Tag Archives: Spanish countryside

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

Fifty Shades of White #7

A sunset in March: white clouds, pink edges. March 19, 2016

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A sunset in March: white clouds, pink edges #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-2bD

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 

Bird song: Woodpigeon

Is this the most familiar of all bird song? The dreamy coo-ing of the Woodpigeon is familiar here as they fly in flocks across the valley, out over the village and into the hills. Sometimes, the Woodpigeon’s coo-ing sounds muffled, as it it is hiding its head in its feathers. A pretty sound and, actually, a pretty bird, although like most common things we forget to notice it. The pink-breasted Woodpigeons mingle here with the also common Stock Doves which have a noticeable green glossy patch on the neck.

Listen to the Woodpigeon sing here at the RSPB website.

5 to remember
una paloma – a woodpigeon
soñador – dreamy
una bandada de pájaros – a flock of birds
perceptible – noticeable
un parche – a patch

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Swallow
Short-Toed Eagle
Willow Warbler

 

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 Woodpigeon sing? #Birds in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-2a9

Old ruins

The hardships of living in this countryside in centuries gone by are everywhere here. Old ruins. Roofs and ceilings collapsed, walls fallen, tiles foraged by passers-by. The skeletons of what were once farmhouses and outbuildings, once home to people and animals, stand as a monument to their previous inhabitants. Thick stone walls insulated against the heat of summer and the frost of winter, small windows minimised glare from the sun; all now surrounded by weeds with a coating of green moss and silvery lichen. These ruins stand isolated, a clue to the desertion of their occupants; no electricity, no running water. How hard the lives must have been of these farmers without our modern-day conveniences of broadband and satellite television, off-road vehicles and solar panels. But I know in my heart that we today have a deep connection with these disappeared people; we have all stood on our doorsteps, turned our faces to the sun and marvelled at the beauty of the countryside here.

5 to remember
en siglos pasados ​​por – in centuries gone by
una pista – a clue
la deserción de – the desertion of
las comodidades modernas – the modern-day conveniences
la puerta – the doorstep

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Old #ruins: who once lived here? #Spain https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2gW via @Spanish_Valley

A bat, asleep

When I found this bat, behind a tall plant pot in the pool house beside the pool, I feared he was dead. I took two photos and decided to wait and see.

The next morning he was gone. Perhaps he had fallen and was stunned. I’m fairly sure he was a Pipistrelle because his body was small, usually they are 3.5 to 5.2 cm, his rounded muzzle and reddish-brown fur. 

[photo Wikipedia]

The Pipistrelle [above] is fairly common here and across Europe. It forages along woodland edges, looking for flies, caddisflies, lacewings and mayflies. It considers mosquitoes, midges and gnats as particular delicacies.

 

‘Wild Animals’ [RSPB Pocket Nature]

5 to remember
el murciélago– the bat
estoy bastante seguro– I’m fairly sure
el hocico redondeado– the rounded muzzle
el pelaje marrón rojizo– the reddish-brown fur
bastante común – fairly common

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A Pipistrelle bat, asleep #Nature in #Spain https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2jm via @Spanish_Valley 

Bird song: Serin

A short-tailed yellowish member of the finch family, I’m guessing you’ve probably seen a Serin but not recognised it. Its upper parts are streaked greyish green with a yellow rump, the yellow breast and white belly are also heavily streaked. The male is brighter than the female, with a yellow face and breast, yellow wing bars and yellow tail sides. So if you see a small bird fly by in a blur of yellow, it will be a Serin. Its song is a buzzing trill, a common sound around our valley. It sounds like ‘zirr-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r’. a very quick, sharp sound a bit like breaking glass. Males sing while in flight, or when sitting at the top of trees. One of the most common finches around the Mediterranean, it likes olive groves and we see them fly in yellow flocks above our olive trees.

Listen to the Serin’s song at the RSPB website.

5 to remember
una serina – a serin
rayado – streaked
es más brillante que – is brighter than
zumbido – buzzing
una mancha – a blur

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Booted Eagle
Cetti’s Warbler
Golden Oriole

 

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 Serin sing? #Birds in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-2a3

Horse Corner in April

Is this the greenest spot in our valley? This is Horse Corner. So called, because in our first year here we went for a walk one day and turned the corner along the track and found a friendly horse tethered in this place. And I can understand why he was so happy: knee-high fresh spring grass, plus wild oats and wildflowers, predominantly yellow charlock.

