Archive for October, 2007

Mole Crickets

The other creature encounter we have made recently is this antediluvian beast, the mole cricket.


At first we didn’t know what this beast was. At a meter down in the ground and yet having wings it seemed a bit impossible. So what was the answer?

Go to the ‘Wild Spain’ web site and enter a question regarding it’s description and location and thank you Sue Eatock for shining the light of insect knowledge in our direction.


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Today I jumped out of my skin

At lunchtime, as I often do, I took our dog ‘Miro’ for a walk.

Now when we named our dog ‘Miro’ after the Spanish painter Juan Miro I didn’t realise ‘Miro’ is the first person of ‘to see’. Clearly he called himself Juan ‘I see’ in that typically pretentious way only surrealists knew how. Consequently when I call the dog in public places everyone is saying “What?”

Anyway I digress (as Ronnie Corbett used to say). We went for a walk in the ‘barranca’ (which is a small dry ravine) and I was happily tumbling down the boulders and climbing over the fallen poplar trunks until I came to a narrow patch of mud and scrub. This seemed to be an appropriate time to whistle the dog and see where she had got to.

“Miro!” I cried and not two feet from me an enormous wild boar broke his cover. Literally the ground shook as he seemed to take off vertically up the bank at high speed. I jumped out of my skin and the dog looked mystified and more interested in chasing unobtainable birds.

What a beast.


The body of the wild boar is compact, the head is large, the legs relatively short. The fur consists of stiff bristles and usually finer fur. The colour usually varies from dark grey to black or brown, but there are great regional differences in colour, even whitish animals are known from central Asia.During winter the fur is much denser.
The size also varies highly within the range. Full grown female wild boars (5 years or older) have a body length of about 135 cm and a weight of 55-70 kg in central Europe, while adult males reach 140-150 cm and weigh between 80 and 90 kg there. In some areas, like Astrachan and the Caucasus wild boars grow much larger, with males reaching a body length of 200cm and a weight of 200 kg. Even in parts of western France, Boar have been caught weighing around 100 kg. In the 1930s animals weighing 260 kg were shot in the Volga delta and at the Syr Daria. In the Russian Far East and the Carpathians, males of more than 300 kg have reported, but due to intensive hunting, the size of wild boars has declined. Currently, animals weighing 200 kg are counted as very large.
The tusks serve as weapons and grow continually. The lower tusks of an adult male measure about 20cm (from which seldom more than 10 cm protrude out of the mouth), in exceptional cases even 30 cm. The upper tusks are bent upwards in males, in females they are smaller, and the upper tusks are only slightly bent upwards in older individuals.
It has been speculated that truffles are the favourite food of the boar. In several reported spottings, boars have been seen ‘snooting aboot’ for these delicacies.



Jardines Botanicos and a view to Maria

We have fantastic botanical gardens at ‘Umbria de la Virgen’, which unlike the Victorian model of exotica growing in the British Isles, this one is a fabulous collection of native flora encompassing one side of the Sierra Maria-Los Velez.


This is the view from near the top looking down at Maria (a pueblo which is part of the ‘los Velez’) which is famous for it’s ‘Jamon’ curing houses. These are the industrial looking units on the periphery of the village.

The mountain to the left is El Gabar where our art group takes it’s name ‘Gruppo Gabar’. This is the view east to Murcia.

Approximately two thirds along the picture from the left, nestled in the mountains is Los Gazquez.



Rainbows and PV arrays


Returning from Baza on Saturday I just had to stop, as a rainstorm passed overhead, and photograph this rainbow and photovoltaic power station.



Chupacabra II

Call me a cynic!




I have a good friend here from Chile and one night outside a bar beneath coloured lamps and hungry smells from the ‘plancha’ he told me about ‘Chupacabra’.

In South America it is a big deal and the legend is moving north into Central America and now (inevitably) the US. Literally it means ‘goat-sucker’ and is a beast of legend which drains the blood of goats (cabra). I would imagine that in rural communities the loss of vital livestock is a big thing and naturally the legend is believed by many rural folk.

Now, in my ignorance, I thought it would be rather ‘funny’ to make up a story which I, ‘apparently’ read in ‘El Mundo’ that ‘Chupacabra’ has migrated along with the ‘Latin American’ community to Espana and in particular eastern Andalucia and specifically the Sierra Maria - Los Velez.

The problem is that on occasion we employ the most gorgeous, loyal and hard working folk from Bolivia (the toughest men I have ever met) and I thought I might raise a great laugh by telling them my ‘made up’ story.

Did I misjudge that one? Their faces ‘dropped’, a pale pallor came to their brown faces and tools fell from their hands. My cynical ‘tongue-in-cheek’ joke fell flat on the ground as for in the next couple of days we had accidents at work. Cement bags were left out in the rain, portable generators broke, things went missing and many thumbs were hit by hammers.

