Category Archives: Birds

Decision Day for the Doñana Wetlands. A visit to see some of the birds.

We took a day out to the Doñana Wetlands a week ago and for this week the 21st of March is a decision day in the European Parliament for securing the future sustainability of this most important habitat. The wetlands are becoming drier because of more use of the underground water table and rivers.

View of lake at Dehesa de Abajo with carpet of red flowers

We took a short walk around the Dehesa de Abajo reserve on the edge of the Doñana wetlands.

Visitor Centre at Dehesa de Abajo, always full of storks nesting.
Stork nesting near visitor centre at Dehesa de Abajo

We had  a wonderful day out and come back feeling ‘filled up’ with birds. The closeness to storks nesting in nearby trees and wild flamingos swimming with necks underwater in the lake all made for a very bird fulfilling day. We also saw spoonbills, glossy ibis, egrets, linnets, black kites and buzzards.

glossy ibis
Flamingo dipping
Linnet on fence

 

Spoonbill flying

The only shadow of the day is the knowledge that Doñana is at risk, with very low water levels but there is some action and Doñana is at the centre of a political battle for its survival. Local groups have taken the issue to national and European levels. There will be a decision made on the 21st of March at the European parliament that will hopefully outline the measures needed to protect this very special place. This could be an example of how the EU can be used to support and negotiate between different local and national interests.

Egret having to think about this. It makes the head hurt.

The Doñana wetlands have been at risk and the water levels becoming unsustainable since at least 2013. There are a significant biodiversity of species that need these wetlands, including the iconic and threatened Iberian lynx. This area was designated a natural park by Spain and is also under the European Network of protected areas for nature.

Glossy ibis having a think about this or a scratch

We have been to visit on various occasions and in particular we like to walk around Dehesa de Abajo. This is more on the edge of Donana and quite accessible from Sevilla. It is also near the bird sanctuary of Canada de los Pajaros. This is only open at the weekends but is worthwhile to visit and support their rescue efforts. There is also the International Bird Fair being held again at the Visitor centre of Dehesa de Abajo from April 26th to 28th. These are birds without borders that need our support. http://www.donanabirdfair.es/home-2/

Stork in field near Canada de los Pajaros

 

Spoonbills flying overhead

There are many pressures on this area of wetlands situated between the cities of Huelva and Sevilla. It seems there are many illegal wells extracting water for various reasons and there are four gas projects which are about to begin fracking for extraction of gas. Environmentalists and others have taken their concerns to the European Parliament as this should be a protected site under Spanish and EU laws and is also  recognised by UNESCO as a unique habitat and important place for migratory birds.

 

One comment in a Spanish newspaper was about the need to balance the social economic needs of the region with those of the environment. The point of the International nature reserves networks is to protect against these pressures where the wildlife sites are crucial to many species across Europe. It is the first major wetland after the long migratory journey from Africa and across the Sahara  Desert. Any further deterioration and loss will affect too many migratory birds. It is true to say that the Huelva region has suffered greatly economically in the past 10 years but  the way to address this is not to pit this against these protected areas. Sustainable economic policies are much needed. Doñana could be a flagship as to whether the wetlands can be saved and measures taken to restore it where needed while also looking into the local economy and ways of improving this without drawing on the water table that supports these wetlands. I read recently how the Galapagos Isles were saved for the many unique species and restored within three years. It can be done.

 

A bull from the friendly herd that grazes the edges of the lake

The area has long had a rice growing economy, river transport and boats. Some of the new agriculture seems to stretch further away from Donana but does include vast strawberry growing. This kind of agriculture is very dependent on water throughout the whole year. Traditional Spanish agriculture is referred to as ‘dry’ and involves most growing taking place before the normal Mediterranean dry summers. This  new business of fruit crops throughout the year, along with changes in the climate, more erratic rainfall and longer periods of drought will impact on the water tables and the wetlands if there is more unsustainable methods of agriculture. Changing to more use of renewable energy instead of new projects to extract gas from an area where the fragile water table could be disastrously affected should also  be the way forward.

