Showing posts from September, 2011

Changes on the rice fields

What a difference a few weeks can make! I spent several hours at the start of the month driving around through areas of rice production and frankly not seeing very much in the way of birds. The crop had not been harvested, although it was starting to turn yellow, so the paddies were densely covered by rice, making it very hard for anything other than White Storks and egrets to reach the water and find delicacies such as crayfish and frogs. Over the past few days however, I have been back. In some of the areas over 50% of the crop has been harvested and the big combines with their caterpillar tracks will be harvesting the rest right through October and even into early November. Extremadura is one of the top rice-producing areas in Spain and the area of rice production has increased significantly since the 1970s. Far from the coast and with low rainfall (although average rainfall in Extremadura is higher than eastern England), intuitively it does not appear to be the most logical plac

September surprises

September is always a fascinating month with the equinox, the change of season. The month started with some deceptively cool and wet weather but soon reverted to the final blast of summer with very hot and sunny conditions. Now in its final days, the month is slowly recalibrating to autumn - the sky is still a brilliant blue, but there is a refreshing chill at dawn, the nights are getting longer. The changes are marked by the wildlife as well, a month that starts with the skies full of Bee-eaters. As their arrival in spring, so their departure, the Bee-eaters seem to get higher and higher, just passing over, eventually revealing their presence just by their whistled "prrruit", like old-fashioned referee's whistles. It is a time too for surprises, as one never knows what migration wil bring. Just this week, two Belgium birders staying with us had the amazing good fortune to be at the right place at the right time. Standing out on the nearby Belén plains early in the mor

Look up

The start of September and the season is turning. Although it is still hot during the day, the dew lies thick on the lawn at dawn and there is a freshness to the sky. The epitome of passage here, a Willow Warbler, is busy feeding in the shrubs. It is a time for late summer chores and for a few hours each morning this week, I have been chopping off the tall shoots that have grown at the base of the olive trees. This leaves the base of the trunk nice and clean which makes laying down the net for harvesting the olives during the winter a much easier endeavour. It probably also ensures that tree pushes its resources into the olives themselves, or so folk will say. They are certainly fattening up, helped a lot by a couple of heavy rain storms late last week. As far as birding is concerned, this is the time for passage migrants and in many respects I may as well be spending the time in the garden as any where else. Indeed, I spent a fruitless morning last week in the rice growing area, look