L’Ampolla, Sun, Sea, & Sand Cycling

  • Who would not want to spend time in a shimmering seascape?
  • Who would not want to spend time with Flamingos?
  • And who would not want to try cycling on sand?

It was a yes to all three questions, which is how we came to be in this wondrous bay for a few nights.

Nestling between Barcelona and Valencia is L’Ampolla

It is the place for a quiet winter stop over. A water-world that draws you in. The sheer beauty of the bay with it’s pretty and fairly sophisticated little town, long sandy beach and, just inland, lagoons is breath taking. The more we looked, the more we saw and the more we saw, the more we liked.

A beautiful sandy beach next to a shallow sea with it’s Flamingos. L’Ampolla shimmers in the distance.

Sadly as we arrived the Covid19 lockdown was about to be confirmed by the president. We had one day on site, at the most; possibly, if we were lucky, two nights. As things turned out, we made the most of our one whole day by exploring the area on our mountain bikes, only to get back to the campsite to be told that we would have to leave by midday the following day.

We will definitely return to this magical bay.

A Sand-Cycle tour of L’Ampolla’s Nature Reserve.

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Denia home from home

The following video explains some of the reasons we love our Spanish winter home in Denia.

You may have read some of our postings about the town and the video illustrates the essence of it’s charm.

The Mediterranean coast of Spain is a perfect place to spend time and I hope this video will encourage you to explore it. Spain isn’t only about beer and sunburn, travel a few miles away from the coast and discover much, much more.

Thanks for watching, if you enjoyed our efforts please comment, share or subscribe xxx

Our Camping Pitch Wildlife

At the end of this piece there is a video, lasting just over 2 minutes. It showcases some of the wildlife you might come across here. Please do not expect wandering herds of Wildebeests, or a David Attenborough commentary. Do expect all participating creatures to have been filmed on, or near, the campsite and not in a zoo ….

What a luxury it is to lie in bed in the morning, cup of tea in hand and watch the wildlife parade before your bedside window. Some mornings, almost nothing happens. Other mornings,we are treated to a panoply of creatures, doing what ever it is they do, as we slurp our brew.

This winter, we have added more ‘rarities’ to our list of visitors. We have also crept about the site at night, like a couple of weirdo’s, seeking out the shy and/or nocturnal; slugs,snails, cats and geckos.

Campsite cats; probably the top predator here.

The results are a host of critters, all dropping by to forage and feed, or hanging out in their favourite places, waiting for a meal to wander past.

Long Tailed Tits

To be honest, most of what we see will be familiar to you, so we wont bore you with long descriptions of the obvious. Instead we will add a few notes on those unusual characters that brighten our day, or force us to consult Dr Google for more information. The numbers below, should match those on the picture at the top.

Red Squirrel

1. We are very fortunate to have a Red Squirrel colony on site. Many of the squirrels can be hand fed and are very fussy eaters, refusing all offerings except nuts. Each squirrel is identifiable by it’s colouration and damage. There are no black coloured Red Squirrels here. The squirrels feature heavily in our little video.

Sardinian Warbler

5. Sardinian Warbler. Yes, you knew it was a bird, but not one we see much of in the UK, unless you are a bit of a twitcher. It is cute, often holding it’s tail up like a Wren. It has a bright red eye and it is very common on site. Males are black headed and grey backed and the females are ….. need we paint a picture? Generally it does not migrate, it nests in low shrubs, although here it would lose it’s young to the many cats on site. I cannot explain why I constantly call it a Siberian Warbler; old age getting the better of me?

Blackbird with a lot of white feathers.

7. Blackbirds are not a rarity, except that here, they have a gene that gives rise to some birds having white markings (leucism). Ours has an almost entirely white head and is disputing the pitch boundary with a very ordinary Blackbird. Some short footage of one of their typical battles is included on the video. At home we have a similar gene in our garden’s Blackbird population, giving us the lovely Roger Moore, he had one white ‘eyebrow’ permanently raised and was the son of whitey.

Decollate Snail

13. The snails here are a revelation. So many new ones to us. All you need do is look out for the ‘dead’ shells during the day, or head out at night with a torch. 11o’clock onwards is the best time to go hunting; what else would you be doing at that time of night? Our favourite, the Decollate snail, lovely shell.

