Showing posts from January, 2014

Winter's tales and puzzles

Common Cranes (Martin Kelsey) This winter it has been yet another record-breaking bonanza for the Common Crane in Extremadura, with no fewer than 128,820 counted in December (29,000 more than December 2012, using very similar survey methods and efforts). The concentrations, especially on the rice and maize stubble, have been breathtaking. The picture above represents just part of a huge flock on maize, a photograph I took at the end of January. It is also staggering to think that in just three of four weeks time almost all of these cranes will have left, in massive exoduses, when the weather conditions are right for them. The departure of the cranes signals the end of winter for me, which means that this month of January is the last full month of winter. By late February the cranes have largely gone and the vanguard summer migrants are already well-established. Indeed as my last post described, Great Spotted Cuckoos have already turned up and over the last few days, I have been see

And how the year begins..

Fire Salamander We had been away over the Christmas holidays and after such an absence, as we all do when returning home, there is the routine inspection that all is well. For a gardener and a naturalist, this extends beyond the house and its fittings. As soon as I could I was down to the vegetable garden where the rains, which had started the day we left and finished the day before we got back, had brought on the germination of my very tardily sown broad beans. Where shoots had just started to show in a few places before Christmas, there now stood five rows of growing plants with a pretty much 100% germination. The garlic which had shown no signs of life at all now revealed themselves as a couple of rows of narrow spikes. Good stuff! Then to check the swimming pool where the first surprise of the year lurked. Sitting in a corner was a magnificent specimen of a Fire Salamander, the first I had ever found in the garden (see above). I fished it out and summoned the family. Patrick pr