Category Archives: Nature

One Swallow does not make a Summer

Thankfully there is still water in the well and the pond. The birds love the pond and all the trees, wild flowers and other plants love that there is water deep within the ground. We have had the highest temperatures on record for June in Spain and also in our area but there are now cooler nights. Seville has faced temperature in the 40s much earlier than normal. Young swifts have been falling out of nests in the heat.

Among the Navasola summer visitors are red-rumped swallows. Can you just detect the red in this strong little bird that survived striking fast onto our window? There are plenty of swifts around the monument of Castano De Robledo and here the temperatures have not reached 40 plus yet. This should have given these young a chance to fly out of an overheated nest. In order to keep these amazing migratory birds off the threatened lists their young must not just survive the early heatwaves here which have forced them out of their nests before they are ready but they must fly thousands of miles within weeks of leaving the nest. Lots of insect food is needed to help grow muscle strength too. And yet again there has been some glyphosate spraying of verges poisoning not just the wild flowers but all the surrounding insects and those that fly into the area.

For the young wolves in the north of Spain there have been raging wildfires in one of the highly populated but endangered wild Iberian wolf regions in the Sierra Culebra. Just the wrong time as the young wolves might not have the ability to move far from their dens to get away from fire and smoke.

And the good news. The European Union has just agreed a robust plan for the restoration of Nature. Biodiversity strategy for 2030 – Environment – environment.ec.europa.eu/strategy/biodiversity-strategy-2030_en

The European Commission’s proposal for a Nature Restoration Law is the first continent-wide, comprehensive law of its kind. It is a key element of the EU Biodiversity Strategy which calls for binding targets to restore degraded ecosystems, in particular those with the most potential to capture and store carbon and to prevent and reduce the impact of natural disasters.

And I have finished War and Peace. An epic and an insight into Tolstoy’s mind and Russian issues in the 19th Century. But has helped me understand a little more about the awful war raging in the Ukraine.

And for the first time in years I have read a book I could not put down. I read Bewilderment by Richard Powers within a day. And was star and earth struck. The book beautifully describes how a scientist searches for life way out in the stars while his son struggles to deal with the knowledge that life on our planet is threatened with extinction. The boy feels the loss of many species that have already gone forever. He draws them and wants to save what we have left. His father creates stories of possible life on faraway planets.

And recovered from Covid. So far no long term effects but was really tired and wiped out.

So the glass is still half full. There is still time to act and save our wonderful world.

An attempt at drawing water with light and shade with wild scabious.

We need lots more swallows to make a summer and a planet full of different life forms to make a better future.

Lets hope these EU actions will lead the way.

With best wishes and blessings from Navasola

COP 26 Not one degree more. Not one species less.

Ni un grado mas ni una especie menos.

Not one degree more. Not one species less.

( From a Spanish placard at a young person’s climate demonstration in Spain)

As many of you know my blog has been about my own individual nature journey at Navasola, a mixed woodland valley in the Sierra Aracena in southern Spain. This led me to wish to be involved in more action to protect this amazing world of nature and so, sitting in a bar in Spain in 2016, I joined the UK Green Party.  I became interested in the way members create policy and later decided to join the Wildlife and Habitats Policy Working Group. This has been another good learning curve on collaboration with others, research and constant evolving of policy framework in line with the philosophical basis of the Green Party and to do our best to create ways forward to protect and regenerate the Natural World. https://policy.greenparty.org.uk/philosophical-basis.html

I decided to begin this ABC summary of what I consider as the main principles that have driven the thinking behind the policy to share with you and I welcome discussion.

A for Abundance.  Let’s have a world where there is an abundance of wildlife for its own sake but which we know can delight and lift our own spirits.

With such decline in natural spaces for wildlife we must address this with a desire to have an abundance of habitats to support the regeneration of the natural world. Wouldn’t it be a joy to see more green spaces, more birds and even more insects as so much depends on these tiny creatures. Rivers full of newts, fish, otters and beavers. All places to be 100% nature friendly is the key to solving many aspects of the climate/ecological crisis, inequalities and our own increasing mental health challenges.

B for Biodiversity.  Let’s have a world where there remains an incredible variety of plants, insects, and all animals.

Well-functioning ecosystems support a variety of species. Regeneration of ecosystems including more wetlands, woodlands, moorlands, clean rivers and oceans with farming and gardening that supports wildlife will help all species, including homo sapiens, adapt and be more resilient to the effects of climate changes.  From increasing the vast variety of native wild plants and trees to our coast and ocean beds being full of the variety of life that is possible when not over exploited or polluted. Regenerative farming and fishing are key to preventing more nature depletion.