Unfortunately we see in progress a major threat to important wildlife habitats through the old ways of ‘business’ and economic growth. Spain could lead the way on this one with the support of European initiatives. Meanwhile students ask for a climate emergency to be declared. One Spanish poster and cry was ‘ Ni un grado mas ni un especia menos ‘ Not a degree more or a species less. The ideas of a Roosevelt style ‘green deal’ are thrown up into the air.  The UN report gives 12 years to ensure global temperatures are kept from rising too high. Will there be action for a circular economy and not ‘business as usual’? Doñana and the future for its biodiversity is at stake now.

So having filled you up with the complexities of nature conservation and economic growth let me finish with  some more of the birds that filled me up with such delight.

Flamingos on the lake
We enjoyed their swimming antics
Bottoms up

We came for the large flocks of flamingos before they leave.

I can only hope that in the years to come I can take my granddaughter to visit Doñana so she too can have the joy of being filled up with birds. And the birds can have safe places to stop at where they can fill up with food and create their next generation.

 

And here are more storks and other birds peacefully coexisting surrounded by an ecosystem supporting all kinds of life.

Stork walks around the ibis and egret

 

Lets all be like this egret and keep a watchful eye on what goes on around us. Our survival and that of this beautiful planet and all its inhabitants may depend on this.

The Watchful One.

Blogging with boars, birds and bunnies!

A week of changes. Changing places and changing weather.

Just before leaving Navasola I wandered into my huerta or vegetable garden. I wanted to check on the plants. I am hoping that I have created enough paths and cut back grasses and vetch to keep it all more under control. Last year when I returned in May I posted about my ‘Wild Welcome Back’. I was overwhelmed with neck high grass,vetch and then hay fever.

Maybe this time I  had a wild  farewell.

There were rustling sounds from within the abandoned olive grove. I stood very still and listened. I thought it might have been some noisy blackbirds. It often is! To my surprise a large female boar made her way into the field. Although there was a ‘boar proof fence’ between us to protect the huerta, I didn’t want to see it tested. I stood very still. Females are said to have a reputation. Following  her were three slightly smaller wild boar. Then one by one, a group of stripy baby boar trotted in. No camera,  no  phone, just me and the boar family.

Part of the Huerta by the boar proof fence and gate.
Part of the Huerta by the boar proof fence and gate.

I stood still and watched them move around grazing and looking like large dogs. The youngsters climbed up over some rocks. I just kept still, not daring to move and too far from the gate.Then the large female saw me. She came forward a little and but decided to turn away and run off, with the young ones following. It was quite a sight. Reading up a bit more I discovered that these groups are matriarchal and called sounders.They consist of the very young and slightly older females.It is far more common that boar will run away but it seems they may move towards you a little as their eyesight is so poor and they are curious. Most injuries to humans from boar are during a hunt and with the males turning to defend themselves if cornered.

After this event we were off to Portugal for my flight. I had a quick check on the house martins I am trying to survey. There are not so many on the frontline this year but these small birds were working hard with the mud to build over netting put up to prevent them. I had been disappointed to see this attempt to deter them in a local street.They certainly wouldn’t have bothered anyone in that location and it now looks quite unsightly. It also might mean the nests are less secure for the young. The birds are undeterred and determined to build in places they must remember. Those whose nests had not been destroyed have had a head start. I think they have got young and these might manage two broods.

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Flowers at our favourite restaurant in Cabanas, Portugal.
Flowers at our favourite restaurant in Cabanas, Portugal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Dorset we had snow and hail, lots of birds and a vole. The bullfinch is a regular visitor at my friend’s  bird feeders, along with a nuthatch and some pheasants. After the snow a kestrel came by but the birds had disappeared into the nearby hedgerow.

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Sculptur of half hare, half woman outside Salisbury cathedral.
Sculpture of half hare, half woman outside Salisbury cathedral.

Back in London I was shown the video of the baby robins nesting in the ivy by the house and at least two are now alive and well, feeding in the garden.  My daughter has fallen in love with feeding the birds and they seem to reward her. I was also updated with the slow motion function on the latest  phones. Mine is too out of date but it was lovely to see they had captured the garden Robin flying! Sorry no video as I have to update WordPress and pay money to upload a video! Will think on’t!

