Category Archives: Nature

Fifty Shades of White #6

Plum blossom. April 5, 2015

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
The fruit is coming… plum blossom in the #secretvalley in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-2b4

Wild rosehips

I grew up thinking hips and haws were different things, hips belonged to roses, haws to hawthorns. So I thought. Now I realize they are different names for the same thing. A rosehip, or haw, or hep, is the red or orange fruit of the rose. They begin to form after pollination in the spring or early summer and ripen in late summer and autumn. Here, they hang onto the wild rose bushes all winter. If the birds don’t spot them.

Rosehips are high in vitamin C and, knowing this, I really should pick some and have a go at making something. Tea, jam, syrup. They can also, apparently, be eaten raw; if you avoid eating the hairs inside the fruit. I’ve never done this and I do not recommend eating anything picked wild unless you are 100% sure what it is: if in doubt, take it to your local farmacia.

5 to remember
un arrecife – a rosehip
la polinización – the pollination
tener una ida – to have a go
no lo recomiendo – I do not recommend
la farmacia – the pharmacy

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Hips, haws & heps: wild roses in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley #garden http://wp.me/p3dYp6-29g

Through the year: the walnut tree

For a year I have taken photographs of the big walnut tree closest to the house, watching its transition through the seasons. Each month brings something different, something to enjoy about the way nature reminds us life is cyclical. Heat, rain, sun, frost, drought, hail, wind, whatever is thrown at this tree it follows its seasonal progress. And I find that reassuring.

January-March
Bare limbs, yellow and green shadows, silvered bark, smashed walnuts trodden underfoot…

April -May
New life, green leaves, baby walnuts, blue sky, a flash of orange pomegranate flowers…

June-July
Dappled shade, woodpeckers drumming, walnuts fattening…

August-September
Summer’s end, autumn heralded, green leaves powdered with August dust, walnut shells hardening…

October-December
Leaves yellowing, drying and falling, walnuts gathered, shells broken underfoot. The annual cycle begins again.

5 to remember
proclamar – to herald/proclaim/announce
moteado – dappled/mottled/speckled
en polvo con – powdered with
anual – annual
el ciclo – the cycle

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Through the year: the big walnut #tree #Spain http://wp.me/p3dYp6-2cK via @Spanish_Valley

Bird song: Blue Tit

We all know the Blue Tit, or think we do. Blue cap. Yellow breast. White cheeks with a Zorro-like black mask around his face. But do you know what he sounds like? Notice some cheerful singing, close to the house? Quite likely it is a Blue Tit. Its quick ‘tsee-tsee-tsee’ gets a little harder when stressed, ‘tsee-see-sit’. They sing throughout the year, mostly to defend territory or attract a mate, and call to other Blue Tits. Their favourite food is caterpillars, and the yellowness of the male’s breast indicates how many yellow-green caterpillars he has eaten.

Resident here all year round, the Blue Tit’s main rival – for nests, and food – is the Great Tit: a much bigger bird. The Blue Tit is 11.5cm long and weighs 9-12g, compared with the Great Tit at 14cm long and 16-21g. So when you hear the Blue Tit’s scolding ‘churrrrr’ perhaps a Great Tit is near, or a Buzzard, or Sparrowhawk.

Listen to the Blue Tit’s song at the RSPB website.

5 to remember
el herrerillo – the blue tit
la máscara negra – the black mask
alrededor de su cara – around his face
el amarillo – the yellowness
las orugas – the caterpillars

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Cuckoo
Greenfinch
Mistle Thrush

 

Our most used bird book?
Collins Bird Guide: The Most Complete Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe [UK: Collins]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
You see him every day but do you know the song of the Blue Tit? #Birds in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-29n

Bird song: Robin

The male and female European Robins, or Robin Redbreasts as they are known in England where they are a regular feature on Christmas cards, both feature a red breast. Or more specifically, an orange breast. It is resident here, but there are robins far across the globe; east to Siberia, south to Algeria and Madeira, and north to Scandinavia.

Whereas robins in England are seen as a gardener’s friend, drawn to digging of the soil, waiting for the appearance of an earthworm, they are said to be more timid on continental Europe where songbirds are hunted. This is not our experience, however. The robins here seem happy on the terrace and display the same territorial behaviour we are used to in the UK. Male robins defend their territory fiercely against other males and other small birds. Because of this their average life expectancy is only 1.1 years, although once that age is passed they can go onto live a long life. One robin has been recorded as reaching 19 years of age.

Apart from the chattering threatening behaviour, a short sharp tik and tik-ik-ik-ik-ik, the robin sings a cheerful fluting song in breeding season. Some of its song resembles a warbler’s, with a long series of musical notes. Listen to the Robin’s song at the RSPB website.

 

Our most used bird book?
Collins Bird Guide: The Most Complete Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe [UK: Collins]

5 to remember
el petirrojo – the robin
o más específicamente – or more specifically
amenazante – threatening
mientras – whereas
una larga vida – a long life

 

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Wren
Griffon Vulture
Mistle Thrush

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
He’s a familiar, daily sight, but do you know the song of the Robin? #Birds in #Spain https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2fr via @Spanish_Valley

Fifty Shades of Green #19

Juxtaposition: new spring growth and old tree trunk. April 14, 2010

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
New spring growth & old tree trunk #Juxtaposition in the #secretvalley in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-2aS

Bird song: Grey Wagtail

This is a misleading name for a pretty bird which flies past with a flash of yellow. The Grey Wagtail is the slimmest of the wagtail family and is resident here all year round. The male is generally more yellow than the female, though is less obviously yellow throughout the winter months. I wonder if that is partly a natural reaction to camouflage: in the summer, yellow is an effective disguise amongst the bright green leaves but in winter a yellow bird would be easy to spot amongst the bare branches. It is a shy bird with a large voice: its call is a sharp and explosive ‘tchik’, ‘zi’ or ‘zi zi’. Its breeding season is April to July and it nests alongside fast-running streams or rivers, or on an embankment between stones and roots.

Listen to the call of the Grey Wagtail at the RSPB website.

 

Our most used bird book?
Collins Bird Guide: The Most Complete Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe [UK: Collins]

5 to remember
una cigüeña gris – a grey wagtail
engañoso – misleading
el más delgado  – the slimmest
explosivo – explosive
el camuflaje – the camouflage

 

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Roller
Blackcap
Booted Eagle

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Do you recognize the song of the Grey Wagtail? #Birds in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-29a