Wild hoops of rarest daffodils defy a different death
A peacock butterfly with wounded wing
Spread out to bathe upon a post
Did it feel the bite upon its wing?
Which hungry bird has lost its meal?
Burnished buzz of black on florets of pink.
Black cap birds peck at rotting fruit
Crag martins search for homes in holy walls.
All push back Winters’ cold short days
As Spring begins its hot embrace
And rain falls further and further away.
In that other place.
I have written this poem and chosen some of our February sightings around Fuenteheridos in the Sierra Aracena, Southern Spain. The mountains are around 500 to 600m above sea level and winters can be cold. The area has reasonable biodiversity and I hope it will add to the spirit of Earthweal’s aims to help us all connect more with nature.
Earthweal is a poetry forum dedicated to global witness of the Earth’s changing climate and its effect on daily life. Here is a place to report that news in the language of the dream, that we may more deeply appreciate the magnitude of those events. It is intended as a place for all related emotions—love and rage, grief and hope, myth and magic, laughter and ghost whistles—and belongs to the entire community of Earth as mediated by its human advocates.
Sarah Conner invites us to write seasonal poems and the first is inspired by Imbolc in February.
‘*Today, I want to think about * Imbolc. Traditionally celebrated at the start of February, Imbolc is a festival of new life and new beginnings. The name derives from “in the belly” — the first stirrings of life, seeds starting to sprout.’
I am also linking this to Dverse who as a bunch of great poets and their Mr Linky inspired me to play around and write poems publicly! And to Lillian who is hosting the OLN. I hope she and all of you can meet up soon with your families. A big Spanish Abrazos Fuerte to all.
At the turning of 2019 to 2020 there was hope. For so many it has been a life changing year and with challenges for all of us. January 2020 was a milestone as my younger daughter turned 30 and celebrated in style with many friends. She was one of the lucky ones of her 1990 compatriots. Then in March, all changed and she was sent her shielding letter. In many ways she has been isolating since but with the good fortune of her wonderful partner and their dogs.
I was going to write a post about pre lockdown at Navasola. We had two very full months with our visit to the wetlands of Doñana and walks around our local villages.
My plan was to post on each of the villages of the Sierra Aracena. It was soon too eerie to do that and no walking outside was allowed under the very strict Spanish lockdown. I was fortunate to have acres to work in and clear new paths like a wild bison and and to have an indoor sanctuary for writing.
I was also ready to post about the art classes our friend Ruth Koenigsberger started for her friends. We were first learning about how to use light and shade. We went and sat by the marble rocks of a disused quarry. There were some worrying news items but at the time in Andalucia there were few cases and all seemed contained. Then it seemed sudden as we were all put into ‘confinamiento’. The photos are from the post I never posted at the time! We have been fortunate that Ruth has continued to share her skills with us and her latest paintings.
I worried about family in the UK. My older daughter was pregnant and a nurse. We talked and agreed how many close family and friends had health issues that made them more vulnerable to this virus. She came through a more anxious pregnancy than in normal times. We were blessed with a beautiful baby girl in October.
From March to May we followed from a distance a very personal and difficult encounter with this virus. My close friend’s husband became ill. At first perhaps, it was like a flu and shingles but it changed to terrible difficulty in breathing. He did not want to go into hospital but was encouraged to by all, including my older daughter who knew him well. We were relieved he was in the best place. He was helped with oxygen for his breathing and he never really lost consciousness but his lungs were severely damaged. Two weeks after his 70 th birthday on VE Day he passed from this life. This leaves that unfathomable loss of a close partner and soul mate for my friend but his work as a writer and academic, his astute wry understandings, friendship and warm hospitality are a loss to us all.
I found myself with very ‘tight’ finances and some loss of income. I reluctantly cancelled some charity giving. But in April I responded to the London Marathon Charities appeal. So instead of running 26 miles I decided to write 26 poems for Nature and fundraiser for the birds whose songs brought a lot of joy to folk in lockdown. I have been fortunate to have many fellow bloggers, friends and family contribute to this. I will keep the link open a bit longer as ever in hope of more contributions to the much needed restoration of our natural world. This challenge certainly kept me blogging and writing poetry when I was not fully minded to write much.
Ruth allowed me to use some of her paintings which also inspired poems. Nick and Trevor also gave much information on many of the plants and creatures around us in the Sierra.
As the year ends we can look back and we do miss seeing and being in close contact with all our friends. Perhaps we have made more phone calls and zoomed but we do look forward to hugs, bear hugs and lots of real reunions. Thank you all who follow me in the virtual world and for all your inspiring posts, photographs and creativity.
