Practical Ecology

Nature Switched On

 

 

 

 


in the Pyrenees  the first 10 years

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Higher western terrace, looking south-east.
Photograph taken on 3 May 10:55

                         a   S T A M M E R  project              

2008 May 24 & 25, Saturday & Sunday


This month of May has been extremely rainy. For our city Zaragoza it has already amounted to 120 litres/m2 and it could possibly reach a historic record by the end of the month as they expect more precipitations. Temperatures reach hardly 20C on the terrain.

Needless to say that the vegetation enjoys the weather and offers a splendid look. We ourselves are getting a bit tired of so much rain, partly because it doesn't let us do the things we had planned. The foundation wall offers almost the same aspect as one month ago.

    


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Overview of the central eastern terrace, looking east.Thymus vulgaris and Hieracium pillosella in the foreground, with dispersed yellow Euphorbia cyparissias all over the terrain.
Photograph taken on 17 May 12:09

The foundation walls, partly levelled at the top  and spaces on the outside filled with lime mortar.
Photograph taken on 3 May 20:14

 
 

 

This tube (15 mm) was later covered with stones and earth. On the left in the water Veronica beccapunga, recently planted.  It stays green in winter and swallows important quantities of nitrate.
Photograph taken on 17 May 10:24

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I used the extra 'free' time to install a submerged water pump. It takes water from the second pond up to the first pond. This will keep the water level in the latter pond at a more acceptable level especially during the hot and dry summer months. As the water flows back through the channel with river boulders it will be oxygenated and perhaps filtered and cleaned as well. An important feature is the subtle sound produced by this stream. Have a listen here.
The pump itself doesn't make any sound as it is submerged. We used a car battery but the pump is especially adapted to work with the variable voltage of a solar panel which we hope to install in the future. For more information, have a look at the website of the manufacturer, SolarTechnik, where it can also be ordered (150).

 

The channel leading to the second pond.
Photograph taken on 17 May 12:18

Outlet of the first pond. The red grass is Lolium perenne (and not Setaria pumila as I commented on 26 April 2008.)
Photograph taken on 17 May 12:21
 

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The sutil murmur of the stream was completely overruled by the frequent thunderstorms with pouring rain. The stream almost converted into a river and the drain from the second pond to the water deposit could hardly manage the inflow. I think we could easily have filled 2 or 3 deposits (of 2000 litre each) more. But for the moment the system works fine and only the water deposit needs a more solid drain for when it's overflowing. It's a pity that the water was carrying so much dirt, turning the pond water again into a 'cafe con leche'. I expect this will become less of a problem in the future when the vegetation covers the remaining bare areas but the water will probably never come down very clean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Storm over the village.
Photograph taken on 17 May 20:55

 
 

 

Rainwater coming down through the channel.
Sunday (25 May) 12:21

The first pond.
Sunday (25 May) 12:23.
  The second pond.
Sunday (25 May) 12:20.
 

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The tadpoles were significantly reduced in numbers by some sort of predator, especially in the first pond. But with the rains the Natterjack toads (Epidalea calamita) returned and started croaking again in the evenings and we observed new strings of eggs.

 

 

 

Curious how this Natterjack toad almost runs through the vegetation. It never jumps.
Photograph taken on 18 May 18:48

 
 

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There are some 5 or 6 vines on the terrain and I decided to prune them decently to avoid the wild uncontrolled growing of anterior years and stimulate flowers and fruit. This mainly means cutting some shoots back to the first 2 buttons and taking away all the rest. The pruning seems never to stop because new shoots keep appearing every week. In the near future I plan to install some sort of trellis.

 
   

3 vine stubs in the centre of the terrain.
Photograph taken on 17 May 10:33

Will these flowers produce our first grapes?
Photograph taken on 17 May 12:00
 

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Six new plants were identified, bringing the total number of vascular plant species to almost 230:

 

This Corn buttercup (Ranunculus arvensis) is still quite common in Spain but is increasingly rare in England and the Netherlands (red listed). It is an indicator of soil disturbance and is growing here perhaps because of the stones I placed here a year ago or some digging by a rabbit.

 

 

As its Latin name suggests this Fumana procumbens grows near the ground with its lignified stems and very narrow leaves. A close cousin of the Rock roses (Helianthemum).

 

 

Another creeping perennial is this Argyrolobium zanonii, here growing together with Thymus vulgaris and Euphorbia cyparissias.
 

 

 

Some fifteen plants of Corn buttercup, with their typical spiky fruit, were growing among the stones on the central higher terrace.
Photograph taken on 17 May 11:50

 
  Fumana procumbens on the lower eastern terrace, looking east.
Photograph taken on 18 May 12:38

Argyrolobium zanonii  on the central lower terrace, looking north-west.
Photograph taken on 18 May 13:09

 

 

Hippocrepis comosa on the foreground, Lotus corniculatus on the background.
Higher western terrace.
Photograph taken on 17 May 11:41


The Horseshoe Vetch (Hippocrepis comosa) is typical for bare chalk soils where it prepares the conditions for a proper grassland. It has very similar flowers to Lotus corniculatus and Coronilla minima that grow in the immediate vicinity. The leaves are nevertheless quite distinctive.

