turning its head when he heard the falconer’s breathy whistle for it to come back.

 

I watched and watched and the crowd stayed with him, though it was a long display. At a certain point thirst drew me off to the Los Arcos bar and I went back down the parade to see what else was about.

There were dancers in costume coming out into the crowd, ready for the next round of entertainments. I love the laid back atmosphere of these fiestas, though the lack of any reliable timetable can be frustrating.

I love the flags and decorations; I love the costumes, whether it’s the traditional outfits of the horse riders, the flamenco dancers dresses or the belly-dancers dresses – and especially the fact that all these performers seem to be enjoying it.

 

The horses were also being dressed up, one with an elaborately plaited mane. The three riders I watched turned and danced their horses back and forth. One of the riders was very young, maybe just 12 or 13, but was guiding her horse to walk backwards, stand and circle around a wooden lance she held, with consummate skill.



 

 

 

Then I went back to the birds.

Now José Manuel was having some trouble with a young falcon that was newly trained that wouldn’t come down. The problem was distractions – not human nonsense, but flocks of house martins turning and flying and turning again in the evening light. I walked up through the town to the balcony near the townhall to watch them and thought them beautiful birds. The little falcon was certainly interested in them, but after fidgeting and flying from one roof top to another roof top for some 20 minutes he finally came down to the falconers wrist.

The time had come for me to get home too. As the crowds were coming in for a night of music and dancing and the main road was filling up with cars I headed out. Brilliant fiesta though; must spend more time there next year!

Salares Fiesta 2016
Salares Fiesta 2016

 

 

 

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