Saturday, 23 April 2016

JJ's Spanish Delights

The Southern Grey Shrike or Iberian Butcher Bird

JJ's Wargames has been off line for a few days as some much needed R&R was taken at JJ's Casa in Spain.

I love both Spain and Portugal offering great climate, food and scenery and Carolyn and I have been going back, mainly to the south, again and again over the years and brushing up on our rubbish "Spanish" speaking capabilities.

As regular "JJ blogesters" will know, as well as military history, natural history is a bit of a passion and I like to share some of the creatures encountered at home and abroad. Whilst out on a days cycle ride I took the camera to try at catch some examples of Murcian wildlife in this warm part of southern Spain.

The first thing that drew my attention was a long tailed bird using a telegraph wire as a perch, flying out over the dry scrub behind the beach and back. It was quite difficult to get close enough to picture, but I was quite pleased with the final attempt.

I wasn't quite sure what I was looking at but on closer inspection, that characteristic sharp pointed heavy bill reminded me of the Great Grey Shrike I have seen in more northern climes. This is the southern European relative, the Southern Grey Shrike. The Shrike has a more common name of butcher bird due to its habit of creating a larder by impaling small animals and insects on to barb wire or thorn bushes, very often to allow toxins and poisons to degrade before coming back to consume the unfortunate victim later.

Little Egret on the lookout for small fish in the shallows of the Mar Menor

We have Little Egrets common to the waterways in Devon, but I never tire of seeing these slender white heron like birds focused on catching their daily bread. This chap was pretty straight forward to picture at the waters edge, unlike the Common Turns that were performing "Stuka" like dive bombings into the sea behind at the same time.

Swallow Tail Butterfly basking in the mid-day sun - watch out for that Shrike

I have never seen a Swallow Tail Butterfly in the UK, but they were in abundance on our cycle ride displaying their powerful gliding abilities as they moved between the thistle heads. They were quite tricky to photograph, constantly levering the wings up and down while in place, but I managed to get the camera on fast shutter to get this shot of the spectacular pattern on the wings. Quite a stunning insect.

Common to Southern Spain the large Egyptian Grasshopper or Anacridium aegyptium 
And finally, whilst walking the bikes through a particularly narrow scrub-land path, keeping an eye out for any basking adders I caught sight of several giant grasshoppers who had the same idea and winged back into the bushes on our approach, watching us as I moved in with the camera.

These chaps are big, unlike their British cousins, and carried a noticeable yellow stripe at the back of the head that allowed me to attempt an identification, insects not being my strong point.

The camouflage was amazing and once they had backed further into the undergrowth became totally invisible to the eye, despite trying to trace a likely path of retreat.

So back from the Iberian Peninsula I am fully rested and recharged, and have the 3/94e Ligne well under way. This weekend will be given over to getting everything ready for our display game at Legionary 2016 next Saturday

Happy St Georges Day and a dedication of this post to the Great Bard of Stratford, William Shakespeare who died, four-hundred years ago, on this day at the age of 52. I spent many hours as a teenager memorising lines from Henry IVth Part One for my O'Level English Literature and it left me with a passion for the plays; and it seems we are in for a treat with the next series of "The Hollow Crown" coming up on the BBC covering the Wars of the Roses from Henry the VIth to Richard IIIrd. Oh and I fall into the camp that says Richard was as guilty as hell, as the two Princes went missing on his watch, being a classic case of "the buck stops". I am looking forward to the comments on that one!

Next up will be a report from Legionary 2016 and a book review of some Spanish reading, "Fighting for Napoleon", French Soldiers' Letters 1799-1815


  1. Interesting post Jonathan, yes I'm sure miss marple would have reached the same conclusion.

    1. Thanks Paul, well I haven't heard a Ricardian supporter yet come up with a plausible or convincing explanation and probably quoting Miss Marple or Sherlock Holmes, always start looking at who stood to gain from the dastardly deed.

      I am sure he was good to his mum and built lots of alms houses for the poor and needy of York but all these medieval Kings were psychopathic killers when the chips were down and it seems to me he was more likely involved than not - I rest my case your honour.

  2. Richard III was framed by the filthy Tudors. I bet the history books would have looked very different if the Stanleys had just sat on the sidelines.


    1. I can feel a Wars of the Roses game brewing to settle this one! Down with the usurpers, God save Prince Hal.


  3. Have bow. Will travel.