While it is freezing in London and snowing in Paris here it feels something like spring. Perhaps it is the bright yellow I can see on the fallow terraces and track-sides. They are think with Oxalis or “Mediterranean Buttercups” – a spreading weed that opens a cheery yellow face to the bright sun. It’s cheering to see given that, even in Málaga, January and February bring spells of rain, wind and cold. Continue reading Almonds and Oxalis
It seems like just a dull little path but it is not. Had a lovely little walk here by the Río Cájula early this month. It is very low in spite of recent rains. We have had a spell of cold weather, with snow making La Maroma look like a giant cake and the high meadows nicely dusted with icing, along with a week or so of rain on and off – but not enough to make up for months of drought.
Standing beside the sunlit vineyard after the storm, the other day, I noticed a few bugs floating by on the slight breeze. Lovely day. I’m at work, talking away (politely) to clients and trying not to drift off into watching the kestrel floating down the valley, or the Sardinian warblers bickering in the olive tree. Now I find that, as I look over into the vineyard I can see plumes of insects rising from it, the wings catching the light. It looks bright and hopeful to see them drifting up into the air. I wonder what they are. One of my clients yelps and bats at something floating onto his ear, knocking it down. “Don’t worry,” I say hastily, “Only a flying ant.”
We think of autumn, we think of autumn colours. And in spite of non-stop sunshine and warm summery days, plantlife in Málaga is also thinking of autumn. The poplars and larches are turning yellow, the vine-leaves are turning red and brown, the seedheads are nodding on the verges, attracting a world of noisy finches.
I see our resident Crag Martins all year. They are the only martins I’ve seen here in the winter – I tend to spot them when walking in fallow land or on the edge of the natural park in rocky … well, craggy … places doing wonderful displays of aerobatics. Walking up the back road to Santa Ana in Canillas de Albaida, looking out over the valley towards La Maroma is a favourite spot – I think they roost in the unclad stonework of the old chapel.
This afternoon I was walking down the path to a carpark near Sayalonga when I saw it. And it saw me and looked at me with serious doubt in its triangular pinpointed eyes.
I think this lovely little beast is a Mediterranean Mantis, Iris oratoria, on the basis of the relatively short cerci (the paired spikes on its back limbs) and eye shape, comparing it to internet images of this species. This seems annoyingly vague for a species that has a gigantic dead-give-away i.d. card – the enormous fake eyespot on its hindwings when flashed in defense. It looks something like this:
That’s a pretty good clue. But there is a reason this is CaPro’s shot via wikimedia commons and not mine. I like bugs. Even mantids. I feel privileged that this particular creature chose to give me a good hard stare, pose for a set of photos, sway like a leaf for a minute and, when I waved a boot to encourage it off the path to safety, shuttled promptly into the grasses. To get the threat pose from the creature I would need to … well, threaten it. But I hate baiting wildlife. It seems a dishonourable thing for a wildlife lover to do. So I shall have to state my best guess and leave it at that with nothing but a mantis’s hard stare between my conscience and perfect peace.
You may know a hawk from a handsaw. But do you know it from a falcon?
Roughly speaking hawks are broader but shorter winged, have a hooked and a longish tail. They typically kill with their talons in the strike as they land on their prey.
That’s not quite the full story, though. In taxonomy “true” Hawks are members of the Accipitrinae subfamily, of the Accipitridae family. The main family is big and includes birds such as buzzards and harriers as well. Oh yes, and Eagles. Too many. I think I will stick to true hawks!
Took this shot of a snail while out on Tuesday. This snail is still in “aestivation” the state of dormancy snails here use to outlast the heat. Slugs and snails are not ones to appreciate a really hot summer, so they skip the whole thing, sealing themselves into their shell with a thick mucuous membrane.