Saturday, 8 October 2011

Cordoba 23rd - 26th September 2011

Cordoba was a contrast to Madrid, much smaller and more tourist orientated with large tour groups wandering around at all times of the day. I guess they were also present in Madrid but were much less noticeable amongst the hustle and bustle and crowds of the big city. It was also much hotter, Madrid was pleasently hot and sunny but Cordoba was scorching hot and sunny although the day we arrived it was breezey and overcast and quite cool. Early mornings were quite cool and it would suddenly became hot around 11:30 in the morning, it was like somebody just flicked a switch and put the heating on.

The hotel in Cordoba faced the River Guadalquivir overlooking the old town and the Mezquita, the old mosque built by the Moors and converted to a church when the Christians reconquered Spain. The river was spanned by a 250m Roman Bridge near to the hotel which led to the Mezquita so the hotel was in an excellent position. However for me the best thing about the hotel was the fact that it overlooked the river which was shallow and broad and well vegetated at the sides and on the small islands in the middle of it. The area has been designated a nature reserve presumably in preparation of Cordobas honour of being European city of culture in a few years time.

View of the river and Mezquita from the pavement outside the Hotel with the Roman bridge to the right

Nature Reserve Notice Board - I saw all these birds except for Squacco Heron
Cordoba by night - Roman bridge and Mezquita

The Alcazar in Cordoba was a delight, the buildings were quite plain with some interesting Roman mosaics but the gardens were beautiful with lots of flowers and I managed a good view of a long tailed blue butterfly.

Long tailed Blue, Cordoba Alcazar

Along the river I saw a juvenile night heron, an adult and juvenile little ringed plover, a kingfisher, a crag martin , common sandpipers, cormorant, grey wagtail, spotless starlings and little egrets. Cettis warblers called frequently and a fly by red rumped swallow was seen within 5 minutes of wandering around the hotel roof area when we arrived at the hotel. Early morning walks along the river side provided views of a redstart, a pied flycatcher, 2 fan tailed warblers, a fly over yellow wagtail of unknown race, great tit, 7 ring necked parakeets, a whitethroat and bizzarely a common waxbill, Spain and Portugal having a healthy feral population of these escaped cage birds.

Evenings saw flocks of cattle egrets heading upriver to roost. Surprise bird was a honey buzzard which flew over the river early one morning being mobbed by a jackdaw, this being a new bird for me.

We headed off on the 25th to Medina Azahara, a ruined Moorish city 7kms outside Cordoba for a day trip. The ruins were not majorly interesting and the highlight of the site, the Salon Rico, was closed for restoration. However the ruins of the mosque were impressive and I saw some good birds including 2 hoopoes, a male and female blue rock thrush, a flyover female crossbill chipping away, crested larks, serins, a flyover yellow wagtail of unknown race, a flyover white stork with a nest seen on an electricity pylon and lots of red rumped swallows.
Ruined mosque, Medina Azahara

Red rumped swallow
The 26th saw us head off on the train again, this time to Seville for the next stage of our tour. Unfortunatley no Preferente class this time but the journey was only about 45 minutes. From the train I had brief views of large raptors soaring overhead, a taste of things to come later in the trip.

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