The frog in the well

The frog in the well

A puzzle for you:

  • A frog is at the bottom of a well, which is 30 feet deep (use metres if you prefer). Every day the frog climbs up 3 feet (or metres), but slides back 2. How many days will the frog need to get out of the well?

You can answer in the comments section if you think you have it. Or if you prefer, send us an e-mail.

We’re still waiting for a frog to appear, not in the well, but in the pool. So far, no frog, although we did have a whopping toad for one day. On another day, as I was filling an “olla” with water I was delighted to discover a small frog avidly swimming about inside. I let it crawl out of the top hole as I filled the olla, and didn’t replace the stone over the top of the hole, as I felt certain it would like to go back in sooner or later. That in itself gave me an idea: why not create “micro-reserves” with olles here and there, some with water and some without? Those without water would be refuges for spiders, beetles and woodlice, while those with might be encouragement for more froglets.

Common Toad, Bufo bufo

Common Toad, Bufo bufo

You can read more about “olles” here, including their function in permaculture, and how to make a terra cotta flowerpot olla:

https://wateruseitwisely.com/olla-irrigation/

home-made olla for watering

Home-made olla for watering

Like many of the gardening tasks, such as weeding, planting and the like, filling and inspecting ollas requires a fair bit of bending over. However, when bent over I don’t have to raise my head to know that one of the local Blue Tits is close, this time inspecting the nest box that I’ve put up for them on the dying persimonn tree. Last year they built a nest, but for some reason they abandoned before any eggs were laid. When I ascended to clean out the nest box there was the nest, but none of the dirt associated with a used one. I think the problem is that they are of a very nervous disposition and cannot accept my presence, even when I’m face down and bent over most of the time and only watch them through the corner of my eye!

Blue Tit nest box on persimon tree

Blue Tit nest box on persimmon tree

This year they haven’t nested, despite repeated attempts by the male to encourage the female to have a look around the lovely new residence he had discovered. I think she took a dislike to the neighbours (me) and that hers was the final word. Even the shading I had put up for the box to compensate for the lack of branches and leaves was not good enough for her more refined tastes.

Blue Tit, Cyanistes caeruleus, at drinking pool

Blue Tit, Cyanistes caeruleus, at drinking pool

If you are thinking about making, purchasing and erecting a nest box for hole nesting birds such as the Blue Tit, or indeed even a considerable array of other potential birds, you really should read up well to maximize the possibilities of success. You could do much worse than to buy this book published by the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology)

https://www.bto.org/our-science/publications/bto-books-and-guides/nestboxes-your-complete-guide

At the Pou del Mano I haven’t seen much evidence of nesting birds. Certainly early in the spring we had a Corn Bunting singing almost non-stop for weeks above and around the couple of hay bales which we use for mulch, and more or less at the same time two male Sardinian Warblers were in avid pursuit of a female Sardinian Warbler. The Black Redstarts that frequented the rain roof throughout the winter were no longer there one day in mid-spring, while the singing Hoopoe from last year seems to have moved elsewhere. Golden Orioles nest in trees close to us, but not on site, and the Stone Curlew has been in fields close by for the last two breeding seasons. On the upside we’re getting a lot of interest from this year’s Little Owl juveniles, exploring the area close to where they were born, while doing their best to avoid the couple of marauding cats we try to keep off the site. A Black-eared Wheatear puts in the occasional appearance, and this year the Red-rumped Swallows seem to be a little less common than in previous years. 

Male Sardinian Warbler, Sylvia melanocephala

Male Sardinian Warbler, Sylvia melanocephala

Red-rumped Swallow, Cecropis daurica

Red-rumped Swallow, Cecropis daurica

But back to the frog in the well: the Pou del Mano is actually 13 metres deep, so how long would the above-mentioned frog need to get out of the well?

Next chapter: Tree planting – dreams and realities

BIS feedback, what real people say about us

Bill W., UK, May 2019
Unlike some of the others on the trip, this was my first time birding in another country, and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. However, the fact that it was so enjoyable was undoubtedly due to being in the company of you both. From the moment you picked us up from the airport, we knew we were in good hands.
Your bird knowledge Steve, I found to be extraordinary, and I would never have seen my 52 “lifers” without your help.
Also, many thanks to you both for your help with Spanish translation and pronunciation. I am now seriously considering looking for a local Spanish conversation class.
All the very best to you both, and I hope we get the opportunity to meet again in the not too distant future.

