La Vera is a symphony of greens right now. The climax tree here, the Pyrenean Oak (Quercus pyrenaica) doesn’t really put on a great show in autumn; it just goes dowdy. But in spring it dazzles. Its big, velvety-textured leaves seem to modulate the light according to the angle with which it hits them, so the whole tree twinkles with different hues. Sprinkled among them is the cleaner green of the ash, and the undergrowth of new-leaved brambles is cushionny and gapless. It’s also neat to see how the green goes climbing up the hillside as the trees at different altitudes come into leaf, wiping out the dun memory of winter from the bottom up.
As for the birdlife, the gang’s pretty much all here now. After the arrival of the cuckoos in March and the nightingales at the end of the month the first golden oriole turned up on April 11th; the melodious warbler clocked, the number of both species then creeping up day by day. The last to arrive was the poor turtle dove on April 21st. I say “poor” because the numbers of the beautiful dove is plummeting throughout Europe due to overhunting. Despite this plight, hunters have refused to declare a moratorium to give it a chance to recover. Together with the cuckoo and hoopoe, this bird is one of the closed-beak singers. Imagine if someone challenged you, 50 times their size, to do what they do so effortlessly: make a noise audible at 50m without opening their mouth… Could you?
From now on the song level, already a frenzy some dawns, will pick up daily until mid-May, many of the nightingales practically singing nonstop all night. But we will talk about that and other things next month.
Dave Langlois, a British birder living in La Vera, has written several novels in which he vindicates the protection of Spanish nature. You can find more information on his website: http://novelasdavelanglois.com/