Sunday, 20 May 2007

Maalie in Spain

Peter and I had the honour of being asked to Maalie's official retirement party, down in the South West region of Spain near a small village called El Rocio.

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.

A Storkery

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!


Ann said...

Really enjoyed that Jill - makes me want to go there. Pictures - fantastic. What I like best of all are the wooden poles outside every building, to tie your husband to. Did you make use of them?

Maalie said...

The drivers in Seville are maniacs. Completely reckless with no consideration for other road users (especially foreign ones).

Those cats are feral, they should be put down, they are not part of the ecosystem.

Otherwise nice pictures and commentary.

lorenzothellama said...

You leave those little cats alone. They are not doing anyone any harm and they were so pretty.

As for the drivers in Seville, well, you are a good one to talk after cutting up that poor white van driver. And ... what about the time you nearly ran into the back of a lorry doing about 70?

Thanks for the kind comments Ann. Do you know, I hadn't thought about tying husbands up. By the neck?

Tortoiseshell said...

Nice blog!

You should send the storks nest to the "Pylon of the month" website...

Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

Lol you made me laugh as you usually do on your blog, with your accounts of the driving expedition out of Seville!!!! I love all the piccies of the stork nests.
And though the kittens look cute, I'm with maalie on this one, as feral cats have done untold damage in our ecosystem here in NZ. (Though not as much as possums and stoats.)

Maalie said...

YOU May think that a Short-toed Lark is boring, but it's another tick on the list and counts the same as an eagle. I suppose you could ask Tortoiseshell about 'Qualified Majority Voting', but God loves all his creatures, you know, even the parasitic nematode worms that live in your intestines.

Davy said...

You missed Kite off your list, along with rough-legged buzzard, arctic tern, muted eagle and spotless sparrow.... Otherwise, a very nice blog. I'll have to check and see if I have a piccy of Simon, it seems wrong of me not to have published one. Which one was wren?

I'm with Maalie and Kiwi, too. Sorry.

TCA said...

...and Andalucian pigmy duck.

lorenzothellama said...

I know God loves all living creatures including nemotoads, PLUS those dear little kittens being gently washed by the lapping sea. Therefore, we protect them and look after them. Did I tell you that there was a dish of cat food left there so obviously someone was feeding them.

Wren is my very beautiful daughter.

I did think of adding all those birds to my bird list, but thought I would run out of space.

Incidentally I have nothing personal against the short toed larks except they are a bit boring. At least spotless sparrows DO something and are cheeky coming to pinch your food.

Plumpy said...


Ju's little sister said...

Wow, LtL, I have been missing out!!!

There are so many of you (us? in this little blogging community, I could barely keep up when I still had internet on my own computer! I still haven't gotten round to look at Kiwi or Tortoiseshell's blog yet!

Your lingering memory of Simon doesn't surprise me at all - he wouldn't be from Down Under if he didn't appreciate the importance of beer in one's diet. I think the stork's nests looked awesome and would love to have seen them for myself. Being a cat person myself, rather than a bird or dog person, I can see what you mean about the kittens. They were gorgeous. Unfortunately coming from a farm I can sympathise with the other point of view too. :-(

I think you would like watching black fantails, they are not afraid of people and never stop moving, not even long enough for a photo. Plumpy hates them - he doesn't have a chance!!!!

Plumpy said...


You know, once I didn't have a home - like those little kittens. Once I had no family and had to rely on the good wishes of strangers as well as my keen and finely honed wits.

You may not believe me, because I am a very fine feline specimen, no doubt about it, but once I was not loved by anyone. Not a single person. And not a day goes by that I don't thank the Lord that the RNZSPCA was good enough to take me in and begin a journey that ended with me in the arms of my Mum (even now as I type.)


Okay, she's gone now. So I winge a lot about how badly she looks after me, and to be honest she could do a lot better, I mean come on - biscuits for EVERY MEAL?? Please! I should be treated with more dignity than that. But hey! That's not the point. The point is this world needs more Lorenzos and Llamas and Lorenzo the Llamas. Or none of you would have ever met me.

Kelly Nicholls said...

Jill - excellent blog. I had looked at Jim's log before and always wondered who LtL was - now all is revealed, and it all makes more sense. Oh, I'm Kelly who you met in Spain. Just thought I'd pass on my email in case you did want it still
I did have a blog but it bored even me so I deleted it - may give it another go soon.
Lovely meeting you last weekend.

lorenzothellama said...

Plumpy: Scaredy was once a little stray kit too, and then Fairtrader took 'her' in. After the first time she took 'her' to the vet, she phoned me up and said plaintively 'Mummy, Scaredy's a BOY!'. Anyway, Fairtrader keeps going off on her travels, (Guatamala next week for a few months) so LtL gets to keep Scaredy now. He is gorgeous, very fluffy and ginger and white.

Hello Kelly, nice to meet you this weekend. I'll email you soon.

Merisi said...