Mediterranean Gecko

16. Gecko’s are plentiful on the campsite. They emerge, year round on warm evenings, clinging impossibly to walls and waiting for food to pass by. Generally, they seem to be territorial; if you find one, it will be there every time you pass. They try to stay out of reach and here they keep within range of a light fitting so that they can catch and eat the insects that are drawn to them. They like to have a cable, or roof tile, or loose bark to slip behind and out of sight.The wash house has a good sized specimen where we have placed the number 16 in the picture. The most easily seen type of Gecko we have seen here (January – June) is the Moroccan or Crocodile Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica). The hugely common, Mediterranean Gecko (Hemidactylis turcicus) does hang out at this campsite, but all we ever find are babies. The Mediterranean Gecko has colonised huge swathes of the world.

22. Mediterranean Pale Glow-Worms are to be found glowing, in our experience, low down in the shrubby areas beside the seafront promenade. We saw them in mid March, at about 2am as we walked back from the Fallas shenanigans. In January this year, in the middle of the day, we also picked up this beauty on the path to the lighthouse. It was crossing the gravel track. A clumsy mover, it made it’s way caterpillar style at the back end, whilst using it’s legs, all at the front end, to haul itself forward. Like the proverbial chicken, we guessed it was probably trying to get to the other side. These are unmistakeable creatures and it was great to help it cross it’s road.

Mammoth Wasp

23. We wandered past the biggest wasp we have ever seen, and although it was sipping nectar from a plant beside the path, outside the campsite, we have included it. It is a Mammoth Wasp (Megascolia maculata), Males have a black head and the much larger females have a yellow head. Females can be 6cm/2.4ins long. Only the females have a sting and venom, which they use to paralyse the host grub for their young. They lay an egg in the pre-paralysed grub of the Rhinoceros Beetle and the rest you are welcome to imagine.

Hummingbird Hawk-Moths

24. Humming Bird Hawk-Moths (Macroglossum stellatarum) are common around here, once the weather warms up. One balmy evening, here on the campsite, we enjoyed watching one as we drank a beer in the bar. Despite being two a penny, they look so exotic that, whenever we see them, we get far too excited for our own good health. The very best place to see them locally, is where the sandy beach starts, just as you leave Denia. The plant borders alongside the boardwalk thrum with them when the temperature is up around the high twenties, we saw them in June. Often seen in the UK too.

Processionary Moth

28. This campsite has no problem with the infamous Pine Processionary Moth, because it has a regime of spraying in place in order to prevent infestation. Despite this, we have one colony on site, next to us, which will be ‘dealt with’ very soon (now gone). The colony I am shaking up in the movie was off site, but nearby. The life cycle is straight forward; eggs laid in pine trees in the summer by the parent moth that has one day to complete the task before dying. The hatchlings emerge in the Autumn, and feed on pine needles. In January the caterpillars get together and form the distinctive nest which becomes home for the winter. They sleep by day in their nest and forage in their pine tree for needles to eat by night. In the spring, they leave their nest and their host tree to find somewhere suitable to pupate, often, but not always soil. This is when they can be seen processing along the ground, nose to tail.

Why the concern over a moth? It is all because when the caterpillars come out of their spidery nursery cocoon, high in trees, to wriggle along the ground, in single file, they look very sweet. Pets and young children are fascinated by them and love to investigate anything new. However, if the caterpillars are touched, their hairs can cause an allergic reaction, fatal in some cases.

27. The Black Redstart is a nice enough looking bird until it flies off. Then you get a flash of it’s red tail; all very flamenco.

Whilst here on site, we have seen or heard everything, from the tiny and yet complex Ant up to the top predator, the Tawny Owl. All this in an area no bigger than our courtyard garden at home. It is remarkable what is out there waiting to be admired.

We hope the little movie was to your liking. Let us know if there are other must see creatures here on the Costa Blanca and what you think of this article, by clicking on the reply box below and leaving a message. If you would like an automatic email whenever we post articles, click the ‘follow’ box below on the right.

Moulay Bousselham

A Haven For Wildlife

At the end of this post, why not enjoy the 2 minute video of our boat journey through the lagoon.

Sometimes an insignificant little dot on the map, conveniently positioned for a stop over during a journey, reveals itself as a magical destination. And so it was with little Moulay Bousselham.

A display boat outside the fish auction at Moulay Bousselham.

The campsite is verdant and huge. Motorhomes and tents park where they want, in a random muddle. Electricity points are everywhere and none of them look as if they should work, but they do. The service water is cold, except in the showers where hot water prevails!

As if all this was not a miracle in a country where campsites are usually closed, closed down, or so well hidden they might as well be either of the former, this site overlooks a stupendous marine view; a staggeringly beautiful and vibrant wonder. Our road map had indicated, by dint of a tiny blue splodge, that there was a largish body of water here, slightly set back from the sea; probably a lagoon. In terms of wildlife, a lagoon is always worth a look.