C for Connectivity. Let’s have a world where wildlife can expand into more and more places and we can connect with nature.

Recognising that nature knows no borders and needs more space we must ensure good connectivity through a Nature Regeneration Network. This should help the need for wild species to expand. Where do all the young birds go when new territories and resources are needed? Nature needs space and knows no borders. We all need access to nature and to understand more about our interdependence.

D for Dedication. Let’s show the willingness to achieve a world rich in nature for all future generations human and otherwise.

To achieve nature rich environments our species must now dedicate all of our actions to this aim. All land use must consider how to improve outcomes for nature on that land. Not elsewhere.  All business and public institutions must address the effect of their activities not only on carbon emissions but also on nature depletion. Not just local but all supply chains throughout the world.

Our dedication to regeneration of nature will be to accept a legal framework for the Rights of Nature to exist, persist and evolve. And nationally and internationally support the introduction of Ecocide as a crime against humanity and nature. How much longer can we accept the polluter just pays as in the recent vote in parliament re the constant over flow of sewage into our rivers? We need a better legal framework to truly protect the natural world into the future.

E for Enjoy a world abundant in diverse Ecosystems with Equality of access and opportunities.

The full policy and background research paper will be available on the Green Party website in the near future. In the magazine Green World- Jonathan Elmer, Green Party spokesperson for the Natural World wrote about the significance of the policy.

‘It represents a fundamental shift in emphasis, a movement away from traditional site-based conservation to systematic regeneration of nature. 

A recent report from the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee concluded that since 1970, there has been a 68 per cent decrease in the population sizes of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish across the globe, and in the UK, 15 per cent of species are threatened with extinction. It also noted that of the G7 countries, the UK has the lowest level of biodiversity remaining.’

It is time to act to ensure enough is done to regenerate nature not just in the UK but all over the world. We now need to find practical ways to bring these policy principles into action.

Let’s also hope that COP 26 will be a turning point for global co-operation although constant vigilance and action will continue to be needed for the protection of our living Earth and all species on it.

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Poem 25. Writing Words For Weasels.

Head of Comadrito by Ruth Koenisberger

Winter is here and I am now on Poem 25 and in another lockdown, albeit now in the U.K. There have been too many distractions, some wonderful like cuddles with a new baby and dinosaur games with a three year old. Others have been nail biting as coronavirus cases rise here and the  American Election creates a cliff hanger. When will it all be over? We need courage and patience to know ‘it’ will all take its own time.

This poem is about weasels because a weasel is one of my main characters in The Call of the Wild Valley. But the poem touches on how we use animals to describe human characteristics and often to the detriment of the animal. Why do wolves have to be bad when their social relationships are supportive and for the good of the whole pack. Why do we have the phrase ‘weasel words’? Usage appears to go back to Shakespeare where weasels were thought to suck out the egg yolk from a shell.

‘I can suck melancholy out of a song, as a weasel sucks eggs’ As You Like It 1600.

However it may be thanks to Theodore Roosevelt in 1916 who used the words for the ability of humans to obscure meaning or fail to take responsibility with clarity and honesty in communicating. ‘one of our defects as a nation is a tendency to use weasel words; when one weasel word is used after another there is nothing left’. ( With thanks to Wikipedia and I trust verified)

I hope clarity can return to communication and weasels can be appreciated for their role in nature and ability to tackle rats.

Writing Words for Weasels

Weasels do not have those words

That deceive with tricks and lies

If weasels really did speak out

Would their words be heard

Above the human need to shout

About nowt, while a bird flies

Through a sky of sighs.

In creating my novel about the lives of different species in the animal and plant kingdoms of Navaselva, a weasel became one of the main characters. In many ways after I created the first chapter and a journey narrative I felt the novel began to write itself. The characters, the places, and the challenges faced seemed to fall into place. However, one aspect of my way of writing was to avoid speech, I did not want talking animals that would be too like humans. But I needed characters with personality and feelings.

Comadreya is the word for weasel in Spanish. I named the weasel this but then changed it to Comadrito when Ruth was drawing him. She wanted a more engaging name. At first I wrote with some distance from the character and in 3rd person omniscient ( this now seems to be an old fashioned style, if an all knowing narrative perspective). I now realise the need to engage the reader by being more in the point of view of one character.

