Wednesday 27 October 2021

Jays in the Forest

Here are a few photos of Jays that I took recently. One is a young, fledgling that I saw far away in the forest. It stayed a long time on the same branch, and I think it was waiting for it's parents to bring food, but the parents never came, and hours later it was still there. I watched from my balcony with my binoculars, and understood that the parents had left it to fend for itself. After fledglings are two months old, the parents do leave them, but the forest floor is littered with acorns, so there is plenty of food available for Jays to enjoy, as it is their favourite food.

There is the fledgling.

A little nearer.

I enlarged the photo as much as I could.

Here is another young bird.

Here is a closer image.

A mature adult Jay.

Now some closer images.

The last photo, but I have many more to share with you on another day of the lovely  Jay, Garrulus glandarius 


Thursday 21 October 2021


Last week, my daughter Eva and I went to the beach.  It was a lovely day, and we intended to walk along the shore on the board walks, to get some much needed exercise, and then have lunch at a seafood restaurant in a little fishing village in Angeiras. After our walk, we set off again to walk off our delicious lunch of grilled Squid with  baked potatoes with garlic and salad. We finished off with a Lime cheesecake and then coffee. I took my camera of course, but there was little in the way of bird life, just a few seagulls here and there, but I did find something of great interest to photograph on our after lunch walk.

This is the restaurant where we had lunch.

A couple of views of the sea.

We passed this charming Fisherman's cottage on our way.

Then we came upon this sign.

It's faint lettering, but you can read it in English.

Further down the board walk we came to the tanks.

They were quite deep, and it must have taken some considerable time to carve out the depth of these Salt Tanks.

In the sign, it mentions Garum, which is type of condiment that was used to season food during the time of the ancient Romans. It was made from fermented fish, and probably the most important food in the whole of the Roman Empire. Tomatoes and spices were added to make sauces..

These are the remains of the salterns, where salt was extracted for brine production

A last look at the Roman Salt Tanks.

Thursday 14 October 2021

The Ocellated Lizard.

Today I would like to show you all the photos I took of  a juvenile Ocelated Lizard , that crawled out from under the hedge only a few cm away from my foot. I felt a movement rather than heard a noise, looked down, and there it was, a beautiful yellowish lizard. All the other ocellated lizards I have seen  previously have been green, so I was delighted to have an opportunity to photograph a yellowish one.   

It was on the move, hunting for food, such as spiders, beetles, mainly large insects, berries, and on occasion bird eggs. For an Ocellated Lizard, the largest European Lizard, it looked small and quite skinny.

During the winter, it ceases it's activity, hibernating for varying periods of time, depending on climatic conditions. This was possibly it's first hunting trip after a long sleep. It was a lovely sunny day, and food was it's main objective. It was not in the least perturbed by my presents.

These images were taken in early March, just before the breeding season, which is mid-March,  when  the days get warmer, and sunny, and goes on until mid -July, when the females lay their eggs underground. Juveniles become sexually active by their third year of life

I watched it hunting, catching air born insects, admiring it's colour, and when I returned several days later to photograph insects, I saw it again when it crawled out from under the hedge in the same place.

It is difficult to know if it was a male or female, for unless you see them together you would not be able to tell as both look alike, but the male is larger, and has a bigger head.

Adults average 40-60 cm in length, but can sometimes reach an impressive 90 cm. Generally two thirds of it's length is taken up by it's thick  tail. I liked the striking ocelli spotted pattern on this juvenile, and the ocelli profusion gives name to the species

The Ocellated Lizard, or Portuguese Largarta, is a protected Species in Portugal. A lone unsociable lizard, but always a pleasure to see.

This is my favourite photo!

Friday 8 October 2021

More Balcony birds.

When I opened the wooden shutters on my bedroom balcony I saw the Mistle Thrush perched on the railing. The moment it saw me it flew away to a nearby tree, which had only recently been pruned, so it was in full view. The light was poor, but I managed to get a few images before it flew away. I see a number of different species of birds on the balcony without having to go in search of them. Only a few days ago, I opened the shutters to come face to face with a Sparrow Hawk perched on the railing. It just stared back at me for a long time. I waited for a chance to get my camera but "it was the one that got away," however here are a few that didn't.

Mistle Thrush  Turdus viscivorus

Black Redstart.