The moment our little tent was up and filled with our bedding, we were off. The sight that greeted us as we strolled the one minute from our tent to the shore, was of sparkling blue and and glistening damp, golden sand, with red parasols dotted about. Yellow striped boats were coming and going and some had been hauled safely onto the shore. A large gang of rowdy gulls were wheeling about, crazily screaming at each other and fighting any bird that had so much as a scrap of food. A great number of people had gathered under the parasols, some were stooped and deep in conversation, others were milling about. Everyone was here for one purpose, the buying and selling of the freshly landed fish. Boxes and buckets of fish arrived with every little boat that made it’s way into this stunning safe haven. The surf, about a convoluted, sand-barred mile away, was clearly in an aggressive mood and yet these tiny boats are perfectly able to cope. They are a design classic. Their high, curved bows punch their way through the breakers as they leave the safety of the lagoon and then ride the waves, pell-mell, towards the strait that joins the two bodies of water. There is a rip area that appears from time to time; lucky the crew that catches the tide at this time, as the waves part allowing an easy channel from the breakpoint to the lagoon entrance. The large outboard engines easily power the little craft up onto the plane and they zip over the water as if weightless. I’ve never wanted a boat more then I want one of these.

A diverse range of fish was landed. We saw sharks; four feet long, tiny pilchards and all sizes in between. Shell fish were also present in high numbers.

A couple of sharks, to be purchased right here on the beach by any passer by, or taken to the fish auction behind the beach.

We needed to get out on the water, and with no boat, we had no choice but to hire.

The local, surf riding, wave punching, sea going craft. All you need add is an outboard and courage.

Having pottered around the little town, where a market sold everything you could possibly need; please note, I did not say want. As in Fes there were eels for sale, seemingly a commonly available food source . The sight of eels on sale surprised me as these European Eels (Anguilla Anguilla) are in massive decline in the UK, becoming a red list species. They were sold for eating, both as glass eels and chopped up adults. We sauntered back towards our campsite and were accosted by a chap who was keen for us to take a boat ride around the lagoon to see the flamingos. Sounded good to us and a couple of days later we joined our guide for a nautical treat.

Our guide to the wildlife and work life on the lagoon.

We set off in late afternoon in order to make the most of the tide, and I suspect, to allow some of the frenetic water traffic to subside. Bird life was evident immediately, Sandwich Terns and Mediterranean Gulls were present in large numbers on the sandbars, along with the usual range of other gulls.

Mainly Spoonbills in this fuzzy shot.

It is a big lagoon, with almost every part of the terra semi-firma worked by people. A scene reminiscent of old travel accounts unfolded as we pushed deeper into the furthest recesses. Territories were haphazardly observed by the inhabitant wildlife, Spoonbills worked alongside Little and Great Egrets and Heron, with Cormorants holding their own court in another area. Flamingos shimmered, pom-pom like, above ground level in the miraged distance. People had their work zones, where whimbrel, curlew, Redlegs and Turnstones padded about amongst them, wary, but keenly sharing the hunting grounds.

A few Little and Great Egrets

The people bent to their work, which was varied according to their prey. All were muddy and wet and pursuing their tasks relentlessly. Drag nets and eel nets were in use in the water and on the land, as were draw hoes, mattocks, forks and bare hands. I could not grasp the sheer scale of the plundering that must go on here, by both the wildlife and the people. And yet this shimmering, monochrome landscape appears to support both colonies. It doe not seem possible.

People digging for bait

Overhead Golden Plover repeated flashed silver then dark as they careened about the sky in a roller coaster gangs’ day out. An Osprey tantalised us with a distant flypast. Then a Hen harrier, and a Marsh Harrier followed by that Osprey agin, this time languorously wafting low and slow over us, making sure we could not miss a single detail; this was not a moment for a pair of binoculars, or breathing. Time stood still.

At about £30 for the two of us, the boat trip was expensive for a Moroccan excursion, but well worth it. The journey lasted a couple of hours and our guide offered us binoculars and he had a couple of English language guide books, but no Collins Guide. If we pass this way again, I’ll gift them a few Collins Guides, as the boat handlers are all keen birders, spending moments with their binoculars up to their eyes, enjoying, what to them is an everyday experience.

Shell fish pickers.

In terms of wildlife, we did not see anything that was new to us. What we did see was something so achingly gorgeous, as a visual spectacle, and raw in witness, to the extraordinary lengths people will go to in order to live decent lives: and that has to be worth £15 of the boundless wealth of any Northern European.