First February Butterfly and the need to deal with the New Green Deal.

Our first butterflies to fly above us with love in the air were two large tortoisehells. Winging their way up into the clear Andalucian blue sky. Hopefully they will mate soon and lay eggs before the next cold and rainy spell is due. With the current news on such drastic decline in numbers of insects it was encouraging to see this particular butterfly. It seems in the UK this species is almost extinct. We are fortunate to live in an area where there is little use of pesticides on crops, the main one being the chestnut trees. However, with the constant fear of fire there is much spraying of roadside vegetation. There has also been much ‘cleaning’of surrounding land and so there will be little for pollinators and other insects to live off. Here they have the ivy along our perimeter wall and hopefully many wild flowers to come. The celandines are just out and although the viburnum is a little late this year, the buds are rosy and ready.

 

Fire Salamander

Another first for me to find was this salamander, known as a fire salamander. [Salamandra salamandra]. I was busy tidying up a wood pile and underneath was this creature. It seems they can live a long time and one in captivity lived for 50 years. The colours are warning signs of a poison named samadarin and it can have nasty effects. This may help its long life as any would be predators keep away from this rather slow moving creature. Salamanders are of interest to scientists as this substance can help skin problems but these amazing animals have the ability to regenerate their limbs and this process is being studied too. Here, this tiny creature which likes moist habitats under wood, mud and leaves  was ready to burrow again and our encounter was deemed over.

 

We began the new year in a rather monstrous tall hotel with views over the eastern Algarve coastline and round to the bridge over the River Guadiana where lies our usual route back to our home in Spain. Here, we were delighted by crag martins who must have decided the hotel was a wonderful cliff face but perhaps not quite right for nesting.

Crag martins in sky over Monte Gordo

Later, on our return to Navasola we made a visit to our local village Castano de Robledo for the Los Reyes, Three Kings festival. We came across more crag martins on the unfinished church now called the monument. This might make a more suitable nesting place but is usually the home of a large colony of swifts yet to arrive from their African wintering lands.

 

We also came across a flock of blackcaps and one was busy pecking away at a rotting persimmon, which is of course when they are at their sweetest!

Blackcap warbler
View of Castano church and orchard which many birds love from the monument

With all the turmoil over Brexit and No Deal it is hard to look at the UK news. It is also hard to sometimes get the main news from the USA too. All seems so divisive and not dealing with reality. So today I was very encouraged to read through an alternative source, Eco Watch about a bipartisan vote in the U.S. on protecting public lands, wildlife and recreation areas.

Agreement across party lines on real issues.

There was also a very informative piece on the ideas of The New Green Deal and historical reference to Roosevelt’s New deal when faced with The Great Depression and the ecological catastrophe of soil erosion for farmers in the dust bowl. Perhaps the U.S.A can begin to lead the world on this as there is past experience but the current changes happening are far reaching and global.

From my understanding there seems to be more public awareness and concern for ecological collapse, wildlife conservation and the impact of the climate changing with more extreme weather across the whole world.

On Friday young people in the UK are joining in with the school strikes that have been held in other countries about the real threats posed by climate change.So many have concerns and hopefully their actions will bring about a positive response from government to listen and lead on these issues.

Cross party cooperation must be the key to dealing with the terrible environmental degradation and  ‘unsustainability’ of our current economic system. A deal with the planet is going to be a tough one but the young are crying out for action, not words and certainly not denial.

My tribute to Mary Oliver and her nature poetry

I have been very inspired by the poetry of Mary Oliver who sadly left us this January. I wish I had known about her when I was teaching. I feel many of her poems are so direct and accessible for young people.

On my short break in Ireland last October I listened to her reading a collection of her poems and shared these with friends there who always inspire me to keep writing.

The Dverse poets group are another inspiration and Grace has done a fitting tribute to Mary Oliver with a powerful selection of her poems. I am a bit slow posting as we have been in Lisbon but I would like to rekindle my attempts at sonnets too.  A challenge for 2019, a poem a month and a post a month!

