Tag Archives: nature

Lizard versus Cricket

I don’t often have the opportunity to take live action photographs, so I was chuffed with this series of wild nature in action on our terrace. The cricket put up quite a fight with a couple of big jumps but the lizard anticipated where he would land and was there waiting.

I’m no wildlife expert but I think the lizard is a Large Psammodromus because of his long tail and the two long white stripes along his flanks. The male has a blue spot on its shoulder and this one doesn’t, so I’m guessing it’s a she. Very strong with a thicker head than our usual Iberian Wall Lizards and without the vertebral stripes on the tail. The cricket is more difficult to identify as there are 40 types of cricket. Most are dark brown, this one is creamy grey. I’m guessing it is a King Cricket. How do I know it’s a cricket and not a grasshopper? Because crickets have long antennae, while grasshoppers have short.

5 to remember
la oportunidad– the opportunity
un lagarto– a lizard
un grillo– a cricket
un saltamontes– a grasshopper
las antenas– the antennae

 

Collins Photoguide: Complete Mediterranean Wildlife’ [UK: Collins]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Lizard versus Cricket #Nature in #Spain https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2vW via @Spanish_Valley 

Bird song: Crested Lark

There are six types of Lark in Spain, according to my bird book. Five are residents: the Skylark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Woodlark and Calandra Lark. The Short-Toed Lark is a summer visitor. I am confident in identifying only one, the Crested Lark, because of the crest on its head which looks like a teenage boy with a quiff sticking up. Admittedly, the Thekla Lark has a crest too, but not quite as prominent. As a rule of thumb, if it is perching on a bush it is a Thekla Lark.

Its call is rich and fluting, often ending on an up note. ‘Vee-vee-teu’ and ‘tree-loo-ee’.
Listen to the song of the Crested Lark at You Tube.

5 to remember
la alondra con cresta – the Crested Lark
los residentes – the residents
estoy confiado/a – I am confident
un adolescente – a teenage boy
un quiff – a quiff

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Blackbird
Jay
Black Redstart

 

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:
How does the Crested Lark sing? #Birds in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-2al

Petals on the steps

Our house stands on a hillside. Beneath us is a terrace of three levels, filled with multi-coloured oleanders, roses, ivy, honeysuckle, tall grasses, iris, pyracantha, rosemary and lavender. Mid-way down the hill, a path of stepping stones leads along a ridge to the top of a flight of steps. These rustic steps lead down to the river, with wild hillside on the left and the fruit orchard on the right. Shade is provided by tall oleander bushes and wild pomegranate trees. At the bottom is a picnic bench where we sit to chill out with an early morning mug of tea or an evening glass of wine, listen to the waterfall, admire the valley, and check on the progress of the wild figs. Are they ready to pick? Will we eat them fresh with some soft local goats cheese, or poached in syrup with a vanilla pod?

5 to remember
una ladera– a hillside
de tres niveles– of three levels
multicolor – multi-coloured
los escalones– the stepping stones
salvaje – wild

 

I use ‘Mediterranean Garden Plants’ by Lorraine Cavanagh [UK: Santana]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Petals on the steps #Spain #gardening https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2pK via @Spanish_Valley 

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Beautiful moth

Moths are almost impossible to identify but I was lucky with this lichen-like one. Discovered hiding behind the cushion on our outdoor sofa, he is beautifully-marked like an old-fashioned lace doily in shades of cream, coffee, earth and pewter with minute specks of gold.

I’m pretty sure it is a small ranunculus, mamestra dysodea, with a 30mm wingspan.

5 to remember
casi imposible – almost impossible
identificar – to identify
bellamente marcado – beautifully-marked
el peltre – the pewter
minúsculo – minute/tiny

 

Collins Photoguide: Complete Mediterranean Wildlife [UK: Collins]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
In shades of cream, coffee, earth & pewter with minute specks of gold #moths & #butterflies in #Spain https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2nq via @Spanish_Valley  

A tiny moth

This moth may be tiny, about the size of my thumbnail, but he was not deterred by my presence as I pottered around in the kitchen. He sat on the kitchen window and didn’t flinch as I raised the external blinds, did the washing up and boiled the kettle for tea. I searched through both my butterfly books but finished without an answer to his identity. His stripes ran the gamut of mushroom colourings, from dark brown to chestnut and pale milk.

I hoped that, because of his clear markings, he would be simple to identify. I was wrong. If you recognize him, please let me know. When I returned five minutes later, he had vanished.

5 to remember
mi presencia– my presence
las persianas externas– the external blinds
la gama de– the gamut of
un champiñón – a mushroom
él había desaparecido – he had vanished

 

‘Butterflies and Moths: a Pocket Guide’ [UK: Dorling Kindersley]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A tiny moth #Insects & #moths in #Spain https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2po via @Spanish_Valley 

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Bird song: Barn Owl

If you see an owl, it is most likely a Barn Owl. It is sometimes about by day in winter, and in summer can often be seen hunting before dark – lots of hungry mouths to feed means the parents cannot be exclusively nocturnal. It is a medium-sized with a wingspan just under 1m and has a large head, but the easiest way to identify it is by its white underside and underwings.

There is no fluting song from this owl. It does not hoot [that’s the Tawny]. You may hear hissing and snoring from its nest, or a shrill or high squeak of alarm or when courting. Adults and juveniles will hiss like a snake to scare intruders. It nests in big holes, for example in a tree, a stack of bales or a building.

Listen to the Barn Owl’s shriek at the RSPB website.

5 to remember
si tú ves  – if you see
una lechuza comun – a Barn Owl
nocturno – nocturnal
una envergadura – a wingspan
identificar – to identify

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Stonechat
Hoopoe
Serin

 

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:
How does the Barn Owl shriek? #Birds in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-2af

An hour in the life of a baby snake

Most of the afternoon, we didn’t spot the guest lounging beside the swimming pool. A baby Montpellier snake – identified by his spotted skin, which will become fairly uniform as he matures – lying almost entirely hidden by the long thin shadow of the pool railing. Thin, thinner than the size of my little finger, he was about a foot long, curled up around himself in S’s. Then he awoke and stretched, his head nudging into the strong March afternoon sun. About 24°C.

And then he spotted us, or felt the vibration of our footsteps, and he made a break for it. Dropping into the water, at first he swam along the edge. But with each attempt to climb out, wriggling the front half of his body to dry land, he failed to get his tail out of the water. And so he swam out into the deep water. A quick and efficient swimmer, next he swam to the steps where he stuck his head about the surface and gulped air before heading off again. 

By now, we feared he was stuck. And so we intervened with the pool net. We left him to dry in the sun. When we returned thirty minutes later, he was gone.

[photo: Wikipedia]

We know there must be snakes around us in the countryside but rarely see them, except for dead snakeskins. The adult Montpellier snake [above] grows up to 2m long, is active during the day and eats lizards. It is not dangerous to humans.

‘Field Guide: Reptiles and Amphibians of Britain & Europe’ [Collins]

5 to remember
el invitado– the guest
una serpiente bebé– a baby snake
mi dedo meñique– my little finger
la mitad delantera– the front half
treinta minutos más tarde-thirty minutes later

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
An hour in the life of a baby snake #Nature in #Spain https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2jE via @Spanish_Valley