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Showing posts from February, 2014

Spring has sprung

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It is mid-February in Extremadura and all it seems to take is a calm day, sunshine and an almost cloudless sky and the message from nature is loud and clear: spring is here.  As we stood in the expanses of rice and maize stubble fields of the Vegas Altas of the Guadiana river, spirals of ascending cranes could be seen, discovering invisible thermals. Around us, many thousands of cranes continued to feed and a lot of these will remain for another ten days or so, but without doubt the north-eastern movement of these emblematic birds was starting. I do feel that spring does start here now. Yes, we have had Barn Swallows and House Martins around since January, and I saw a pair of Great Spotted Cuckoos in early January (although so far not since). Mild January evenings have also encouraged choruses of Natterjack Toads and I already seen several species of butterflies. But the combination of indicators bring irrefutable proof. I saw my first Lesser Kestrel of the year (a rather damp lookin…

The biggest of them all

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The first hour of daylight and I am walking slowly along a quiet track on the plains near Trujillo. The air is damp and there is the faintest of mists, softening the undulations of the land, the exposed dogs' teeth of bedrock and the outlines of the retama shrubs. Distance becomes difficult to ascertain. The moist air muffles the sound of sheep bells. At the crest of a nearby slope, a hunched figure sits, in dark apparel, broad-shouldered but stooped. This silhouette begs my attention, and for a brief moment, the nearby livestock lull me to a conclusion that I am looking at a lone shepherd, starting his day in the reverie that must be his mainstay, to challenge his solitude as he keeps vigil over the flock. But as I shake myself out of my own drifting thoughts, the true identify of this lonely figure is obvious as soon as I stop to look at this creature with my binoculars. It is the massive Black Vulture. Also known as Monk Vulture (because of its friar-like cowl -see John Hawkin…