Here is the link to Dverse and a selection of Mary Oliver poems. Dverse

Ehttps://dversepoets.com/2019/01/24/openlinknight-236

In Praise of Mary Oliver

Words wait to come but first I have to dig and feel the sun
Warm up my back instead of in the cold where wifi weaves
Within a world of virtuous vice that brought me to your light.
A breeze moves among this mix of trees with leathery leaves
That do not fall in time together, but one by one by one.
Hidden within, no fear of death, the birds bring sounds so bright.

Your poems, your voice reached out beyond the wintry chill,
Beyond the miles of ocean deep, with your birds, your trees,
The dipper, grasshopper, dog that ate the Bhagavad Gita,
Moments when you take us from the outer to the inner
To focus on the smallest things and show determined will
To see this precious world, its wild ways, and be at ease.

 

This is not a sonnet yet! It needs two more lines and checking for scanning. And it’s cold inside with the wifi and glorious outside. Am going out to bring in my supply of home grown potatoes, close the gate to my huerta. Photos of our Wild or overgrown finca!

Enough poetry for now. But an offering for January!

P1050892

The Janus Report. Looking back and Looking Forward.

Feeding the birds at Navasola. Cirl Bunting at our rock bird table

Here are some of the activities we got up to in 2018 and I failed to post about. I will set myself a challenge to produce some more detailed posts on these places around the Sierra Aracena, Sevilla and Huelva that provide good habitats for biodiversity and the places we visited in Ireland and the U.K. too.

For now below is a taster of our year and love of nature.

Arbutus Unedo berries or madrono tree that lives wild and well at Navasola and provides the habitat the two tailed pasha needs.
Two tailed Pasha that loves dung and the madrono tree

We also managed a visit to Cañada de Los Pajaros, a bird sanctuary near the wetlands of Donana. Here there are a wide variety of native birds recuperating and some that can not be released back to the wild. I was lucky to get some close ups of the bar tailed godwit, a wader, that can fly very long distances.I feature one in my novel with a distinct penchant for turning up in many different places.
P1010760

Another amazing place was a Celtic settlement on the borders of Extremadura, but as a German friend struggling to remember a long forgotten phrase said, ‘ the flowers stole the show’.

Back in the UK my daughter and I were treated to a Mother’s Day surprise and were taken to Chester Zoo for her first Mother’s Day. The zoo is famous for its breeding successes and there were baby rhinos. Olivia was more focused on her toy giraffe and I focused my new camera on the eyes of so many beautiful,creatures.

In Ireland we visited some good friends at their beautiful thatched cottage with organic gardening, bee keeping, and across the stream to a willow bog woodland. They also do their bit on the beaches nearby. Facing the Atlantic there is so much plastic washed ashore. I was inspired by our friends to get back to my poetry and found a poem I wrote about plastic in the oceans, four years ago.

In between being in Spain and the UK I found a new base for us in the U.K. so we can be a lot closer to my daughter and granddaughter. It is situated half an hour by train from Manchester and close to the Pennine Hills. There is so much natural beauty and history around with the canals and locks. And we must have trees.

But we will still stay as long as we can in our woodland in Spain. We had visitors and went on a heritage train tour along the old mines of the Rio Tinto. Strange beauty where nature reassert itself. Iron and copper is in the rocks here and still being mined close to the old train track tour.
P1060042
We went back to the reservoir to check on water levels. We have had so much rain this year, so different to 2017. The reservoir was quite full in the Spring but by November levels had dropped. Who is using it all? Not the beautiful crested lark I photographed nearby or the cormorants, grebes and kites that live close by.

The final part of 2018 has been spent in the U.K.with family and friends. We did manage to visit Kew Gardens and the London Wetland Centre. And a First but wot no Foto! I didn’t take the camera!!! We saw a bittern in the reeds. A Scottish birdwatcher showed us where it was. It was so well camouflaged that even with binoculars it would have been difficult to find. Thankfully he put the hide’s scope on it and it was so clear. We stayed a while just watching.

I have spent some time reading and listening to books. These are three from writers I know who have published theirs. Two are bloggers as well as writers, Opher and Annika. I was going to do some reviews and may do yet. The other in Spanish is a most interesting account of the lives of a Spanish couple from the 1920s to 1990s living in our area of rural Spain. It is written from recordings they gave telling their life and love story through civil war, brutality, dictatorship and their courage, humour and resilience shines through. I will also continue to find a publisher for my nature novel which this year has been on the back burner. But the flame is there.