It is common in the countryside here to see a horse tethered on a long rein in a patch of luscious grass, alongside a track or a patch of wild ground. They are often moved daily, seeking out the best grazing, and often in a field of stubble after the wheat harvest. Quite a few of our neighbours own horses and they are treated as precious creatures, groomed and decorated and ridden quite some distance to romerías, local festivals in the summertime.

Typical romería

Most Andalucian villages have their own romería [above] taking place on their local saint’s day. The day starts with a walk to the saint’s shrine, a slow procession through the countryside, everyone dressed in their best, the horses with plaited manes and tails, bridles and saddles highly polished. The day ends back in the village with stalls, food and fairground rides, and usually continues into the small hours.

5 to remember
el caballo – the horse
precioso – precious
la silla de montar – the saddle
la brida – the bridle
la melena – a horse’s mane

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Lush and green: Horse Corner in April #Spain https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2gq via @Spanish_Valley

My Top 5 books about Andalucía

Recently I read a post by fellow blogger and Brit in Spain, Alastair Savage, reflecting on his favourite books about Barcelona. Challenged by Alastair to do the same exercise for Andalucía, here’s my choice. I have avoided ‘general’ books about Spain such as Giles Tremlett’s excellent Ghosts of Spain, one of Alastair’s picks, and have concentrated on Andalucía. Read Alastair’s guide to Barcelona books here.

‘Two Middle-Aged Ladies in Andalucía’ by Penelope Chetwode
Penelope ChetwodeI love my secondhand copy of this slim book for its pale blue cover. Penelope Chetwode, wife of poet John Betjeman, takes a circular ride on her horse Marquesa, around the countryside between Granada and Úbeda in Andalucía in 1961. Charming, quirky. Read my full review of Two Middle-Aged Ladies in Andalucía here.
‘Two Middle-Aged Ladies in Andalucía’ by Penelope Chetwode [UK: Eland]

‘South from Granada’ by Gerald Brenan
Gerald BrenanDecades before ex-Genesis drummer Chris Stewart bought a house in the Alpujarras, Gerald Brenan lived in Yegen. This is the Spain of the pre-Civil War, contrasting extreme rural poverty with the beauty of the surroundings in the mountains south of Granada. Read my full review of South from Granada here.
‘South from Granada’ by Gerald Brenan [UK: Penguin Classics]

‘Andalus’ by Jason Webster
Jason WebsterPart travel book, part memoir, Andalus tells how writer and journalist Jason Webster explored Spain looking for its Moorish heritage. After Andalus Jason Webster went onto write other travel books about Spain, each of which I enjoyed, before writing his Max Cámara crime novels set in Valencia. Read my full review of Andalus here.
‘Andalus’ by Jason Webster [UK: Black Swan]

‘Driving over Lemons’ by Chris Stewart
This is the Big Daddy of living-in-Andalucía books, with Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence it invented a new genre. Now part of the ‘Lemons Trilogy’ comprising A Parrot in the Pepper Tree and The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society, this is the first and best about life on a remote, hill farm. True isolation. Read my full review of Driving Over Lemons here.
‘Driving Over Lemons’ by Chris Stewart, #1 The Lemons Trilogy [UK: Sort of Books]

‘Death’s Other Kingdom’ by Gamel Woolsey
Gamel WoolseyThe American writer Gamel Woolsey was married to Gerald Brenan. This slim volume recounting their days at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War can be read in one day. She watches Málaga go up in flames from their villa at nearby Churriana, worrying for their safety and that of their neighbours, and what will happen to everyone. A very personal account. Read my full review of Death’s Other Kingdom here.
‘Death’s Other Kingdom’ by Gamel Woolsey [UK: Eland]

5 to remember
un paseo circular – a circular ride
el patrimonio moro – the Moorish heritage
verdadero aislamiento – true isolation
el escritor estadounidense – the American writer
ir en llamas – go up in flames

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
My Top 5 #books about #Andalucia https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2jh via @Spanish_Valley

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Aliens

April is a wonderful month of anticipation, when Spring works its magic and there is something new to see every day. Such as these new buds, unfurling. Their necks not strong enough to stand straight, as if they are shy. Do you recognize them?

They may look like aliens, but they are the buds of the Common Poppy.

[source: Wikipedia]

5 to remember
la anticipación – the anticipation
despliegue – unfurling
el cuello – the neck
tímido – shy
los alienígenas – the aliens

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Aliens: what are these flowers unfurling in Spring? #Nature #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-29t