I have spent a long time trawling through photos and trying to save those on Whats App. I also looked at drafts on my blog and was surprised by many I forgot to post or it was well past the post it date. The memorial writing below comes from a draft post in 2015. It was about our Quaker wedding and the different perspectives on the Quaker ideas of Light, God and Love. I also listened to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi speak about light and love being increased within us when we expand our conscious mind by transcending in meditation. I was thinking about a more philosophical blog at the time and then started on writing a novel.
One close friend was absent from our wedding. She was a devout catholic who died from leukaemia within a week of her 60 th birthday. This was on her memorial card and I love the way it makes the connections between light and love. In a very divided and wounded world we hope to find ways to restoring health for all life through love and understanding our complex world. Enlightening ourselves. Or as Quakers say ‘holding each other in the light’.
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.
It is the equinox, the official end of long summer days. It is thought that this rather than any change of temperature is the way the migrating birds know they must leave for Africa’s warmth and food. The swifts usually go in August but house martins often have a second brood and will leave as late as September. The bee-eaters gather together too around this time. At Navasola there have been storms so perhaps some are still waiting to go. Here are two poems to two of Navasola’s summer visitors. One who has become a character in my novel and this drawing of him by my artist friend Ruth. His name is Abe Apio and he flies north in a quest to find a cooler place for a Navaselva buff-tailed bumblebee.
Abe Apio the bee-eater of my dreams.
Abe Apio you never leave me
Your brightness stirs my words
As your story moves me to write
Of your struggle to save
Not just bees.
You Can Not Keep a Swallow in a Zoo
This child delights in her own toy zoo,
A gorilla and tiger stalking through
A mat of savannah tufted strands.
A plastic fence surrounds a zebra.
A lion lies down with a flamingo.
The sun beats through a round bay window
Of a neat corner house with stained glass
Swallows at the front door and on the wall.
All this made the warmth of summer kind
In a chilly northern seaside town.
And this child did not know
What she knows now.
You can not keep a swallow in a zoo.
Now she counts the swallows as so few fly by.
The ones with red rump feathers preened
Prefer these southern lands with barns,
And ruins of long ago times,
Where with martins and swifts.
Built nests under old tiled roofs.
With holes and a rural disregard
For cleanliness that bleaches bare all life.
We thought some swallows might adorn our porch
But one hit a window and took a time
To fly again high enough to see
The windows of heaven
Where the ark is waiting.
Each poem conforms to my challenge to write 26 poems for the 26 miles of the London marathon which was not run this year and many charities have lost vital funds. A poem will either have 26 words and be haiku inspired or 26 lines. Each poem will be about different species found around Navasola.
My charity is the Royal Society for Protection of Birds and their links with Birdlife International. Please help them help the birds that know no borders. Much work has gone on to protect habitats and raise awareness of the importance of birds to the balance of nature. The decline in bird numbers and in particular swallows is worrying.
There are brown birds, blackbirds, multicoloured birds, white birds. Sometimes it is the brown birds that are easily overlooked, not colourful enough. But when you look closely, the browns are so varied and so beautifully marked, full of different tones and hues, perfectly adapted to their life in the woods.
This post is in memory of George Floyd who can no longer be with us to hear the winged creatures of our wounded world. May he be at rest and his family find solace in God, friendships, the beauty of nature and justice.
And there is a link to an article that I found very moving published in Sierra Club,an old established American conservation organisation. We have to understand and act against the kinds of thinking that allows our natural world to be destroyed and for many brown and black lives to not matter throughout the world. https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/racism-killing-planet
To the beauty of the brown bird whose name we do not know. A japanese style painting by Ruth Koenigsberger.
These are poems about some of our local birds seen from our porch. All woodland birds but very wild, cautious, shy perhaps and not easy to photo. The serin stayed just long enough balanced on a thin stem of wild cress that was left on our ‘lawn’ for pollinators to enjoy. And they did gather. We wish we saw more but we hear them and then they hide if we start to look for them. Wild birds do not seem to like eyes staring at them.
On Not seeing the birds for the trees
Somewhere in the woods
Behind a branch, beyond our gaze.
Birds are heard
If you dare to fix your eyes
Let the leaves dazzle your days.
10. Blue Tit or Herrerillo in Spanish, Parus caeruleus in latin
What’s in a name?
A titter or two?
But not in Spain
Where more rare
the tiny herrerillo
Is a sight to see.
To paint perhaps.
11. Redstart, Colirojo real in Spanish, Phoenicurus phoenicurus in latin
Not seen for so long
You fly into our life for water.
Fresh feathers feel cleansed.
Dash of red dips and dives.
