Supporting the Natural World, Donana Bird Fair, Conservation issues.

Lynx artwork at the visitor centre hosting the Birdfair.
Lynx artwork at the visitor centre hosting the Birdfair.

At present in the UK and in the rain! I had wanted to post this about a week ago and have been busy visiting friends and attending a Quaker conference on ‘Creating Peace in a Violent World’ At times the prospects of peace in terrible conflicts seems daunting but there are many ways to be actively peaceful. This might not mean a peaceful life and can be challenging when so much needs to be challenged. There also seems to be so much violence inflicted on our environment and I hope that all these newly elected MEPs will take this up rather than focus on the fine or distracting details of migrating humans. There is so much irony in the economic sense of the word’growth’ Can sustainable growth exist ?

20140518-210614.jpg

20140518-210451.jpg
In Spain the SEO organise a bird fair on the outskirts of the Donana Reserve and have been celebrating 60 years of campaigning for birds and habitats. SEO would benefit from an even wider base of support within Spain but are part of Birdlife International which includes the RSPB in the UK. These organisations have to work tirelessly to defend habitats for wildlife and to look into the complex issues affecting our environment. When we visited the bird fair we were fortunate to see all the tree nesting storks in the area, flamingos swimming in the lake, birds of prey, bee eaters and a tiny siskin as we were guided around the reserve Dehesa de Abajo. The SEO have a very good website and now there are the Latin names, Spanish names and English ones!

20140518-210529.jpg
20140518-210657.jpg

We also met up again with Rafa, a young and passionate naturalist who has created many books now on identifying birds in our area the Sierra Aracena and books on trails across the Sierra Morena. Later in the day we went to another part of the areas on the outskirts of Donana and saw the glossy ibis and different types of herons. We also had ourselves photographed by Natura Red with a butterfly gesture for nature. The organisation is supported by the EU and other wildlife organisations and the aim is to keep the network of wild places and habitats across the EU free from exploitation.

Donana is always under some threat and there have been pollution disasters here. However there are successes and the bird life is vibrant along with the breeding of the endangered and beautiful lynx. But there are always threats and on return to the UK there was an article in the RSPB magazine which mentioned the EU directives for nature ; Natura Red means Nature networks or web as Red is also the Spanish for the Internet /Web. Parts of Scotland were also mentioned as under threat of some form of development when these are protected spaces. An article in a Wildlife Trust magazine also tried to think outside the box and try to look at the economic benefit of keeping and extending wildlife habitats for both animals and people.

On arriving here in Humberside by the Humber Flats and estuary I read about the success of all the above organisations working with the companies involved in order to protect and develop habitats for the birds and more along this estuary.  A complex struggle to preserve or develop more suitable habitats. Every little helps but takes time and support for the smaller organisations trying to uphold wild spaces and the desperate need to create more whereas the big companies have finance and access to lawyers and a government often ready to overturn existing protection because there is a overriding ‘need’ for the development.
Below is another of the disturbing bird/man sculptures in the Dehesa de Abajo ‘s visitor centre exhibition!

 

20140518-210551.jpg

A poem for Peony: The Wild Peony Forest; cycle of change from March to May, paeonia broterii,

Dverse poets have suggested a prompt based on ecopoetry. Do check out this inspirational poetry group at  Dverse  . The poetry bar is open and serving up so many different ideas most of the week. Ecopoetry seems to be a different term being introduced by groups such as Green Spirit and Resurgence. Alice Oswald is also mentioned and I find her a fascinating poet who has such an observant style that also brings out deep emotions. I’m not sure I want my own writing to be put into a category and I had never come across this term before but I certainly seem to be focused on my own and others relationship with the natural world at this point in time.

Trevor organised a nature course here some years ago and it was led by the botanist Teresa Farino. This started my inquiry into the plant kingdom. I was also given a mother’s day present of the Alice Oswald anthology, Weeds and Wild Flowers.  I loved the Snowdrop one ,’ A pale and pining girl,head bowed, heart gnawed’ ……. ‘ her wildflower sense of wounded gentleness’

I wrote this poem early on in blogging inspired by the wild peonies here at Navasola and in the Sierra Aracena. It is January 2016 now but on our return from our special birthday trip to the Azores within 10 days there have been changes. The invasive mimosa is out in its bright yellow headdress, the almond blossom is delicately feeling for the early bees, and the peonies are beginning to thrust through the cold ground. Some are near paths so I stick sticks around them so we don’t forget and tread on these wild sisters of the many cultivated ones.

 

A Poem for Peony and all those wild loving sisters

Ms Peony Broterii

Wild genes live dangerously

Not cultivated carefully

Like your gardened sisters.

But your barb is in your poisonous roots,

Anchored, aching deep in chestnut groves,

In the shade of veteran friends, long standing,

Bringing you your strength, uprightness, roots rooted.

Unlike the myriads of visitors ready to be satiated

In your open sensuous bloom.