Never underestimate the extent to which people will believe such stories or the extent to which they can become ingrained in those societies.


Chupacabra (also chupacabras /tʃupa’kabɾas/, from Spanish chupar: to suck, cabra: goat; goats sucker) is a cryptid said to inhabit parts of the Americas. It is associated with the ancient myth of the chimera or griffin, and more recently with alleged sightings of an unknown animal in Puerto Rico (where these sightings were first reported), Mexico, and the United States, especially in the latter’s Latin American communities. The name translates literally from the Spanish as “goat sucker.” It comes from the creature’s reported habit of attacking and drinking the blood of livestock, especially goats. Physical descriptions of the creature vary. Eyewitness sightings have been claimed as early as 1990 in Puerto Rico, and have since been reported as far north as Maine, and as far south as Chile. Mainstream scientists and experts generally hypothesize that the chupacabra is an ordinary, though perhaps unknown, species of canid, a legendary creature, or a type of urban legend. It is supposedly a heavy creature, the size of a small bear, with a row of spines reaching from the neck to the base of the tail.


The first known attacks occurred in March of 1995, in the island of Puerto Rico. In this attack eight sheep were discovered dead. The bodies presented three puncture wounds in the chest area and were completely drained of blood. It is predated by El Vampiro de Moca (The Vampire of Moca), a creature blamed for similar killings that occurred in the small town of Moca in the 1970s. While at first it was suspected that the killings were done randomly by some members of a Satanic cult, eventually these killings spread around the island, and many farms reported loss of animal life. The killings had one pattern in common: each of the animals had their bodies bled dry through a series of small circular incisions. Puerto Rican comedian and entrepreneur Silverio Pérez is credited with coining the term “chupacabras” soon after the first incidents were reported in the press. Shortly after the deaths in Puerto Rico, other animal deaths were reported in other countries, such as the Dominican Republic, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, El Salvador, Panama, Peru, Brazil, the United States and Mexico.


The most common description of Chupacabra is a reptile-like being, appearing to have leathery or scaly greenish-gray skin and sharp spines or quills running down its back.[ This form stands approximately 3 to 4 feet (1 to 1.2 m) high, and stands and hops in a similar fashion to a kangaroo. In at least one sighting, the creature hopped 20 feet (6 m). This variety is said to have a dog or panther-like nose and face, a forked tongue protruding from it, large fangs, and to hiss and screech when alarmed, as well as leave a sulfuric stench behind. When it screeches, some reports note that the chupacabra’s eyes glow an unusual red, then give the witnesses nausea. For some witnesses, it was seen with bat-like wings.
Another description of Chupacabra, although not as common, is described as a strange breed of wild dog. This form is mostly hairless, has a pronounced spinal ridge, unusually pronounced eye sockets, fangs, and claws. It is claimed that this breed might be an example of a dog-like reptile. The corpse of an animal found in Leon, Nicaragua, and forensically analyzed at UNAN-Leon is claimed as a specimen of this genus. Pathologists at the University found that it was an unusual looking dog-like creature of a unknown species. Unlike conventional predators, the chupacabra is said to drain all of the animal’s blood (and sometimes organs) through a single hole or two holes.




After alluding to those seismic changes in European history and the culture and history of those first Europeans here is a new European with something extraordinary that offers our children a viable future.



Grandpa ‘Ritch’ Beckmann


As mentioned before, my family, on my father’s side, were German. But Germans from where? They had homes and businesses in Austria as well as being part of a mercantile German Diaspora in Riga, Latvia.

This is my Grandfather as a volunteer Fireman in Latvia in 1907.


However his mother was Scottish, Mary McCulloch, daughter of Captain John McCulloch of Fife. It would appear that both families were connected by marriage and mutual business, trading Baltic timber across the North Sea to Scotland.

It would also appear that the family didn’t particularly consider themselves German. Whether it was because they were half British or that they lived in Latvia, which was part of Imperial Russia, we do not know. Certainly Grandpa spoke Russian, German and English.

But what happened to these Europeans? These are excerpts from family friend Harry Wall Davis’ diary…






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Titi’s Baptism


Well before the European Union facilitated trade between the member states most Europeans were already hard at it. On my father’s side, the family was German trading timber in the Baltic from Scandinavia to Scotland before my grandfather settled in England.

Donna’s family lived in France, Switzerland and Spain where Donna’s mother (Titi) was born.

However where my family boasted an array of stoic Lutheran names Donna’s family names were something else.

From the left Yiyi, Bella, Aya (grandmother with Titi, my mother in law), Maman Therese (great grandmother), Uuu, Mamouche, and Thom with ‘petit chien’ Dalia and Perico!

Barcelona 1931.



European Black Redstart


We have a new visitor at Los Gazquez. Like the ‘Black Eared Wheat-ear’ he is gregarious and at any one time at the house I can look up and around and he will be there somewhere.



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