Showing posts from September, 2013

Bird timetables

Red-rumped Swallow (John Hawkins) One of the pleasures of birding, especially when visiting certain favourite places regularly throughout the year, is to mark the changes through the year with the arrival and departure dates of birds. The former are much easier to record - the first swallow or cuckoo of the spring is a simply a case of seeing (or hearing) the bird and scribbling the fact down in one's notebook (and in the old days perhaps dash off a letter to the local newspaper!), But unless one is methodically noting down every sighting of say swallows in the autumn, you are never quite sure when your last observation of the year will be until they have gone. Our family of Red-rumped Swallows are still around the garden and roosting in their nest by our kitchen door every night - but for how long? On the other hand, a friend posted a few days ago the arrival of a wintering Robin nearby, which means that any day now we should also be hearing them in the garden. The phenology

Extremadura's second spring

It is a more dramatic transformation than spring itself. Whereas winter gradually turns over to spring, with a stepwise succession of flowers appearing from January through to their flourishing climax in April and with spring migrant birds too coming on board from the turn of the year,  the arrival of autumn can hit one with a jolt. And we welcome this surprise guest with open arms, a herald of the closure of the seemingly unrelentless summer heat and the start of what is really for us a second spring. The transformation happens in just days, although when it occurs is totally unpredictable. It is driven by the first rain, which can happen at any time between late August to October. It only takes a few hours of good solid rain to bring about this metamorphosis. Tiny, sharp slivers of grass shoots break through the dirt and mat of dusty, parched dead vegetation. Each one barely a couple of centimetres tall, fresh and vulnerable, but in their collective mass powerful enough to change