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Showing posts from March, 2012

Despite the drought

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Whilst last spring the flowers were quite breathtaking, this year has been a real contrast, owing to the very severe drought. Finding orchids has been a real challenge, with flowering much later than normal, plants smaller and much sparser. Several species which were easy to find by this time last year have yet to appear. I wonder if they will. So it was with some trepidation that I ascended a green path, close to our home, a walk I do several times a year and always, always in late March. Not only does the track offer great views of the village, nestled in the hills, but the flowers at the base of the old stone walls and in the adjacent old olive groves form a sort of milestone for me in the progression of spring. I feared that some of my favourite plants were be hard to find, or even absent altogether. I was relieved and happy to find out that I was wrong.  Stunning as always was the noble Iberian Fritillary (see the photo I took today) and several specimens were growing on either …

Ben's 5000

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Ben’s list was unequivocal. An experienced birder who had travelled widely globally, this was his first birding trip to Spain. There were only 27 species on mainland Spain that he had not seen. Work schedules meant that he would be in Extremadura for just three days’ birding and then have a couple of days or so north of Madrid. It was mid-March. I love this type of challenge! Ben emailed me his target list and I indicated which ones were going to be possible in Extremadura: all but two of them in fact. But the timing was going to wrong for several: summer migrants that only arrive in April. There was also a species, Citril Finch, that would require a long and special journey and that Ben could find more easily during his trip north of Madrid. So the list was filtered down to 19. Of these there were about six that were unlikely to be around by this date, although conceivably were possible. So we were looking at 13 that I needed to find and a few more that we could look for, but would b…

The drought continues

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The top picture was taken a year ago by one of our guests, John Tschopp from Canada. It is the view across the nearby plains of Belén to the Gredos mountains, about a hundred kilometres away. They rise to almost 2,600 metres and form the northern boundary of Extremadura. It shows the mountains as they normally would appear in March, covered in snow. The lower picture is the same view taken this March. The difference is striking. The mountains bear testament to the fact that we are in a long drought which has lasted all winter and is now pushing its way into spring too. The foreground in both pictures tells the same story. The upper picture shows green pasture, in the lower the field is parched. There is no sign of rain on its way and now the unusually bitterly cold temperatures of early February have been replaced by temperatures more suited to late April. The ground is like dust and very few flowers have managed to show an appearance. In my vegetable garden, the broad beans are a so…