Showing posts from March, 2016

An orchid odyssey

Pink Butterfly Orchid ( Orchis papilionacea ) Martin Kelsey Derek and Zena, Phyllis, John and Peter had asked me for a holiday focused on orchids in Extremadura and thinking about spectacle as well as diversity I recommended late March as the best time. In previous years they had challenged me on butterflies and dragonflies, as well as birds, so I was eagerly looking forward to this new odyssey. However, with the mild winter that we had experienced with some orchids already in flower in late January, I started to get rather anxious that the peculiarities of this year's weather might mean that the best was already over when Derek's group arrived.  I could not have been more wrong.  We have just completed an exhilarating and exciting exploration of our early spring orchids. Sawfly Orchid ( Ophrys tenthredinifera ) Martin Kelsey We started gently, combining birding on the plains west of Trujillo with a walk along a medieval drovers' trail. Here we encountered our

Craggy corks

Cork Oak woodland (Martin Kelsey) A hush descended on us as we made the gentle descent, provoked partly by an instinctive response to help our ability to pick-up even the slightest brief bird call, but also I think by the shared sense of reverence. Entering this hidden cork oak glade was like walking into an ancient building, from sunshine into a dappled shade with a pull of heritage. Indeed the very structure of the woodland gave a sense of depth as we looked between the trunks enclosed by a vaulted canopy and the architecture strongly reminded me of a cathedral's crypt. This had resonance with an awareness that the trees' trunks were moulded by generations of men. Like two-toned pillars, the trunks were dusky and even-textured up to the reach of the corking blade, and then as the trunks forked and branches spread, they set a contrast, being deeply fissured and greyed by countless lichens. These trees were in the latter stages of the nine-year cork harvesting cycle, witnes