Tag Archives: Birds

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.

Botany and Birds: Early to mid Spring at Navasola.

bl grape hyacinth frosty days end Feb march 2016 085
Grape hyacinth, muscari botryoides
Teuchrium
Teuchrium fruticans
bl celandine frosty days end Feb march 2016 078
Celandine, lesser, ficaria verna, invasive in USA but native here and few and far between!

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

Mimosa in March
Mimosa in March

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

Wild Viburnum Tinus
Wild Viburnum Tinus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

Halimium on the yellow hillside
Halimium on the yellow hillside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

Charlock
Charlock, sinapsis arvensis,

 

Cats eye
Cats ear, hypochaeris radicata

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Warbler of some kind by Ruth Konigsberger
Warbler of some kind by Ruth Konigsberger, chiff chaff or willow.
bl bullfinch againfrosty days end Feb march 2016 077
Bullfinch in tree by olives.

The Ravens’ Call.

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

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

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

The Call of the Raven

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

(photo courtesy of Wikicommons and taken at the Tower of London, UK)
bl 1London_tower_ravens

Quote post 3: We do not own the world, and its riches are not ours to dispose of at will.

We do not own the world, and its riches are not ours to dispose of at will. Show a loving consideration for all creatures, and seek to maintain the beauty and variety of the world. Work to ensure that our increasing power over nature is used responsibly, with reverence for life. Rejoice in the splendour of God’s continuing creation.   (Advices and Queries No.42, Quaker Faith and Practice)

Today on the third day of this quote challenge I am using one of the advices from a less well known little red book but one that has inspired me to think about the tradition and spirituality of Quakerism. There are 42 main advices and queries and these are in a small red book. These come from the collective thoughts and wisdom over the almost 400 years of the Quaker tradition and are from the gathered thoughts of individuals and group meetings. I quite like the idea of individuals and groups of people relying more on experience than on a hierarchy of knowledge. There are also many Quaker action groups and although in particular the peace testimony is more well known there are groups concerned with inter faith dialogue, homelessness and housing, and sustainable living.

I like this quote because it shows the respect we should give the natural world and although there may be some I know who are uneasy with the use of the word God I think that finally there is a turning point in religious groups about the way we are systematically destroying so much of this earth. I welcome the Pope’s contribution  and have just bought a diary from a Spanish charity which is church based ( Manos Unidas) with a strong focus on environmental justice for people growing food around the world.

The photographs are the last in the series taken by Ruth Koenigsberger ( See previous quote challenges and Autumn Walks)  We took a walk down the Galaroza path one evening in January past these old beauties in the new pine woods. The old chestnuts seem to have different personalities and faces. Such maturity. Oh to be old and wise as these trees. Or dead and still standing?

P1000498 copia P1000500 copia

Quote Challenge 3

For this quotechallenge I want to show some blogs which have a very close concern for the protection of biodiversity. Extinction is a key threat to many species through a range of man-made effects on the environment. From small plants, insects, to the great mammals that need so much wild space these blogs and many others help me to understand more about precious ecosystems and the work being done to conserve and protect.

Thanks to Jenny in her Kiwi garden for nominating me. She has inspired me to try 3 consecutive days of blogging and get linking.

jennylitchfield.wordpress.com

1. Theresagreen A blog from Wales but also with links to other nature blogs on the blog roll and her very informative blog of when she was in Spain.  and now in  Wales

2.  http://huggers.ca/  Matthew posts about environmental news and his post on wolves with the figure estimated of only 186000 left in the world is a sad comment on the lack of responsibility there has been and still is to the wild world.

3. http://fightforrhinos.com/about/  This speaks out for the desperate need to protect the ever dwindling rhino populations in Africa from poaching.

If any of the nominated blogs wish to take part in the challenge then the idea is to do the following. But no compulsion this is supposed to be fun and if you have the time!

