Wednesday 12 March 2014

Hoopoes and Amazing Cows

Since my last entry we've had very warm weather and life is springing up everywhere: Almond and Plum trees are beginning to flower, Daffodils and Hyacinths are out and we've seen and heard a few new arrivals. The beautiful Hoopoe is here, brightening the side of the road and paths and flying off butterfly style as we approach. We even heard one singing its triple 'pupupu' song the other morning.

On a walk by the river Tormes we saw our first Swallow, swooping low and gorging itself on all the tiny insects hatched in the springlike warmth. This morning we've seen Swallows in our village and a small group of House Martins in a neighbouring village.
There are much fewer Red Kites about, the wintering ones having flown north, and this morning we saw our first Black Kite. 
Black kite
A walk down to the vegetable plot is accompanied by the trilling of Chaffinch, Wren, Robin, Corn Bunting, Crested Lark, Black Redstart, Serin and Cirl Bunting.

Corn Bunting. 

Serin song
We had a short walk yesterday in a mainly pine forest above the town of Bejar, and had a lovely surprise. We'd been watching groups of Goldcrest flitting about in the treetops, with Nutchatches, Coaltits, Long-tailed Tits and Woodpeckers in abundance. Suddenly a yellowish bird caught my eye. As I focused my binoculars it moved from a branch to a wall in front, and stayed to eat for a good few minutes. Wishing I had a good reflex camera with a powerful zoom, I did the best I could with my little Lumix. A female Crossbill: my first. I felt like a kid with a new pair of shoes!  

Female Crossbill

On the hill above our village, several Griffon and a Black Vulture have adopted some over-pruned Holm Oaks as a night-roost. I hate to see the Holm Oaks treated so badly: there are two schools of thought about how they should be pruned, one is to leave as few branches as possible, hence putting a huge stress on the tree and leaving it at the mercy of wood-eating beetle larvae such as the Cerambix which take advantage of open wounds to lay their eggs in, and the other to leave all the main vertical branches and clean the old growth leaving the tree with a good crown, in good health and aesthetically much more pleasing. The first method obviously provides large amounts of wood used for fuel but is responsable for the deaths of a great deal of trees. The second method is favoured by ecologists but has yet to be implanted in the region. Still, at least something positive has come out of this – the vultures use them to roost, and I can watch them.
The tree on the right is well pruned
Victim of avaricious pruning

Black Vulture
We did a route to the local reservoir to see what waders and acuatic birds may have arrived. We saw common and GreenSandpipers, Cormorant, a gorgeous pair of Great Crested Grebe, a group of Wigeon and a pair of Gadwall, as well as lots of Mallard. Screaming in the air and at a distance were a group of what we assumed to be Lesser Black-backed Gulls, but I wouldn't swear to it.
And then we saw something really surprising. Acuatic cows. Startled by our presence, two adults and two calves took to the water and crossed the reservoir. Unbelievable but true.

Acuatic cows
The cows here never cease to amaze me.

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