Tag Archives: butterflies

A Butterfly and a Flower for a Birthday. And final celebrations on the birth of Jesus. Los Reyes Magos: The Night of the Visit of the Three Kings. 

Red Admiral on footpath to Galaroza, Vanessa Atlanta
Red Admiral on footpath to Galaroza, Vanessa Atlanta

This post is for my daughter Theodora. I cannot be with her on her birthday but can send this beautiful flower and a butterfly photo  from Southern Spain. So far the sun has shone and the red admiral came out of its hideaway and posed for us. I also bought this gazania to brighten up the rock garden and on looking up its name found it was named after Theodorus Gaza, in the 15 th Century.( On Wikipedia, and he translated Theophrastus on plants)

A popular garden flower; a gazania
A popular garden flower; a gazania

On one of those pregnant impulses I had decided to name my baby after the Saints day she or he would be born on. Luckily she decided against Jan 6 th and Epiphany and came on the day of St Theodosius. And are those days so long ago that we didn’t know or need to know the gender. So Theo sounded like a great idea at the time! But I was pushed to make it more feminine.

For the past two years I have missed her birthday as I had never been able to see the celebrations in Spain for the feast of the Kings. ( Joy of being a teacher and the Return to School) It all happens on the eve of Jan 6 th. Last year a friend came to stay and we visited the ‘big’ one in Higuera de la Sierra.  More in last year’s post. Los Reyes Magos in the Sierra Aracena. Feast of the Kings Processions.

Mary's mother waiting.
Mary’s mother waiting.

This year we went to Linares on the south side of the Sierra Aracena. Here they create scenes from the nativity story in their houses and gardens. Linares is a special village with cobblestone art work on the ground in front of many of the houses. This event is also very special and different from the processions.

I loved seeing inside some of the houses and also small stores, naves where animals would and still might be kept. It was very reminiscent of the closeness of village life over the centuries and miles to Bethlehem. Most of all I loved being able to see into the gardens and orchards. I am a little jealous because they can grow oranges on that side of the Sierra and we have to cope with chestnuts!

After this it was back to see our village procession. Although there may be many tourists here for the Los Reyes processions it is truly a local event. All the children of a village receive presents from the Three Wise Kings. First there is the procession led by the star. She must be the one who gets cold! She is followed by a variety of floats with different scenes, some biblical, some original. These may vary each year. The richness of the scenes shown really tell so many aspects of the Nativity.  The final three floats are for the three wise kings who bring gifts. Balls and sweets were thrown to the crowds watching and following.The irony of the sweets were ‘love bites’ made in Hyderabad, India, where we lived some years ago. Just for trade wars, there were also some made in Córdoba, Spain.

Here in our village it was charming and very much all the local people involved with small tractors pulling brightly decorated carts.

One thing that stood out were the smiles on everyone’s faces: children and adults.
Wishing Theo and everyone who reads my blog a very happy and peaceful 2017. And in 2018 and future years Theo, Josie, family and friends can visit the Sierra to see the wise men, women and children who create this event.

Summer journeys almost over: butterflies, bees and boars.

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From a very lush and wet warm summer in London, through the beautiful greens of France, stained glass of Chartres, Cloudy heights of the Pyrennes, Cool air of Bejar, to the hot and dry Sierra Aracena. However, the Sierra is always green in summer because of its varied trees; chestnuts, oaks and various poplars and willow.

The red admiral landed happily on the sunflower planted by my daughter in London. She loves the garden, birds but is not so sure about the flying insect world! The wild bit at the back with nettles helps the red admiral thrive.

Arriving at our finca there were few wild flowers. It’s the wild carrot time and a few yellow mullein. Most was quite dry. Apart from my garden areas where Ruth had admirably kept the plants well watered from the drought and heat of July and August.

A pretty wall brown landed for a while on the echinacea near the house. Bees and other pollinators seem to like this cultivated flower.

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Another long journey. This cricket was on the windscreenwipers. We thought it would jump or be blown off. It stayed on its green home, our car, while we collected our freshly baked bread from our local village. It is an alternative bakery with organically grown wheat or rye flour. A large traditional clay oven is used. The cricket waited.

And the cricket returned for its photo opportunity and chance to be a celebrity in my animal stories of Navasola! We think its pholidoptera griseoptera, a dark bush cricket.  There are so many, and then there’s the true crickets. And the cave cricket. And a camel cricket! It was light brown and the Dominion guide suggests there are several similar species in Southern Europe.

There is certainly a cricket with a high pitched chirp and it keeps me awake at night too. At least its not aircraft noise and it is rather soothing.

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In April and May it was so wet. The rainfall in May filled our pond to overflowing. We went down to investigate the water level in the pond now. There was nothing. Last year it had retained water at a lower level through the long dry summer. Why had it dried out? The evidence was before us. That wild boar family that loved rolling in the mud in May. I guess now they’ve scored an own goal. No more water in the pond. Tusk marks in the strong, expensive, plastic base. Without this, the water did just drain away. We will have to rethink on this one. Seems a shame to put a boarproof fence around a water hole.

