Showing posts from January, 2016


Stone Curlew at winter roost (Martin Kelsey) The cues are coming in now thick and fast, there can be no denying it. Winter is being nudged away and the unstoppable forces of spring are stirring. It was not a delusion derived from the extraordinarily warm and sunny weekend that we enjoyed - I am too long in the tooth to be fooled by weather's fickle vagaries. No, by late January in Extremadura there are messages galore that we are now embraced by a transformation. Winter's days are truly numbered. The Stone Curlews are still in their winter roosts and they stood, semi-comatose, hardly blicking in the sunshine because most had their eyes closed. But whilst I watched these motionless birds, I was absorbing both the warmth of the sun on my back and the sound of Barn Swallow song above me: a liquid, stroking cheer. In the villages, House Martins are already busily visiting their nests. There is further evidence of birds on the move. On my visit to Alcollarín Reservoir I was s

Favourite birds

Hawfinch (Martin Kelsey) Overshadowed by the zany, ecstatic whistling whoops of the Spotless Starlings or the continuum of Serin tinkling, there is a hesitant, almost nervous addition to the morning soundscape in mid-January. It carries no sweetness or melodic flow, no accomplished songster this. But the bird plugs on regardless, modestly adding an almost random pitch into the late winter air. The jumpy, pause-laden chinking notes remind me of a forlorn occupant of a lonely window-seat in a cafe, absent-mindedly tapping his saucer with a tea-spoon, forsaken by his date. Looking up to the bare almond tree in front of our house, with its haphazard twist of twigs, old swollen almonds and buds on the verge of bursting, the stocky bird responsible for this modicum of song is revealed: a Hawfinch. It is perched rather stiffly, its massive triangle of a bill at a rigid right-angle from its bull-necked body. The bill opens and other dull metallic note is hit, a pause and then a slightly hi

A visitor in the mist

Sociable Lapwing (Marc Gálvez) As I look east from our gate, the cleft that is visible between the thousand metre high mountain of Pedro Gómez and our own more modest Sierra de los Lagares, is the pass which carries the road heading south-east of Trujillo onwards to Zorita and Guadalupe. This also marks the point of a hydrological divide. The steady drizzle gently massaging the soil where I stand and right up to the pass itself, about a kilometre and a half away, is now irrevocably teamed to the great basin of the Tagus River, spread over 80,000 square kilometres, feeding Iberia's longest river. The water molecules carried in these tiny droplets will explore an extraordinary diversity of routes: some entering the soil and draining into my vegetable garden will become part of me, whilst others may escape absorption into the myriad biotic cycles across this catchment and become part of the watercourses heading to the Tagus, with an eventual arrival into the Atlantic at Lisbon. Y