Wild canaries

Wild Canary in a juniper tree, Roque de Los Muchachos, La Palma
October 22, 2016

 For some time I’ve been trying to identify the birds twittering in a Canary Islands juniper tree (Juniperus cedrus) at the Roque. It’s been frustrating because although you can frequently hear a whole flock of them twittering, they tend to stay deep inside the tree and it’s very hard to catch a glimpse of one. It’s even harder to get a photograph in order to identify them. As you can…

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Towers of Flowers

May 11, 2016

Tower of Jewels is one of the common names for Echium wildpretii. Some of the other are red bugloss, Tenerife bugloss or Mount Teide bugloss. The Spanish name is tajinaste grande or tajinaste rojo, although the ones on La Palma can be blue or mauve. The individual flowers are tiny, but the spikes can be anything up to 3 m high. And they’re in flower on the peaks of La…

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Golden Apples

Strawberry tree, or Arbutus canariensis
October 23, 2015

The Canary Islands Strawberry Tree, Arbutus canariensis, known in Spanish as madroño canario is a tree native to the Canary Islands. Surprisingly, it’s in the same family as heather. Well I was surprised. Heather leaves are tiny little needles, while strawberry trees have broad leaves. Tehre aer several growing outside the Caldera visitor centre. As you can see, the fruits are bright orange, and they look a lot like kumquats,…

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Walking ferns

July 31, 2015

  In the shadier corners of the laurel forest on La Palma, the ferns walk about. Sort of. Woodwardia ferns live in the damper parts of the forest. You can find them along the river bed at Los Tilos, and in the irrigated garden around the visitor centre. They have enormous fronds, anything up to a metre long. When the tip of a frond touches the ground, it often sprouts…

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Growing Bananas on La Palma

July 28, 2015

  When I first came to La Palma in 1990, around 40% of the population depended on the banana trade: growing bananas, packing them, or driving them. But even with the EU subsidy, it’s hard to make a living from bananas. If you’re unlucky with the weather, you can work hard all year and still make a loss. So the economy is diversifying, and a good thing too. But bananas…

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Back from the brink

June 26, 2015

In 1988 the National Parks service performed a census of native species on La Palma and many of the results were horrifying. This plant, a type of Viper’s Bugloss, was down to just 50 specimens. So they started planting them inside rabbit and goat-proof fences. It worked, and there’s lots of them in bloom all around the observatory now. Lunch time for bees, bumblebees and butterflies!

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