The beginning idea came from a story told by our yoga teacher Juanjo. I struggled to understand the Spanish but this was about someone seeing a bird of prey lift up a weasel in its talons but then drop the weasel fairly soon after, possibly as the weasel bit the bird’s feet.

Weasels are known for their sharp teeth and ability to kill all kinds of prey. Much later after creating my bird/ weasel encounter  I  saw the iconic photo of a weasel on the back of a woodpecker. It seems both survived the encounter but the weasel was trying to kill the bird.

The smallest weasels, Mustela nivalis are very light, about 50 grams but are known for their need to eat a good percentage of their body weight every day. Hence their ability to tackle a wide variety of prey from small rodents to rabbits and large birds.They could be seen as opportunists, sharp, able to act quickly and fearless.

The first chapter of my novel begins with a weasel waiting on a rock to go on a journey of discovery. One of my two encounters with tiny weasels at Navasola was looking out of the front door and seeing a weasel on the rock by the olive tree. It seemed to look back at me but in its mouth was a mouse. I had to ponder the possibility that a mouse that I had recently released from being trapped in a large box in the house, had been delivered, tired and intimidated by its encounter with me, into the sharp teeth of the weasel.

These are some of the reasons I chose a weasel, a small enough animal to travel on the back of a large bird, an animal that can hide easily, but able to slip in an out of many different places in a quest for knowledge about a rapidly changing planet. Knowledge that can be shared to help all species adapt and survive. One of the main themes of the novel is facing challenges through cooperation and coexistence.

I have one more poem to go and it is ready as it is one I wrote for my artist friend Ruth Konigsberger’s exhibition a year ago. It has also been translated into Spanish and I hope to work on some of these poems and translate some into Spanish as they are very much about the flora and fauna of the Sierra Aracena.

I will also do a final fundraising on that post because the one I started at the beginning was time limited and closely connected to the London Marathon and losses that charities are facing in this pandemic.

26 Poems. Poem 3 The Hawthorn Tree

Here is poem no 3 of my charity challenge and with thanks and links to Dverse poets that inspired my poetry path and gave knowledge of many different forms of poetry. The prompt is open link  night but will be interesting as there is the idea to share about our lives and what we may depend on in this crisis. There is also a beautiful Mary Oliver poem on their post. Their link is below.

www.dversepoets.com

This is my attempt at a haibun. A Japanese form of descriptive prose ending with a haiku. My format for my challenge is 26 lines. Please don’t count! There were 26 in pages. Word press changes too much for me when writing lines! It describes my conservation dilemmas and good fortune to be outside in our woodland home where we are both well but the sadness of others loss is real and close. Stay safe, protect your health workers and protect the natural world so much depends on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Haibun Prose  Poem In Honour of Hawthorn Trees on whose lives so much depends.

The hawthorn tree stands near our Navasola house. It is rooted within the granite rocks of a ridge along the eastern valley slopes and must be decades old, young in comparison to the century old chestnuts and olives but wild and has freely chosen its niche. I once sat beneath it, in its shade to meditate. I heard a slight fluttering and dared to leave the peace inside to look out and see a tiny mother wren and her even tinier young spaced outa along a branch. My stillness and her quietness crossed a gap. I was in her home. The hawthorn tree is a special tree for it profits many. It may defend itself with sharp thorns but for hundreds of others it protects and nourishes while it propagates itself.

Time is being spent for me between the inside and outside of this virus ridden spring. Outside I follow the wild boar paths and become like the wild bison clearing a greater space. I hope the destruction I create will make way for the more vulnerable species that need more light, or that’s my plan, like my fire plan. I clear away a lot of life in hope of more. But I always leave the young hawthorn trees that break out amid a stranglehold of bramble and undergrowth of viburnum that becomes impenetrable canopy with woven strands of sarsaparilla. Dead bramble poles still reach up surrounding their young with protective thorns. Not much can enter, not much can grow here. My desire to protect the hawthorn seems to combine some vague awareness of its fairy connections to other worlds. In fairy and folklore, I later read it is sacred and if cut down, there will be some price to pay. So much depends on a hawthorn tree. So many species.

I was scrambling up the rocky path in a tired bramble scratched frenzy and a spiky branch was in my way, in my face, on my path. I was about to chop. I stared, not recognising the blossom heavy branch, each flower packed with deep vibrant pink.

