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From the Heights: Vultures, Deer, and Remembering Bill

Friday, February 14, 2020

We’re back in Extremadura, Spain, because vultures and deer. Big birds like griffon vultures were easier to capture than the little birds. Do click on these; they're quite nice if you can see them at size.

I loved the griffons. We watched them for much of the day. This one is building its nest in a likely cranny.

This one may have been feeding on a bloody carcass, as its head was stained red. I wondered how so many huge vultures found enough to eat. I understand there are feeding stations where cattle are laid out for them. Knowing how vultures are suffering and declining worldwide, it’s comforting to see them being subsidized here in Extremadura.

I was grateful to see so many griffon vultures sailing by with comfortably full crops and bloodied heads.

Phoebe, Liam and I climbed to the top of a tower to see the countryside. We did a lot of that, climbing cathedral towers and castle towers, always looking for the eagle's vantage point. 

Ah my beautiful babies. How I reveled in being with them for two weeks. We never got sick of each other. That alone makes my heart sing. To see their enduring love for each other...I can paint and write for the rest of my life, but these two and that love they share is the most beautiful thing I've somehow, inexplicably produced. Had a lot of help from their big sweet crazy dad.

He would have loved showing us Extremadura. We laughed about how goal-oriented he'd have been, searching for the golden eagle, the gigantic black vulture that we somehow spotted the second we entered the park. We looked, too, but we didn't find eagles, and that was OK with us. It wouldn't have been OK with him! He was a goaly guy.

They’re somewhere out there, and that was enough for us. We didn’t have to go chasing over hill and dale to find one. We felt him with us. How could he be anywhere else? If you could see him at 20...he looked an awful lot like this beautiful boy.

You'd have to love wind to live here. Wind sculpted our hair every second.

Me, lugging all necessary optics, all the time, up hill and down dale. 
I was thoroughly encumbered. Once in awhile I'd give Liam my camera to carry, and think how lovely it would be to have a personal porter.

Gliding down, flaps lowered...I imagined my great wings carrying me like a hang-glider, my legs dangling down.

It looks like such fun to dip and dive over this landscape, to ride on the wind instead of standing around fighting it.

And then we rest...

Some of the vultures were carrying twigs and greenery for their nests, before Christmas! Seeing such a majestic and mysterious bird carrying a little sprig of greenery moved me. You could see its goal, there in its bill. It had a thought in its mind and was carrying it out.

After having seen the stag swim the river, we were thrilled to see an Iberian hind and her fawns feeding amongst scattered boulders on a hillside. This is Cervus elaphus hispanicus, the Iberian red deer.

These creatures are much larger and longer legged and lankier than our whitetail; they're very much like the Scottish red deer, which is built more on an elkish body plan. Both European red deer and American elk are in the genus Cervus. Interestingly, Cervus is a primarily Eurasian genus, and our wapiti is the only representative in North America, and certainly the largest of any Cervus worldwide. Our elk are just hyooooge compared to Iberian deer, but this is still a whole lot of animal!

I was most delighted with this shot of three running amongst the rocks; the way they're in focus but the rocks aren't. Please click on it! It looks like a diorama if you embiggen it.

That evening, an Iberian stag cut right in front of our car, and Liam grabbed the moment. December 21, the Winter Solstice, was a charmed day with my sweet family, and it wasn't over yet!


This post is a little Valentine to my Liam and Phoebe. Your mama is very far away at the moment, but I hope you can feel my love hurtling on clumsy wings through an Ecuadorean rainstorm, up over the Andes, over the Gulf of Mexico, up through the Appalachian chain, and dropping down into Morgantown. Then it’s picking up again, crossing the winter Atlantic, and zeroing in on a certain girl in mainland Spain right now. You can close the windows and bar the doors, but it’s coming in.



Love this Valentine! Julie, your love just shines through. Phoebe and Liam are a true reflection of your heart and I am grateful every time you share it with us.

I love the embiggened diorama photo. And all of it's great.

I just finished reading Saving Jemima and I loved it! I was raised in central NY state but live in Idaho now. I missed the Cardinals and BlueJays. After 30 yrs of feeding the birds here in SE Idaho, this winter I have had 3 Blue Jays and 3 Stellar Jays at my feeder every day. It is magical. It will be interesting to see if they stay for summer or move on. Trudy

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