Baby robins by back door in London
Baby robins by back door in London

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now I am in the north of the U.K. and enjoying my other daughter’s young pet bunnies. These bunnies seem to want to blog with me!

 

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To be close to the animal world seems important. My wilder world of Navasola is still without pets and the wild ones choose their moments. Mice in the middle of the night and a mongoose went up through my rock garden one evening. The wild ones like to be invisible and secretive  but it is good to know they are out there.Not in the house! Four mice have been ‘humanely’ removed to at least 1 km away!

Mongoose was wandering over the rocks and seen from my sanctuary window.
Mongoose was wandering over the rocks and seen from my sanctuary window.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bunny friends!
Bunny friends!

I am off to stay with a friend in Rhodes so hope to keep up with blogging about the flora and fauna there soon. I may not be on wifi much but hope to catch up with everyone’s blogs again soon too.

 

 

Botany and Birds: Early to mid Spring at Navasola.

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Grape hyacinth, muscari botryoides
Teuchrium
Teuchrium fruticans
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Celandine, lesser, ficaria verna, invasive in USA but native here and few and far between!

The first flowers and blossoms for early Spring have been the wild grape hyacinth and celandine. However, the wild Viburnum Tinus has been breaking into bud from January. The Teuchrium too and the simple gorse seem to keep a few flowers through the winter months and this seems to help the white tailed bumble bees. These two plants have been flowering for a long time but are full of their blossoms now.

Mimosa in March
Mimosa in March

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The mimosa was planted by a previous owner and is incredibly invasive. Very pretty in March but its roots come up everywhere near the house and created quite a jungle. I am concerned about trying to keep the native flora here as it is so pretty and well adapted to the climate. I really do not need to think about planting a garden even though I try and the frost seems to harm many plants.  I am still finding my way with the climate here. We are a microclimate and lemon trees cannot grow here but will be fine about 6 miles away. I have lost quite a few plants to the February frosts. But the wild ones stay strong.

Viburnum Tinus, Raven in clouds above?
Viburnum Tinus, Raven in clouds above?

 

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Wild viburnum now in full bloom but has had some flowers from January.

 

Wild Viburnum Tinus
Wild Viburnum Tinus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now the semi wild plum blossoms are fading and the cherry is coming out. I think the Buff tailed bumblebees are now getting ready and taking advantage of the tree blossoms. In the chestnut orchards the wild peonies are beginning to bud, along with Solomons Seal and the dreaded bracken. There are also signs of many other wild flowers and hopefully the wild foxglove. More on these later.

Buff Tailed Bumblebee, April 2016, by Ruth Konigsberger.
Buff Tailed Bumblebee, April 2016, by Ruth Konigsberger.

 

Peoni broteri bud Early April 2016
Peoni broteri bud Early April
Navasola East hillside with winged broom and halimiumWinged broomGenista sagittalis

 

 

 

Halimium on the yellow hillside
Halimium on the yellow hillside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up the east side of the valley is the yellow hillside. Here a different kind of gorse or broom is prevalent; arrow or genista sagittalis and is the first to flower in Spring followed by the Spanish broom. The common gorse isn’t found here and this hill becomes hot and dry in the summer and has a different flora to the valley and west side.

 

 

 

 

 

The blog ‘ Culture of Awareness‘ gave me a link to a plant identification app of Western Europe developed in France. Plant net. This has helped with some common flowers and a beautiful yellow Early Star of Bethlehem by the rocks at the front of the house.

Early Star of Bethlehem, gagea bohemica
Early Star of Bethlehem, gagea bohemica

 

Charlock
Charlock, sinapsis arvensis,

 

Cats eye
Cats ear, hypochaeris radicata

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I often say the birds are so wild here and it is difficult to photo them but we were very lucky to have a visiting flock of bullfinches. Near Ruth’s house are the golden Orioles , high up in the poplars. Too difficult to capture, yet! A little nearer to the house she managed a shot of a pretty warbler. These are quite common here. Many warblers have recently arrived from Africa although the chiff chaff might be resident. We have also heard the bee eaters high above with their high notes. Oh and of course the collection of Ravens which inspired my poem and many of the commoyn woodland birds. Blue, Great,long tailed and crested tits, robins, wrens, nuthatches, blackcaps, redstarts, goldcrests and a range of warblers. All fly around the old oak and cork nearby but they never stay long in one place! All are too busy to pose for a photo. Spring is here and so is the contrast of warm sunny days and heavy April showers.

