Francis Wharton.

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grapes, and other fruit according to season ; with lettuces,
wild asparagus and a host of other vegetables. From
every house in the town comes a servant to purchase the
day's requirements of fish, flesh, fowl, or fruit — for every-
thing is bought and consumed from day to day. There is
no " cold mutton *' in a Spanish menu ! By eight o'clock,
but little remains unsold, so an early start is needed to see
the best of the show.

To return to the muttons : it should be added that Spain
is now practically the only European country which still

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286 wiiii) SPAIN.

exports wool to the London market — upwards of a million
and a half pounds' weight of Spanish wool annually
reaching the Thames.


Since writing the above, we have come across an
interesting article on this subject in one of the best
Spanish papers (the Epoca)^ from which we translate the
following extracts, giving the native version of the present
agricultural status : — " We must confess that the condition
of Spanish agriculture is sufficiently deplorable, not only
by reason of the apathy o! its agriculturists, but also
through the difficulties which the land presents to its per-
fect cultivation, to the use of manures, and the employ-
ment of modem machinery. It must be borne in mind
that the land of the abrupt mountains of the Asturias,
Galicia, and Cataluiia condemns the country-people to the
roughest and most laborious preparation. This is shared,
though to a less extent, by the lahradores of the arid
regions of Guipuzcoa, Biscay and Navarre ; of the rice-
fields of Valencia, and on the sunburnt vegas of
Andalucia and Estremadura. Besides these physical
difficulties there are other disadvantages of hardly loss
importance. A vast extent of terrain now lies waste and
uncultivated through lack of capital and sparseness of
population; through the heavy tribute exacted by the
state on agricultural produce, and the absence of means of
communication to economize the transport of the harvest.

'' Notwithstanding these immense difficulties, the Spanish
agriculturist produces on fifty-six million hectares of
cultivable land an excess over the consumption of sixty-
one million hectolitres* in cereals alone.

" The superficies rustica of Spain may be classed in the
following form : —

'*' A hectare is, roughly, about an acre and a half. A hectolitre is
equivalent to two and three-quarter bushels.

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" Without cultivation of any kind ... 42*8 per cent.*

Cultivated 28*6

"Pssinre {terreno de pasto) 14*6 „

Woods, orcliards, and gardens ... 14*0 ,,


"The average value of this superficies, according to
annual production ; and the capital which it represents, is
as follows : —

Class. Annual produce. CapltaL

'Cultivated il80,400,000 ^220,720,000

Pasture 81,960,000 153,280,000

Woods, gardens, &c.... 81,568,000 49,280,000

" If we take into account that the 42*8 per cent.* of un-
cultivated land has also its 'prairie value,' it may be
safely calculated that the landed property of Spain repre-
sents a sum of ^560,000,000 (five hundred and sixty
millions sterling).

V The number of inhabitants of Spain who devote them-
selves to agriculture is, according to the census returns,

The same article gives a summary of the 22,291 mills
and flour-factories of Spain, by which it appears the
motive power used is as follows : —


874 (!)







Water (various systems)

... 20,533

Total 22,291

From a current number of a daily paper we cut the
following advertisement, as showing the value set on water
in thirsty Spain : — ** To be let, the grazing-grounds
(dehesa) of Junco Beal, in the district (tennino) of Chich-
lana. Contains 1,075 fanegas of brushwood and 237 of
cultivation (labor), with six wells."

'*' 45*8 is the figture stated, but as that would exceed the 100 we
have reduced it accordingly.

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238 vriLD SPAIN.



I. — The Finales, or Pine Eegion.

There are features of Spanish bird-life that give the
subject a claim on the interest of British readers. Spain
is the home of many of those species which we call
*'rare;" some of the rarest are here quite common.
Especially is this the case with the large birds of prey,
with many aquatic species — such as the beautiful Southern
Herons — and various other bird-groups.

Lying midway between Europe and Africa, Spain also
affords opportunity for the observation of migration —
nearly all our British summer-birds can be observed here
in transit, during the spring months : some, indeed, have
wintered in Spain, while the rest appear on passage from
Africa to the North.