This was the first time ever I saw so close the hawthorn flower, with its anther caps on, waiting for the right time to dust the insects, blow the pollen to the wind, and then look worn out, brown and wispy thin.

Storm clouds dark spring skies

My eyes caress your burst buds

Pink lips love propose.

 

 

This link shows some close up photography of hawthorns and was the closest I got to understanding what may be happening with those sexy lipped anthers. Hawthorns are also known for herbal remedies that improve the functioning of the heart!

Hawthorn. http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/indexmag.html?http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/artapr08/bj-hawthorn.html

The other link is for anyone who would like to sponsor me writing 26 poems for a well known nature charity, the RSPB. All charities are struggling with loss of income now so this is a small way I am encouraging myself and others to help. I also hope my poems can inspire and inform about 26 of our species here at Navasola.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/georginas-26-challenge-i-am-going-to-write-26-poems-about-the-wild-flora-and-fauna-here-on-our-woodland-finca-in-spain-i-will-post-these-on-my-blog

26 Poems for Nature. Poem 2. The Woodmouse Mother.

The poem of William Carlos Williams that begins with ‘ So much depends’ comes sadly to my mind this week. I  discovered it first in a wonderful book called ‘ Love That Dog’ by Sharon Creech. A beautifully simple book for young and old about poetry and loss with the young boy finally being able to express happier feelings and memories of a loved dog. I have also just finished listening to Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible, a long but well worth the listen or read. ‘So much depends.’..is quoted and used by one of the characters who also becomes a poet and doctor studying disease outbreaks after growing up in the Congo. She bears witness to the struggle of ordinary people there to survive in a country being exploited by outside interests and also suffers her own tragic loss.

So much has happened within a few months that is life changing for so many and for a close friend. We will have to learn to live within an uncertain world as many already do in parts of Africa, give support to each other and ensure we look after the natural world on whose healthy state we depend.

This  poem was written about the same time as the blackbird poem and for my charity challenge of 26 poems. Each verse is 26 words! Please don’t count them. I have several times. The illustration is by another good friend and neighbour who is a a botanist, naturalist and was a conservation specialist in a previous life in Africa and many other parts of the world. Thank you to Nick Clarke for allowing me to use your drawing. Here in the Sierra there are many wood mice, with slightly larger ears than the house mouse. But similar enough if they come in the house or as some of my close friends and followers know even take a car ride.

A Wood Mouse Mother; so much depends on where you make your nest.

By Nick Clarke

You come so close to us.
You leave your trail of our
Chestnuts, quickly nibbled,
But really, yours.
As these are from your woods
Not ours.

You make your nest within our car,
Well  under the bonnet.
You leave your naked new born
Deep within the engine fold
For just a minute.

 

While you forage
Your nurtured nest has gone.
Just a space under the tree.
Will you know to wait
Within the bramble bush
For our return?

If you would like to help me sponsor the restoration of nature through the RSPB here is the link and on the previous post on the blackbird.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/georginas-26-challenge-i-am-going-to-write-26-poems-about-the-wild-flora-and-fauna-here-on-our-woodland-finca-in-spain-i-will-post-these-on-my-blog

 

April Showers and Walks around Navasola West

Our splendid isolation has included not having any internet connections for long sessions throughout April. It now seems a bit better so  am hoping this is an opportunity to post and also catch up with you all across the world in these strange and difficult times. I hope and pray all is well and will be well  but know that we all may be affected in some way at some point by knowing someone whose life is deeply affected and changed by this pandemic. Much support and care is going to be needed for each other and the natural world we do depend on.

The rain here is blessing us with water if not wifi. The mobile phone company call the problems ‘atmospheric’ meaning I guess, it is again those powers beyond human control.

Here are some photos of our walks around Navasola.

We have taken this time as an opportunity to rediscover some of the wilder parts of the finca. It has often seemed like an adventure and I have been to areas I have never seen before. We tried to follow some of the boundary stone walls too and found ourself clambering over some of the stones the wild boar have knocked down. Boars know no borders too. Last week we saw a small group, yearlings probably, going about like a teenage gang, from my sanctuary window. At first it was interesting to watch them, scratching backs against the rocks, snouting around by the path. Then one crossed the patch by some of my roses and some wild gum cistus and lupins I have been nurturing. I opened the window and hollered before even thinking of picking up the camera! They shot off so I hope they know to steer clear of ‘my’ rock garden. To be fair till now this area has always been left unploughed by the boar. Too much human smell.