Warbler of some kind by Ruth Konigsberger
Warbler of some kind by Ruth Konigsberger, chiff chaff or willow.
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Bullfinch in tree by olives.

The Ravens’ Call.

I have been a bit absent from blogging due to the good weather and the need to get the land and house a bit more sorted before it gets toooo hot. I am also researching aspects of nature in Sweden and Norway for part of my novel. This has been fascinating.
Spring has started here and there are lots of bluebells out on the Finca. I will post soon on the wild flowers too.

There was a wonderful prompt from Dverse poets based on collective terms for birds e.g. a murmuration of starlings. There has been some striking and original poetry based on this and worth visiting the different posts on Mr.Linky for that post. As I missed it I will try Open link night for the one I wrote last week. This is another opportunity to discover lots of innovative poetry.

Recently Becky from Hidden Delights of the Algarve posted photographs of large groups of Avocets. The group name is ‘an orchestra of Avocets’. We recently saw a large group of ravens fly over our roof at Navasola. Usually there is a pair that flies but one evening I was called out to see a very large number together. On reading the term for this ‘an unkindness of Ravens’ on the Dverse prompts I didn’t think it was quite fair!

The Call of the Raven

Once I measured my life with sonic booms
Each day at 6 the great white bird
From Manhattan to Heathrow flew.
We heard, we looked, we never knew
There could ever be
A nevermore of Concordes.

Now I measure my life with the Ravens’ call.
Often about the time when night does fall,
Two fly over the roof towards the West.
To roost perhaps, to find some rest.
Lifelong mates speak together.
A chattercroak of Ravens

Once there were much louder cries.
So high above in fading skies,
20 to 30 together they flew
We looked above but never knew,
The name to call them.
An unkindness of Ravens.

Can such birds be more unkind than human kind?
Can talk, use tools, and a loyal mate they find.
They do not kill but pick at death,
To clean the earth from rotting flesh.
Unkindness seems unkind for clearing mess.
A cleansing of Ravens!

Where that great flock of ravens went
And why so many in such numbers spent
The early evening time together.
We will never know for sure.
Do such birds fear changing weather?
A warning of Ravens.

A pair are kept within Old London’s tower
Must never leave as there is fear
Of a fallen King and loss of power.
A kind old Raven sheds a tear.
For human heads upon a spear.
A kingdom of Ravens may be more fair.

Thanks to Dverse poets, yet again for inspiration and to TS Eliot whose Mr Prufock ‘measured out his life in coffee spoons’ I feel fortunate to be able to measure mine with birds and not aeroplanes these days.( although just recently tins of paint too!)

 

 

(photo courtesy of Wikicommons and taken at the Tower of London, UK)
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A poem for the birds at Navasola.

Another really interesting   Dverse poetry prompt I cannot ignore. It’s worth following the link to where Abhra tells us about a famous Bengali poet and quotes some beautiful lines about the kind of bird he might like to be reborn as.

These words came to me in the early hours as the birds began to sing. Although today I should be working outside in the sun and gathering wood I cannot resist having fun with this. It’s a tribute to all the birds with the hope that they may survive the cold, the long journeys, human interference, and be with us as truly wild ones.

 

If I was reborn I would like to be a bird in the Navasola valley. They seem quite happy here, with plenty of food to eat. But which one ?

 

To the Biodiversity of Birds

 

I would love to be

A bee eater, glorious gold blue green.

But maybe not with such decline

In numbers with a risky journey South

And far too few bees to eat.

I am not a risk taker.

 

Or could I be a darting swift

Flying fast round village spires

Screaming to the God inside.

