Little Owls in Olive Trees

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After only being on booking.com for seven months, we already received their award for having achieved 9.2 out of 10 points on their review scale, which is nice. Nicer still is when our guests tell us ‘don’t change anything, you are doing everything right’.

The most elaborate and lovely review was posted by our Canadian ‘birders’ Janice and Art on google maps: “A stay at Casa Halcon is worth going out of your way. If you happen to be interested in nature, this is a great place to start your tour of Donana National Park. El Rocio is a mere 23 minute car trip. Casa Halcon is worth a stay even if the local history and nature aren’t your main interest. The owners of this Inn are dynamic, talented and experienced hosts. They run the Casa and the surrounding olive farm. If you are fortunate, you may be able to ask Angelika for a super delicious homemade dinner for a modest fee. The breakfast is unbeatable. The accommodation is both attractive and comfortable, which is a major achievement as Angelika and Nigel are “off the grid”, an ecological bonus. The dogs stay outside. If you are dog people, though, be sure to ask for an outdoor visit with Sophie and Drops. Both are adorable. Take an evening stroll down the road and say hi to the horses. As darkness falls listen to the calls of the Little Owls from amongst the Olive trees-magical!”

Said Owls are active night and day, and their call is like a bunch of kittens, but none of us has ever spotted them, as they are very small and secretive.

Our guest book is also full of praise and maybe we have now come to expect that everybody should love it here, which is not the case. Occasionally we do get people that book, but do not stay. This leaves us a bit floundered, because they do not say what made them cancel. Our location shows now up correctly as being in the countryside, 4 kms outside of Almonte. It shows you can’t please everyone and it serves to keep our feet on the floor and our heads a reasonable size.

Our Canadians hired a guide from Ronda, who spent two days with them, showing them the local wildlife around here. See http://www.wildandalucia.com/trip-reports/    http://www.wildandalucia.com/ :

Latest birding trip reports to southern Spain  11, 12-2-2019. Best of Doñana
Our classical 2-day best of Doñana Tour with Art and Janice, Canada. Seen remarkable sights such as Greater Spotted Cuckoo, Black-winged Kite, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Lesser Kestrel and Squacco Heron. Our first day was a magnificent introduction to Doñana along the whole north side of the park, i.e., José Antonio Valverde visitor centre, Dehesa de Abajo, etc. On our second day we visited El Rocío area and the Odiel’s marshes at low tide, giving us a nice bunch of waders. Great days in good company, enjoying great local fish and challenging bird sights .  9 raptor species among a rough 90 species. The season’s officially started!

 

We have now also extended the back garden, this will be its final design. It is lovely to see the first seedlings coming up to herald spring: spinach, garlic, tomatoes, leeks and the potatoes that Nigel planted the 20th of January. The peas are also doing very well. I also tried my hand on decorating a few flowerpots, cheering them up a bit.

We had so many lemons, that I decided to make some lemon jelly and lemon chutney, which turned out nicely. The rest will go for lemonade – when I get around to it.

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shop in Castlepollard, Co Westmeath

We had to make a quick Ireland visit end of February. This time Nigel’s sister Elaine and her husband Ian kindly agreed to mind our finca, house and animals. It makes for a nice warm break from frigid Ireland, where we arrived to sparkling sunshine and blue sky. We started out in Tipperary, spending a night at one of Nigel’s best friends Paddy and Joan outside of Clonmel. I also got to see my son Frank, who is working on a dairy farm nearby. Further north though, in Leitrim, the sky turned the usual colour grey and I never took off my winter coat while helping Nigel to spruce up his farm, which is being rented out.

We stayed with his neighbour Mick and Valinda and their kids in the very nice house beside the lake. On the first morning we ‘walked the dogs’ which involved kayaking on the lake while the dogs run along the lakeshore. It was bliss slowly gliding along the serene, calm and silent lake. The next day, after a day toiling away pulling weeds and cleaning drains, I immersed myself in their sumptuous outside Jacuzzi with a view over the said lake and surrounding mountains. Not a bad way to enjoy the Irish countryside! We were also kindly invited by friends of Nigel to dinner on both nights, so we had a nice time socialising.

What was this machine used for not so long ago?

It sits in the Donana National Park, the El Acebuche Visitor Centre site [see http://www.juntadeandalucia.es%5D, where we went one Sunday for a long walk. This side of the National park is open to visitors at no cost. They have extensive board-walks and bird-watching huts scattered about and a wetland,  that greeted us with a frog- or toad-concert.

Answer; it is a pine-crusher, to expel the pine kernels from the cones. To this day you will see folks beating and climbing the pines to collect the pine cones to extract and sell the kernels.

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spring flowerSilene ssp.

FEATHERED FRIENDS

IMG_20180401_162644The cuckoo has been here in the area from early March till the end of May, being insistent and pretty loud in his callings. There is a vast amount of chirping going on near the arroyo, the stream nearby, where a lot of high trees grow.

Other birds that are around here and we are able to identify are the European Bee-Eater, like a flying jewel he sports yellow, maroon and turquoise blue. The Eurasian Hoopoe with his head crest and barred feathers is unmistakable. The Azure-winged Magpie is also striking. And of course there are any amount of singing birds, day and night.

In May our falcon pair laid 5 eggs. The nesting site is the round window sill, that the female also used last year. Falcons, or in this case, the common kestrels use no nesting material. Three kestrel chicks hatched. But only one will make it to a fledgling. Maybe the first two were so old and strong that they did some harm to their sibling, when it finally hatched. Unfortunately it never lived. And one of the older ones was dropped from the nest. I found it on the terrace, still alive, and without touching it, slipped it onto a copybook and lifted it up to put it back into the nest. But sadly it didn’t survive. So now there is only one which is getting stronger each day. It has a big head and big feet and fluff rather than feathers. Hopefully it will grow up big and strong.

I have now started feeding it some meat and hope it will become friendly and trusting. It would be nice to tame our own falcon, as this is Falcon House.

Our eight hens are now also slowly getting more comfortable in their new place, taking dust baths outside and generally eating lots. It will be some time before we will be able to collect eggs but till then we make friends with Ruby, Rita, Blanche, Bianca, Maggie, Mollie, Grisella and Greta.

We have other exciting news. Yesterday the boys from Azimut installed three water filter and a UV tube to purify our well water coming into the house. It is now purest drinking water and will also benefit all plumbing as all impurities are filtered out before it even comes into the house.

 

They also installed the alarm system. A necessity when we are away as Sofie can be a bit sleepy on the job. When Nigel was on his own here, before we moved in, three men cut through the fence to have a look at the property. Luckily Nigel was just emptying the washing up water onto the lawn and spotted them, while Sofie was snoozing nearby. They took to running and disappeared in their car.

While Nigel busied himself with fencing and landscaping, I painted the old, stained plastic chairs to give them a new lease of life.

The holes along the driveway for electricity and probably planned for lighting, have been covered over by Nigel to prevent injury to the horses.

And this is Nigel’s Sunday project; a flower patio to enhance the now tidied up area beside the shed.

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