Walking anywhere at the moment there are some lovely wild peonies. These are not bothered by boar activitity and as we do not plough or clean the fields intensively there are more and more peonies each year. They are known as the queen of herbs and do make a fantastic and natural display. The insects also love them. Another of my favourites is the yellow palmate Anenome and again there are often pollinators within and other insects that seem to half eat the petals into ragged shapes. I have never seen one completely destroyed and they are very delicate looking flowers. It is hard to get    a good photo of all the flowers in a patch. The yellows are winning out at the moment with the yellow rock rose or cistus,halimium trifolium, the Spanish broom, gorse and another yellow plant that likes the drier ground by the studio hill.

 

Palmate Anenome

 

The studio is an old container that the previous owner installed for her sculpture work. It is on the south west side of the valley and is a warm and light place to work in in the winter. The old house used to be very dark and gloomy. However, the studio, as it is metal, is a hot box for when the temperatures rise. This area has lots of different wild flowers, some tiny white ones, tall asphodels and there is always a lot of bramble, sarsaparilla and some stunted fig trees.  Last year we discovered the orebanche and a very tall but pale type of orchid.

 

 

 

Along this stretch of the valley side are lots of rocks and tall pines. It is not an easy to cultivate area and is now how we like it. Quite wild. There is a badgers den within the rocks and a dangerous drop and caves here where possibly other creatures live too. Above this rocky recess are the pines that have grown very tall but there is also a lot of madroño, viburnum and the tough wiry and thorny sarsaparilla. Some of it is like a jungle with hanging vines of vicious thorny strands. There are also some stands of oak. At Navasola there are several types of oak; mirbeck, faginea, and pyreneus. There are also cork oak and holm oak. This stand is the quercus faginea or lusitania, Portuguese oak.

I have also been clearing some paths on the other side of the valley, Navasola East. Here I can now walk above the old era, the place for threshing grain, and through a very rocky olive grove. Here the olives have been planted many years ago but are very majestic and mossy, with amazing trunks. And hiding holes. We have just discovered a wild bee hive at the base of one. It is all very green and mossy on the rocks and the stone walls have lots of different ferns.

Solomon’s seal around the chestnut trees

Further down towards a Navasola East there is the pond we worked hard on restoring last year. The wild boar had managed to wallow too hard in it and put their tusks into the lining. Now they aren’t allowed in! There are plenty of other places for them to find water and wallow. Our prize animals at the moment are the two Iberian water frogs we have spotted. More on these in a later post as I will devote a poem to them. It’s there in the picture, camouflaged with its thin green,reed like stripe down its back.

I am going to try and complete a challenge for one of the wildlife charities. In the U.K. This is called the 2.6 challenge instead of the London Marathon which usually raises a lot of money for many different charities.It was supposed to take place on April 26th and of course couldn’t. Charities are suffering from lack of funding now and not able to undertake some of the work needed. 26 or 2.6 is the magic number. So instead of running round our finca, which is difficult anyway I am going to try and write 26 poems on the different species that live around Navasola. There will be a Just Giving link to sponsor me if anyone wishes for the RSPB and Birdlife International. So hopefully my internet will work well as I will post 26 lines or words for each poem!
Just setting myself up so I have to get this done!

February Fun, Fotos, and Short Walks.

It has been a busy February and so I am glad of the extra day in the shortest month when winter can turn to spring here in Andalucia. The photos below are from our short local walk with Lotti the tibetan terrier. This joins the main sendero/footpath from Castano del Robleda to La Pena and Alajar. At the beginning of the month it is very wintry and all those autumn leaves featured in my Autumn walks post have blown onto the red sandy ground. But it is now so much wetter and the green moss is alive and well after its summer’s rest. Nature is resilient and adapts to many changes and with so many problems facing our planet I would like to focus on that determination to keep on trying and surviving.

 

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We have also enjoyed more walks around our own little valley but with a caveat to avoid falling into badger holes. We have discovered quite a few and also their very clearly marked latrines, carefully excavated to fit their poo. Sorry, I missed taking a picture of that.

 

 

Winter is also the time for visitors. Some who want to get in from the cold. Our dear old car is a favourite habitat for wood mice nests. We were waiting for the mother to return to rescue her naked, fairly new born babies before we could go shopping. They may even have been with us on previous trips.