I fear I cannot go so fast.

 

To go with the warblers and the swallows south

On African plains would be a dream.

Guided by the distant stars.

But migrant birds in current climes

Travel with joy but suffer loss.

I do not want so much grief.

 

An owl gliding through the night

Silent flight now that I’d like.

But I would miss the sun.

 

A stork is not I think the best

Bringing babes frogs to the high up nest.

I think from that I need a rest!

 

So perhaps a resident is what I should be

A Mrs brown blackbird, or robin dear.

With sludgey worms slugging down my throat.

Perhaps that’s not quite my cup of tea.

 

 

A tiny wren with cracking voice

Varied tits with varying tails.

Winter cold small body fails

I like a fire to keep me warm.

 

The goldfinch flies with such glitter

A song so pretty but here so often caught

Put in a cage , no place for wings to flutter.

I like to be free.

 

From gliding vultures high above

Eagles with their boots on, ravens, jays.

Living on corpses to the end of my days.

I cannot change my vegetarian ways.

 

The woodpecker too noisy with the wood

I prefer some silence and some song.

 

Ah, there’s a bird I surely could be

When it’s cold it goes by the sea

Hovering high notes sung with joy

Up and down in perfect pitch.

A singing voice I have not had.

So I will be the lark

And sing and sing and sing.

 

Thanks for reading and I apologise that I have no photos of the birds and I do envy some of the American bloggers photos of birds in the USA; Boeta in South Africa, Simon Bowler in the UK and all others. Here in this woodland the birds are so wild and elusive. They sense binoculars and dodge between the many leaves of the evergreen oak, cork and olive. Sometimes they preen on a tall bare leaved cherry or the stag head of an ancient chestnut.  There are blackcaps and redstarts about but many warblers haven’t arrived yet and neither has the bee eater. Some storks have become resident on church towers around here but others have returned from an African sojourn. I have seen some different buntings. Cirl and Rock bunting and Wheatear but all elude my attempts to photo them! Yet!

Pelican Puzzle poem. Donde Estamos? Where are We?

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Willow and Gingko

Am now in a very different place where there is sea all around and halfway between the USA and Europe. We are on holiday for Trevor’s significant birthday. However, this poem was written a little while ago  and was inspired by a walk in a famous park. I love many of the prompts given by Dverse poets prompts This one was about the surreal in the ordinary. The climate talks were also going on at the same time. It all felt quite surreal particularly as I recognised the Spanish words of a small child. I also wanted to do this walk in response to the blog  A Wildflower’s Melody.A wildflower Melody I love the serendipity of blogging. Also check out some amazing poems and advice, examples and interesting folk writing poetry for the Dverse Poets bar. http://Dversepoets.com I can’t keep up with it all!

 

Donde Estamos?   Where are We?  or  Pelican Puzzle Poem

 

Donde estamos a child says on a bridge

Crossing with his father near the edge

Familiar sounds in unfamiliar places

Familiar faces from high mountain passes

 

Donde Estamos?

Where are we?

 

Diverse ducks on rippling waters

Wild grey geese fly into land

Wild and tame take turns to feed

Clipped wings that long to be freed.

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Donde estamos?

Where are we?

 

 

 

 

Diverse trees some bare, some dressed,

With gilded leaves at some royal behest,

Weeping willow leaves green may last

Next to the far flung Gingko holding fast

 

Donde Estamos ?

Where are We?

 

Black fisher birds perched up on rocks

Herons looking down form weather cocks

Cottage house with surely, organic veggie plots

Fresh fish arrives in plastic pots.

 

Donde Eastamos?

Where are We?

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Great African White in grey December Park

Whose wingspan could rival the albatross

Grey squirrel on a grey man’s long grey arm

The wild we tame with foods ever constant charm.

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Donde Estamos ?

Where are We?

 

 

 

 

 

Wild eyed Pelicans look down the lake

Pink footed geese fly past their palace.

A dull sky with flights of fancy passes by

A skyline of roofs with power to make us cry.

 

Donde Estamos?

Where are We?

 

Overlooked by one all seeing Eye

Chopper birds also above us in the sky.