How come, some people get to have all the fun? All in all, these look like some very interesting places (albeit I prefer locations with good wine supply!).
Lorenzo, I guess you got a permission slip from all the folks you pictured here? :-)

("jwldzycg" - those folks at bloggers sure want me to type half the alphabet in here!)

Ju's little sister said...

Merisi - I had to try three times for my last comment, and it kept getting larger!

I thought LtL's fogshed was great.

lorenzothellama said...

Actually no, I didn't get permission, but Peter and Maalie wouldn't mind as they like having their photos splurged across the net. Still waiting for Simon to get back to Oz for his comments on his beery photo.

There was nowt wrong with the wine supply. We had loads of Rioja and very effective it was too. Gone on the wagon for a week or so to give my poor liver a rest.

My friend Ann always seems to have a good verification word, but sometimes I suspect she slips the odd letter in to make a rude word!

Maalie said...

The liver is evil. It needs to be punished.

lorenzothellama said...


Raelha said...

Love the pictures of the cats. There are lots of feral ones around here too. The main reason they are all there is because people will not properly look after their domestic ones and have them neutered - they prefer to drown kittens here, or abandon the adult ones when they can't cope with them, often because they're spraying at home (well, get them neutered then). I argue with the neighbours quite frequently on this topic. There have been cases here of groups of feral cats being poisoned with cyanide and the authorities have done nothing. It's not the cats' fault at all that they are their, they're just trying to survive.

The storks reminded me of my visit to Andalucia (Cadiz and Huelva provinces) a few years ago when we were deciding which part of Spain to move to. I remember seeing a huge nest in the minaret of an old mosque on the summit of a hill town.

It may interest Maalie to know that out here we refer to bad Spanish drivers as Spankers. Having driven around the Seville ringroad I can well imagine the scene.

lorenzothellama said...

It wasn't on the ringroad Maalie caused an 'incident' in was bang in the middle of the town! We had all gone in convoy the opposite way we wanted to go on the motorway, did an about turn, back past the airport again, and then straight to the centre of Saville, meandering dangerously.
I will draw Maalie's attention to your comments on the cats. I quite agree with you. Unless you have a cat/dog/horse etc. that is to be used for breeding, all domestic pets should be neutered.

simon said...

nice to meet you peter and lorenzo!

not sure i like the 2 beers photo (wink.

I ended up back in Paris in a hospital ward after maalie nearly killed us falling asleep at the wheel several times BEFORE we left the campsite....

teriffic time!

Merisi said...

@ Simon:
Can't wait to read the full story on your blog! Illustrated, I sure hope. *grin*

I got an easy one: leexrkg
(almost makes sense, doesn't it?)

Raelha said...

More about cats and complaints about them being where they shouldn't/damaging eco-systems, etc. Don't the words, 'pot', 'kettle' and 'black' spring to mind?

Maalie said...

Raelha: yes, spankers, that about sums it up!

But would you care to elaborate on your last comment please?

lorenzothellama said...


Raelha said...

kaMaalie, I think we should consider man's effect on the environment. I'm not saying that cats are not capable of wreaking havoc on the eco-system they inhabit but at least they do it unconsciously. Depiste uncountable warnings the human race, and the governments that control it, seem determined to carry on polluting and destroying almost regardless.

Would you not agree that there is such a wide and beautiful variety of wildlife in the Coto Donana because they area is protected from incursion by man and not despite the number of feral cats in the area?

Maalie said...

Raelha: > Would you not agree that there is such a wide and beautiful variety of wildlife in the Coto Donana

Bit of both really. We might never know what would be the situation without feral cats - the damage has been done. The Andalusian Hemipode (yes, it exists, look it up LOL!) is now extinct in Spain. Not claiming it's only due to cats, but they must have had an impact on such a skulking bird. In Europe there is now an unholy equilibrium between feral things and wildlife, the real damage is done where they are introduced to islands e.g. New Zealand and Hawaii.

I agree with you, feral cats are as much as our fault as any other form of 'pollution' and I would advocate whatever it takes to reduce the numbers, as indeed I would with plastic waste, as happened witgh coypus in the Norfolk Broads.

Abraham Lincoln said...

I came to thank you for visiting my blog Brookville Daily Photo. I appreciate it and your comments there.

I went through all of your photographs and read your narrative and lusted after some of the long lens I saw in some of the pictures. My what a trip it must have been.

I am glad I came. I have enjoyed this, my first visit, to your blog.

I hope you will find an opportunity to come again. I love birds and have some wild bird pictures.

Abraham Lincoln
Brookville Daily Photo

lorenzothellama said...

I agree with Raelha, cats do so very little damage compared to the damage we do to the environment. The huge herds of cows and beef cattle have also done lots to change the whole environment and ecosystem but I have never heard Maalie saying they should all be put down, unless he was going to eat all that steak, I suppose.

Maalie said...

Feral cats exist in the "wild" in enormous numbers. They kill hundreds of millions of birds and other wildlife, and it's not going to be easy to get rid of them.

