Alpujarras Weather Conditions

Friday, 8 January 2010 · 1 comments
For most people who dream of relocating to Spain, the beautiful year round climate is one of the major factors. So it's easy to forget that particularly in higher altitude areas like the Alpujarras, weather conditions can vary dramatically both day to day, and also from what you might expect for the time of year.

For a number of different reasons we decided not to spend Christmas in Valor this year, choosing to remain at home in the UK instead. So since we have been languishing under the six inches of snow that is covering everything at present and can't get out to do very much, I thought I'd drop an e-mail to one of our friends in Valor who needed some help with his website. In his reply he surprised me by saying that they have had almost non-stop torrential rain for the past three weeks, which has caused chaos with landslides and washed out roads amongst other things.

At this time of year we are used to experiencing weather conditions in the Alpujarras which we find are ideal for walking. Although cool at night, clear weather conditions with a sun on your back that never gets too hot to be uncomfortable are my idea of heaven when out walking or birdwatching.

But the current unusual weather does serve to illustrate one thing. If you are planning to visit the Alpujarras or Sierra Nevada region for a walking or other activity holiday, do be prepared, with good wet and cold weather gear so you're not caught off guard.

In the Alpujarras, weather conditions can easily catch you off guard, and higher up into the Sierra Nevadas can be positively deadly, but the upside is that the winter air is cool and clear and it is possible to see some really amazing weather formations in addition to the already spectacular scenery.

Las Norias and Salinas Roquetas - A birding trip to the coast

Thursday, 5 November 2009 · 4 comments
On every visit to Valor we always like to venture back down from the hills for at least one trip to some of Southern Spain's birding sites nearer the coast. This is often Cabo de Gata or as in this case a combined trip to the Salinas near Roquetas du Mar and the reserve at Las Norias.

En route I picked up a Southern Grey Shrike just before Cherin and not too far down the road from where we started. This same area is also good for Rollers. We often pick up Black Wheatear and Little Owl on the drive down, but we didn't see anything more of note during the drive.

It usually takes us about three quarters of an hour to get down to Roquetas, and as usual decided to visit the western end of the site first.

Although there was a fair bit of water in the pools at this end (they are sometimes completely dry after the Summer), waders were almost totally absent. In fact we only picked up a single Redshank. Most odd, as there is usually plenty of other stuff about.

Plenty of Barn Swallows were still present, and the scrub carried good numbers of Willow Warblers, Stonechats and more Robins than I think I've ever seen before in one place. People often don't think of Robins as migratory, but there is a fair chance that the ones you see in your garden during the Winter are not the same individuals that were present all Summer.

Apart from the usual Serins, Sardinian Warblers and Zitting Cisticolas, things were a bit quiet, so we decided to drive around to the Eastern end of the site to see what was on the larger pools.

Scanning across the main pool from the road (where there has recently been a lot of new property development) we could see the usual large numbers of Greater Flamingos along with a few Little Egret. There was also a good sized group of Black-necked Grebe and a smaller number of Great Crested Grebe. Large numbers of coot were present, but I couldn't pick out any of the Red-knobbed species (difficult from distance at this time of year anyway). There has been a re-introduction programme in this area so it is usually a good place to find them.

Gulls were represented by Black-headed, Yellow-legged, Audouin's and Lesser Black-backed. Both the main pool at the Eastern end and the far pools up past the old lighthouse are good for gulls.

Raptors we spotted were Kestrel, Hen Harrier and Marsh Harrier.

After having a good look around at Roquetas, we drove the few kilometres back to Las Norias. This site always fascinates me. It's not the prettiest by any means, being smack bang in the middle of Almeria province's plastic greenhouse nightmare. These invernaderos cover a huge amount of the area and apparently can be seen from the moon (check them out on Google Earth). However the birds don't seem to mind and the two man made pools here are teeming with birds.

In addition to other species already seen at Roquetas, we saw Hoopoe, Little Gull, Great Reed Warbler, White-headed Duck, Black-winged Stilt, Pochard, Purple Gallinule, Kingfisher and best of all a beautiful Marbled Duck. Another Marsh Harrier also gaves some spectacular close fly pasts as it hunted over the reserve.

With that it was time to head back home to the Alpujarras. Overall 43 species for the day, which I have to say is far below what I would usually expect given the quality of Southern Spain birding, but it was a very pleasant day out none the less.

Bonelli's Eagle sighting

Thursday, 29 October 2009 · 0 comments
A nice autumnal day walking in the Alpujarras; what more could anyone ask for? We set off for a walk on one of our "local patch" circuits on a beautiful clear day, with a brisk breeze blowing in from the east to help keep the temperature down.

The first part of the walk climbs for about a kilometre up the quiet little road to the neighbouring village of Nechite. With binoculars at the ready we scanned the trees and bushes along the way, always on the lookout for any interesting migrants.