Surveillance city sees us all, weather indifferent

To human fair or peace for species in our care.

 

Donde estamos?

Where are We?

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A small sized beak cries out in hope

By a puffed up pigeon on a post.

Ancient birds with strange design

Greet us with a knowing look

Open up capacious beak that must be filled.

Talks and more talks, but act we must

Who are we to turn our backs?

 

Who are we?

 

Where are We?

Donde Estamos?

 

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Will be busy celebrating Trevor’s birthday and then travelling back from another rather surreal place.  Let us know if you know anything about where these Pelicans are or hopefully just enjoy the poem. Thanks again to Dverse poets for all their prompts and inspiration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bumblebees and Botany Notes from Navasola. A happy and prosperous 2016 to all sentient creatures!

 

Wild Viburnum tinus
Wild Viburnum tinus

 

Festive table for Christmas lunch in the sun.
Festive table for Christmas lunch in the sun.

New Year Greetings from Navasola

Christmas time in Spain has been a mix of weather but mainly warm. Warm enough to sit out on Christmas Day for lunch and have sun hats as our party hats. We began the eating of food on the sunny side of the valley at another Finca. We had decided with friends on a form of pot luck Christmas dinner but kept it to Vegetarian. C created a delicious Nigel Slater recipe and roasted veggies. R made a superb eco soup with a touch of my not so favourite veg, beetroot. But I have to say it is very tasty in soups. My offering was a blue cheese and broccoli quiche and mushroom sherry sauce. Recipes later? We were then able to walk through the lovely countryside  back to Navasola for the ‘postres’. This included Ts version of sherry trifle. We were very full and quite stuffed! George Monbiot has recently written about how reducing meat production could radically reduce carbon emissions. Need also to now think about waist reduction!

butchers broom 1December 15 Navasola 477

Being with these friends I was also shown another botanical wonder that grows wild at Navasola. I may have partly ignored it but it is a stranger plant than it looks. It can be quite festive with its red berries, a little stiff and slightly prickly. This is Butcher’s broom and N was able to show me how the leaves aren’t leaves but stalks. And on the stalks there are very small flowers. And then there are the bright red berries. This needs to go into my attempt of creating an ethnobotanical garden as it is also known for its medicinal properties. The roots have been used for over 2000 years for circulation problems. Now with current knowledge of the chemistry of plants it does contain substances which are good for improving blood flow in the arteries and veins. And yes the stiff leaf looking stalks were used by butchers to clean up their boards and floors!

 

b broom flower on stalkDecember 15 Navasola 472
As for the bumblebees. These again were a moving target which after the sherry I was unable to photo clearly. However, I am amazed to see these little creatures among the flowering Rosemary bushes at two of my friends’ fincas. At present these are white tailed bumblebees and at least half a dozen of them. I walked out to try and phot some at Navasola but could not find any. At the moment I do not have flowering Rosemary. I tried around the ivy but it’s flowering  seems to be over and I could not find many pollinators about. Now and again a butterfly, possibly a peacock, and possibly some solitary bees.

Blurred white tailed bumblebee or slurred!
Blurred white tailed bumblebee or slurred!

We moved to the Algarve for New Year and had some superb sea views to help us enjoy a New Year’s Eve or Old night’s Eve, Noche Viejo with friends and local fireworks. In the morning along with the gulls there were possibly swallows and house martins flying. More investigation needed to find out if this is an early return of these migratory birds. I am trying to survey the house martins in Cabanas de Tavira. It is worrying that there is still a decline in the populations of migratory birds.

Young house martins ready to leave Cabanas for Africa September 2015.
Young house martins ready to leave Cabanas for Africa September 2015.

Butchers broom has been in use over 2000 years ago. Many of these migratory birds fly over 2000 miles and have been doing for thousands of years. We are now in the year 2000 and 16. Let’s hope we can ensure that these wonders of the natural world are well known about and in abundance for the future. Let’s hope it’s a more positive year for the planet.

Happy New Year too to all you amazing bloggers. Here’s to more sharing of our news and views.

To be identified soon!
To be identified soon!