Ephemeral strengths of autumn
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 flora. It was a case of tuning in and focussing down. There were hundreds upon hundreds of my particular favourite, the Autumn Snowflake. delicate little white bells hanging down from spindly dark stalks.
They offered the only source of nectar and pollen around and attracted a multitude of insects: Brown Argus butterflies, pollen beetles and small bees. And as we soaked in this special autumn treat, Calandra Larks chased and squabbled with each other, dashing in noisy packs across the grasslands whilst the first Meadow Pipits of the winter called as they passed overhead.
Sharing this experience with me was Derek, Zena, Phyllis and John, and it was simply wonderful to watch each person in solitary communion with this experience, in quiet and profound satisfaction. For Derek it was his fifth time in Extremadura and I remember his first visit when he told me that he liked to return to favourite places, at different times of the year to get to understand them at depth. And so he has been back to visit us, at five different moments of the year and with a broad interest as a curious naturalist.
Dragonflies can be excellent here in Extremadura in autumn and thus during this visit, we explored different habitats in pursuit. The vivid Violet Dropwing we found on the banks of the River Tajo in Monfragüe National Park. This plum-coloured species is abundant in tropical Africa and has been spreading into soutrhern Europe over the last forty years.