Showing posts from April, 2015

Orchid succession

Bug Orchid (Martin Kelsey) For those who can tell, the colour of the plains and dehesas on this, April's last day, gives a signal. There is a realisation that the course is now set and the arid gold of summer is but countable days ahead. The landscape is still green, but the flowering grasses has pigmented the spring lushness with a lighter, softer, yellowish green...and it is irreversible this side of autumn. Spring feels intense, but short in Extremadura, a dizzy cascading unfurling of events and cycles. There is a visible succession, a phenology, across all life at this time. Wintering birds leave as summer visitors arrive, the different flight times of butterflies, the rolling sequence of colours of the flowers in the dehesas.  In a matter of just four weeks, the cycle of orchids has intensified: emerging spikes, flowering, setting seed and withering. Species that accompanied me just a month ago, with their luring names: Sawfly, Mirror and Early Spider, gave way to Bug and

Great Bustard wheels

Great Bustard (John Hawkins) In Spanish it is called the rueda (the wheel), in English it is described often as a foam bath....quite different images come to mind, but in spring on the plains of Extremadura they converge to a single meaning....that extraordinary performance of a displaying male Great Bustard. Early this month, on a calm and sunny morning just twenty minutes from home, we stood mesmerised. Across a span of 180 degrees, on fields with sward shaped by sheep, there were six white objects, contrasting strongly with spring's green flush on the meadows. These shapes transformed before us: sometimes pyramidal, sometimes round, the white changing to deep orange. The form depended on the bird's aspect. As it wheeled around slowly, it paused seemingly at 90 degree turns. From the rear it was triangular and white, with the tail pushed upwards and forwards, so all that one could see at the apex of this shape were the white under-tail covert feathers. The sides were co