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Showing posts from July, 2011

Nightingale repertoire and summer fiestas

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It is the height of summer here. It has not rained for weeks and although this month has so far been a lot fresher than is normal for July, the temperature in the afternoon is still getting above 30 degrees. It is the time for taking things at a slower pace and indeed everyone and everything seems to be following suit. There is a silence across the towns and villages in the afternoon as people stay indoors and enjoy a siesta. Swallows and House Martins sunbathe on the south-facing ledge of our house, adopting extraordinary postures with wings held up and heads tilted. They are only disturbed by a passing Booted Eagle, which causes them to get airbourne and start mobbing the raptor. The only sound comes from the greenery in the garden, where thanks to watering, there is damp soil in the shrubby shade. From the shadows come distinctive but very different sounds - a croak which sounds as if it must come from a frog (and we do have plenty of those) and a squeak which must be from a rusty…

Bouncing bustards

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It was late May and I was taking our guests KY Shum and his partner Cathy Chan from Hong Kong into the field for their last morning in Extremadura. KY had sent me in advance a list of species that they were particularly interested in photographing. One of them was the Little Bustard. I knew of a place about twenty minutes from home where a male Little Bustard was regularly coming out onto a track to display. If we were there at first light, KY should be able to get some pictures. As we approached the track in my vehicle there was no sign of the bird. We stopped and I carefully checked the area. Almost immediately I found it, not on the track but close by in the yellow-dry steppe grasses. KY carefully got out of the vehicle and stood behind the gate at the entrance of the track, with the car behind him, so his outline was invisible. It was perfect early morning light and no sign of heat shimmer. As we watched, the Little Bustard threw its head back as it called, delivering a rather f…

Of butterflies and birds

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Last August I posted a blog about butterflies in the garden. Earlier this year some good friends of ours Peter and Jan Farrbridge got in touch to suggest coming to spend a week with us in early June, for some birding of course, but with also with a special focus on butterflies. I was very enthusiastic about the idea. It would be new for us and a great challenge to come up with a suitable itinerary to take into account the likelihood of high temperatures, but the need to spend as much time as possible on foot. As with a bird tour, generally speaking the greater the diversity of habitats visited, so the number of species of butterflies seen should be greater. Given that Peter and Jan also wanted to see as many as possible of most sought-after birds as well, I looked at routes that would focus on birds first thing in the morning (with a specially early start for the bustards and sandgrouse of the steppes - even a couple of hours after sunrise, the heat haze would make viewing very diffi…