We’ve also just been reading about reports of wild boar, jabeli, visiting the beaches in Spain. At dusk I think and still not quite sure which beaches.The report in Spanish was about the increase in the wild boar population. Not enough hunters? I say, not enough wolves! We’ve got 7 more baby boar on our small finca. Perhaps some will move to the coast?

Apologies for not much blogging recently. I think I have been suffering from my own drought. I have been trying to re edit the first chapter of my novel.It’s been quite a journey writing it, literally as it has taken in a quest through Spain, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Holland and the UK. A nature quest! I have also spent a lot of time struggling with rewriting the beginning and becoming anxious about the next stage. There have also been the chores and the DIY and clearing of beloved brambles and the heat! Most needs to be done in the early morning!

Thank you to all who read this far and have been following my journey. I look forward to some more catching up with you all. The weather is a little bit cooler. I have re edited my first chapter!

A Flutterby of Butterflies. Summer 2015 in the Sierra Aracena.

This year from May to early July has not only been a feast of wild flowers for me to discover and try to identify but also of so many different butterflies. My working walk into my allotment area is bordered with wild scabious which I had decided not to cut back. I was rewarded with being able to walk back and forth through butterflies resting and sometimes arguing over key flowers. It seems to be the wild scabious that they love. With its long stems it bounces up and down as you pass. It also moves gently with the butterflies and the wind and this does not make for easy photographs. A lot have been blurred. After my working walk with the wheelbarrow and scythe I walked up to the Era in the early evening.here we can check on water levels in the deposit and decide whether to pump up more before I start to water. I was flabbergasted by the flutterby of so many more butterflies up there. But then there were so many more flowers. More field scabious, but also pink centuary, and yellow curry plant and many different grasses. The Era had been a levelled out stony threshing area for grain. Possibly used back in the 1920s. We had cleared it several years ago, strimmed and scythed. However, as there were so many flowers on this area last year I decided to do nothing in September. This year I have been rewarded with more flowers and a terrific range of butterflies, albeit with photos all mainly on the scabious. Apart from the swallowtail which seems to like the bushes near the house and the cement left over from the water butt. Hopefully, it will not be a casualty of human so called progress. We hope we are nearly done with any more awful cement mixing and will have a fairly sustainable way of life and comfortable house.   .

The era meadow with house roof
The era above the house. Once used for threshing and now seems to be a butterfly haven.
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Painted Lady on Scabious.
Blog B or wild flowers Scabious and Wall brown or meadow brownEnd of May 2015 Finca flowers 043
Wall or Meadow Brown?
yellow butterfly on era
Clouded Yellow
Larger fritillary on era
Cardinal, large on Scabious!
Large yellow white butterfly
Brimstone on Scabious
yellow butterfly
Probably a clouded yellow as can see the dots!
Swallowtail butterfly
Scarce swallowtail.
small yellow on scabious
Must be our favourite flower. Wild Field Scabious in Southern Spain. Sierra Aracena.

One butterfly missing from the photo shoot is the two tailed pasha . This beautiful butterfly needs the madrono, arbutus unedo, as a place for its eggs. There are plenty of these around the house but maybe this year there have been too many disturbances. There are also many more places for this bewitching butterfly and its peculiar desire for urine. One of my last photos some years ago were of it drinking my dog’s pee. And sorry can’t find that one to add to the collection. However quite pleased with the LUMIX camera and the details. But can’t get hold of the photo editing to crop it and show the eyes and delicate wings yet. Life here in the Sierra is far more comfortable with our solar power but we still haven’t solved our wifi access unless in a bar or the local library. But the library is a cool break as the heat of the summer is rising well into the mid 30s here.

Wings of a butterfly to wildness of wild boar: Close encounters of the natural kind.

 

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What is it that makes an encounter with a wild animal so fascinating and wonderful. It seems to me like a privilege that you are able to see one and at a safe distance in the case of the more threatening ones! We know there are boar on the Finca. We see evidence of their digging, in particular around the path up to the studio.It is a rocky and grassy path and full of wild flowers such as candytuft in the summer. I also had to go to some expense to have a boar proof fence around my new Huerta or allotment patch for vegetables. Fidel who helps us with the chestnut harvest once asked if he could hunt them. Mr T rang me up and got my most adamant reply NO! So they are quite happy here being destructive with the rocky walls, digging up the earth and making it rough to walk over, clearing pathways through the undergrowth and finding enough to eat. In Spain there is a boar hunting season and we had a man chase a boar though the Finca with his dogs once. I only saw the undergrowth move fast but later a dog with a collar and bell appeared and for a while we were wondering what to do with the dog. There are No hunting signs around the campsite and these are areas where people live and walk so again the most dangerous animal is a man with a gun.