More than this, Spain possesses a magnificent avi-fauna
of her own, entirely unknown in England. Omithologi-
cally, her southern provinces — at least in spring — might be
included in what Mr. Sclater designates the " Cis-atlantean
Subregion" (Ibis, 1891, p. 523), for their feathered
denizens at that season approximate rather to the North
African than to the European ornis.

Nor need these spring-notes be interesting exclusively to
the naturalist: for observation in the wilder and more
remote regions involves a degree of hard work and of
field-craft that brings this bird-hunting fairly within the
category of s]x>rt. Cases in point, as those of the Flamingo
and Crane — elsewhere described, and of the eagles and
large raptores. Here, for example, is one day's record
from our diary : — " Camp at Navasso Eedondo, April 18th.

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— Our captures to-day included 8 eagles, 4 kites, 2 large
hawks, 5 ducks, an egret, 2 stone-plover, &c. Eirst, Felipe
woke me at day-break to say a pair of aguiluchos had just
coursed and killed a hare within 200 yards of the tent.
Turned oiit in jersey and alparagatas, and stalked the spot
indicated, when a small eagle flew from a tree away in
the scrub to the left. I stood up, thinking the game was
gone, when a second Booted Eagle (Aquila pennata) rose
from the ground not forty yards ahead, and was secured.
Later on, during the mid-day heat, we thrice descried
eagles perched on high trees — unusual luck. Both the
first and second stalks failed, owing partly to bad marking
in the first case, and to ^ impossible ' terrain in the second.
The third, however, I killed — a very handsome tawny
eagle. He was sitting on a pine in the centre of a circular
swampy jungle: there was no considerable difficulty in
creeping round the outside, nor till the final, direct
approach commenced, when the ground became very bad
— ^for the last 100 yards, strong briar-bound thicket and
tussocks of spear-grass with deep bog-pools between, water
up to one's waist. Had got to fifty yards when. he saw
me, and a lucky shot killed him as he opened. his
wings. Also stalked to-day two Harriers — a Marsh-Harrier
(female) and a beautiful blue old Montagu: in the first
case the stalk was supplemented by a short /drive' by
Felipe. At dusk we observed a pair of Serpent-Eagles
go to roost in a large single alcornoque : waited till dark,
when we crept, barefoot, towards the. tree, one on either
side, and I killed the female eagle as she flew out into the
moonlight. During the day we had found five nests of
the Kite — shot four birds for identification, two from nest,
the others after long puestos — and also brought in, besides
the eagles, &c., two Gadwall, a Garganey drake, two
White-eyed Pochard, an egret, seven terns (various),
several small birds, and twenty-nine eggs — a memor-
able day ! " To stalk to within gunshot of an eagle,
on the open plain, is almost as difficult an operation as
any in our experience — ^that is unless, as sometimes
happens, the conditions are unusually favourable.

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During several springs we have made ornithological
expeditions each of a fortnight to three weeks* duration, in
various parts of Andalucia (itself nearly as large as Eng-
land), La Mancha, and Southern Estremadura. Between
the great rivers Guadalqui\ar and Guadiana lies a wild
region, almost abandoned to wild animals, and rich in
picturesque desolation. The district is an undulating
plain, its chief physical constituent being sand, or light
sandy soil, clad over wide areas with pine-forest, elsewhere
with open heaths which extend from the Atlantic to the
confines of Estremadura and the border-land between
Spain and Portugal, or rather of the ancient kingdom of
the Algarves. The southern portion is known as the Cotos
del Rey and Dohanay the latter, extending some forty miles
inland from the sea, the property of the noble house bear-
ing one of the oldest European titles — that of Medina
Sidonia. The Goto de Doiiana, as the name implies, is a
preserve, and, owing to the circumstance of our having for
many years been lessees of the sporting rights, this lovely
wilderness has formed a favourite hunting-ground at all
seasons. But we have also traversed some other of the
wilder regions of the south — many quite as rich, zoologi-
cally — such, for example, as the wooded province of
Cordova, the vegas of the Sierra Nevada and the environs
of Almaden ; and we now believe that, for the naturalist,
the richest field of all is in Southern Estremadura and the
almost unexplored borders of Guadiana. That river, from
Daimiel downwards, flows through wildernesses of cane-
brake, abounding both in large and small game, and in
spring-time with infinite variety of birds.