  • Post for three consecutive days
  • Posts can be one or three quotes per day
  • Nominate three different blogs per day

As this challenge comes to an end I shall take a rest and get back to my novel. ( 36000 words so far so I must finish it!)  I am aware that there are many more blogs out there that I would like to feature or credit in some way. Theresagreen has a blog roll which is useful and I will try and follow suit with a similar nature blog roll of those I have come across. I will also try and simplify layout and categories.

Thanks for taking time to read and those who follow me I really appreciate the interest taken. Comments are also very welcome.

 

A poem for the birds at Navasola.

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

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

 

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

 

To the Biodiversity of Birds

 

I would love to be

A bee eater, glorious gold blue green.

But maybe not with such decline

In numbers with a risky journey South

And far too few bees to eat.

I am not a risk taker.

 

Or could I be a darting swift

Flying fast round village spires

Screaming to the God inside.

I fear I cannot go so fast.

 

To go with the warblers and the swallows south

On African plains would be a dream.

Guided by the distant stars.

But migrant birds in current climes

Travel with joy but suffer loss.

I do not want so much grief.

 

An owl gliding through the night

Silent flight now that I’d like.

But I would miss the sun.

 

A stork is not I think the best

Bringing babes frogs to the high up nest.

I think from that I need a rest!

 

So perhaps a resident is what I should be

A Mrs brown blackbird, or robin dear.

With sludgey worms slugging down my throat.

Perhaps that’s not quite my cup of tea.

 

 

A tiny wren with cracking voice

Varied tits with varying tails.

Winter cold small body fails

I like a fire to keep me warm.

 

The goldfinch flies with such glitter

A song so pretty but here so often caught

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

I like to be free.

 

From gliding vultures high above

Eagles with their boots on, ravens, jays.

Living on corpses to the end of my days.

I cannot change my vegetarian ways.

 

The woodpecker too noisy with the wood

I prefer some silence and some song.

 

Ah, there’s a bird I surely could be

When it’s cold it goes by the sea

Hovering high notes sung with joy

Up and down in perfect pitch.

A singing voice I have not had.

So I will be the lark

And sing and sing and sing.

 

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

Pelican Puzzle poem. Donde Estamos? Where are We?

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Willow and Gingko

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

 

Donde Estamos?   Where are We?  or  Pelican Puzzle Poem

 

Donde estamos a child says on a bridge

Crossing with his father near the edge

Familiar sounds in unfamiliar places

Familiar faces from high mountain passes

 

Donde Estamos?

Where are we?

 

Diverse ducks on rippling waters

Wild grey geese fly into land

Wild and tame take turns to feed

Clipped wings that long to be freed.

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Donde estamos?

Where are we?

 

 

 

 

Diverse trees some bare, some dressed,

With gilded leaves at some royal behest,

Weeping willow leaves green may last

Next to the far flung Gingko holding fast

 

Donde Estamos ?

Where are We?

 

Black fisher birds perched up on rocks

Herons looking down form weather cocks

Cottage house with surely, organic veggie plots

Fresh fish arrives in plastic pots.

 

Donde Eastamos?

Where are We?

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Great African White in grey December Park

Whose wingspan could rival the albatross

Grey squirrel on a grey man’s long grey arm

The wild we tame with foods ever constant charm.

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Donde Estamos ?

Where are We?

 

 

 

 

 

Wild eyed Pelicans look down the lake

Pink footed geese fly past their palace.

A dull sky with flights of fancy passes by

A skyline of roofs with power to make us cry.

 

Donde Estamos?

Where are We?

 

Overlooked by one all seeing Eye

Chopper birds also above us in the sky.

Surveillance city sees us all, weather indifferent

To human fair or peace for species in our care.

 

Donde estamos?

Where are We?

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A small sized beak cries out in hope

By a puffed up pigeon on a post.

Ancient birds with strange design

Greet us with a knowing look

Open up capacious beak that must be filled.

Talks and more talks, but act we must

Who are we to turn our backs?

 

Who are we?

 

Where are We?

Donde Estamos?

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Wild Viburnum tinus
Wild Viburnum tinus

 

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

New Year Greetings from Navasola

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

butchers broom 1December 15 Navasola 477

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be identified soon!
To be identified soon!