Tuesday 8 April 2014

April - a mix of winter, spring and summer in a week

The first week of April brought cold, wind, rain, snow on the mountains and then very hot sunshine. 
But most importantly it brought Cuckoo, Booted Eagle, Woodchat shrike, Subalpine Warbler, Little Ringed Plovers, Sand Martins, Wheatear and my all-time favourite (not difficult to guess if you look at the top of the page), Bee-eaters. Their trilling today as they announced their presence and flew high above us just as we were leaving our vegetable plot brought a burst of joy to my heart.
Subalpine Warbler
The other day on a local walk we spotted a bird of prey on a power pylon. It took us twenty minutes to reach a place where we could identify it properly. When we did we went straight home for the telescope and it obliged us by waiting another twenty minutes. An immature Peregrine Falcon, surveying the scenery and letting itself be photographed. Gorgeous.
Photo A. Asenjo

Peregrine Falcon
At the weekend we went to some old gravel pits in western Salamanca. They're full to overflow as they've merged with the local river which burst its banks. The ditches were full of pondweed and algae, frogs, and a tiny non-native fish called Gambusia which was introduced early last century as a control measure against the spread of Malaria because of its affinity for mosquito larvae. As with nearly all introduced species, it has spread uncontrolably, is incredibly resiliant and extremely prolific and voracious, feeding also on amphibian spawn and tadpoles and so producing a huge stress on local populations, already suffering loss of habitat.

We watched Marsh Harriers arguing over territory and saw and heard sing the Subalpine Warbler. Some Little Ringed Plovers flew over our heads and we watched a colony of Sand Martins fly in and out of their holes in a pile of sand within the working part of the gravel pits.
Sand Martin Colony
We saw several Stork colonies with one particular nest which looked like the leaning tower of Pisa. Must be years old.

Stork colony
On our way home we passed a small greenish helmet on the road and realised it was a freshwater tortoise. We had a good look at it to ascertain whether it was the exotic Florida turtle and found it to be a European pond turtle Emys orbicularis. So we helped it across the road and placed it out of harm's way. A few kilometres later we came across another one. Again we helped it across the road. These creatures are quite scarce and are threatened by climate change and loss of habitat. It's a huge pleasure to have seen them in their habitat, albeit on tarmac.

European Pond Turtles

Last but not least the Woodchat Shrike has come, so very soon no rosebush will be without this small, colourful and valient ornament .

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