Thursday, 1 September 2022


The forest around the Croft is full of Holm oak, Quercus ilex. Holm oak is evergreen and so our valley has always been a green place, even in the hottest summers. But this year - the second year of drought in Montseny - the trees have turned brown. 

The picture would look normal, in autumn in a deciduous forest. But here in the Holm oak forests of Catalonia it's a sign of death.

Thirsty trees

Groups of Holm oak have either died or gone into some form of drought hibernation. Around here these patches of brown seem to be associated with soil disturbance - a new path here, a drain dug there.


The die-back has been general, affecting all the plant life (and, we assume, some of the fauna too).

Pasture limits

In August, finally, it rained, and first the grasses and then the trees have been slurping up the water, and putting out new green shoots. 

And still governments take too little action on climate change. Shame on them.

Six Slick Snakes

Crofter's mate found these snake skins - all six of them - by our garden rockery. Looks like a whole family of snakes moulted on the same day (10th August 2022). We're not sure which species they are - but there are plenty of Ladder snakes (Elaphe scalaris) in our garden.

Cast in the same moult

Thursday, 21 July 2022

His Imperial Majesty, or hers

 This huge hairy caterpillar came into the front door of the Croft, yesterday:

She or he is the caterpillar (larva) of the Emperor moth, Saturnia pavonia.


Nature, coming in the door

 S/he is dressed for the disco - yellow body stocking, neon-blue jewellery and that "I'll have a Bloody Mary" mouthpart.


Wednesday, 13 July 2022

Moulded slime

 The woodland next to the Croft has recently been cut, leaving the tracks covered in wood chips. I run along these tracks most days.

Recently I've tried not to step on this:

Cowpat? Dog vomit? Stale bread roll?

 At first it was yellow and fluffy - I thought it was some effect caused by horse urine. Then it dried out and turned cream-brown, so maybe it was a cowpat (there are no free cows around here, so unlikely)?

 I broke off a piece, and saw the spores, so it had to be a fungus or a mould.

Scores of spores

It turns out that it is a slime mould, Fuligo septica, also known, charmingly, as "dog vomit slime mould". It grows on moist wood chip and mulch. 

Welcome to weird nature!

A Stable Home

 A wren, Troglodytes troglodytes, has made her home in the roof beams of our donkey stable:

Messy, but safe

I can't see how many fledglings she has in there but the cheeping, and the constant in-and-out with insects indicates that there are a few.

Dry, and dry again

 It's hot and dry at the Croft:

All burnt and brown

The grasses have all died as have most of the flowering plants. The trees are holding out but the ground-water level is dropping, so they too will start to suffer. At 3pm today the thermometer read 35ºC and it has been like that for days. The forecast says it will stay like this for at least the next ten days, maybe longer.

For days, and for years, because this is the second summer in a row with low, low rainfall. So far this year we have had 211mm of rain (211 litres per square metre). By the end of July last year we had had 249mm, but both are more than 33% below the average for the first seven months of the year, 377mm.


We have started looking into getting water delivered, because our well is showing signs of distress. So far it's holding out, but for how long?

All of this is - of course - a precursor of the life we are going to have to lead as the climate emergency hits. Extreme temperatures - and the associated risks of forest fire - and resource shortages, starting with water.
Places like Montseny will be the canaries in our climate coal mine - crying out as the climate crisis strikes, warning us about the limits of growth, of consumption and of greenhouse gas emissions. 
Will our leaders listen? Will we, humanity, listen?

Monday, 17 May 2021

Bugs and birds

 I've seen a couple of beautiful bugs in the last week, as the Spring weather (wet, but warmer) has come in. As always, my bug identification is rubbish, so I guess that these are both beetles, Coleoptera, but can only guess at the family. This one might be a Tiger Beetle (Cicindellidae family), but equally it might not:

Beetle, feeling waspish

And this one could be a Leaf Beetle (Chrysomelidae family) but equally could be one of the other zillion species of bug. Either way, she or he is a beautiful metallic gold colour.

Auric, the bug

Some of the bugs are being consumed by the birds, and a pair of Blue tits, Parus caeruleus, have made a nest in the dead tree that supports our washing line. Here is one, bringing a bug back for the babes:


Caught in a trophic web