Showing posts from October, 2011

White-rumped Swifts

I had walked past that tiny cave dozens of times, but that morning with some visitors, I ventured into its mouth. Perhaps there would be some bats and certainly the view across the dehesa woodland pasture was superb. The ground was still parched dusty-yellow, contrasting with the dark green forms of the holm oaks. We stood just inside the entrance and took in the scenery. Suddenly whoooosh! I was aware just of quite a large animal flying past our heads (we could feel the air move) and seemingly disappearing ahead of us. A split-second impression. Was it a bat? Well, it seemed a bit too big and I was sure that I had seen a flash of white. A minute or so later, it swept out again, also just a few centimetres from our heads and this time, although the view was almost as brief, it was obvious that it was a White-rumped Swift. This is quite a mystery species. Its home is Africa, where it is widespread and common. It was first recorded in Spain in Cadiz province in the late 1960s and was

Autumn drought

It is now mid-October, but it still feels almost like summer. The temperature is only now starting to edge its way slowly down from daytime maxima of 30 degrees and we have had no rain to speak of (apart from a few showers at the start of September) since June. People are starting to get worried. By now autumn rains should have started, the landscape should have started turning green. Our olive trees are laden with fruit, but the olives are small and are getting wrinkled. If there is not rain over the next few weeks, they will not fatten up and many will fall prematurely. The prospect for the winter olive harvest is not looking good. In my vegetable garden we still have tomatoes, melons and courgettes, but the winter cabbages are disappearing (I think by a mouse which literally pulls them downwards from its burrow) - one day the plant is there, the next day it is gone, with just a little hole showing where the stem had been. The weird thing is that even though the weather and landsc

Robins return and autumn butterflies

There is no more sure sign of autumn here that hearing the liquid song of a Robin breaking into the first glimmers of light at dawn. The last few days of September or start of October is when I will hear this for the first time as a newly arrived Robin establishes its winter territory in the garden. Our Robins are winter visitors, turning up at the start of autumn and staying with us until March. When they are here they seem as fully part of the garden birdlife as our resident species, and as winter visitors they are very common across Extremadura, in gardens, woodland and olive groves.I love to hear their ticking call from the shady undergrowth and their evocative autumn song on a still dawn when there just a glow of red showing over the mountain of Pedro Gómez, 1100 metres high just a few kilometres to the east of us, brings a deep sense of nostalgia. So we have this fascinating re-arrangement of species at the moment as the seasons change. The weather remains hot and dry, and the