farming

Cheeky birds

We try to get our farm house’s surrounds as bushy as possible by planting as many trees, shrubs and plants as they would grow. We have had many failures as last years we had severe frosts that took care of many of the tender trees we planted such as jacarandas, bombax, fig trees, olives and others.

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Luckily the past two years have been benign in terms of temperature and we have witnessed an almost luxurious growth of almost every seedling we have planted. Knowing the place, we are ready for the next bad winter that will even things out again!

In the meantime we are enjoying the Crataegus and Cottoneaster in fruit at the moment that are attracting several species of fruit-eating birds such as the Plush-creasted jays (Cyanocorax chrysops) and the occasional Toucan (Ramphastos toco)! Apart from plants we have placed several artificial nests that have been occupied at various times by different occupants such as House wrens (Troglodytes aedon), Saffron finches (Sicalis flaveola), Sayaca tanagers (Thraupis sayaca), rufous-bellied thrushes (Turdus rufiventris) and others. As bats were seeing perched under our verandah, we also built a couple of houses for them after Googling for modern designs.

We also feed the birds and the Plush-creasted jays are constant visitors to the feeding plates together with the Rufous-collared sparrows  (Zonotrichia capensis). In addition we also have the visit of Gray-necked wood-rails (Aramides cajaneus) that have a running battle with the plush-crested jays for the dominance of the plates.

Despite their rather small size the Rufous-collared sparrows are by far the cleverer though. They are fearless of humans and although the jays let you realize when the birdseed is finished the sparrows come to let you know that they are hungry!

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This year they overstepped the mark and for the first time they dared to come inside the house in search for food. I knew that they were known for doing this at the rural kitchens in Uruguay but it had not happened at our farm yet.

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One evening we heard strange noises near the place we normally seat to read and talk and to our surprise a sparrow was walking about the house, tic, tic, tic their small jumps on our dry cow hides while walking about in search of dead or dying moths, an abundant source of food at our house as they tend to mass in the lights during the night and enter the house all the time.

After chasing and feeding on moths for the first few days, the bird discovered the small container with broken maize seeds that I used to fill the bird feeding plates, the  bottom half of a large soda bottle. It did not take long for it to get inside and pick the best morsels!

After a couple of days of visits, a second bird came and the pair went straight for the kill, getting inside the maize seed container without any delays.

They are now so confident that they either walk in or even fly in and out of the house depending on their desire for food! They have also got used to enter either from the back or front doors or, if they so wish to fly through the house avoiding us at the last millisecond but giving us some frights by brushing themselves against our faces!!

They are now part of the household inhabitants and we hardly noticed them, except when the time comes to clean their tiny droppings from the floor.

 

Wet blogging!

Probably, through earlier posts I gave you the impression that living at the foot of the Andes is a dream. While this is true to a very large extent, it also has climatic and technological shortcomings that need to be accepted to enjoy it.

The climate is dry and cool in winter with most days being sunny and warm in the middle of the day when it is possible to be outside wearing a short-sleeved shirt. At that time some frost does take place at night, responsible for our failures with our tree and plant growing efforts but otherwise life is great at that time. Unfortunately, we visit Salta in summer and autumn!

The summer is hotter and rather humid. The rain in some areas reaches up to 2,500 mm (2.5 metres!) and cloud forests are the predominant kind of vegetation around us. For a cloud forest to be such the clouds must meet the trees and we are in the middle of this get-together as our farm ranges in altitude roughly from 1,300 to 1,900 metres. As these meetings take place rather often, sunshine is not the most common phenomenon around here now!

As a consequence of this heavy precipitation the area gets waterlogged and the water must drain somehow towards the larger water bodies, in our case the Mojotoro River in the gorge below. As gradients are marked, water runs wild and swells up fast. Sometimes this surprises you as it may rain higher up in the hills and you get the water rush but not the rain.

The entrance to our small-holding crosses a small watercourse that in winter is just a small dry ditch. The fun takes place in summer when, once the rains arrive, it again becomes a stream. This adds a touch of beauty to the farm until we have heavy rains! When this happens, the normally peaceful stream “comes out of the bottle” and transforms itself into a torrent that we can only watch while waiting for it to subside. This normally takes a few hours during which our lack of communication is wide-ranging.

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For a few hours we are either in or out!

This brings me to the technological issues. The high hills surrounding us interfere with the telephone and Internet signals at the best of times. Well, there is a cell phone signal 3 km away on the access road and, of late, a basic Internet signal across the road, at the door of the public primary school. While the lack of communications makes the place a true nirvana to read and write, it has a negative impact on blogging and “Instagramming” productivity that, at this time, tends to be rather infrequent as you have probably noted by now…

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The bushsnob taking advantage of the public internet to reach the world.

On the bright side, a recent study in the farm next door[1] detected the existence of 152 species of butterflies (Hesperioidea y Papilionoidea), 14 spp. of amphibians, 23 spp. of reptiles, 216 spp. of birds and 28 spp. of native mammals.

Believe me, it is worth getting your feet wet to be able to reach our communication “hot spots” when you can watch new creatures daily while reaching them!

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One of the frequent photographic interruptions getting to the cell phone signal.

 

[1] Moschione, F.N. (2014). Relevamiento de Fauna. Finca El Gallinato, La Caldera, Provincia de Salta. Informe Relevamiento 2013-2014, julio de 2014. Proyecto de Conservación de Bosque Nativo. 55p.