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Showing posts from December, 2013

Extremadura on foot

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I had been walking for two hours along a track across the mixed farming landscape that makes the plains of Extremadura so rich for birdlife. The path took me down beside a small pool. The view across the water was staggering, the surface was bristling with duck, almost all of them Teal, giving their sharp cracking calls. I tensed, not wanting to disturb them. Those at the edge of the water nearest to me, took off momentarily, splashing down again in the water after barely a few metres in the air. I relaxed, the duck clearly had no interest to move on. Those on the bank dozed or preened, whilst those on the water milled around, and the scene was reminiscent of slow-motion dodgems at a fairground, seemingly random movements, which brought back memories of smoke particles, Brownian motion and school physics. They were tightly packed on the water and I made an attempt to count them: my estimate reached 1600 Teal alone, along with other duck such as Shoveler, Mallard and Gadwall. Suddenly…

Children with Cranes

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There was that magic moment, that first connection. Taking her turn in the queue, the little girl reached the telescope and looked down through it, who knows perhaps for the first time ever. The image that greeted her was a group of Common Cranes, unnoticed by her naked eye, she saw now through the telescope their plump bustles of drooping feathers at their hind-end, their slender necks reaching down to allow the bill to daintily peck at the left-over grain in the stubble.

"Wow, they are so big". I found another group of cranes for her to look at: "wow, they are so big" she repeated and then "wow, so many cranes". As children do she wanted to share her discovery with everyone and soon, more children lined-up  to peer down the telescope. How well designed are tripods, I mused, allowing the telescope to be set at the perfect height for the little boys and girls to see for themselves real cranes, in the wild, peacefully feeding in family groups and small fl…