Yesterday as I got out of the car to unlock the gate, about 2 on. Rainy afternoon. I pushed the gate open on one side and looked down towards the crest of a hill dipping down the path. For me it seemed like a great big dog appeared, blackish, about the size of a German shepherd dog. I thought at first it was maybe our friend Rainers’s dog but it looked rather grey around the muzzle .
It turned up onto the path and looked to cross. I realised then it must be a boar. It stopped on the path and turned its head round. For a few moments I was staring at the boar and the boar was staring at me. I must have been very still and the boar was motionless until it turned its head agin and wandered off across the path. Mr T was quite indignant that I hadn’t told him and he got out of the car and went down the path to see if the boar was still nearby. He had never seen one on the Finca but had several years ago taken some pictures of some young ones with one of those night automatic infra red cameras. I think it must have been a male and I have twice in the past almost run over one crossing a main road. This is a reminder to me that they are big but not usually about during the daytime. I might now have to take my walks around the Finca with my Spanish boar stick and thudding the ground with it but of course that might ensure I have no more close wild encounters. Usually these wild ones keep well clear of us if we are not to be prey!

The other close encounter was with a butterfly. It was a beautiful evening with the sun just about to disappear behind the hill to the west of our small boat shaped valley. The shadows of the chestnuts in the Navasola west fields were getting longer but I saw a lump of old broken off chestnut with the sun shining fully on it. It looked like a warm place to sit and soak up the last rays of the sun. Then something fluttered by, surely not, a butterfly in January? As I tried to follow it and perhaps identify it it landed on that piece of old wood. A good spot in the sun for a butterfly to warm its wings before a cold night. I couldn’t move but just stared down at it. It’s wings were large with bright red. It stayed there quite a while. I even thought I might have been able to go back for my camera! The butterfly and I just warming ourselves in the sun. When it finally flew off I went and sat on the wood where the butterfly had warmed its wings. I stayed there until the sun dipped down enjoying a time of quiet reflection on small things and inner delight. Ahh… A red admiral, that had been hibernating over winter and had woken with the warmth of a January sunny day here in Andalucia. My photo is of one taken at the Martin Mere Wetlands centre in Lancashire in the UK. Need to go back to my iPhone in my pocket for those sudden photo opportunities when least expecting a close encounter!

Living Simply, Living Sustainably: Wildlife Friendly Farming and Awkward moments.

Being back in the UK over the festive season has many positives when being with family and friends but the pace of life begins to get hectic and at times bewildering. A friend of mine said that she finds when she speaks to people for goods and services it can be so much more frustrating nowadays. Hers was – have you had an accident or breakdown – for a pothole blowing a tyre. Took longer as she had gone through on breakdown and was told she would have to ring again for accident! Her cry was but I just need road side assistance.
My frustration came in a local well known supermarket. I was looking for where the muesli was. I decided to ask but the young girl didn’t really understand. This can happen in London as there are many non native speakers ( enter the awkward linguist who struggles with her Spanish). However,the young lady was very helpful and took me to a group of suited managers and asked. They didn’t seem to want to understand her attempt to say muesli so of course I chip in too. Then the reply is – We don’t sell that product here – of course, I am now exasperated as I know they have their own brand of It. I try to re pronounce it. I do this so often with my Spanish. Can I not now pronounce Muesli? I go for MEWSLI after trying MOOSLI. I then end up saying – well cereals then- . The lovely young girl takes me along and there is the big sign CEREALS next to another big sign MUESLI. So is muesli not cereal now ? Oh well, never mind. I give the young girl a brief English lesson on the origin of the word muesli and a comment that she now knows more than her managers. Here ends the Awkward Linguist part of the post and we then move onto the Awkward Environmentalist. The awkwardness is thanks to a great blogging site for wild flowers : The Awkward Botanist; A great name for a great blog.

Then I explore the endless variety of muesli products. Usually we opt for the cheapest and most simple mix but I thought to add in a granola; not a type of muesli? I am looking at the packaging for sugar content and product origin. Shopping can be so complicated now. I am not going to do product placement but the product I bought had an aim of only buying the cereals used from wildlife friendly farmers. Have tried a photograph of the packetand it does advertise the name all the way through the comments on how they help wildlife. So maybe that’s ok. If they really do. So complicated to know the whole truth but at least a company taking a step in a positive direction.
I bought it because of this. Good advertising? Responsible choices? Should we demand more of this? It was a bit on the expensive side and I remember a friend commenting on why she couldn’t afford free range eggs. For me, I couldn’t afford not to. Dare I say quite tasty and less sugar if added to bog standard MOOSLI!

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Fly by butterfly, butterfly fly by!

Much of my work over the past few weeks has been helped along by constant pauses to watch the butterflies so close by along the path. There have been quite a variety but the Cardinal took pride of place and was not bothered by a sweaty woman with a wheelbarrow.image

Other butterflies have been the yellow ones, clouded yellow and the cleopatra, and the wood and meadow browns along with some sightings of the two tailed pasha and scarce swallowtail. These have not allowed me to photograph them just yet.

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!

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