We left Seville airport well after midnight, going in convoy. Maalie and Simon in the lead, followed by Ken and Linda and in the rear Peter and Lorenzo. LtL was doing the driving as Peter had 'conveniently' forgotten his driving licence so Lorenzo got lumbered. Mind you, as Wren pointed out, however stressful it was trying to follow and keep up with Maalie, the lateness of the hour, strange car, strange country, strange road signs, strange language, it would have been ten times worse if Peter was driving. After a near miss with a white van, accompanied by furious hooting and rude gestures, Maalie managed to find his way out of Seville. Felt a bit sorry for the van driver actually, as Maalie had completely cut him up, moving from right hand lane, across four lanes, to turn left at a huge cross roads. I clapped my hands over my eyes as I couldn't bear the thought of my big brother being squashed by a Spaniard, but I noticed that Peter watched with interest and a certain amount of grudging respect.
When we eventually arrived at the camp site, it was wonderful to see so many friends and soon-to-be friends. TCA had considerately bought about a dozen litre bottles of San Miguel. These were waiting for us and we eagerly fell upon them.
Saturday night was the big party. Brilliant. Good food, good wine, good speeches, good company, good everything. Perhaps because of the good wine, all the pictures I took have come out somewhat fuzzy and totally out of focus, so I'll skip them.
The rest of the week was birdwatching and sneaking away and hiding before we got put on a birdwatching tour! Actually, all the birdwatching was brilliant, especially John Butler's tour and Maalie's tour into the 'mountains' to show us Griffin Vultures and Black Vultures. My favourites were the storks. These were brilliant and I never got tired of watching them fly around, and looking at their big untidy nests. I noticed little sparrows made their nests in the storks' nests, so it seemed like a big, happy family. Some of the storks made nests on top of pylons. Special platforms had been put there for this purpose.
Stork's nest on a pylon
Peter optimistically looking for eagles. No-one told him he was in fact looking down the wrong end. Mind you, he was a tad hung over from the party the night before.
The village of El Rocia itself looked a bit like a Western stage set. No roads, only white sand tracks, as horses use this village more than motor vehicles. Every house, shop, bank, bar etc. had wooden poles outside to tie horses onto while the owner conducted their business inside.
I think probably the rarest birds we saw were Black Stork (endangered) and an Iberian Imperial Eagle. Some of the prettiest were Azure Winged Magpie, Bee-Eaters and Black Wing Stilts; the most spectacular were the Flamingoes and the most boring were the (Lesser) Short-Toed Larks.
What a load of twitchers!
One day Peter and I drove to the coast and found rather a grand marina, very newly built. We had a walk around it and then we heard a little mewing sound. I looked down and there was a litter of five little kits obviously having been moved to the water's edge on the rocks by their mother. One of them was a Siamese, the other ordinary little moggies. Wonder who the father was.
The flowers and grasses in this area were amazing. I loved all the different grasses and took a few seeds to see if they will grow here. There was also a strange looking flower. It had leaves like a sage, but flowers like one of the pea family.
It was very interesting meeting Simon after visiting his blog several times. This is my lasting image of Simon:
And finally, dear Maalie coming out from the bush looking dejected after not finding a Golden Oriole!