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Friday, 5 July 2013

Cap de Creus, Catalonia, Spain

Cap de Creus is a magical place. If you love wildflowers, birds, butterflies, amazing scenery and off the beaten track wild Mediterranean places, then you'll love it here!

The Cape (excellent info and lots of photos here) is a mountainous headland in the north of Catalonia, that juts out to become the easternmost part of Spain. To the south is the bay of Roses, where we were staying, and not far to the north is the border with France. It's small enough to explore in just a day. There is one village on the eastern side, Cadaqués and the even smaller Port Lligat, both popular with tourists who are into Dali, who either visited or lived in these places. Some say Cadaqués is picture postcard pretty, I disagree! Putting whitewash on an average looking apartment building doesn't make a place pretty. There's also another village, El Port de la Selva, on the northern coast but this is reachable by a comparatively flat coastal road.

Although the highest point on the Cape is only 670m, given our previous problems with the car overheating trying to go up mini mountains, it was with some trepidation that we set off for the lighthouse on the eastern point. Thankfully we made it as the road goes uphill then down dale rather a lot, and every bit of down gave the car a chance to cool down!

On the way we stopped at a little plateau with plenty of room to park. Surprisingly there was a small natural pond here and a boggy area. All around the flora was very typical low growing Mediterranean scrub, with wild flowers aplenty. I think the photo below sums it up. It's not a great picture as all the birds we saw here were small birds and very distant, but the hillsides were just a picture of yellow from the Broom. I'm not sure if this is Spanish Broom (Spartium junceum) as it looks just like the wild Broom (Genista something) that grows in my garden near the pond, but I'd have to assume so given the habitat here.

Male Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) perched amongst Rosemary and Spanish Broom

The other major flowering plant here was Rock Rose (Cistus) and there was Rosemary everywhere and many clumps of Butterfly or French Lavender (Lavandula stoechas). There were butterflies too - Clouded Yellows (Colias croceus) and Western Marbled Whites (Melanargia occitanica), but would they ever stop for a second, no, more's the pity, so no photos!

Windswept hillsides were a wildflower paradise

Here are a few of the birds that we saw. Thanks to the superzoom qualities of my Powershot SX50 we were able to ID some of these birds! The bird below on the left I was unable to tell what it was looking through my binocs, but as soon as I saw the red around the eye through the camera lens, I recognised it as we'd seen them in Greece. It also helps to check out which species you are likely to see in the places that you visit, and also use a process of elimination. For example, the Tawny Pipit below was easy enough to ID just because there are only two Pipits that we might expect to see in this part of Spain in May, and this was the correct habitat for this one!

Left: Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala)
Right: I was trying to focus on the Stonechat on the twig,
when the Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris) hopped into view! Bit of heat haze here.
The Tawny Pipit was a lifer!

Top: Rock Roses and I left this photo large
as I only just noticed the tiny hairy caterpillar top left!
The other flower/seedhead (not sure) is amazing and I have no idea what it is.

We came back to this lovely spot later on and had our picnic lunch here, but by then it had become incredibly windy, so was less pleasant. However there was a lone Black Winged Stilt standing in some boggy ground so another photo op!

Black Winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)

Of course there were bugs too!

The Red Beetle is a Leaf Beetle called Clytra 4-punctata
The Shield Bugs top right are Carpocoris fuscispinus
and the butterfly is a male Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)

We arrived at the lighthouse in one piece. Here there is a cafe/bar which was closed (it may only be open at weekends out of season), and further up the hill a restaurant, from where you can also sit on a terrace with a fabulous view and order just a coffee if you like. There are plenty of walking tracks around here, but the ground is very loose rocky scree so really good shoes or preferably hiking boots is a must!

View from the restaurant looking south.

Looking from the terrace towards the lighthouse.
I have no idea what these plants are, but they were gorgeous!

Lots of squealing in delight from me to discover Swallowtail butterflies
(Papilio machaon) all around this area!

My sneaky OH took this of me busy studying Sea Thrift (Armeria maritima)

Because I was watching these Chafer Beetles (Oxythyrea funesta) busy eating and mating in it!
Previously I'd been seeing them only on Thistles.

He got bored and wandered off to admire the stunning scenery.

Then took a more posed picture of me!

Top is another view from the restaurant terrace,
and some more pics of my OH

I was really surprised to see dragonflies out here by the lighthouse where there's no fresh water as far as I know, but I've found out that this species is a migrant so will often be found away from water, and has been seen flying over the sea (source Wikipedia).

Red veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii)
Most probably the female,
but very young males can also be this colour before they turn red.

Top left: Even some Cacti around here!
Top Right: Tiny flowering plant with a small black ant for size comparison.
Bottom two images: some kind of Helichrysum? (but not curry plant).

Last but never least - a little jumping spider. I spotted him whilst we were sitting on the restaurant terrace admiring the wonderful views. However, spotting a saltie on the steps was more interesting for me! I know, I'm completely nuts.... :-)

Aelurillus v-insignitus (male).
This spider's natural habitat is dry sunny heathland and rocky areas,
particularly near the coast.

On our return from the lighthouse, where you must retrace the road to beyond Cadaqués, unfortunately we got stuck behind some slow vehicles so sure enough, the engine started to overheat! We had to forget trying to take the steep road to Sant Pere de Rodes monastery, which was disappointing but at least we'd visited this part of the Cape three years ago. Instead we limped downhill to El Port de la Selva on the north shore and came back to Roses along the coastal road and back via the main road which goes at a low altitude between mountains. There then followed a complete rejig of the last part of our holiday, as the two nights booked at a Casa Rurale (rural guest house) up in the Pyrenees was not going to happen, as we couldn't get there!

(to be continued, only one more holiday post to go)


  1. Wonderful - it's like going on holiday with spider-man!

  2. Such a fantastic place! Photo ops galore! The insects and Saltie are great as are all your images. Looking forward to seeing the rest.

    1. Oh only the butterfly park to go... lol! Yup this place was wonderful and I'm getting itchy feet looking back at the pics! We're going up to the coast for lunch and a walk around a rocky heathy headland on Monday so I'll look out for this saltie there - they even have them in the UK so it should exist around coastal Brittany. It's a beauty up close and I wish I'd had my macro lens for this one. Thanks very much Marianne!

  3. Looks like a great holiday Mandy with such interesting creatures as well as the beautiful landscape. I completely understand you getting excited by a saltie; I would have been the same. :)

    1. It was fantastic Kim but seems like a long time ago now! Thanks very much for looking in and commenting. I know you'd have been looking at the saltie too! :-)