Practical Ecology

Nature Switched On

 

 

 

 


in the Pyrenees

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2007 July 28 & 29, Saturday & Sunday


When we arrived on the terrain the first thing we did was having a look at the pond to see if there were any animals drinking, bathing or swimming and if the water level had fallen much because of evaporation. Well, the water level was much higher than we had dreaded: at this rate I think that the water in the pond will survive the summer, especially with an occasional thunderstorm. The water was still not very transparent but it had lost the typical 'café con leche'  colour.
I detected some swimming larvae but fortunately almost no mosquito larvae, which probably will have fallen victim of the swimming beetles I detected too. During the weekend we observed several times how swallows swerved over the pond to drink some water, a spectacular sight.
In the mud near the pond we saw some footprints that might have been of a fox, all the more likely when we first heard and then actually saw a fox on the lower terrace near the caravan on Saturday afternoon at about 8 o'clock. We followed the animal and saw another glimpse of it before it disappeared in the wood.

 

 

 

 


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At sunrise, looking south-east.
Sunday 7:21

  Looking south-east.
Sunday 7:23

The western inlet. Without an upstanding liner as a barrier, this is how the surrounding soil can suck the water.
Sunday 18:23

Blanca at the eastern inlet.
Saturday 19:38
 

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This Jersey tiger moth (Euplagia quadripunctaria; South and Central Europe) also prefers the proximity of water. Unlike most other moths, these tiger moths are active by day, in the months of July and August. Not on the photograph is the beautiful red colour of its inferior wings.

 

 

Euplagia quadripunctaria  on the highest terrace.
Sunday 9:47

 
   
 

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Winter savory (Satureja montana) is starting to bloom these days while maintaining at the same time a surprisingly fresh green colour of its leaves; probably only possible because it is actually a dwarf shrub with lignified stems.

 

Satureja montana on the lower eastern terrace, looking north.
Saturday 20:03

 
 

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Plants that also manage to stay green in the heart of the summer are the Sedums and Sempervivums of the stone groups and the ferns of the stone walls of the terraces in the shadow.

 

 
  Asplenium trichomanes (Maidenhair Spleenwort) on the stone wall of the lower eastern terrace.
Sunday 18:16

The stonegroup at the north corner. In the background the beginning of a bramble hedge and at the back the almond orchard of the neighbour.
Sunday 18:48

 

Ceterach officinarum (Scaly fern) on the stone wall of the central eastern terrace.
Sunday 18:35

 

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There is now almost a year gone since we visited the terrain for the first time on 1 August 2006. The upcoming weeks we will be on holiday and the next entry for this weblog will probably be in September so it is perhaps a nice moment to make a short evaluation.
If there is anything that could be really called a revelation than it would be the amazing sequence of wave after wave of flowering plants throughout this period. This is a direct consequence of having a parcel of natural vegetation which can be studied all year round as opposed to travelling to different places on different times. To give an idea of these waves, here are in a simplified way the eight mayor ones:

Less surprising is that some plants performed outstandingly (Sedum sediforme, Orlaya grandiflora, Althaea cannabina, Cornus sanguinea e.o.) while others did much worse than expected (Lonicera species, Crateagus monogynaJasminum fruticans). A mayor influence could have been the previous period of serious drought while I also have to count with the possibility that previous owners have made abundant use of  herbicides and fertilizers.

 
  Floral composition of Daucus carota, Crupina vulgaris, Agrimonia eupatoria and Petrorhagia prolifera on the lower western terrace, looking south-east.
Sunday 9:05
   
 

It has proven a really good strategy to watch the vegetation for a long period before starting to manipulate it in whatever way. Although I have not always restricted myself in this sense, this should be a mayor rule for every wild garden. Nature goes its own way and comes often up with solutions which are surprisingly more economical, ecological or aesthetical.
To give just two examples: when we saw the terrain for the first time in August 2006 the dominating flowering plant was Rush Skeletonweed (Chondrilla juncea). Not particularly attractive and supposing it was suppressing other more interesting herbs I was (secretly) thinking about how to get rid of it. Now, after one year I know that it is one of the last of many waves of flowering plants and it is one of the few plants that thrive in the heat and drought of the mid-summer.
Another dominating but not very attractive plant in summer is the grass Bromus diandrus. Its inflorescence is not very elegant and for more than 50% infested by a black fungus  and its fruits are notorious for sticking to (and ruining!) your socks. But this same grass is responsible for the beautiful fresh green colour of the vegetation in autumn and early-winter.

'Nature Switched On' often means switching off the human impulse of manipulating and controlling.

 
  After sun-set, looking north-west at the Pyrenean mountain range.
Saturday 21:23

introduction
floristic catalogue
faunistic catalogue
contact
index
gallery 1: 2006-2012
gallery 2: 2012-

map
>> 2007 Sep 29
<< 2007 Jul 21

 

 

 


 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Latest revision on:  13/11/2013