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Showing posts from March, 2011

Orchid spring

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Extremadura is world famous as a destination for birders and each spring people come from many countries to visit Monfragüe National Park to enjoy the spectacle of vultures, eagles and Black Storks, as well as going to the plains near Trujillo and Cáceres for Great and Little Bustards, sandgrouse and other open country specialities. Most also visit the reservoir of Arrocampo near the town of Almaraz to see Purple Heron, Purple Swamphen, Little Bittern and other wetland species. Not many realise that just a few minutes from the reservoir is one of the best orchid areas in the province of Cáceres: the Cerro de Almaraz. We went there last Sunday, grabbing a couple of hours of quality family time during our peak season for guests. There is an orchid trail, taking one through a landscape of olive groves on a chunk of limestone, an unusual bedrock in the province. Hence the orchids. The first impression are the hundreds and hundreds of spikes of the Naked Man Orchid (Orchis italica), domina…

Larks and daffodils

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Throughout early spring there really is no better place to be than out on the plains of Extremadura. The mosaic of traditional rotation low intensity farming provides a long list of attractions. The obvious may be the lekking Great Bustards or displaying Montagu's Harriers, but the more understated can be just as memorable. Throughout February and most of March the early spring flowers start adding a delicate set of colours to the landscape, just before the exuberance of the artist's palate that is April. Sand crocuses and the gorgeous Barbary Nut Iris, for which you need to be out in the afternoon to see at its best, as the flowers remain resolutely closed in the morning. Searching carefully one can find Sawfly Orchids as well. One of my favourites are the wild daffodils, or really narcissi. The first is the pale yellow Angel Tear's, a wonderful name befitting its drooping, nodding tear-shaped flower (Edited comment: Brians Banks has just sent me this: In 1888 a British …