the art of eating well at Christmas

In view of the lack of input into the blog in recent weeks, and having received the following gem on the culinary delights of cooking and eating cormorants by courtesy of Ernest García, this seemed to be a splendid way to see out 2008. I do hope that nobody feels ill after reading this - you have been warned!

When the smoke has cleared away, take the cormorant down and cut off the beak. Send this to the local Conservancy Board who, if you are in the right area, will give you 3/6d or sometimes 5/- for it. Bury the carcase, preferably in a light sandy soil, and leave it there for a fortnight. This is said to improve the flavour by removing, in part at least, the taste of rotting fish.

Dig up and skin and draw the bird. Place in a strong salt and water solution and soak for 48 hours. Remove, dry, stuff with whole, unpeeled onions: the onion skins are supposed to bleach the meat to a small extent, so that it is very dark brown instead of being entirely black.

Simmer gently in seawater, to which two tablespoons of chloride of lime have been added, for six hours. This has a further tenderising effect. Take out of the water and allow to dry, meanwhile mixing up a stiff paste of methylated spirit and curry powder. Spread this mixture liberally over the breast of the bird.

Finally roast in a very hot oven for three hours. The result is unbelievable. Throw it away. Not even a starving vulture would eat it.

From Countryman’s Cooking, by W.M.W. Fowler, published by Excellent Press, 9 Lower Raven Lane, Ludlow, Shropshire, SY8 1BW. Tel: 01584 877803. Available from Times BooksFirst at £15.25, free p&p: Call 0870 1608080


Arboleas Bird Group trip, 17 December

I have been rather out of touch with the real universe (ie. the birdy one) because of circumstances beyond my control. Therefore I am really pleased to be able to put in the chronicle from Dave and Gilly with the Arboleas Bird Group. The photos are also Dave's.

Hi all,
As we left Arboleas the cold winds were blowing off the snow covered mountains, but as we reached the Cabo de Gata reserve it was obvious there was little or no wind. There was however a roaring sound coming from the beach. It sounded like a distant train, but we discovered later it was only the large rollers breaking onto the sand. As we were on a time constraint due to a later carol service, we didn't spend a huge amount of time at each hide and didn't venture to the lighthouse.

Gilly's usual count of the Greater Flamingo population found 186 individuals there. Hiding amongst them she spotted a pair of Spoonbill. A single White Stork was an unusual find. The usual waders were there in small numbers. Grey Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Avocet, Little Stint, Dunlin and Black-winged Stilt. A single Spotted Redshank was flushed from a large puddle
round the rear of the reserve There were large flocks of Serin, Greenfinch and Linnet. It was nice to see about 30 Trumpeter Finch (photo R) and some Lesser Short-toed Lark. A few Shoveler, Mallard and Shelduck were the only wildfowl seen. No Black-necked Grebe, which was unusual for this time of the year.

Our next proposed trip is the 7th January, so Gilly & I wish all a Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.


Yellow-headed Blackbird in the Guadalhorce

Paco Rivera went to the Guadalhorce today and met a Belgian woman, Michelle (I know not her surname), who I had met some weeks ago. As Paco's French is like my Swahili and Michelle speaks no English, the usual medium was the guide. She had seen and identified and Paco later photographed a beautiful male Yellow-headed Blackbird, obviously an escape but a bird which brightened a damp December morning for them.

long time, no write blog

True, long time no write but things have been a bit on the pear-shaped side of things with the older female of the family rather unwell and about ready for the knacker's yard at the rate she's going (she can't read English, ha-ha!)so a lot has devolved around myself, even unto cooking (I hate bloody food, why can't we have tablets?), hanging up and taking down washing (wonderful for reflection about the meaning of life!) and cleaning (why every day? Why not until you can write your name in the dust?).

The last time I was at the Guadalhorce was Sunday 1 December and was it cold! It was the weekend when there was snow on all the sierras, on Tejeda-Almijara over the eastern side of the bay (below left), and inland behind the Guadalhorce a lot on Sierra de las Nieves (below right).

Really, the only birding that I've done has been bits and pieces when I've been able to escape. I have been doing occasional flying visits to the beaches and port at Fuengirola to look for colour ringed gulls, with some success at least.

Most of the colour ringed gulls are Lesser Black-backs but trying to see the rings amongst a forest of legs and bodies, plus the disturbances from nasty little children and some mentally retarded adults like the wobbly grease-ball that waved her arms at them and kept flushing them because the she liked watching them fly. She'd have flown with a 12 bore shotgun, the way I felt about her antics!

These gulls have included a rather nice adult Mediterranean Gull green 3E8 which was ringed in France in 2006, which means it is now in its first winter as an adult.

The green ring can be seen and read quite well in the enlarged photo (useful these digital cameras).

Left is a 1st winter bird and a 2nd winter bird on the right to show the differences.
(The photos are mine, all mine!)