Showing posts from May, 2015

Favourite byways

Southern White Admiral (Martin Kelsey) I guess it is a gut feeling that signals that something has potential, is special. Thus so a path through decidous woodland that I have only ever walked along six times so far and, only once, indeed, have made significant progress along it. It lies in the Ibores Mountains of eastern Extremadura.  It starts unprepossessing enough, like any number of the rutted dirt tracks that finger their way across the countryside here, access routes to smallholdings and traversed by old Citroen vans. It climbs, mostly gently, with a stream at its side, which provides irrigation for little vegetation gardens on terraces on the opposite bank. It makes its way through ancient coppiced Sweet Chestnut groves, small clearings where side paths set off and tracts of dense Pyrenean Oak. Banks of brambles tumble alongside the path in places. Pyrenean Oak glade I had first visited this track a few autumns ago, surrounded by glorious Fall colours and made note to

Kitchen window Hawfinches

Hawfinch feeding on milk thistle seeds: a photo through the kitchen window (Martin Kelsey) They stand tall, some over two metres high, and carry now a dense white star-burst tuft of parachute filaments, crammed together within a stockade of dry needle-sharp bracts, and each holding a large, blackish seed. The Milk Thistle, which bears the gloriously cheeky scientific name of Silybum marianum , is now reaching the culmination of its annual cycle. The stand growing behind a low wall in front of our kitchen window has now almost completely hidden the rest of the garden from view and by default now is my centre of attention as I wash glasses at the sink. And I wait in anticipation as I know, thanks to eleven years now of watching these thistle treasures of late May, that these white fibrous cups hold a valued resource for one of my all-time favourite birds. I do not have to wait long before I hear the short metallic " chink " call and see movement of the stems just beyond the