For our present purpose we have divided the Spanish
plains into three sections : — the pine-forests, the open
heaths, and ttie meres or lagoons ; of these we will now
take the pinales.

The first thing that strikes an Englishman in Spain is
the number and variety of the birds of prey. At home we
have practically exterminated these, but here they are ever
in evidence, from massive eagles and yet larger vultures
down to the smallest falcons. Those bald-headed fellows.

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hunting low with heavy flight, or " drifting " alternately
on motionless pinions, are Marsh-Harriers ; the long-
winged hawks, like giant swallows, are the Montagu's
Harrier. Buzzards are of more soaring flight, resembling
in form the eagles, but lacking their regal presence ; while
the Kites are recognized by the deeply forked tail. Ever
since Bugby days and the Kestrel's nest in Caldecott'3
classic spinney, the birds of prey have had a special attrac-
tion to the writer — to whom, pace the later lights of orni-
thological science, a hawk still holds the chief place
among birds.

Starting on a bright April morning to traverse the
pinoles of La Marismilla, our first find was a nest of the
Serpent-Eagle (Circdetus gallicus) built in the main fork of
a stone-pine, a curiously twisted tree growing apart on a
heathery knoll in a forest-glade. This, and all the nests
of this eagle we have seen, was small, very thick in propor-
tion to width, had a layer of dead leaves, and then a lining
of twigs. This bird only lays one egg — large, rough, and
white — which fact perhaps explains the relative smallness
of their nests. Below are strewn many veiftebrse of
serpents ; a female we shot had a snake four feet long in
her beak, only a few inches hanging outside; another,
killed at her nest in a mountain-forest of the sierra, had a
rabbit ; but snakes and large reptiles are their chief prey.
Snakes abound in Spain, and some grow to great size,
many reaching six feet in length, and we have killed
lizards of nearly three.

The legs and feet of this eagle are pale bluish, and very
rough — to hold their slippery prey. The eye is large*
overhung, and very bright yellow; flight buoyant, but
rather unsteady, and they show very white from below.
Most reptiles hybernating, even in sunny Spain, the
Serpent-Eagle is only a summer migrant — we have never
observed it in the winter months. The date of arrival
this year (1891) was March 8th. In 1888 we observed
a pair as early as the 8rd.

Both eagles soared around so near that there was no
difl&culty in recognizing the species; indeed their heavy

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heads — almost • owl-like — recurved wings and white under-
sides, cannot be mistaken.* Not requiring them as speci-
mens, we continued our ride, and during the day found
two nests of the Buzzard, each with three eggs ; the only
nests of this species found this spring— except one with
young in June — the Buzzard being more numerous in
i\dnter, when almost every dead tree is occupied by one of
these indolent hawks. AU the Spanish-breeding Buzzards
are of the normal dark brown type. The Goshawk (Astur
]}almnharius) we have also observed in these Andalucian
forests both in spring and winter, but have not chanced
to find it breeding here ourselves, though it is on record
that it occasioiially does so.

The next two nests discovered were both those of the
Kite {Milvug ictinm), each on a lofty pine. There are in
Spain two kinds of Kite, whose wild musical scream is
characteristic of these lonely woodlands. There is the
Milwio real — the Red Kite, resident in Spain, and dis-
tinguishable from the migrant Black Kite {Milrns migrans)
by the broad white band on the under-wing, caused by
the basal half of the primaries being white beneath (this
band in M. migrans being smoke-grey), and by the more
deeply forked tail. The Black Kite is altogether a more
dusky coloured species.

The eggs of the two species, and those of Buzzards and
others, are indistinguishable ; it is therefore necessary to
shoot or -trap 'the birds from the nest to make sure of
identification. But the Bed Kite breeds earlier (at the
end of March, and early in April) and in more secluded
spots than its ally, whose habits, moreover, are, in places,
almost gregarious. We have seen a score of Black Kites'
nests in a small patch of wood, not two acres — but eggs
are not laid till quite the end of April or early in May.

A singular, but well-known, habit of the Kite (the Red,

* The large irides and general appearance of this species seem to
indicate crepuscular tendencies, and an affinity— obsolete or evolvent
— to the StrigidcPj which is recognized in its generic name, Circdetus,
next to the Harriers. But, in fact, the affinity is more apparent than
real, for the Serpent-Eagle is of purely diurnal habits.