Sentimentalist cat-lovers please read this

lorenzothellama said...

Maalie: I've told you hundreds and millions and times not to exagerate!

Maalie said...

Two days ago on my local pits there was a pair of Shelducks with a brood of 7 fluffy cuddly little tiny black and white ducklings. Today - just one left. The rest? CATS!!!

Jack said...

Agree with you on those beastly cats, but having gone on about 'sentamentalist cat lovers', it's a bit rich to talk about fluffy, cuddly, tiny little ducklings'


lorenzothellama said...

How do you know it was a cat that took the ducklings? Surely a pike would have been the obvious predator?

Merisi said...

I looked Albert JACK up. "That's Bollocks!" Albert Jack gathers together all the strangest, sickest, funniest and most unforgettable urban legends and recounts them with his usual deadpan humour (quote from Penguin's website, Jack has his own website, I didn't dig further, though). "Shaggy Dog's and Black Sheep" & "Red Herrings And White Elephants", well, enough to read, 'til the cows come home, I guess. ;-)

Today's IQ test: isnyitvy

Raelha said...

'Some success has been achieved, however, with trap and release programs, where feral cats are captured, neutered, and returned to the wild. Again, in order to reduce feral cat numbers over all, this approach would have to be applied consistently and in a widespread fashion, but it does seem to keep feral cat numbers down in limited areas much more effectively than eradication efforts. In San Diego, the number of feral cats caught and euthanized by animal control offices dropped by 50% after a trap and release program was started.'

This I would agree with. They're already trying it in Asturias, and I know of a group in Catalonia who do it too. However, as that website says it needs to be widespread. Surely the bottom line is humans need to learn to respect
the environment and all creatures that live in it. Until that happens people can kill as many feral cats as they like and the problem will still continue, along with many others.

BTW, I deny being a sentimentalist cat lover!

Tortoiseshell said...

I plead guilty as charged to being a sentimental non-cat owner.

I'm involved in a "run your own country" game on the web - my country was invaded by hybrid dog-cats. I was faced with 3 policy options

1) Encourage the hybrids
2) Kill the dogs
3) Kill the cats
4) Do nothing

I voted to kill the dogs to save the fluffy cats. No messing about with "qualified majority voting" in this instance!!!

Lornzo - I take issue with your comment about the Silkmen on Raelha's blog. Given thweir proximity to Manchester-Liverpool, I think it's a minor miracle that Macclesfield have a professional league side at all!

Raelha said...

Tortoiseshell, I would've done exactly the same in the game.

Barbara said...

This was a lovely post. Enjoyed all the photos. The ones of the cats - what darlings they look. Would have wanted one if I had been there.
Thanks for visiting me. If you do not have enough plastic bags, do youy keep hetting all those large plastic ones pushed through the door from charities like we do. They never come and collect them or I leave them out on the wrong day. They are good for knitting into strong reusable bags.

Merisi said...

I see you are very stingy with cloud pictures on your blog, or do you always have blue sky?
Almost cloudless (still! won't last) greetings from Vienna,

simon said...

I had a stork once.... ahhhhah.

seriously:- I used to go pig and feral cat hunting. We used to fill a 4x4 ute full of dead cats ( true!)

Merisi said...

@ Simon:
Now, I are you trying to tell us that your house is full of stuffed cats???

There's a place where feral cats got almost eliminated, the city of Venice. Militant cat lovers initiated some years ago a programm to spay or neuter all the city's feral cats. They were so successful, that now the Serenissima's being taken over by rats, who have a ball playing hide and seek with the few remaining aging cats. ;-)

byxgtjcp = 5th or 6th try!

Kalyan said...

WoW...some wonderfully captured shots...Nice work!

Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

FYI LTL... I used my hot water bottle for the first time this winter last time... it felt like there was going to be a frost..... (There wasn't though!)

Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

last night I meant... not last time.... grrr too much study about NZ fauna and my brain has gone to mush. What can I tell you about wetas though?

Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

I looked at the post you suggested Lorenzo.... flippin heck. That is the kind of attitude that gets the US such universal respect around the world for their tolerance - NOT. Even worse, her commenters were all in agreement.

On a personal level, I don't know many Muslims. But I did teach one boy a few years ago, a most lovely child. At the parent interview, after the usual stuff about academic performance, what the father most wanted to know was whether his son was a 'peacemaker" amongst his peers. That was clearly what his father most wanted for his child. I was deeply moved, and that memory has stayed with me.

Barbara said...

Thanks for all your visits.
If you are looking for help with clematis, you might find some on an older post of mine entitled "Pruning Clematis"

Ju's little sister said...

There is so much here since I last visited! And all I can think of to say is;

Maalie, if the Andalusian Hemipode is extinct, then how can it exist ;-)

Tee hee.

arrrrgh! evhogmlm
ARRRRGH! "Enter the letters as they are shown in the image." I DID!