Bringing a light touch on velvet petal,

A rubbing of stamens, a staining of pollen,

Buzzing bodies beating,

Intoxicated with your nectar.

They stay only for their own satisfaction.

You may have some regrets, a sense of loss

As petals fall and breezes betray your beauty.

But your thrill is in your seed pod,

Ready to ripen, always ready,

To begin again, always hopeful

To survive into another Spring.

Only the danger of the human mind
Can threaten you.

Georgina Wright

 

 

Wild peony forest January/February

Mid May
Mid May, seed pod, ripening and hopefully fully fertilised by an amazing range of insects that have loved being inside this peony!
Part of peony forest in full bloom - April to May
Part of peony forest in full bloom – April to May
Early May
Early May
Pollination
Pollination, fully open to the sun and all insects!
The first Peony bloom in Navasola East, by an old chestnut, attracting insects.
The first Peony bloom in Navasola East, by an old chestnut, attracting insects. April.
Wild peony forest January/February
Wild peony forest –  Early March.
Peony Plot in Kew gardens. Over 30 different types of peonies and now reclassified!
Peony Plot in Kew gardens.
Over 30 different types of peonies and now reclassified!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Link to Dverse   For the ecopoetry prompt  January 2016

With thanks to the poems by
Alice Oswald, Weeds and Wild Flowers ( Faber and Faber ) and to the peonies and photos taken at Navasola among the ancient chestnut trees.

Originally written in 2013 and posted then.

Walks on the wild side: caminos near Navasola in the Sierra Aracena

I have now had the opportunity to take some local walking routes near our Finca Navasola. With two friends, one a neighbour and the other from Sheffield we explored some short routes between Fuenteheridos, Galaroza, Castano de Robledo and Alajar. We were trying to find a reasonable circuit before it got too hot. Suffice to say we did call in the back up and got picked up but let’s say it was because the dog had walked too far! A very sturdy Tibetan Terrier who was not unlike us put off by steep climbs!

We used a walking guide and map put together by an english couple. And it is very useful. It is true to say that signposting isn’t always clear and a compass and sense of direction helps. There are also many private paths to fincas but it was not too hard and each walk took about two hours to our destination. Any route with Castano at the end point must mean a climb up the valley and the peak of Castano is one of the highest point in the Sierra at about 700m.

Again at present it is the small things underfoot which have caught our attention and some of the black pigs growing freely in fields but destined to become expensive Jabugo ham! Below are pictures of Tibetan Terrier, Spanish Festoon butterfly, oil beetles and a nosy black pig!

20140507-141923.jpg

20140507-142017.jpg

20140507-142036.jpg

20140507-142055.jpg

May Day : spring flowers, insects, beetles and attempts at botanical drawing

imageHere on the first day of May it must be the first public holiday in Spain I am experiencing this year which does not have the link to holiness. Unless of course it is unholy, unhealthy, or not wholesome to treat work and workers unfairly.

There are too many flowers out for me to draw as it takes a long time and real concentration. However there are at least two that I have found out more about by close observation and looking up in my Collins Wild Flowers of the Mediterranean Guide. Am still practising my drawing skills and it is part of my new work to try and pay really close attention to the natural world !

Tassel Hyacinth; the top part is sterile but the buds below will carry the genes forward!
Tassel Hyacinth; the top part is sterile but the buds below will carry the genes forward!

image

Halimium atriplicifolium, a yellow rock rose, whose flowers like the cistus will fall each night and other buds are ready to open the following day. Some of the leaves have 3 clear veins on the non flowering part so can’t be seen on this sprig!

The tension remains between keeping the wildness and cultivation. I have been busy and with some help am creating a place to grow vegetables but the wild boar need to be kept out or they will dig it all up. Hence an anti boar fence but small mammals can pass through. One of the better park directives. Sadly some white cistus also got dug up. One of the photos shows how this plant defeats lack of water. Every day a flower comes and then falls at dusk. The next day a new bud comes out and is ready for the bees and insects which help in pollination and life goes on. But not if we humans pull out all the wild and kill off the insects which are all part of a complex Eco system!

White cistus in flower, bud and stamens showing from previous day's flower all together on one branch.

White cistus in flower, bud and stamens showing from previous day’s flower all together on one branch.

Green Cities: Life under the flight path to London Heathrow. People need green cities and wildlife too.

For all of my life and bringing up my children I have lived under the main HeathroSutton Park, West London, Green suasage shape from planes landing and on North side.w flight path as for all those who live in West London near the River Thames and the Great West Road. On my brief return to West London for the course at Kew Gardens I walked around many of the green spaces and streets I have known well. Spring was out with a blossoming vengeance. I took some photos on and early evening walk around Heston.

