Tag Archives: wildlife

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.


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

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

Bird song: Booted Eagle

We are lucky enough to welcome a pair of visiting booted eagles to the valley each summer. They are, according to our bird book, an endangered species. We actually refer to them as ‘bootcut’ eagles, after a malapropism by a friend who was thinking about bootcut jeans at the time!

[photo: focusingonwildlife.com]

[photo: focusingonwildlife.com]

To listen to a Booted Eagle, click here for a fantastic recording by http://www.bird-songs.com.
Click here to read about the birdwatching walks by blogger Birdwatch Gaucin. Gaucin is an Andalucian village, about two hours drive away from our valley.

5 to remember
tenemos la suerte – we are lucky enough
cada verano – each summer
un error cometido al confudir un vocabulo con otro similar – a malapropism
los vaqueros – a pair of [denim] jeans
una grabación – a recording

[photo: IberianNature.com]

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

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
An endangered species: the Booted Eagle #Birds in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1eT

Our visitor… a genet or a marten?

The discussion is still continuing, over cups of coffee, over glasses of beer, whether our nocturnal visitor is a genet or a marten. He/she continues to leave poo gifts on exactly the same spot on the terrace. So here is our evidence:-

A stone marten, seen in broad daylight, high in our plum tree;
A dark-coloured cat-like creature with a long bushy tail, in the olive grove, mid-morning;
A poo present left every third day, in the same place;
The description by the solar engineers, working on our solar array up the hill from the house, who looked down onto the swimming pool and saw a ‘large wild cat’. We were not resident at the time. There have been no other sightings of a large wild cat.

[photo: kids.britannica.com]

[photo: kids.britannica.com]

Pablo is convinced it is a geneta [above]. The genet [in latin genetta genetta] is a feline-looking animal, nocturnal, which lives in dense scrub and woodland. Sounds exactly like our valley. Pablo says he has seen many genetas here, over the years. The species has spread to the Iberian Peninsula from North Africa. But it is distinctively spotted.

The animal we saw in the olive grove was not marked like a geneta. It was plain and dark, with a long swishy tail. Could it be a marten [below]?

[photo: bvo.zadweb.biz.hr]

[photo: bvo.zadweb.biz.hr]

5 to remember
nocturno/a – nocturnal
una cola – a tail
la caca – the poo
a plena luz del día – in broad daylight
el bosque – the woodland

The lodger

I’ve had some company in my study over the last few days. A lodger, under the sofa. lizard under sofa 17-5-14I have no idea how long he’s been inside. He seemed quite happy in his new lodging, every now and then as I sat typing I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye: his head peeping out. So I shut the internal door, opened the French window onto the patio, and left him to find his own way out.

5 to remember
el lagarto – the lizard
el estudio – the study
el/la inquilino/a – lodger
el sofá – the sofa
la salida – the way out

Sumo toad

We called him ‘Sumo Toad’ not because he is rather plump, but because of his behaviour when confronted by me with my camera. In true toad fashion, his first reaction when seeing something potentially threatening is to stay completely still. toad1 8-4-15His second reaction was to stretch up on his legs to make himself appear bigger. Then he started to sway from side to side in a slow dance. toad2 8-4-15toad3 8-4-15toad4 8-4-15toad5 8-4-15toad6 8-4-15toad7 8-4-15Eventually he decided I was no threat, and he sidled off into the honeysuckle. toad8 8-4-155 to remember
un sapo – a toad
de sumo – sumo [wrestler]
gordo/a – plump
la conducta – the behaviour
potencialmente – potentially

A blackbird’s nest

We are surrounded by blackbirds this year, with pairs nesting in trees all around the house. For the first time, one mother has built her nest in the honeysuckle. It took us some time to realise there were chicks there. babies in nest1 10-5-14babies in nest2 10-5-14Most of the time they are quiet. When she is away, they huddle together in the bottom of the nest and are invisible unless we climb on top of a wall. As soon as Mum appears and there is the rustle of a leaf, two hungry mouths appear.

5 to remember
un mirlo – a blackbird
los pichones – the chicks
un nido – a nest
apiñarse – to huddle together
invisible – invisible

The three grasshoppers

Grasshoppers are delicately patterned creatures. I hadn’t appreciated this until one landed on the sofa cushion beside my elbow. 1 big grasshoppper 23-7-13Sandy coloured, tending towards orange, she was delicately flecked, textured almost like a sandy beach: good for disguise on dead leaves and sandy soil I guess.

In fact it might not actually be a grasshopper.  According to expert John from NaturePlus at the Natural History Museum in London, it may be a cricket. “It is holding its legs up, which is a feature of crickets. And with long wings I think this would be a Tettigoniidae. It has an ovipositor making it female.” I had to look up ‘ovipositor’, it is an organ at the end of the abdomen used for laying eggs. Grasshoppers use it to force a burrow into the earth, and cicadas use it to pierce the wood of twigs.

I confess I don’t know the difference between crickets and grasshoppers, but John confirms here that the two below definitely are grasshoppers – Egyptian grasshoppers, Anacridium aegyptium.

2 huge grasshopper 14-7-11This one [above] was huge, identified by a yellow stripe down the back of his head, and tiny speckles of brown and cream which looked like they’ve been added with a paintbrush.

And the third [below] at first sight looked similar, but without the yellow stripe on his head. 3 grasshopper on branch 25-9-11
5 to remember
el saltamontes – the grasshopper
estampado/a con delicadeza – delicately patterned
el almohadón – cushion [on chair]
el sofá – the sofa
el codo – the elbow

Frightening the lizards

Today we saw three lizards, each was an Iberian wall lizard with yellow stripes along the length of its body. They are often easy to spot first thing in the morning, lying in a patch of sun to heat up. Sometimes they lay on the log pile, other times beside a terracotta plant pot. That’s where they were today, and that’s why we saw them – because workmen came today to install new external metal shutters on the bedroom windows.

[photo: Wikipedia]

[photo: Wikipedia]

5 to remember
la lagartija – Spanish wall lizard
las persianas – shutters
la maceta – plant pot
la ventana – window
tres – three

Muddy footprints

One day in March, after the rain, we went tracking: wild animals. Dramatic? Well it is the only time we are actually aware of the presence of wild boar in the valley. We don’t hear or see them. The only presence we see is footprints, in the mud, after the rain. We followed these footprints so far, but found nothing… the mud was, dry, the animal long gone. wild boar footprint1 10-3-14The males are solitary animals outside the breeding season, so that explains why we only ever see the tracks of a single boar. Females and piglets though stay together in groups of up to 20 animals including two or three sows. They rest during the night and day, foraging in the early morning and late afternoon, and sometimes at night. We do see local hunters striding the olive groves with the rifles, but according to our neighbour the number of wild boar in the valley has almost disappeared compared with when he first bought his summer house here 30 years ago. wild boar footprint2 10-3-14Wild boar are scavengers and will eat almost anything, including grass, nuts, berries, small reptiles, carrion, insects, roots, tubers, rubbish and even the nests of ground-nesting birds. wild boar footprint3 10-3-145 to remember
un animal salvaje – a wild animal
dramático/a – dramatic
la presencia – the presence
una huella – a footprint
solitario/a – solitary