Category: Natural history


A skinny bird

It looks like a great white egret (Ardea alba) has made a home for itself in my local stretch of the Río Grande. This is a really strikingly beautiful bird and a bit of a rarity around these parts. My “Birds of Iberia” just lumps it with the miscellaneous “other birds” that are thrown in a loose pile between the main text and the index. It has nothing at all to say about it beyond describing it dismissively as an “accidental.” If my encounter with it was similarly described as accidental I would have to say it was a very happy accident! Continue reading

I´m a pretty crap bird watcher if I am to be completely honest. I did try some years back to record in that back of diary I was given at work to faithfully list the species I came across here in Spain. The list ran to more than 40 species when the diary disappeared and I became distracted by other things. No doubt it will resurface one day. Continue reading

I have a fish tank in my lab which is a constant source of interest to the students I teach. Frankly, they spend more time watching the fish swimming around than they ever do listening to me. There used to be a much-admired crayfish in there which would astound everybody by periodically shedding its exoskeleton and looking like it was dead before appearing from behind a wooden log.

What a party trick that was! Continue reading

We´ve had some hard rain here recently and I thought I might take a look on the river on Sunday to see how it was clearing up. As usual I had the rod in the back of the car but thought it unlikely that I would be be taking it out. I live close to the confluence of two rivers, the Río Grande and the Río Guadalhorce and after heavy rainfall it tends to be the Río Grande that clears up sooner. So on Sunday I went to take a look at it in the hope it might have recovered sufficiently to offer me a chance to fool a barbel or two. Continue reading

It´s not every day that a vulture descends from the sky and alights at your place of work but that´s exactly what happened today. I thought people were kidding me when they asked if I wanted to go and take a look at the vulture but then I saw the crowd standing at a safe distance and, lo and behold, right in the middle stood a full grown griffon vulture. Continue reading

For some time now I have dabbled in painting fish in water colours and, until now, the subjects have been fish that I have become acquainted with first hand including brown trout, perch, carp, black bass and gypsy barbel. I have just broken with this little tradition by painting a fish that I have never seen in the flesh but that strikes me as a beautiful subject – the Golden Dorado. It´s no surprise that I have never seen or caught one. If I were to do so I would have to book myself a flight to South America. Continue reading

In the fish tank in my lab we have a crab that is remarkable for a number of reasons. For one thing it is not a crab and it has died at least twice. This remarkable creature was a gift from a Year 11 student, Margarita Solontovnikoff, and was presented with a companion tropical fish about 16 months ago. Both of these were Margarita´s former pets and, for whatever reason, she thought we might like to have them. Continue reading

My neighbour Kay is down to her last hen. She used to have a bunch of them but most are now kicking around in that great hen coop up in the sky. One of those hens just disappeared under mysterious circumstances one time we have no idea what the hell happened to it. Continue reading

Yesterday I came across a slug out walking the dogs. I realise, on re-reading this first sentence, that it is open to misinterpretation so let me state plainly that it was me out walking the dogs and not the slug. The slug just happened to be crossing the dirt track which links two sections of roughly-paved road. The track itself is little used. In the recent rains it becomes very slippery and so vehicles tend to keep off it and, as a result, plants grow freely down the middle. Continue reading

On Thursday I opened my annual account with the carp on my local river, the Guadalhorce. I made a single withdrawal of what I imagine was about five pounds, or maybe a little more. It was a typically spirited fish and slugged it out like a heavyweight before I managed to ease into the bankside shallows and beach it. Continue reading