Tag Archives: nature

Bird song: Chaffinch

The male Chaffinch is a strong singer, especially when he is trying to attract a mate. Resident here, he is easily spotted with his blue/grey cap and dark rusty red breast. As is the way with nature the female is a duller brown, but both birds feature the same white wing patches. I am yet to spot a deep-cupped Chaffinch nest, which they build in the fork of a tree. More often we see them sitting in the acacia tree outside our kitchen window, and it is their song which draws us to look out.

[photo: John Haslam]

After the bird moults in autumn, the tips of the new feathers have a buff fringe which adds a brown tone to its plumage. Over the winter, the ends of the feathers wear away and by the spring breeding season the birds are looking their best again as the brighter colours beneath are now on display.

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

5 to remember
un amigo – a mate
gris – duller [colour]
la ala – the wing
más a menudo – more often
la ventana de la cocina – the kitchen window

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Green Woodpecker
Blackcap
Cuckoo

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Do you recognize the song of the Chaffinch? #Birds in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-22J

Bird song: Green Woodpecker

If you don’t like bugs, Green Woodpeckers are your best friend as they eat all types of insects and love ants. You probably hear a Green Woodpecker every day, we do, but don’t particularly recognize its call. It doesn’t ‘drum’ like other woodpeckers, and spends most of its time on the ground. Its green [on top] and yellow [beneath] colouring means it is often mistaken in flight for a female Golden Oriole. Its loud call is called ‘yaffling’ and gave its name to the wooden bookend Professor Yaffle in the children’s television series Bagpuss.

Listen to the Green Woodpecker’s song here at the RSPB website.

5 to remember
se confunde a menudo con – is often mistaken for
el colorante – the colouring
el profesor – the professor
en vuelo – in flight
el pupitre – the bookend

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

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Do you recognize the song of the Green Woodpecker? #Birds in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1ZE

Whose tail is this?

When I opened the door I stepped back, at first glance I thought this was a long, dried-up, dead worm. On closer inspection it was something more fascinating: the tail of a lizard. lizard tail 14-5-14Six inches long, so its owner must have been a fair size; say 10-12 inches in total. Before his loss. I’ve heard that lizards lose their tails in pursuit, in danger, in panic. It is said that the tail continues to wriggle after it is shed. For sure, something large and hungry was chasing the tail’s owner. We will never know the full story.

5 to remember
a primera vista – at first glance
reseco/a – dried-up
un gusano – a worm
en una inspección más cercana – on closer inspection
en persecución – in pursuit

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Is it a worm, is it a snake? No… #Wildlife in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1rn

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

[photo: RSPB]

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

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