Showing posts from October, 2013

Distant Sierras

Red Kite (John Hawkins) It was exactly two months since I had last walked this circuit and the immediate difference I noted was sound. Birds that were not here at the end of summer were now part of my soundscape. The gorgeous sweet liquid notes of the winter song of Robins, flowing like a caress from the undergrowth was the first contrast. Then the thin calls of Redwings flying overhead, impossible to find against the intense blue sky but the unmistakeable sound of these migrating Scandanavian thrushes. Quickly afterwards came the more throaty calls of Skylarks, another migrant from the north and then the weaker calls of the trimmer-looking Meadow Pipits. It was perfect migration weather: calm and clear and the visibility was superb. The Gredos mountains (see photo below), over a hundred kilometres away stood sharply defined and, as always on days like this, magnificent. The landscape had changed as well, of course, looking refreshed and luxuriant with fresh, lush grass. It is no w

Ephemeral strengths of autumn

Autumn Crocus The timing could not have been better. A couple of days after plenty of rain the sun had warmed the earth again and out on the plains, on some of the barest patches of land, we were literally struck speechless by the spectacle before our eyes - the autumn bloom on the steppes. It was the patch of Autumn Crocus that first caught our eye: small and flimsy lilac-purple petals appearing as if out of nowhere. Getting on our hands and knees, or even better lying flat on the ground, gave us a long ground-level view down the slope of an old drovers' trail. The isolated  clumps of crocuses miraculously merged into a colourful hue, a haze of pink revealing just how many of these flowers there were. As we silently explored this tract of ancient common land, we came across other species. What had initially appeared as a rather barren corridor of withered grass and thistle stalks, with an emerging green of fresh grass shoots, we discovered instead was a treasure trove of f