Stay a moment more.
12. Goldfinch, Jilguero in Spanish, Carduelis carduelis in latin
Gilded gloss on olive trunk
I see you for the first time.
Once you lived in pines
B graves of the long dead
In a far off place.
13. Firecrest, Reyezuelo in Spanish, Regulus ignicapilus in latin
Slow flight up each branch
Of the young cork you dart
Looking for something
That you will find
And I will not.
14. Serin, Verdecillo in Spanish Serinus serinus in latin
Hello, who are you?
Upon the fine stem
How do you pose,
unswaying, long enough?
Camera shaken, book taken
To discover the name
You already knew.
If you would like to sponsor me on this 26 poem challenge the link is below and on the previous poems too. These poems are all written in my 26 word format. This time more freestyle than haiku and other Japanese forms with certain syllables to each line.
Here are the latest poems for my 26 poem challenge to cover 26 different species found at Navasola in Southern Spain. These particular wild flowers are now fading as their time for flowering is over and a new wave of wild spring flowers have arrived. In nature so much seems transient but all the flowers have been waiting and preparing for their moments of glory all through the year or longer. They have been in long preparation to ensure their species survive.
And so I have a rather religious or spiritual link for them all. Some inspiration comes from the candle like shapes as in Jewish tradition and symbols for the creation story and the very special day of rest. The common names of some of the flowers provide links to God and the bible too. All these flowers are such incredibly evolved species in their own right and show the wonder of nature or God’s creation.
Comments on the ‘form’ of poetry I am trying to create are at the end.
4. Tassel Hyacinth
You capture light with blue
Radiating calm, candles curved
Upward to a lost God
We searched for in dark places
You found in your seed’s desire.
5. Star of Bethlehem
Each pointed point prepares
The Way from birth to Heaven
White beauty shines bright
A flower’s time is but a breath
Of hope above our Earth.
6. Solomon’s Seal
Did all on earth agree
To learn the ways of the wise
Praise the life of Spring
With heads hung low
Close to the living earth?
7. The Wild Peony
I wrote about you once
Your wild genes, your pink beauty,
Ready to receive
So many into your pollen filled heart
There is nectar for all.
8. The Palmate Anenome
Once I drew your curves
To find my hesitant lines
Gave me silent joy.
Your flower held high
By stronger forces than I could ever know.
The form of these poems is a mix of haiku extended into my own 26 word form. I begin with the pattern of haiku of 17 syllables or words and then put in the extra to make up 26 words. Although short it still takes time for the poem to evolve and to be a tribute to each flower as well as any other meaning.
I have been thinking about different approaches to writing poetry and in particular as to what makes a poem and what also makes a good poem, and when is a poem finished. I wished to go back and change some words on the last poem haiku at the end, I wanted the more evocative kiss rather than love .
How do poems make us feel something differently, a new perspective perhaps is important, a new way of looking at our world, and for me ‘The sound must echo the sense’ from TS Eliot. I like a lyrical feel but think I must try a different approach soon and some humour! Well, TS Eliot ranged from The Four Quartets to Cats.
If you wish to sponsor me in this challenge here is the link.
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.
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!
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.
I have few words this month and although I hope for everyone to be safe and well I know that there is much worry and suffering for so many. Our life here goes on much the same but without the social contact and nature trips like this one from February. We set out on our annual pilgrimage to Donana wetlands where we hope to see great flocks of flamingos. One of our favourite places en route is by the bird sanctuary of Canada de los Pajaros. Many storks gather and nest here. So we stopped to see storks flying high together in a very bright blue sky, nesting in the pines, and making their wonderful bill clapping sounds.
After being quite stork struck I wandered up the path. There was bird poo all over the prickly pear, so I looked up. There were lot of large stork nests. I saw a bird move so got the camera on it. I thought it might have been a young stork or egret. The first photo told me very little but the next few meant that I had got on camera the birds that had eluded me last year.
Yes, indeed, the beak gives it all away and I finally got some good photos of a spoonbill.
Hope this may have made you wonder a little bit about nature and the amazing diversity of birds and beaks. For everyone lisening and looking more at the wonderful birdlife around us. Lets cherish the birds and keep them safe too with good conservation of the habitats they need.
Rushing to update now as this all ran ahead of me and published with a mind of its own. More on Donana and explorations around Finca Navasola next time. Love to all.
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.
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.
The village of Higuera, church with storks
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.
View of Fuenteheridos
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.
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.
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.
The May in May. The beautiful hawthorn near the back of our house and its may blossom in the sunshine.
Wild peonies after the rain.
