Category Archives: Nature

Año si año no

Some fruit trees have a tendency to bear a greater-than-average crop one year, followed by a lower-than-average crop the next. This pattern is known as ‘alternate bearing’ or ‘biennial bearing’ although Pablo calls this año si año no or ‘year yes year no’. So far our olive harvest has borne out this pattern, though our trees are young and have been harvested for only two years.

There is a theory that by giving the olive tree excessive nutrients in its first two years of life, alternate bearing can be minimized. This was not our experience. However summer pruning and perfect irrigation can make a difference, though we have not yet tried these techniques. Looking at the trees, this year is a yes year.

5 to remember
una tendencia – a tendency
este patrón – this pattern
rodamiento alterno – alternate bearing
bienal – biennial
una teoría– a theory

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Año si año no: growing #olives in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-26X

A surprising visitor

This was a first: every time we have spotted a wild animal or bird in the valley we have told Pablo who says ‘Yes, I’ve seen thousands of those.’ But when we told him about our latest sighting, he was dumbfounded. He has never seen an Egyptian Mongoose, or meloncillo as the Spanish know it.

[photo: Wikipedia]

Not native to Spain, the mongoose was introduced to the Iberian Peninsula during the Arab occupation 711 AD through 1492 AD. It is thought the moors introduced the mongoose, and probably the genet cat too, to hunt rats. The mongoose certainly eats snakes. It is a meat-eater – rodents, fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects – as well as fruit and eggs. To crack open an egg, the mongoose throws it between its legs against a rock or wall.

One explanation for the fact that we’ve lived here all this time and have never seen one before, is that they are largely nocturnal. We saw two pups which disappeared rapidly into a bank of romero. They were spotted only once, and it is likely they are living in a rabbit warren.

Watch a meloncillo at You Tube.

5 to remember
la Península Ibérica – the Iberian Peninsula
nocturno – nocturnal
un carnívoro – a meat-eater
es probable que – it is likely that
un conejo warren – a rabbit warren

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Egyptian mongoose in the #secretvalley #WildAnimals in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-264

The feather of …?

Found on our terrace. One feather.

The feather is 22cm long, barred, cream and brown. My current guess is that it belongs to a male buzzard, although the white at the base of the feather could suggest a sparrowhawk. I used Raptors: a field guide for surveys and monitoring at Eurapmon, the body which researches and monitors raptors in Europe. I was surprised by the wealth of feather identification guides online, it is not something I have researched before.

Do you know which bird this feather belongs to?

Read about the song of the Sparrowhawks, here in our valley.

5 to remember
una pluma – a feather
listado/a – barred/striped
mi conjetura actual – my current guess
me sorprendió – I was surprised by
conectado/on-line – online

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
What type of bird does this feather belong to? #Birds in #Spain http://wp.me/p3dYp6-24U via @Spanish_Valley

A big fellow, or not

I think this is the biggest grasshopper I have seen. He quickly assumed the name ‘a big fellow’ but after some gentle research I think he is a) definitely a grasshopper, not a cricket, because his legs are held lower, and b) he is a she, given the presence of an ovipositor [the organ at the end of the abdomen which is used for laying eggs]. I would be hopeless as a biologist, at first glance I thought the ovipositor was a broken leg.Read about some of the other grasshoppers and crickets in the hidden valley:-
Black grasshopper
The three grasshoppers
Grasshoppers and butterflies
A September visitor
Now that’s what I call green

5 to remember
creo que ésto es – I think this is
el abdomen – the abdomen
un biólogo – a biologist
a primera vista – at first glance
una pierna rota – a broken leg

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A big, gentle fellow #Insects in the #secretvalley in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-24C

Bird song: Black Redstart

The black and red of this bird’s name refer to its tail colouring. Similar in size and weight to the Common Redstart, to which it is not closely related. It likes stony ground which is probably why we see so many here, the rough rocky outcrops around the valley and the surrounding countryside are a perfect habitat. Some of its behaviour is similar to the Robin – it ducks its head and body – and flicks its tail, though it catches passing insects in flight which the Robin does not. The male has a rattling song and a tick call.

Listen to the Black Redstart’s song here at the RSPB website.

5 to remember
el colorante – the colouring
similar en tamaño y peso – similar in size and weight
estrechamente relacionada – closely related
el comportamiento – the behaviour
el sitio web – the website

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Blackbird
Golden Oriole
Chaffinch

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Do you recognize the song of the Black Redstart? #Birds in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-24H

Food for ants

Nature is a place of survival. There is no place for squeamishness, sentiment or emotion. The annual cycle is driven by food and reproduction, and both are involved in this little story. Our terraces are home to numerous ants which do a sterling job of clearing up and keeping things tidy. They are constantly working, perpetually seeking and following and carrying and dragging. But this meal turned out to be too big to fit into the hole to their nest. So, a little dissection was needed. I don’t know how the baby lizard died, but I admire the tenacity of the ants.

5 to remember
el sobreviviente – the survival
el escrúpulo – the squeamishness
el sentimiento – the sentiment
la emocion – the emotion
la reproducción – the reproduction

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
It’s lunchtime: food for ants #secretvalley in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-24h

Whose nest is this?

Look what I found when I was deadheading the roses. A tiny nest, delicately balanced in the middle of a large rose bush. Beautifully woven. No owner in residence. No known eggs or chicks. Too small to belong to a blackbird, could it belong to one of the finch family?

5 to remember
mira lo que he encontrado – look what I found
muerto las rosas – deadheading the roses
delicadamente equilibrado – delicately balanced
bellamente tejido – beautifully woven
el propietario – the owner

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Who does this beautifully woven nest belong to? #secretvalley in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-243