Black Redstart  Phoenicurus ochruros

Greenfinch   Chloris

Jay  Garrulus glandarius

Blackcap  Sylvia atricapilla

Blue Tit   Cyanistes  caeruleus

Fly catcher

Coal Tit    Periparus ater

Crested Tit    Lophophanes cristatus

It was the Red Squirrel that damaged the plate on the previous photo

Great Tit    Parus major

Friday 1 October 2021


In my last post, I shared  pictures of the Pyracantha hedge, and I remember when the individual shrubs were first planted, all in a row, set at 75 cm intervals in front of our garage. They didn't look as though they would ever join up, but because of the needle sharp spikes, they soon formed a dense hedge, and grew very tall. mine is about 2 . 50  meters, but only because it wasn't pruned this year.

I saw the sunlit trees on top of the mountain and took this photo as I walked down to see what I could find in the hedge which was in shade. The garage is to the right of the hedge and the sloping field to the left. It was on one of these visits, I noticed the shrub at the end of the row looked stunted. The leaves were small, and it hadn't grown as tall as the other plants.

On inspection I found that it  had a thick covering of  ivy, and it had smothered the whole stem. so I started to untangle the many layers, and it was after I had uncovered the shrub, and found it had just a stump at the top, that I stood there in amazement, it took me several seconds for my brain to kick into gear., for it was not a malformed stump, with a kind of knob at the top, but a living creature..

It was a large slug, I mean really huge, larger than I had ever seen before, and now that it had been disturbed from the cool place under the ivy, it had to remove itself from the heat of the sun., and it started to unwind very slowly from its perch. I was not in the least repulsed by the Slug, or the trail of slime, but  absolutely fascinated. by the gliding movements it made. It was a slow decent.,but I had plenty of time to spare. I think it's the first time, I have ever really looked at a slug in detail.

The bottom side of a slug, which is flat, is called the 'foot'. Like almost all gastropods, a slug moves by rhythmic waves of muscular contraction on the underside of its foot. It simultaneously secretes a layer of mucus that it travels on, which helps prevent damage to the foot tissues., and the slime is essential to keep slugs soft bodies from drying out. Around the edge of the foot in some slugs is a structure called the 'foot fringe', which you can see on this one.

Most slugs evolved from snails, losing all or part of their shell over time.The word slug, or land slug, is a common name for any apparently shell-less terrestrial gastropod mollusc., Generally disliked  by farmers and gardeners, but while they can be a pest, they can also be beneficial,  and even have a role to play in your garden, 

The majority of land slugs have two pairs of 'feelers' or tentacles on their head. The upper pair is light sensing and has eye spots at the ends, while the lower pair provides the sense of smell. Both pairs are retractable..Seen best in the first and second image. 

I didn't see much damage to the leaves caused by the Slug, and I believe the stunted growth was mainly caused by the lack of sunshine, as Pyracantha plants like sunny locations, and it had not seen the light of day for who knows how long, being covered by the Ivy, but of course the slug had eaten leaves and stems from the trunk, and it's interesting to know that slugs are aided in consuming plants, and other food sources, by their teeth!

They have 27,000 of them!! Slugs have so many teeth because they do not chew before swallowing. Instead their food is passed by a ribbon - like band of microscopic teeth, which is known as a Radula. The Radula acts like a circular saw which cuts through the vegetation, and other things it eats. When the Radula wear out, new teeth move forward to replace them.

In addition to eating living plant material, slugs eat a wide variety of other things, such as decaying matter,and plant debris, playing an important role in nutrient recycling, and the slime it produces which is considered repulsive by many people, has substances used in the production of beauty products, which is beneficial to the skin.

Slugs are hermaphrodites, and lay their many eggs underground, and this happens three times a year. It takes about a year for slugs  to mature into adults, and once they reach adulthood, slugs live for just a couple of years. Looking at this image, I can't help but see the beauty in it's appearance.

Rather  than  a singular structure, that could be described as a brain, slugs have ganglia, or "Knots of nerves" located around the body. These form a nerve network.

I could not photograph all the length of the body, but as it headed downwards towards the ground,  I knew it would find more Ivy to hide underneath, away from it's predators such as Toads, Snakes, Thrushes, Blackbirds,  Squirrels, Hedgehogs and Foxes to name a few.

I will end this post as I started by sharing more images of the hedge. It is now bent down with the weight of the red berries, and so brightly coloured that these photos do not do it justice.. It will only be pruned with shears next year, from May / July. 

With closer images you can see the beauty of this hardy shrub.. You can take semi-hard cuttings with a heel from July/ September,  so there is still time to  do this in mild weather, and either train it against a wall,  make a shrub,or hedge.

Aphids are it's main problem, as they eat the young shoots, so that is why it attracts so many insects to gorge on the green aphids, and it gave me plenty of opportunities to photograph lots of different species.


 I hope you will forgive me for indulging myself with another very long post. I seem to have got carried away again...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...