The first is from Sutton Park which can be seen as a green sausage from planes flying into Heathrow when quite low, only a few minutes to landing. Here this vast green is surrounded by houses and seems to be loved by the Heston Starling community. I saw quite a few in the trees and Starlings like grassy spaces but could adjust to city life if they scavenge more.

imageimage

The street trees were full of Cherry blossom and the particular street shown was where we first lived. One of the first notices to come through the door was a tree preservation order. visited a friend and cut a small twig to draw on my course! The magnolias were also out and though short lived there are still many in gardens. It made me think how beautiful Heston could be in the Spring but also how stunning it must have been when everyone cared for their gardens and there were no drives. Heston was developed from orchards in the 1920s into a  garden suburb for those who could afford to move out of the crowded terrace streets of inner London! Now every bit of open space is under pressure for new housing.

Two places and people close to my heart are of course my daughters and many memories of Barnes Common and walking through with my daughters and dogs. This is a borrowed one!Barnes Common is a historic green space kept as common land for all us commoners but now it is not sheep but dogs, people and varied wildlife that need this open space

 

image

And the photo below is  the cherry tree in the Brentford and Isleworth Quaker Meeting House garden, a sacred space from the 1700s.  And my daughters under the tree on Mother’s day.  I am now back at Navasola in Spain and miss some aspects of my London life, but not work! ( Also not sure why I had to copy the images instead of adding them and photos not so sharp) And the last photo, now working again and not having to copy is of  a Seville roof garden, from the amazing wooden sculpture of Mushroom design above  the Plaza Encarnacion. A place for great views of Seville.

image
image

Kew Gardens, Botany, Illustrations and a visit to the Herbarium

 

image
The Tropical Palm House, Kew Gardens, March 2014
Willow sculptures at end of day, Mach 2014
Willow sculptures at end of day,Kew Gardens March 2014

It has been an intense two weeks at Kew on the botanical illustration course and although it was daunting to work along side trained artists there were also some beginners similar to myself. The aim was to learn some of the skills needed so that I can try and draw some of the wild flowers at Navasola ; to keep a record and to learn to identify plants more. My memories of Kew do go back a long way as we lived nearby and as a family would visit often when it was about a penny or an old threepenny coin? I also did a weekend job waitressing in the restaurant near the Temperate House and saved my pennies and tips for my trip to India! Its now quite expensive to visit Kew Gardens so it is worth being a member and the work that Kew does is so much more than just having a really amazing collection of plants and trees and the cost of just the upkeep of that. Conservation and saving endangered plants, horticulture, Plant studies, DNA, diseases and more….

A member of the Zamia family I had an attempt at drawing and a robin came and watched me with a critical eye!
A member of the Zamia family I had an attempt at drawing and a robin came and watched me with a critical eye!

Our teacher, Lucy Smith is a professional botanical illustrator and specialises in palms. I visited the palm house at lunch time as it was warm and a break was needed ! The  first photo of the Palm House and daffodils was taken at the end of a hardworking day drawing leaves in Museum No 1 near the famous Palm Glasshouse. The shapes of the palms looked grand and ghostly against the stormy evening sunset. I also found a lot of information about Paeonies in the horticulture gardens and a lot of examples of plants we find in Southern Spain.

Poster in Herbarium about the range of activities supported.
Poster in Herbarium about the range of activities supported.

A lot of work behind the scenes goes on at the Herbarium and we were given a fascinating tour by a long serving Mexican botanist whose specialism was in the vast leguminosae or pea family. The Herbarium is a library of plant specimens and it is vast. Kew also promotes a lot of art work and installations.

Plant studies in the Plant Library; The Herbarium at Kew Gardens.
Plant studies in the Plant Library; The Herbarium at Kew Gardens.

Last year I joined again because of the David Nash wood sculptures and this year there are some fascinating willow sculptures. Kew always has such variety and this year I found all the different varieties of flowering cherry trees. Kew works hard to conserve wild plants and the seed bank has been set up and attempts are made to propagate endangered species like the Madagascan palm that Lucy Smith had illustrated.

One of Kew's famous historic trees, the Stone Pine or Umbrella Pine which there are so many of in  parts of Southern Spain and Portugal. This one grew its different shape as it was kept potted for so long in the 1800s!
One of Kew’s famous historic trees, the Stone Pine( Pinus pinea) or Umbrella Pine of which there are so many  in parts of Southern Spain and Portugal. This one grew its different shape as it was kept potted for so long in the 1800s!
Photo from Cabanas and seen in Kew with its name!
Photo from Cabanas and seen in Kew with its name! Retama  sahaerocarpa,  Family Leguminosae  papilionoideae.

 

 

have just about survived the course and will add some more details of that later and the beauty of suburban London in the Spring. Maybe a Spring poem is needed along the following lines and in memory of Robert Browning’s famous Oh to be in England, now that April’s here……..

Oh to be in London when the daffodils are out

And the streets with cherry blossoms…….

Hide the gardens turned to drives!

 

Nature needs Nurture

%d bloggers like this: