Showing posts from May, 2016

Exploring eagles

Dark-phase Booted Eagle (John Hawkins) At first glance the Booted Eagle seemed in fixed position in the sky, motionless above us. But as we stood to watch it carefully, the bird was anything but static. To maintain its fix, it was performing a multitude of complex manoeuvres. The bird was head-into-the wind and unseen deliberations were accommodating wind-speed and its fluctuations, variations of direction, the lift it gave against the drag of gravity. The result of being stationary whilst airbourne came not through hovering, when birds are flying forward at the exact speed of the headwind, but more remarkably by gliding at the same speed. The bird made constant adjustments to achieve this: slight tilting of the tail, a flexing of the carpel joint on the left wing, a compensatory spreading of the primary feathers on the right-hand wing. The result was a sensation of fluidity, of both the air with its mysterious flows and eddies far beyond our ken, and of how the eagle responded - f

Rain's legacy

Woodland the colour of orioles (Martin Kelsey) The cold wet spring has left us with a prolongation of colour which might be considered well-deserved following the onslaughts of sometimes torrential rain and the storms of the last few weeks. Now, as at last the temperature starts to catch-up, my fleece jacket is  consigned to the wardrobe and I can stand at the kitchen door at dusk, listening to the Nightingales and watching the first summer stars break through the gloaming. At the base of the wall beside the orange tree, whose blossom has cast a heavy fragrance to this corner of the house, headily mixed with a nearby jasmine, luminesence the colour of Spica radiates from the abdomens of glow-worms.  I count three in the space of just a few feet. Glow-worm (Patrick Kelsey) The spread of egg-yolk marigold yellow has created a mantle of colour in the dehesas and none so startling as that in a cork oak dehesa that I visited just a few days ago (see photo at the top of post). W

Bittersweet steppes

Melanistic Montagu's Harrier (John Hawkins) It was the sight of the oddly dusky-looking bird of prey that made us stop and get out of the car. The prolonged glide on rather stiff, slender and angled wings with the slim horizontal form of the tail said Montagu's Harrier. But the dark sooty plumage, interrupted only by almost vestigial barring on the primaries was not the norm: we were looking at the very uncommon melanistic form of the species, indeed the second such individual we had seen that week. It was the middle of April and thanks to this encounter there unfolded a series, a juxaposition of sightings that it would be hard to imagine happening anywhere else than Extremadura and all taking place from where we now stood, with the Sierra de los Lagares, the hill beside which our home nestles. in view and just twenty kilometres in a straight line from us. Free from the confines of the vehicle, now parked in a convenient gateway, we looked across a small valley of pastu