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Showing posts from December, 2015

Countdown

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Springtime weather in deep mid-winter, barely any rain for weeks but swathes of yellow crucifers in flower, a flavour of February indeed, coating the ground of the olive groves. In places even Gum Cistus has been bearing flowers, not to be expected until well into spring.  Tree frogs give their slow, measured grating croaks, unseasonally vocal. A confused and messed-up December it seems. The Barn Swallows I saw a week ago, hawking in the bands of sunshine across a placid pool are most likely to be overwintering birds: there are always a few lingerers right through winter, House Martins as well, and it will another four or five weeks until we start seeing genuine arrivals. A Yellow Wagtail we saw last week was a surprise, and most likely too an overwintering bird. But the adult Great Spotted Cuckoo seen this afternoon by a friend nearby must surely be an early migrant. It predates my first ever by ten days (and equals the earliest ever recorded). This is a species that leaves early (f…

Vulture nuptials

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The Griffon Vultures were busy. As we stood before the vertical strata of quartzites at the Portilla del Tiétar in the magical Monfragüe National Park,  two dominant impressions started to pull on our senses. First the purposeful movement of Griffon Vultures, which was a striking contrast to their loafing behaviour as we arrived. Then the very border of the rockface was marked by hunched figures, perched vultures which, reptile-like, appeared to need to draw on the winter morning sun's insipid warmth. Slowly some spread their wings and tilted carefully to maximise their exposure to this energy. A few then rose, seemingly without effort, to rise in the fluid currents developing in the air, a medium of gradients and forces invisible to human perception. But most when taking off headed in a level, flapping flight to the hillside. This directed our attention there, andwe could see numbers of vultures dotted on the grassy slopes, hopping towards the wisps of retama bushes, whilst othe…