 

 

Other visitors came and not expecting warmth as we have a much colder climate than their home in Portugal. We went to discover our frontier town which we have only ever driven through on the road to and from Seville. However, our day walking around the town of Higuera was full of welcome sunshine and blue skies. There were also lots of storks nesting too and of course the ones with the highest status on the church steeple. Higuera would have been full of people on the 5th of January for their most famous processions for the Three Kings celebrations. Hence the statues and a lovely avenue of orange trees. Higuera is 200m lower than where we are in Fuenteheridos. It was warmer and the Viburnums tinus and carpenters bees were out and about. See featured image.

 

Another favourite short walk is by the now closed Aracena campsite and source of the great river Odiel. We went on a Sunday when all the families were out for picnics but the walk by the river and  old cork trees was fairly quiet and full of birds but all quite artful and not easy to identify. The rocks by the stream were quite amazing in the sunlight and the old tree with some life at the top.

We have also visited Donana again and I will devote a whole post to that but it was again a marvellous day full of storks, flamingos, a very large flock of coots and some spoonbills that I finally managed to photograph.

 

The last day of February, when it is the 28th is a holiday for all in Andalucia. It becomes a long weekend a puente, bridge. Our local town was full of visitors and some posh cars. This seemed to be an attraction for photographs too. So there is one of me with my favourite car, Jud, now 24 years old and still going strong over our rough rocky track.

 

I think I might have to take the view that the old car has done much better on carbon emissions than these new ones. We didn’t stay too long to check whether these were electric but they were certainly worth a lot of money and on show. We bought our local bread and went back to our quiet woodland.

Near the town of Cortelezor there is a very rough road and we didn’t see many cars along this one. We wanted to find the river valley where we had walked along some years ago.In a very small area just by this picnic place we discovered some botanical wonders.

The tiny wild daffodil tops the bill among the heathers. But the rock formations were astounding in the background. There was a thorny acacia, a narrow leaved ash, the stripy leaves of thistles to be and a flower we have yet to fully identify. PS And now we have! Anchusa undulata.

 

And below the wild hoop daffodils; Narcissus triandrus and this mediterranean mystery. We have scoured the book but no match yet. Yes, Anchusa undulata, alkanet is Anchusa azurea.

 

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And for extra measure and for the extra day we have been to the Cheese Festival in Portugal, about an hour or so from the Sierra. We missed the rain here and my vegan attempts were sorely tested. However, there is an important rural economy here based on quality produced cheeses and I do think there needs to be a focus on supporting small farmers, traditional food and farming. Here is a photo of one of the local Alentejo choirs which UNESCO recognise as part of our world heritage. The singing was deep and powerful from the male choirs but there are mixed voice choirs and female ones too.

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Isle De France rare breed.

I hope this post brings you some of the vitality of nature and rural life here in this part of Andalucia and the Alentejo and can help revive and restore us as we go through tough times.

A Biodiversity Birthday. 6 years of Navasolanature! Looking back and Looking Forward.

The New Year is well under way and I can only wish that there will be hope and happiness for us all and wisdom for those in power who can make the changes our struggling world needs. January is  named after the Roman God Janus, a god with two heads. One head looks back at the past year and the other to the future. So I have decided to look back at my photos showing some of the biodiversity at Navasola and close surrounding woodlands. January is also my blogging birthday and I am now celebrating 6 years of celebrating biodiversity! My tag line began as ‘ nature needs nurture’.  And it certainly needs this now more than ever.

Buff the buff tailed bumblebee, a character in my novel.

I thought of writing  a children’s story about all the animals that come to tea near our house or sometimes into it. I was inspired by the huge grasshopper on the old wet teabags in our kitchen, although at the time it gave me quite a shock. However, I have not fully finished it for a January deadline. Of course, the main inspiration is Judith Kerr, who recently died and the ‘The Tiger who came to Tea’. Writing for children is not easy and I admire fellow blogger Annika Perry with her beautifully illustrated story ‘Oscar’s Quest’. (See links at end of this post.) My first two photos are of two of the main characters in my novel. My novel is about the journey of some animals from our woodland to the distant North.  I am still struggling to revise it after advice on point of view and writing for young adults. I now feel it is very timely as so many young people are now so concerned and more aware of the threats to biodiversity and the effects of climate change for us all. However, I have added and updated and divided the novel into two and hope to find some interest in publishing it this year.

Abe Apio the bee eater character in my novel.