Thanks Bill!

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Tell us about the birds and the bees

Tell us about the birds and the bees

The birds and the bees, mmm, I think we’ll start off literally and see where it leads.
Alas, the canvas hide overlooking the pool has stood unloved for a couple of years now, if occupation for any nature-oriented purpose is anything to measure love by. In other words, I have had no time to spend in the hide enjoying some of the fruits of my many labours, and it’s a shame. It happens like this: before I can walk the 200 metres or so between my parked car and the pool there are just so many things that I see need attending to and I have so many ideas about what could be done that I can never quite make it.

For example:

• The compost isn’t doing anything – you could turn and water it.
• Check on how the trees are doing – water, aphids, nutrients…
• Turn over a log or move a branch in the wood pile to see if anything moves
• The stairs up to the pool need weeding/repairing
Weeding, there is always weeding to do. But are there enough edible weeds to gather and make them into a dish?
• Check to see if any of the flower seed is showing signs of life.
Scythe the grass
• Improve the paths

And so on, and so on, and so…

Thankfully, in my prolonged absence we have the trail cam to step into my shoes, and to at least bear witness to some of what goes on at the pool. With it’s motion detection and nocturnal flash function it’s the unsleeping eye – as long as the batteries last, and as long as it’s aligned properly.

How else would we have discovered that a Red Fox is a regular visitor to the pool, at night, and even at 9 in the morning? Or that Badgers are in the area, and visit when all is dark and still? And that at last those couple of stray tick-infested dogs seem to have moved on?

Red Fox at the Pou del Mano drinking pool

Red Fox at the Pou del Mano drinking pool

 

Badger at the drinking pool

Badger at the Pou del Mano drinking pool

Having said “badger” reminds me of a badge I used to wear at Sixth-form college, when I was an active member of Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, trying to get people interested in saving the world’s wildlife. It read “Don’t badger the badger”, which in itself is quite a succinct endorsement of the English language ie “badger” can be used as a verb as well as a noun and slots perfectly into a 4-word catchword to convey the message: “Leave the badgers alone, they are not your scapegoats”. Unfortunately there’s no trace of the badge among my personal belongings, and worse yet, I can’t even trace it on the Internet. Has anyone out there ever had one of those badges, and still got it? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

It seems the idea of slaughtering badgers (called “culling” when you have to justify it to constituents or customers) resurfaces every decade or so in the UK, as in its day my old badge was a response to ongoing badger culls in the early 1980s, while the Guardian article below relates to a proposed cull in 2010.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2011/aug/11/badger-cull-dont-stop-bovine-tb

By the way, if you read the article it virtually destroys the logic of any proposed badger slaughter, and please let’s not get started on “Seals eat our fish”, and “Fox-hunting is needed to control the vermin”, and all that kind of nonsense.

Back to the camera: more than 30 species of birds were recorded in the first couple of winter sessions, including the locally scarce Brambling and Hawfinch. Unfortunately, the camera wasn’t set for the spring migration, when I was hearing regular bursts of song from Wryneck, Bonelli’s Warbler and even Grasshopper Warbler. Hopefully next year…

Bumble bee on flower

Bumble bee on flower

And the bees? Well, one of the measures that you can take to encourage native bees is to provide water for them. They need nectar and pollen sources, soft banks to nest or roost in, patches of exposed earth and water. Although the hard truth is that we’ve had more interest at the pool from wasps and even dragonflies than from bees, it’s still early days yet, and once the drought has come to an end hopefully much of the flower seed we have sown will grow into flowers, attracting bees who will then need a drink after gorging themselves on abundant nectar. Either way, we’re going to have a lot to say about bees …

Next chapter: The frog in the well

What real people say about Birding In Spain:

Julie and Roger Knourek (USA), Marvellous May 2019

Hello Steve and Florinda! We’re back in Arizona, rested up and ready to travel to Wyoming for the rest of the summer. I just wanted to take a minute to thank you for the Marvelous May trip we recently went on with you. Everything worked out perfectly – the birding was excellent, the hotels and food were wonderful, and we enjoyed everyone’s friendship and companionship while we were on the tour. I really appreciate that you were able to accommodate our needs when necessary. It was truly one of the highlights of our lives!!! I will post a few pictures when we get to WY and get settled in. Thanks so much!

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