Easter in Granada


Looking forward to reading this

I’m very much looking forward to reading this book when it comes out on 10 August this summer.

David Cobham is a vice president of the Hawk and Owl Trust and I very much enjoyed his earlier book on birds of prey, A Sparrowhawk’s Lament (reviewed here).




Swift dilemma

Swifts are slightly unwelcome at the Alhambra, it seems. I’d have thought that they had been rubbing along with the fantastic Moorish architecture for a good few centuries but it appears as though tolerance is running out.

There are still these lions though…

…and loads and loads of House Sparrows.

On the Gran Via on Tuesday I watched scores of swifts apparently trying to reach nesting cavities that have been netted off – it was a sad sight. But yesterday, as I passed the same spot at more or less the same time, and in the same weather (scorchio), there were no swifts acting as though they had been dispossessed and hundreds flying above the city centre.

But of course, the real dilemma is distinguishing between Pallid Swifts and Common Swifts as they whizz past overhead.  In theory it’s easy, but it’s not that easy, but it is quite relaxing, I find.


The plains of Spain

On my way south through Spain I popped into a few areas of semi-steppe which I’ve known in past years.

The image above is from La Serena.  As I took the photo, Calandra Larks (my favourite lark?) were singing. A few moments earlier three Black-bellied Sandgrouse had flown over.

I like the plains of Spain. I like wide open spaces and I like the birds of this type of habitat – bustards, sandgrouse, storks, larks, vultures etc. I’ve even noticed that there are some flowers too.

But each time I go back to these places, some of which I first visited 30 years ago, I see signs of the creep of intensive farming and forestry nibbling away at them. Such, we are told, is progress.

At  La Serena I was surprised to see lots of white plastic-wrapped silage or haylage bales and in the plains north of Oropesa there were more areas planted with trees.  Both were still great places to visit, just not quite as rich as in the past.






Queens in Spain

It seemed appropriate that the first exciting new butterfly on the drive south through Spain was the Queen of Spain (to add to yesterday’s Duke).

The Queen of Spain Fritillary is sometimes seen in the UK – one year there were some next to the Minsmere toilet block – but it’s not a species one would expect to see in the UK very regularly. And so, with rather more species to choose from, it took a bit of figuring out that this was what we were looking at.  The fact that in the field guide it was sandwiched between the Painted Lady and Comma also threw us off the right scent for a while, but careful examination of the blotches on the underwing got us to the right place in the end.

I think my favourite butterfly of the trip, so far, is not the QoSF, nor even the showy Spanish Festoon, and not the Provence Hairstreak, but the Moroccan Orange-tip, which is easy to see and easy to identify. It’s a bit like the butterfly equivalent around here of the Hoopoe or Azure-winged Magpie.