So it’s goodbye to 2018 and we return to Navasola. I will miss seeing Olivia but she knows the word Nana now among many others including ra ra for the rabbits. She has a keen eye and ear for the garden birds but points to the aeroplanes. And she is walking now! So much change in such a little being. I hope for 2019 we will see the changes needed to protect this wonderful world we live in for future generations of humans and all species.

A very happy and fulfilling 2019 to you all.

 

The Abomination of Whaling!!

Have been told to get my bugle out and get back to blogging. Will do soon but always admire Opher’s posts, his persistence, and passion for protecting this wonderful world of biodiversity. Last year a whale beached near us in Portugal. The response of the majority of people was a desire to help and save it. In 2018 we have become more aware of the effects of plastic pollution, whales and other creatures found dead with plastic filling their stomachs and now the disgrace of Japan’s decision to continue with commercial whaling. Please support all those organisations that persist in confronting this terrible destruction of our close relatives of the ocean.

Opher's World

Some facts about whales:

In fact the sperm whale has the largest brain of all living animals.

Spindle cells found in several species of whale and dolphin also indicate the possibility of high intelligence

Dolphins and porpoises use vocal sounds and body language to communicate with one another. Baleen whales communicate over hundreds of miles using complex songs.

They have complex social structures. The social structure of killer whale  for example (killer whales are actually dolphins) is often compared to that of elephants and humans, and is even considered by some to resemble a culture.

So why the hell are we hunting and cruelly killing these intelligent, sensitive creatures???

https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/what-we-do/oceans/whaling/

View original post

Autumn back at Navasola

September and October have passed in a flurry of activity, visits to the UK and Ireland have filled the days. But now we are back we can stand and stare as we did this morning. A cat still, poised up on the cork tree was there for a good 10 minutes. We were surprised by its behaviour, its ears, and finally tail when we saw it. This cat was fitting so much of the identification features of a wild cat. Here they are called gato de monte, cat of the mountain. They are similar to domestic cats but the ones we have here that are to some extent feral have quite different faces, colours and markings. We know the local cats but had never seen one like this one.

After remaining in the tree for such a long time it delighted us by descending crossing the new grass and then seemed to pose for photos. We saw its teeth quite clearly, tail and markings. I have also seen what I thought to be a wild cat some months ago, much bigger than our usual moggies round here and with the tail. And a larger version of this one which was quite young. When we first moved here we were told there was a wild cat living near the studio where there are some rocks and caves. We suspect this one is a hybrid but are fascinated to see such a different type of cat and are fairly sure it isn’t just a beautiful tabby on the hunt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are a lot of autumnal colours at Navasola at the moment as the leaves of the oaks and fruit trees are well advanced with their colour changes. The chestnuts are the last to bud in May and the last to fall. The chestnuts are not quite ready to be picked yet. We will have that pain and pleasure in about a weeks time.

The weather has been warm and mild until this weekend and the red ladybirdlike beetles are intent on mating perhaps.
But for this bumble bee we think it is near the end of its life and was found struggling to fly. We offered sugar water and a safe place but many bees and bumblebees begin to die off in late Autumn or the Queen is looking to hibernate.

It was good to walk around the finca and enjoy the autumn colours and the sunlight through the trees and the rocks covered in green mosses again.

 

I seem to do well with the fruits that I do not cultivate or irrigate.I enjoyed blackberry picking in September from the wild parts of the finca, that is most of it! The Madrono or Strawbeyy trees always give a good show of colour in autumn with both flowers and fruit apppearing at the same time. The flowers will be next years red berries. The berries are gritty but we have managed jam from them but not found the means to prepare a madrono liquor.The quince goes well with apples and creates a good contrasting taste and also makes good membrillo jam which the Spanish eat with cheese. There’s quite a harvest this year as we have had so much rain and the chestnuts too should be larger than last year.

Wild Autumn Crocus

 

Mushroom foraging is a popular and possibly lucrative activity in these parts. We have found a variety this year as shown in the photos. I am not hurrying to pick or eat these as identification is hard work but we do pick the tall ‘gallipiernas’ as shown in the photo below.

 

 

 

 

 

And to leave you with the cat. Is it or isn’t it a Gato de monte?