 

The plant below I have only seen with buttons or with fruit. It flowers only a short time in the morning (with sun) like Goatsbeards (Tragopogon), which it resembles in more aspects. It is Cutleaf Vipergrass (Scorzonera laciniata).  Better known is the edible Black salsify (Scorzonera hispanica) from which it can be distinguished by the inflated lower part of the fruit.

 

 

 

 

 

 
  Scanned Hippocrepis comosa.
26 May 2008

Scorzonera laciniata on the lower western terrace.
Photograph taken on 18 May 17:23

 
 

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Typical dominating plants for this time of the year in the more densely covered areas are Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor) and Vicia peregrina.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vicia peregrina, Bromus diandrus and Hypericum perforatum.
Photograph taken on 17 May 11:27

 

Sanguisorba minor with Fumaria officinalis and Barbarea vulgaris on the central western terrace.
Photograph taken on 18 May 7:45

 

Some beetles on Hypericum perforatum (clearly perforated) with a flower of Vicia peregrina.
 Photograph taken on 17 May 12:30

 
 
 

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Rush skeletonweed (Chondrilla juncea ) is not yet dominating but preparing to do so for the coming summer months. I observed the same phenomena as can be observed with Prickly Lettuce (Lactuca serriola): the north-south orientation of the leaves. This is caused by the sensitivity of the plant to the magnetism of the earth (The latter plant is called 'Kompassla' in Dutch).

 
Chondrilla juncea is omnipresent on the terrain.
Photograph taken on 18 May 19:05
 



Lactuca serriola, the closest wild relative of cultivated lettuce (Lactuca sativa).
About 20 plants present.
Photograph taken on 18 May 19:07

 

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Fungi and bacteria must also thrive well these days. Several plants of Euphorbia cyparissias and Jasminum fruticans were infected with a similar kind of disease. Much more severe was the attack of a tiny little monster on Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris). More than 50% of the plants suffer the serious consequences of its nibbling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. March 2013. The monster has been identified as the larva of Subcoccinella vigintiquattuorpunctata, or the 24-Spot ladybird beetle, thanks to an attentive reader, Andrea Berardi. The monster is somewhat of a rarity in the family for being vegetarian.

 
Jasminum fruticans with infected leaves and sepals.
Photograph taken on 18 May 18:12
Infected and deformed Cypress Spurge (Euphorbia cyparissias).
Photograph taken on 18 May 18:34
 

 

Unidentified monster attacking Silene vulgaris.
Photograph taken on 17 May 19:2

 

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Also these insects have a science-fiction like appearance. The red and black ones are Froghoppers (Cercopis sp.; probably C. sanguinolenta or vulnerata) whose nymphs are the well-known spittlebugs or spit bugs who live in a kind of frothy envelope. The nymphes of this species live however in the ground and not on stems and leaves of plants like other relatives.

 
A Shieldbug and two Froghoppers on Verbascum sinuatum, whose typical star-like hairs can be distinguished.
Photograph taken on 17 May 13:24
 


 



Three Aporia crataegi butterflies on a Kermes oak (Quercus coccifera). Their caterpillars feed preferably on Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna).
Photograph taken on 18 May 19:23

 

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Several interesting plants that were present with only a couple of specimen last year seem to have expanded their territory this year. I have already mentioned the case of Orchis purpurea, but now I can also mention the beautiful Gladiolus illyricus, together with Verbascum blattaria (not yet flowering) and Aphyllanthes monspeliensis.

 
At least 30 plants of Gladiolus illyricus are now present on the central and higher, western terrace.
Looking north-west.
Photograph taken on 17 May 11:23
On the other extreme of the terrain (lower eastern terrace) Aphyllanthes monspeliensis is proliferating.
Photograph taken on 18 May 17:53
 

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A common plant, although sparsely present on the terrain is the beautiful Fine-leaved Vetch (Vicia tenuifolia).

 

 

 

 

This miniature rusty desert landscape must represent a very special 'eco-system'. The succulent Sempervivums and Sedums seem to survive the picking of birds, extreme dryness and, recently, the flooding by the heavy rainfall.

 
Vicia tenuifolia growing on only one spot on the central higher terrace.
Photograph taken on 24 May 17:19
 
  Iron 'sculpture' on the central terrace.
Photograph taken on 4 May 9:33

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

map
>> 2008 May 31
<< 2008 Apr 26

 

 

 


 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Latest revision on:  01/08/2018