Category Archives: Nature

Wildflowers/White

The white wildflowers are my favourites. There is something pleasing about the juxtaposition of white and green and, at the time the white wildflowers are everywhere, the spring hills are at their greenest. That said, there are so many different shades of white I struggle to describe them without sounding like colour names on a paint chart. So, here are some whiteish wildflowers, photographed on my morning walks along the tracks.

5 to remember
la yuxtaposición – the juxtaposition
por todas partes – everywhere
más verde – greenest
me esfuerzo por – I struggle to
un gráfico de la pintura – a paint chart

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Wildflowers come in many colours in #Spain Here are some white ones #nature via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1PP

Bird song: Stonechat

About the size of a robin, the stonechat is a pretty red-breasted bird which is resident here all year round. They like heath and moorland which explains why they are happy in the rough vegetation of our valley. There are various races, the one here is Saxicola Rubicola. Its call is easy to recognize, a sort of ‘chak’ which can sound a bit like two pebbles being clattered together. Hence its name, I guess. There is also a more territorial-sounding ‘krrrr’.

[Photo: Jose B Ruiz/BBC]

[Photo: Jose B Ruiz/BBC]

Listen to the Stonechat’s song here at the RSPB website.

5 to remember
de pecho rojo – red-breasted
son felices – they are happy
por lo tanto – hence/therefore
fácil de reconocer – easy to recognize
dos guijarros – two pebbles

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
The Robin-like Stonechat in #Spain #birds via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1Wb

March in the valley

March is not the same here every year, the vagaries of the weather mean Spring can arrive early or late. We wait for wildflowers which may run two-three weeks later if the wind is chilly. Often, all that is needed to prompt growth is a good shower of rain followed by sunshine. March is the stepping-stone month, the transition from Winter to Spring and the promise of Spring’s warmth and explosion of growth. a patch of charlock 17-3-16bare fig branches reach to blue sky 17-3-16green ivy on bare tree trunk 17-3-16pale yellow wildflower 23-3-16pink rock rose 23-3-16pink sunset1 19-3-16poplars, grey1 17-3-16prickly pear 17-3-16silvered thistle 23-3-16silvered walnut branches & yellow lichen1 17-3-16white wildflower - daisy 23-3-16silvered walnut branches & yellow lichen2 17-3-16yellow wildflower - crown daisy1 23-3-16view towards Cuevas 23-3-16yellow wildflower - cypress spurge 23-3-16white wildflower1 23-3-16yellow wildflower - crown daisy2 23-3-165 to remember
no es el mísmo – not the same
todos los años – every year
los caprichos de – the vagaries of
esperamos – we wait for
para solicitor – to prompt

Merendera

This is a new wildflower for me, I’ve never noticed it before: are the conditions this year most suitable for it? merendera1 23-3-16It is Merendera Montana, growing as a scattered carpet of white flowers. The leaves come later. Each flower is star-shaped with six petals. According to my flower book, the petals are pale lilac but ours here are white. Common throughout Iberia in rocky areas, sparse grass and mountain pastures: sounds just like our valley, then. I found these in a rocky spot beside our track where it winds through the olive grove.

5 to remember
las condiciones – the conditions
dispersado/a – scattered
una alfombra – a carpet
en forma de estrella – star-shaped
los pétalos – the petals

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Pretty white star-shaped #wildflower: Merendera in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1Jd

The courtship of birds

We’re into spring now and are surrounded here by birds, getting it on, getting together, sizing each other up. How they do this depends on the bird.

[photo: Raymond Belhumeur]

[photo: Raymond Belhumeur]

Sparrows [above] chatter, fight, joust, with males dancing around the females, wings outspread, chirping loudly to demand attention. The male will follow a likely female, hopping, his wings quivering, occasionally leaping on top of her or pecking her, waiting for her acceptance. Meanwhile nest preparation is underway. The Sparrows which nest in the solar panels on the kitchen roof have already discarded old material from the nest, and are gathering new. The inside is coarse material such as leaves, twigs and straw, while the inside is lined with grass and feathers. Watch the courtship dance of the House Sparrow here.

[photo: Wikipedia]

[photo: Wikipedia]

Swallows [above] are monogamous and stay nearby throughout the year. They are already nest-making, returning to their old site, located in overhead locations somewhere sheltered from weather and predators. A new mud nest [below] starts with a splatter of mud on the wall, followed by the addition of straw, sometimes twigs or grass. swallow nest1Yesterday we were treated to a pair of eagles – it’s most likely they were Short-Toed Eagles, though I’m not 100% sure as they were over the neighbouring valley – hunting together, circling in wide loops away from each other then swooping very close as if sizing each other up, calling kee kee.

[photo: Wikipedia]

[photo: Wikipedia]

Watch the courtship of Short-Toed Eagles [above] in flight here.

5 to remember
el cortejo  – the courtship
monógamo – monogamous
un bucle de ancho – a wide loop
dando vueltas – circling
abalanzando/a – swooping

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
The courtship of #birds in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1KS

Our olive grove in February

In terms of the lifespan of an olive tree, ours are not even toddlers. Some olive trees live to be 1500 years old, the average lifespan is 500 years [or less depending on the Spanish Government’s periodic grants to farmers for planting new varieties, which sees the old trees ripped up]. Humans have been eating olives since the Bronze Age. Many olive trees around the Mediterranean have been dated to 2000 years of age, an olive tree in Croatia is still fruiting at the age of 1600 years. Our olive grove was a field when we bought the property, it had been used as paddocks for livestock rearing. Previously wheat was grown there hence the ancient ‘threshing patch’. We removed the fencing and planted olive trees which have taken five years to grow to the size you see below. The threshing patch remains untouched.

Read these two Olive Oil Times articles: the first explains the life cycle of the olive tree, the second about a Spaniard rescuing millenary olive trees.

Here are two previous articles published on ‘Notes on a Spanish Valley’ about our threshing patch: the first explains its origins, the second is a photographic tour throughout the year.

5 to remember
la vida útil – the lifespan
un niño – a toddler
periódico – periodic
una beca – a grant
rasgar – to rip up

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Our olive grove in February: #farming in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1TK

Drastic action

There is no room for emotions on a farm. At this time of year, once the olive harvest is in and the farmers settle down to wait for their local cooperativa’s pronouncement about this year’s price [based on the yield of oil from the olives, not on the weight of olives harvested] there is a small pause before the spring cut. In the typical pragmatic way of the Spanish language, the phrase used for pruning the olive trees is ‘to cut’. And boy, do they cut. Lopping off branches, spindly new growth, sometimes most of the tree. It looks brutal. But olive trees live and yield olives for hundreds of years.

5 to remember
una granja – a farm
en esta época del año – at this time of year
el pronunciamiento – the pronouncement
una pequeña pausa – a small pause
pragmatico/a – pragmatic

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Drastic action: the spring cut. Olive #trees in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1Q4