Half way up to the village I spotted two large birds circling some distance away. After getting them in my binoculars my initial thought was that they were Honey Buzzards, as they looked quite long tailed and had noticably small heads. Luckily they circled right towards us, and as they got closer I changed my id to Bonelli's Eagles. Although these birds are year round resident in the area, these two looked to be on a mission as they circled around letting the wind carry them swiftly out of view behind the ridge. A lovely sighting, which really made my day!

As we approached Nechite a Kestrel was also making the best of the breeze, and we watched it hanging almost motionless, just making the smallest adjustments of wings and tail to stay in position. I know they're common birds, but I can happily watch them for ages.

We passed up through the village, keeping an unsuccessful eye out for Hawfinches which are often seen in this location, and then cut left onto the famous GR7 footpath to take us along the contour back towards Valor.

Following the acequia (irrigation channel) we commented on how abundant the sweet chestnuts are this year. The trees are just loaded with them. I've never been a great fan of the things, but when you think of how much they charge for these in the UK shops, I will definitely have to find some way of using this free feast!

We picked up a few more nice species along the path, such as Crag Martin, Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler and Bonelli's Warbler, but mostly we just admired the fine views out across the Contraviesa mountain range with glimpses of the distant sea just visible.

After another kilometre or two we reached the road just below the cheese factory that drops back down to Valor, and as the road pops out just next to the bar El Puente, it was too good an opportunity to miss to round off the walk with a drink or two!

Walking in the Alpujarras is always rewarding, this one of our shorter local walks but a favourite since it starts and finishes from our own front door in Valor.

Financial Crisis in Spain

Monday, 26 October 2009 · 0 comments

One thing clearly evident on our recent visit to La Alpujarra was the increasing effect of the current financial crisis on rural Spain. In some ways, such as the busy stalls and fairground at the Ugijar fiesta taking place just down the road, it seemed like business as usual. However, after a couple of days of closer inspection and talking to friends and locals, a different picture can be glimpsed.

Farmers are struggling with ever falling prices (hard to believe when you see the retail price of olive oil in the UK), and the knock on effect can be seen with normally lively bars and restaurants shutting earlier in the evening.

Many locals and expats earn a living from the property industry, both as agents and in the building and property renovation trade. Although I have heard of some properties changing hands, there is still currently an awful lot of property for sale in andalucia. I'm not sure whether inland spanish property sales are fairing better than on the costas, but if your own finances are weathering the storm you may never have a better chance again to pick up a cheap spanish property.

Aside from the financial crisis, one of the main reasons for the property downturn here is because of a loss of confidence in the market due to corrupt officialdom and some legal practises that can only be described as bizarre! This shouldn't necessarily put you off from buying in what is after all a beautiful country, but do be warned, read up as much as you can about the process involved and do seek out expert help.

La Alpujarra in October

Friday, 23 October 2009 · 0 comments
We were lucky enough to get over to Valor for a week's visit last week. I can never quite decide whether spring or autumn in the Alpujarras is my favourite season here, both are beautiful, but it was great to recharge our batteries, meet up with friends and also provide some much needed fuel for this blog!

As we still live in the UK it's not always easy to keep coming up with fresh blogging material unless we are actually visiting Spain or have made some sort of progress with our plans to move permanently.

Anyway, hopefully over the next few days I can find time to add a few posts on our wanderings and wildlife sightings during a week of lovely autumn weather in the Alpujarras with temperatures regularly into the mid thirties C.

All the best!

Move to Spain – Getting Closer?

Saturday, 26 September 2009 · 2 comments

When we made the decision to relocate to Spain, I honestly believed that the major difficulties would be learning a new language, buying a property, renovating a property etc. Whilst, learning Spanish is still a work in progress, these other elements, have on the whole, proved to be far less troublesome than I had envisaged.

Now that I am more certain that I can successfully scrape together a viable on-line income to supplement our other business ideas, our move to Spain definitely looks like becoming a reality. However as it gets closer all the other issues to be dealt with are looming large in my mind. All the more boring things to deal with, such as getting our house in a condition to attract a buyer, investigating shipping to Spain for our belongings, sorting out banks and finances; the list keeps growing the more you think about it. It is all of these things which now seem to be the biggest hurdles in successfully emigrating.

I really think we need to get organized now, and logically list out all these items that we need to deal with and decide in what order they need to happen. Picking them off one by one will no doubt ease the pain. None of it sounds like much fun, but if we don’t make a start it will never happen.

Wish us luck!

Google Earth Valor

Wednesday, 16 September 2009 · 0 comments

I love messing about with Google Earth. So I've embedded this map centred on Valor. You may need to install the Google Earth plugin to get this to work in your browser, but once done it lets you zoom in or out, and tilt your viewpoint so you can see the outline of the mountains. Then zoom left or right to have your very own virtual sight-seeing flight through the Sierra Nevada!

Hopefully you will also be able to track down and take a look at some of the other locations mentioned elsewhere in my blog.

Have fun!

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