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Showing posts from May, 2013

Finding diversity

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After such a wonderfully prolonged spring this year, the plains of Extremadura now look and smell of summer. The grass is golden and whilst the late spring flowers are still a carpet of yellows and pale purples, there is a sense now of completion. Although the sound of larks remain almost a constant in these late May mornings, the Great Bustard males are now wading through the swathes of long grass, with nothing more to concern themselves than finding food to build up their reserves once more, as typified by this photo by Raymond de Smet. Past ten in the morning and the heat haze makes finding these periscope heads above the flowering grasses almost impossible. Their shape can be confused a bit by the impressive and beautiful Cardoon thistle (a distant thistle head in the heat haze can look a little bit like the head of a feeding bustard) which to me symbolizes the plains at the end of spring.


This thistle is an important part of the rural home economy, its leaf stems being sought af…

Melodious May

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It had been barely a week since I had last ventured across that particular stretch of plains, but in the days that had lapsed, a subtle but dramatic change had taken place. Helped by a spell of warm, sunny weather, the grass had turned. On the thin, poor soils, the green blades and flowering stalks had become yellowed. Thus was marked that start of the final chapter of spring. On those plains, the extraordinary colours of the flowering plants this spring remained, although the hues and species were shifting, but their background canvass was now burnished gold. In these fields, we will not see green grass shoots again until the autumn rains. And so this most memorable of springs moves inexorably onwards. All of the spring migrants have now arrived. This morning as I was checking the thinned-out cabbages in the vegetable garden, a cheerful, jumble of slurred notes chattered to me from the brambles: a Melodious Warbler. This bold bright-coloured warbler is a familiar bird of the garden,…