Showing posts from August, 2010

Celebrating swifts

Today is my first day back home after my annual trip to the UK for the British Birdwatching Fair. I sat with a cup of tea at the big granite table in front of the house, half an hour or so after dawn, watching against a clear blue sky a loose party of hirundines feeding quite low down. Chunky House Martins, slimmer Barn Swallows and the wonderfully attentuated Red-rumped Swallows. They wheeled and fluttered, swooped and darted. As I watched my gaze was then attracted to some quite different birds. Flying higher up and entering the arena with almost a detached disdain and purposeful collective glide was a feeding party of swifts, reminding me of the way a shoal of sharks might suddenly appear, dominate the scene and then drift off, silently, without almost a ripple as it were. They appeared to be mainly Common Swifts, probably birds already on migration attracted to the tiny invertebrates hundreds of metres above me. Within a few days this species will have left Extremadura en masse for

Summer swings into autumn

Here in Extremadura there is the clear sensation that by mid-August the season is shifting from summer to autumn. The nights are a bit longer, it starts to feel a bit fresher at dawn and changes are afoot as far as the birds are concerned. Over the garden the Bee-eaters are in noisy flocks. As well as our local pair of pale-phase Booted Eagles, we are getting more sightings of juveniles and dark-phased birds..presumably starting to head south. There are now far fewer Black Kites around. Down on the rice fields, where the wader passage started several weeks ago, there was much less suitable habitat yesterday than on my previous visit. Open, fallow fields had dried up and were largely devoid of birds, whilst the rice in the paddies has grown much taller, making it much harder to see any birds feeding there. However, there were good numbers of Ruff (mainly juveniles), Wood Sandpipers and Green Sandpipers, as well as Common Snipe and Little Stint which had not been present on my visit in

Garden butterflies

Since moving in, little by little, we have been putting in flowering shrubs and other plants in the garden, trying to make it as attractive as possible for butterflies. Two Buddleia shrubs, as expected, have been superb with a throng some days of Cardinals, Common and Scarce Swallowtails, Clouded Yellows, Red Admirals and Painted Ladies. Our lavenders are thriving and are loved by bees and butterflies alike. Here is a photo of the gorgeous Marsh Fritillery on a lavender flower, taken by one of our regular guests, Peter Boardman. The delicate Long-tailed Blue is another common species in the garden, sometimes on the lavender or chasing each other high in the canopy of the trees beside the pool. The other photo shows the Two-tailed Pasha, the biggest of them all, perched on the hand of our son, Patrick a couple of days ago, when I returned from a two week trip abroad. The Two-tailed Pasha's larval food plant is the strawberry tree, a common native species here (and I have planted fiv