Evanescent

The bewitching display of the Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights danced with a lightness through the skies.  We’d set off from Tromsø (Latitude:69° 38′ 57.1369″. Longitude:18° 57′ 19.1657), Norway in the late evening hoping that the we’d be lucky to find the ‘lights’.

Hell, it was cold: -14*C but there we were well bundled up in layers and finally after three hours of driving, we came to an open area, an iced over lake where we were being treated to a magnificent show of nature’s natural alchemy.  An ethereal airiness, whispy trails gathered into waves which flickered and glowed.  It was so stunningly beautiful.

What causes all this energy?  “When charged particles from the sun strike atoms in Earth’s atmosphere, they cause electrons in the atoms to move to a higher-energy state. When the electrons drop back to a lower energy state, they release a photon: light. This process creates the beautiful aurora, or northern lights.”earthsky.org

WPC:  Evanescent

 

Doñana National Park: Coastal Wetlands

A highlight, on a recent trip to Andalucia in southern Spain, was discovering the extraordinary beauty of the wetlands of Doñana National Park.  It is sited along the banks of the great Guadalquiver River at it’s estuary on the Atlantic Ocean. It’s an immense expanse where water has a language described in terms of flowing or still; of lagoons, marshlands, aquafires, ponds, pools.  It’s well known as a gathering place for millions of migatory birds.  It’s present area covers 50,720 ha. and it’s ecological value is recognised under  Ramsar  status and as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Guadalquivir river runs over a watercourse 657kms in length and exits at an estuary stretching out into a marshy delta known as Las Marismas del Guadalquivir.  It’s Spain’s only navigable river with historic links back to Seville and in Roman times reaching as far as Cordoba.  The park has a diversity of ecosystems of caños and cotos, marismas and dunes; it is notable for its biotopes – the lagoons, marshlands, fixed and mobile dunes, scrub woodland and maquis. Five threatened bird species make their home here. It is also one of the largest heronries in the Mediterranean region and is the wintering site for more than 500,000 water fowl each year.  Thousands of greater flamingoes come to nest over the spring to summer months.  Wading birds, spoonbills and herons and amazing numbers of raptors hover in the airspace above.

Only guided tours in 4×4 vehicles are permitted and we booked a half day tour through the company “Discovering Doñana “.  Sonia Alís, our guide picked us up early in the morning and we set off on an exciting tour.  Along the sandy road Sonia soon picked up the spoor of lynx and fox.  Sonia worked for some time at the Iberian Lynx project and was most knowledgeable on their habits.  Soon we were spotting fallow and red deer; wild horses and birds, birds, birds.  We appreciated her indepth knowledge on the varied environments and biodiversity of the park.  As a protected area it plays a vital part in the ongoing health of migratory bird life, and the interconnection of it’s supporting flora and fauna.

Reference: Wikipedia

“The following is a list of birds that inhabit the park: velvetleaf, bee-eater, hoopoe, dunnock, vulture, curlew, gadwall, mallard, widgeon, snipe, black-tailed godwit, imperial eagle, booted eagle, short-toed eagle, Bonelli’s eagle, Montagu’s harrier, marsh harrier, hen harrier, alcatraz, shrike, lark, greylag goose, bean goose, redshank, lapwing, avetorrillo, eared owl, griffon vulture, black vulture, great reed warbler, teal, white stork, black stork, stilt, ringed plover, Kentish plover, cormorant, crow, cuckoo, spatula, crested coot, toed eagles, sandpipers, duck, quail, redstart, redstart, merlin, black starling, starling, Flemish, coot, horned coot, whiskered tern, black tern, common bargain, egret, squacco, herring gull, Audouin’s gull, black-headed gull, dark gull, purple heron, gray heron, barn swallow, red-rumped swallow, sparrow, house sparrow, tree sparrow, Moorish sparrow, jackdaw, honey buzzard, peregrine falcon, crested tit, tit, goldfinch, eared owl, barn owl, kingfisher, heron, black kite, red kite, common blackbird, glossy ibis, common fly, cattle egrets, teals, bittern, little egret, white wagtail, yellow wagtail, purple gallinule, moscón bird, woodcock, brown nighthawks, wood pigeon, shoveler, robin, spotted woodpecker, finch, woodpecker, moorhen, pochard, totovía, little grebe, mistle thrush, song thrush, curlew, magpie, swift, greenfinch, oriole, Cetti’s warbler, nightingale, little bustard, great crested grebe, shelduck, pied flycatcher, spotted flycatcher, common flycatcher, tufted duck, pochar, ferruginous duck, rabilargo, buzzard, common buzzard, common scoter, short-toed lark, stonechat, merganser, firecrest, gull-billed tern, lugano, water rail, bunting, reed bunting, ortega.”

 

Holiday Adventures

Dear Readers, I’ve flown autumn’s coop and gone on an adventure to faraway northern lands where spring is in exuberant form.  An adventurous road trip with hubby entailed travelling through the back routes in Andalucia – that Spanish province with the impossibly blue sky and vibrant colours.  Flowers bloom: wild irises, orchids, poppies fill wide fields as boldly as a Van Gogh canvas.  A fabulous highlight was visiting the Donana Wetlands Reserve where migratory birds stopover and wild horses and the Iberian lynx roam.   After Spain we landed in London and got drawn down a rabbit hole along the corridors of history with all the pomp and splendour; yet we also discovered a whole world of natural wonders. Hope you enjoy this gallery of random shots – a taste of pics to come.

A cyclist’s impressions of the Middle Kingdom

If you’ve not yet come across the blog “Artic-cycler.com” and this crazy Aussie bloke, Matthew’s epic journey cycling from Eindhoven to Adelaide you are in for ‘adventure travel’ through some of the world’s most incredible landscapes. He raises awareness through the “Green Pedals” movement to promote the topics of sustainability and health in schools around the world. His latest instalment on “Impressions of the Middle Kingdom” is the extraordinary footage and first hand account of travels through China. What a journey – all kudos to you Mate!!

arctic-cycler.com

My posts have been delayed so I do not post on China while in China. I have now cycled through China and am in Laos. From now on, I will post without this delay. You can read my thoughts of cycling through Laos and beyond in closer to real time, while also reading daily posts of my trip through China (with the 3 month delay). Here are my thoughts on China.

As a skinny, exhausted cyclist, I staggered across the border from China to Laos. I cycled over 6000km in China in almost 3 months. It was an intense part of my trip. I had training to prepare me (cycling to China), and I needed it. Wind and sand, multiple 100km stretches of mud bath roadworks and a lot of steep climbing. China was an assault on the senses. Beautiful, wild, vast nature, and a culture so foreign, it left…

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