The mayhem here in the south of Spain is not just of the political kind as Spanish democracy votes in a new Prime Minister. Here the weather has remained cool, cloudy but with some beautiful sunshine and thunderous storms. May has gone, the month and as yet not the long suffering UK Prime Minister! Our month of May has been full of wild, wet and windy weather but with some glorious moments. Weather forecasters here in Spain seem to blame this on the USA and Canada. Well,it seems there has been a meeting of a cold front and a warm front and that’s blown over to us across the Atlantic!
Don’t cast a clout till May is out, goes the proverb.But June too began with cloudy, thunder threatening, days.With this inclement weather some wild ones arrived seeking shelter near the house. The feral kitten population seems to expand around this time but we rarely see them again. They will not come near and I fear many give up their lives to the foxes, mongoose, and snakes that live or should live outside of our house.
My day in May began with the need to photograph the very green mosses on the rocks and experiment some more with my new camera. I wanted some close ups before the moss dries out and I had become fascinated by these ‘micro forests’ since reading the book ‘The Signature of All Things’. The main character Alma specialises in mosses and ‘discovers’some of the principles of evolution through a detailed study of adaptation. She talks about’moss time’ and the very slow evolutionary changes that take place. However, on reading the book ‘The Emerald planet’ about how plants have changed and adapted to planetary conditions, it seems it took over 40 million years for leaves to come into existence and changes in carbon levels in the atmosphere affected this. Human evolution in comparison to this took minimal time.
So after the sunny morning taking photos of mosses, wild flowers,camelia and lilac,the clouds came and then dramatic storms.
It was thunderous and torrential rain. Dramatic change. And then T discovered a 3ft long snake disappearing behind some of my plant pots. We were struggling to identify this and it was very difficult to take a clear photo.
And then another day, a month later, we had more torrential rain and another visitor. I had taken shelter from this downpour inside the house in my sanctuary but on the storeroom side T saw a snake’s tail. We identified this one quite easily.
Snakes in the South of Spain and Portugal.
We are lucky that there are few venomous snakes here and none with particularly fatal bites. I think more people in this area might be hospitalised for eating the wrong kind of wild mushrooms.
Snakes are a vital part of an ecosystem and like most wild animals would rather escape from us humans but can be dangerous if trapped or threatened in some way. Snakes may have a bad press but we can learn to live near them if we take a few precautions.
We identified the snake in early June as a ladder snake with two distinct stripes. Just visible from my yet another failed attempt to photo a snake. These snakes have markings like a ladder when young. As they become adult and much larger the ladder rungs disappear and leave the two stripes along the length of the snake. Snakes will certainly help control a rodent population. We think there are some bumps to be seen. Perhaps a swallowed mouse or small rat.
On looking at the snake in May I have begun to think that this was a ladder snake but it looked a bit circular or even zig zag like a viper. Perhaps the rungs are just beginning to disappear on this one. It certainly did not fit any other similar snakes for our area so think this is the answer. We couldn’t see its head either; a triangular shaped head and vertical pupils indicate vipers and therefore poisonous.
One amazing fact about ladder snakes is that the females stay with their young for a few days. A more sanguine fact is they can be aggressive and bite and these bites can be painful even though not poisonous. Snake bites contain anti coagulants that prevents the blood from clotting and so can take time to heal too.
So what to do with a snake in the house, over 3 feet long, possibly a good rodent killer but with a painful bite if suddenly disturbed. Well, the internet and some helpful advice. We thought about the blanket option of covering over the snake and then gathering it into a bag. I didn’t quite like the idea of the broom to guide it to the door and this was the upper part of the house and no door to the outside! Our ecologist friend sent a note about providing a black bag or box as snakes like dark places. Well, there were plenty of dark spaces behind all the boxes and it had gone under a bag near the pipes. In this area we left one of the natural rocks and built over it. We thought the snake would hide there.
Too much deliberation. When we came to look under the bag by the rock the snake had gone. After some thought we think there may be a natural hole in the rock and the snake has left the house. I did check under the bed that night though.
Here is a good phone photo of another kind of southern Spain and Portugal snake. This was taken by a friend in Cabanas de Tavira. It has distinct markings and is a horse shoe whip snake. Photo opportunities of wild ones are all about good observation, quick thinking and fast shutter speed, and luck with the light!
Most of our days in May have been spent on exploring some local walks suggested by a bird and wildlife guidebook to our part of the Sierra Morena. It has been good walking weather and an abundance of wild flowers. Hopefully I can run some posts on these when I return from another visit to see my grandchild, now trying to stand! She is growing so fast but with all the changes in my life I just about manage a blog post a month. I will try and keep posting and keep up with all your posts too.