Sunday, 28 March 2010

Honeyguiding in Extremadura


Every spring, in March, I help lead a holiday in Extremadura for the small tour company Honeyguide. It is run by Chris Durdin (ex-RSPB) and has a strong conservation ethic. Each year the holiday in Extremadura makes a donation to the Spanish Ornithological Society (this year over 900 euros) and similar support to given to local conservation bodies and projects in all of its destinations. The company has a very loyal client base (indeed all 14 of the members on this year's holiday had been on Honeyguide holidays before) and aims at those who have a broad interest in natural history, so ample time is given not just to birds, but also other animals and plants. We really explore to get a good idea of not just what is around, but also what makes it tick, understanding the landscape, visiting different habitats. Although botanically the spring has been slow, we found almost all of the plants we were hoping for, including six species of orchids and some wonderful specimens of Iberian Fritillary. The generally wet and windy weather made the butterfly list a short one, but we did get excellent views of the Nettle-Tree Butterfly in Monfragüe. We did well on birds with all of the expected migrants in for the date such as Subalpine Warblers, and still some unexpected winter birds like a late flock of 150 Common Crane. In the two of three days since the group returned home, better weather has brought a big flow of migrants: my first Rollers, Bee-eaters and Black-eared Wheatears of the spring for example.

Today, being Palm Sunday, the village gathered at the church, under clear blue skies and warm temperatures, with Bee-eaters calling high over head and the storks on the church belfry looking on. Everyone had brought, instead of palm fronds, bunches of olive branches and rosemary sprigs. It was a moving communal event, firmly based around the typical plants important to the life of the village.

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