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Showing posts from February, 2016

Noble olives

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I pause in my labours, as is the time-honoured privilege for those who work on the land, straighten my back, breathe deeply and let breeze-licked sunshine smoothe my face. Clouds gently cruise the sky and as I hear the fluid notes of Woodlark I shut my eyes in a brief meditation. Thus refreshed, I look back along the erratic lines of our olive trees. My relationship with our garden and orchard is complex, reminding me of someone breaking-in a bold and stubborn horse. There is a sense of attrition, a struggle of domination, and moments when I feel I have the upper hand. One is that point in early summer when, as a fire-prevention requirement, I have cut back and strimmed the dry vegetation around our plot's peripheries. The anarchy of long, yellowed-grey stems thwarted and borders once again defined. Another is triennial, following the pruning of the olive trees in February. For a couple of weeks each tree was encircled by the cut branches, with our neighbour's sheep enjoying …

Eagle combat

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As winter closes it is eagle time and the pair of Spanish Imperial Eagles at the Portilla viewpoint in the Monfragüe National Park are at their most flamboyant - and the Griffon Vultures, now incubating on the nests on the ancient quartzite outcrop must think they have neighbours from hell! Sometimes it must be triggered by a perceived and instinctive sense of threat. As a vulture glides close to the vicinity of the eagle's nest site, a blunt barking warning call is heard, followed almost always by the appearance of the eagle to mob the larger vulture. But sometimes, to our eyes there seems no provocation and as we watch the Spanish Imperial Eagles and Griffon Vultures, rhythmically and gently spiralling together in the uplift, it becomes an almost therapeutically relazing sight. Suddenly this is broken by some invisible stimulus which leads the eagle into a diving mobbing attack onto a hapless vulture. My companions that morning were Tom and Mary Wallis, and Tom took the remarka…