The Last Post of Summer

Time to officially say goodbye to summer. All the migratory birds are getting ready for their long journeys. Although this year there were many swifts around the village of Castaño de Robledo we had not seen any bee eaters perched high on branches around the valley of Navasola. Occasionally we would hear some high pitched calls high in the sky but there were no bee eaters ready to pose as in previous summers. Finally, we saw a great host of golden wings, at least 30 or more, above the track by the campsite. I am not sure what a large gathering of
bee-eaters might be called but we had witnessed this before in Portugal. We think it happens as lots of birds gather together, travel together, finding good food sources before their journey back to Africa for the winter. I think an angelic host could be fitting as their wings whirr and flash golden light in the Andalucian blue skies. We wish them safe journeys and look forward to their returns.

p1140755
Bee eaters seen on one of our dog walks.

What happens to all the grasshopper, crickets, cicadas at the end of summer? We can still hear them in the trees in the evenings but the noise of their whirring legs against their wing cases seems less intense. Perhaps the summer work is almost over. More young will be ready to develop and hatch out at the end of this winter.

P1010129
Close up of large grasshopper, early April.

Does one red rump swallow  a summer make? We saw quite a few swallows in early spring in the Algarve but haven’t seen that many in the villages of the Sierra Aracena this year.

May to June 2015 and House MArtins 046
Red rump swallow recovering from being stunned and ready to fly off.

Here are some House Martin young from a previous year. They seem to be imprinting their surroundings and gathering for their long journey back. This year they arrived late in the Algarve and usually we see them here in late September and October. We are by the sea at the moment waiting for my grand daughter to arrive for her first and possibly last trip as a European citizen. Brexit looms and glooms. Perhaps it is the conjunction of Mars and Saturn so clearly seen last night in the summer sky over the Atlantic that makes me edgy about the future. How much time is being wasted on the politics of arrogance, exclusion and supposed greatness? Meanwhile the planet warns us with temperature rises we can do something about and constant degradation of the natural world and its wild places and inhabitants which we can  prevent, now. Those in power who cannot focus on this agenda fail the younger generation.

  • house martins sept 2015 and faro beach 002

We have had a wonderful summer of beautiful nights out with stars and full blood moons. I wrote a piece based on my first night sleeping at the finca. It was often so dark and remote but we build up fears about the dark rather than celebrate its beauty and in Mediterranean culture its coolness. So much happens here late at night and early morning in the summer. We have had plenty of good music from the early music festival in my previous post to rock, jazz and flamenco. Also in the Sierra there’s has been a feast of art exhibitions, theatre, acrobatic drama and a book festival too. Unfortunately we missed our friends Ruth Koenigsberger and Sol Fernandez Coll. But we managed to hear our local writer Margaret Van Epp speak about her book about the historical stories local people have told her. I have also enjoyed some summer reading and love the short stories of Annika Perry, a  fellow writer and blogger. I am building up the rejections on my novel but I will press on as I think it is an  entertaining and imaginative  approach to understanding the value of biodiversity in the 21 st Century.

In the U.K. we enjoyed the annual Fairport Festival at Cropredy and even danced to Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and their band reliving Pet Sounds and the Beach Boys under a more stormy British sky. The rains decided to come as we camped in middle England. We slept in the van we would use to move house! Here is Olivia helping drive our hired VW transporter full of books and stuff for our new base in the U.K. She seems happy we will be nearby.

IMG_8090

 

For now I have a terrible desire for a camping van( hybrid, electric, solar powered?) and will also head to the beach with the crowds for this last day of summer. I haven’t been swimming in the sea yet! I keep thinking life will slow down so I can write and blog more but this Grandma business seems to take over!

Seventh Heaven: Poetry and Music Celebrations!

I feel inspired to respond to two 7 th Anniversaries. Seven always seems to be a special number. We have just been to a whole series of Early music concerts in our local village churches. It is the 7 th Galaroza Early Music Course and is attended by music students from all over the world. It has been such a beautiful experience of sounds, with an array of Early instruments and voices. It seems to have truly lifted my spirits and enlivened me.

I then read it is the 7 th Anniversary of Continue reading Seventh Heaven: Poetry and Music Celebrations!

Nature needs Nurture

%d bloggers like this: