In this guest blog by Leica Sport Optics Ambassador, Luke Massey, he gives us a spring report from his home in northern Spain.
This year sees us spending our third spring since taking on Wild Finca, our 13 hectare farm in Asturias.
The whole process has been very much trial and error, feeling our way as we go, learning from other projects but also watching how the land, and wildlife, responds to what we do.
10% of the land is used for us to live as sustainably as possible, and for our children to play. The vegetable patch and poultry areas provide fresh veg and protein for us throughout the year, but both are still managed to benefit wildlife as much as possible. Bug hotels, uncultivated areas, ponds and certain flora planting in the vegetable garden provide habitat for all manner of species, from solitary bees and grass snakes, to robins and glow worms. All of which help us in managing ‘pest’ species, as well as pollinating our food plants.
The poultry areas are left to rest at certain times of year to allow regrowth. With marsh orchids now appearing in the chicken run.
Below the boys trampoline and play area we’ve planted native trees to act as a windbreak, but also as food and cover for wildlife. So although this 10% is very much lived in, it’s also aimed at showing you can provide for nature whilst living within it at the same time.
As spring ramps up invertebrates emerge. On warm March days butterflies such as speckled wood, peacocks and brimstones flutter above the brambles. The frogs become amorous in the ponds and our son Roan delights at being able to fish out tadpoles come April.
Wild Finca was once a managed cattle farm, but since our arrival we’ve reduced grazing length and livestock numbers. With this flora has rebounded, thorny scrub has increased allowing more delicate species to appear from under. With spring orchids and wild daffodils emerge, cuckoo flower and primroses too. White asphodels jut up like lanterns amongst the rockier ground.
Bumblebees buzz drunkenly between the flowers, appearing pollen covered before returning to their nest. As the days warm up, the gentle chirp of crickets begins, on hotter days this continues into the night, a constant hum of natural activity.
Walking through the long grass it isn’t uncommon to hear a swish of the tail and a grass snake or emerald lizard speeds off into cover, disturbed from its basking.
With reptiles out and about, newly returned migrant short toed eagles can be spotted hanging in the air, large wing beats and slight tail adjustments keeping them steady before they descend on reptilian prey.
Grasshopper warblers reel almost constantly from the gorse, these small birds scurry through the undergrowth mouse like, before males alight on a higher perch and proclaim their territory with an amazing constant chirping.
Other migrants like the barn swallows swoop into action. This year, our returning pairs nest has been commandeered by a wren, the muddy cup now stuffed full of moss. Luckily they’ve taken to the new barn and construction is ongoing. Last night we watched as they brought a feather from the ducks to line the nest, but they playfully dropped it whilst the other would swoop and catch it once more.
Spring is my favourite time of the year here, with new life everywhere. In a few weeks my favourite, the red backed shrikes will arrive from a mammoth migration, after spending the winter in south Eastern Africa they’ll work their way north before skirting round the Mediterranean through Syria, Greece, Italy, along the Pyrenees, before arriving back at Wild Finca, where they’ll proclaim their arrival by shouting angrily from the top of the walnut tree.
I hope for rain. This year has been our driest yet. There have been no April showers and the land is suffering, the ponds are low, the mountain sides around us have suffered fires but hopefully soon we will have a downpour and everything will be refreshed and rejuvenated.
Follow Wild Finca on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wildfinca/