 

With our return to Navasola I am pleased to hear so much bird song and calls in the evening. It is also very wet underfoot and such a change from even two months ago. Water levels have risen and there is some water in the well now but we will have to monitor closely.

Hoopoe visiting Navasola in Autumn

My decision for 2020 is to try and cut my own carbon emissions. This is going to be very difficult because of our need to travel between family and our home here. Here, in Spain with our solar power we can almost live carbon free for electricity and hot water. But our first flight has cost me a quarter of a tonne in carbon emissions. I am going to try and write about this as a new journey this year. My desire to do this and inform myself more is because of the tragic loss of wild species and habitats and climate changes makes this life threatening for so many creatures and for our grandchildren’s future.

Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the acting executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, has implored governments to ensure 2020 is not just another “year of conferences” on the ongoing ecological destruction of the planet, urging countries to take definitive action on deforestation, pollution and the climate crisis.’ ( The Guardian’)

So for January I have also thought about diet and signed up to Veganuary. Over the past 40 years I have been vegetarian and pescatarian. However vegan is difficult for me as I love my cup of tea with milk. I also love yogurt and some cheese. I will try and post more on that and have got a freezer full of my chestnut harvest recipes. Once upon a time the little fellow below was eaten as a delicacy in the province of Extremadura. This species was on the verge  of extinction. This one turned up on our porch for his own tea.

Ocellated or Jewelled lizard

Travelling by car will also be a difficult one for my carbon reduction journey. We really need a car when living in the Spanish countryside so hopefully we will try and keep mileage down. As yet we can’t afford a new car, electric or hybrid. However, hybrids are the top selling cars in Spain at the moment. There is more political will here too as the new government has appointed a Vice President to be in charge of environmental issues and transition to a greener economy. Let’s also hope that the Doñana wetlands can be well looked after.  I posted on this last year and the issues over water management. I also think it is important to visit these areas and to try and encourage ecotourism so habitats can be saved and considered important throughout the world.  Am not sure that eco minded people should cut down on eco minded tourism. There are many difficult calls.

For the sake of all these species and for the future we must ensure a greener and different kind of economy that will secure a world that protects and restores.

Link to Annika Perry’s blog and her new book.

Introducing Oskar!

September 20th Poem for the Young. No More Same Old.

There be whales out there. Vittoria our marine biologist guide

I enjoyed reading Lillian’s experiences and video of the whales off Cape Cod’ with her grandson. It reminded me of my first experience of seeing a whale, 20 years ago, in San Francisco Bay. It was also my first trip to the USA. I wrote a poem for Dverse on this 3 years ago with the prompt of ‘ a first ever experience. After that the next whale watching was in the middle of the Atlantic off the Azores.

Today is the 20th September 2019 and young people have asked adults to join them on demonstrations and strikes for climate action. There will be a UN summit and all the different nations have been asked to bring solutions. All I can offer today is a poem as if I were 20 today.

Same Old: Born in 1999

I am 20 years old, or older today.
So please don’t give me more of your
Same Old.

You tell me you first saw your first whale
20 years ago from today,
In San Francisco Bay.

You tell me you partied with
An 80 year old,
Californian dreamer.

You tell me you cried over
A library full of books and blood.
20 years ago
Columbine
Before you were mine.

So don’t give me
The Same Old
Weapons are MAD
But we must defend our dreams,
Whales are factory processed meat,
But all must be free to eat
Whatever they want.
We need the wood not the trees.

Because we DON’T.

I want to grow old with
Whales in the waves,
Wolves in wild woods,
Birds flying safe and free
Above children with a future
And Elephants in Africa.

I do not want to grow old
In a world worn out by
Broken promises.
20 years ago
You saw a grey whale
In San Francisco.
20 years before that
You sung of the flowers.
Where have they all gone?

I do not want to dream
When I am old,
Of a past world where
Whales breached the waves
Wolves wandered in woods
Diverse birds flew in great flocks,
Elephants roamed in Africa.
Children unsafe without a future.

How long do you need,
To solve the suffering
You caused,
While dreaming,
Working yourself to the bone,
To give me
The Same Old
Future you said I deserved.

Take my hand
Before we both grow too weary.
Let’s bite the bullets.
Finish with the fumes.
Grow the forest.

So I can grow old
And watch with wonder,
My children’s children,
Wonder at whales in the waves,
Wolves in wild woods,
Birds flying safe across borders,
Elephants in Africa,
Children with a future.

 

 

For open link night, Dverse Poets http://www.dversepoets.com

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.