Friday, 29 December 2017

Felled by a woodpecker

One of our big plane trees (Platanus x hybrida) was felled by high winds yesterday. The tree had broken half way up, with the top half leaning on the bottom half. 

It was complicated to bring the whole lot down safely. When I did, I discovered this woodpecker nest at the point at which the tree had broken:

The woodpecker (we have both the Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Dendrocopos major, and the Green Woodpecker, Picus viridis) had drilled into the soft plane wood and had taken most of the strength out of the tree by building such a large nest. The nest is 10cm wide, at a point at which the trunk is only 24cm diameter, so woodie had dug a nest almost half the tree's width.

A Greater Spotted Woodpecker is just 22cm tall. This tiny David felled a 20 metre Goliath of a plane tree.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Bad for Bees

The dreaded Asian Hornet, Vespa velutina, has arrived.

I caught this one on Friday:

Ruler or ruled

Bee stung

I had seen one buzzing past me up at the hives on Friday morning, but identifying the fast-flying hornet is very difficult. Luckily (unlucky for her) this one stopped for a moment on some wax frames I had outside, and I caught her.

The excellent Agents Rurals have confirmed the identification...

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Who's Been Stealing my Nuts?

A mystery rodent has been eating the hazelnuts that are falling next to our irrigation tank. I could see the tooth marks on the empty shells...

Thanks to my camera trap I know who the culprit is. Sciurus vulgaris, the Eurasian Red Squirrel. Here s/he is:

Nuts for nuts

We who live here are priveleged to share nature with the wildlife that has been here for centuries. Sciurus, you are welcome!

Thursday, 27 July 2017

A Plum Job

Benbecula, the sheep who lived, likes plums. We have a plum tree in her field, so when I'm picking plums it's one for me and one for Benbecula, and one for me and one for Benbecula...

Another night

We had a cool cat stroll past the camera trap the other night. It's a Genet, Genetta genetta. Not really a cat, but very cat-like.

Look for the eyes, to the right

According to Wikipedia, the common genet was brought from the Maghreb to south west Europe as a domestic animal about 1000 to 1500 years ago. The genet is evidence of the phrase sometimes used here - 'Africa ends at the Pyrenees.'

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Brock, out late

I have a new toy, thanks to my daughter. It's a camera trap. 

It takes a lot of experimentation to set it up in the right place, pointing the right way, but this week (10th July) I had my first success.

Mr Brock the Badger strolled past at 1am, and my new camera caught him:

The big challenge will be to photograph a Roe Deer like the one I saw a while ago ( I'll keep trying!

Friday, 31 March 2017

Deer here

This morning, I saw a Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus, corzo in Spanish, cabirol in Catalan)

Picture from Wikimedia Commons

It was running down the track near the Croft. The dogs, Islay and Biscuit, had put it up, but it easily outpaced them with its beautiful elastic stride on delicate legs.

The Roes were introduced in the Montnegre Natural Park by the hunting clubs there, in 1993. Ten individuals, captured in Landes de Gascunya (in Occitania, South West France) were released, five males and five females, all equipped with radio collars. The objective was to improve game hunting in the area (no, I don't approve of that objective...)

Between us and Montnegre is a motorway, a main road and two railway lines - one normal and one high-speed. These barriers have slowed down the spread of the deer but we've had partial sightings over the last year or so here at the Croft. Today's was the first sighting in full daylight, so great to be able to confirm the species.

Deer, here, make us a little bit wilder.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Patrick's no weel

Patrick the junior donkey is not well. Nothing dramatic, but we had the vet in yesterday to take a look at him.

They shut me in...

He'd been seen in the field with a locked rear leg - caused, says the vet, by a ligament locking over the knee.This is 'Locking Stifles' and the vet cured it quickly by making Patrick take a few steps backward.

He is convalescing - luxuriously - in his stable where we are pandering him with apple and carrots. Crofter's son just took him for a short walk, and he's much better. Phew!

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Winter becomes Spring

The winter is over. While the astronomic winter carries on for another week to 19th March, it's all over here. Yesterday the thermometer went above 20ºC. The donkeys have a new field to enjoy.

Smokin' Donkeys
Spring has sprung, the grass has riz...

It's the grass, man

  ...and the toads are frolicking in the irrigation tank. These are Midwife Toads, I think, and the male is much smaller than his girlfriend. Toad sex is a long, drawn-out affair:

I have been checking my bees and the signs are good; they have survived the winter - no surprise, it was so mild - and seem in fine feckle for the Spring campaign. The blackthorn is in full flower, as is the rosemary, so there is no shortage of nectar.