Tag 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

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

Smothering ivy

Winter, stripping back foliage as it does, reveals the nature beneath the canopy. Ivy creeps up tree trunks adding a welcome splash of evergreen against the winter grey of bark. In a garden, ivy growing like this may be trimmed back in fear that it will strangle the tree. But here in the valley, it seems to cause little damage. Where the ivy climbs high into the crown of the tree, it is seems to be in trees which are dead, dying or not healthy. Ivy is not a parasite and does not penetrate the bark, its short roots cling to the surface for support only, not nutrients. As well as winter colour, ivy growing through trees offers shelter for wildlife, birds’ nests, hibernation, roosting and hiding. Once its reaches the canopy of the tree, the ivy often produces shrubby growth with yellow/green flowers and black berries; all welcomed by birds and insects.

5 to remember
la hedera – the ivy
sofocando/a – smothering
desnudándose – stripping back
revelar – to reveal/expose
el dosel – the canopy

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Winter reveals the ivy around the #trees in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1Tq

Bird song: Great Spotted Woodpecker

There is no sound like that of a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming its beak against a tree trunk in search of insects, seeds, nuts, eggs, chicks and even small rodents. The family name for the bird is ‘Dendrocopus’ and is a combination of the Greek words ‘dendron’ [tree] and ‘kopos’ [striking]. That seems appropriate. Resident here, the male bird is like nothing else. You will find a nesting hole in an old tree, neat and round, bored horiztontally into decaying wood for a few inches and then downwards up to 6-12 inches in depth.

[photo: Wikipedia]

[photo: Wikipedia]

Listen to the drumming of the Great Spotted at the RSPB website here.

5 to remember
el pico – the beak
un pequeño roedor – a small rodent
griego/a – Greek
apropiado/a – appropriate
horizontalmente – horizontally

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
There’s nothing else like the sound of a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1Ri

Bird song: Short-Toed Eagle

This is a rare Eagle and we feel privileged to see them in our valley during the summer. The Short-Toed Eagle is large and will spend hours flying, searching for prey. It eats snakes and its common name is actually the ‘Short-Toed Snake Eagle’. Pretty much always seen in flight, we only see its feathers from below. It has very pale underwings with dark bars and dots, with a dark head. If you see it hovering, wait for it to dive, at a great height and with great speed… pity the poor snake or lizard beneath.

[photo: Wikipedia]

[photo: Wikipedia]

It is generally silent, but does have a whistling call in flight. Listen to the song of the Short-Toed Eagle and read more about it at the Xeno-Canto website.

5 to remember
raro/a – rare
la presa – the prey
una serpiente – a snake
un lagarto – a lizard
casi siempre – pretty much always

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Privileged to see a short-toed eagle in the #secretvalley in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1IA

The River

No, not the album by Bruce Springsteen. Our river is fascinating, upstream and downstream, it changes character as it twists and turns. It one place it is fast, in a hurry, more water rushing past than can be measured, splashing down waterfalls, carrying overhanging branches with it as it hurries downstream. But turn a corner and it slows, takes its time, becomes transparent, pausing in pools, revealing the secrets beneath the surface.

Read a bit more about the Rio Corbones here.

5 to remember
río arriba – upstream
río abajo – downstream
salpicadando/a – splashing
estar pendiente sobre – to overhang
debajo de la superficie – beneath the surface

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

Bird song: Wren

That loud, trilling bird song which seems to dominate everything else, fast ringing notes, which must be coming from a bird the size of a Pigeon? That’ll be a Wren, one of Europe’s smallest birds measuring up to 4cm long. Ours hides in the bushes at the edge of the terrace, a rustle of leaves, the hint of a bright eye, is all that gives him away.

[photo: birdswrenmiketoms]

[photo: birdswrenmiketoms]

A resident here, the Wren is surprisingly beautiful in flight: warm chestnut brown in colour, with softly barred wing tips. The Wren is most easily identified by a) his size, and by his uplifted tail which gives him a jaunty, cocksure air.

Listen to the song of the Wren and read more about it at the RSPB website.

5 to remember
un wren – a Wren
la talla de – the size of
una paloma – a Pigeon
un crujido – a rustle
una pista – a hint

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A song much bigger than his size: the mighty wren #Spain #birds via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1Iw