Showing posts from March, 2016

An orchid odyssey

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.

We started gently, combining birding on the plains west of Trujillo with a walk along a medieval drovers' trail. Here we encountered our first orchids of the holiday: Sawfly Orchids (Ophrys tenthredinifera), some Champagne Orchids (Orchis champagneuxii) and a sin…

Craggy corks

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, witnessed by the evidence that the new cor…