Autumn sunshine

There is a real sense of the turn of the seasons at the moment. I had been away for two weeks and returned to find the days noticeably fresher. There had been some rain on the day I returned, but since then we have enjoyed several days of clear blue skies. Although there has not yet been enough rain to start to turn the plains green, a light purplish sheen betrays patches of Autumn Crocuses, whilst in the Monfragüe National Park the banks have the delightful Autumn Snowflake with spikes of Autumn Squill mixed with them. There are still lots of hirundines: dense flocks of House Martins feeding over the crags and Red-rumped Swallows in the garden. We also got three glimpses of White-rumped Swifts in the park. Taking my good friend Mark out on the plains we had superb views in excellent light of Great Bustards feeding nearby and each fence seemed to hold Whinchats and Northern Wheatears. The harvest is well underway on the rice fields and where the stubble is ploughed, hundreds of Black-headed Gulls and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, along with Little and Cattle Egret feast on the stirred up sediment. Parties of waders are still coming through: Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Avocet.Just to mix things up even further, Red Avadavats are still nest-building. But what has been most pleasing has been the number of butterflies: in Monfragüe an impressive Two-tailed Pasha, whilst pristine Common Swallowtails seem almost everywhere. On the buddleia in the garden yesterday there were two Common Swallowtails and no fewer than eight Cardinals, paying no attention whatsoever to my proximity. One treasures these warm sunny autumn days..rain is forecast soon, the plains will turn green and it will not be long now before the skeins of cranes start arriving.


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