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not the Black species) is to decorate their abodes with a
collection of gaudy rags and other fantastic rubbish : in
one case I found the dead and dried remains of a White
Owl hung up, in others the long quill-feathers of the Spoon-
bill and other birds, a linen shirt-sleeve, old match-boxes,
and similar sundries. But this curious custom was useful
in saving many an unnecessary climb — no nest was worth
going up to unless a rag or two fluttered in the breeze.
The Kites, moreover, select the loftiest trees for their
abodes, and owing to the habit of Spanish foresters to
lop off all the lower branches of the pines when saplings,
these trees grow up tall, straight, and slippery as fishing-
rods. Fortunately for oological enterprise, the scant
population of the pinoles are mostly pinaleroa — ^pine-cone
gatherers. These pine-cones are used for fuel and for
making a confection something like nmigat. The tree-
climbing abilities of the pinaleros are marvellous : in this
way we obtained many eggs of Kite, Buzzard, Booted
Eagle, and most of the forest-breeding species.

After a stiff climb to one Kite's nest, built in a tall
branchless aspen, whose base was barricaded by clinging
thorny briars, I was disappointed to find no eggs. The
Kite had sat close, and I had just shot her from the
nest : all around hung the customary decorations, yet the
big nest appeared to contain nothing but a white rag. I
turned this over, and there, beneath and almost wrapt in
what proved to be a delicate cambric handkerchief, em-
broidered with the name " Antonia M.," lay two handsome
eggs! The fair Andaluza who had lost this property
might throw an interesting light on the distances traversed
by Kites in the search thereof: Shakespeare warned her
(Winter's Tale, Act IV., Sc. 2), "Where the Kite builds,
look to lesser linen."

Another denizen of the pinoles requires passing notice —
the Baven. It is curious that in Spain these birds nest
later than in northern lands. In Northumberland the
Baven lays early in March, or even at the end of February,
amidst snow and frost. Here, on the last day of April,
we found two nests on pines not far apart. One was

B 2

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warmly lined with sheep's wool, but still empty ; the other
with rabbits' fur, and contained five fresh eggs.

The nests of Eavens, Kites, Buzzards, and Booted
Eagles are hardly distinguishable from below, except that
the eagle usually selects the main fork, the others building
out on the lateral branches. In the crevices and founda-
tions of all these large nests are often inserted the untidy,
grass-built edifices of the chestnut-headed Spanish Spar-
row (Passer salicicolus), a forest-loving species, not found
in the haunts of men like his cousin of the streets, and
having a special predilection for sharing the homes of
the larger raptores, as our Sparrows at home build under
the nests in a rookery.

The large birds of prey are always difficult to shoot, even
at their nests : and for capturing them the circular steel-
traps proved invaluable, saving much time and being
almost certain in their action. The miseries of a puesto,
or ambush, of an hour, or even two, lying on the burning
sand, in the stifling heat of the underwood, to await the
return of the birds, one does not forget. For minutes that
pass like an eternity, the keen-eyed Kite will hover and
sail overhead ; meanwhile a hissing column of mosquitoes
have focussed themselves over one's face : black ants, like
small dumb-bells, and creeping things innumerable, pene-
trate up one's sleeve and down one's neck : while at the
critical moment, when one must remain rigidly motionless,
a huge hairy spider of hideous mien gently lowers itself
on to one's nose.

A Kite or Buzzard is too cautious to return directly to
the nest. Alighting first on a distant pine, it will approach
by three or four flights, and at last one knows that the
coveted prize sits well within shot, but either directly
behind, or in such a position that (from the ambush) the
gun cannot be brought to bear. The trap saved all this,
and rarely failed to secure such specimens as were required
— ^many caught by the beak and killed instantly.*

* Some Kites (M. ictinus), which had been feeding on reptiles, had
a most offensive smell. The beak of the male, in this species, is
yellow to the tip ; in the female, horn-colour. The kites all lay two

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A characteristic of the forests of Donana are the
enormous sand-hills — mountains of blown sand dazzling
in the reflected sunlight, and devoid of green thing or trace
of life, beyond the track of prowling Lynx or Mongoose, or
the curious " broad-gauge *' vestigia of the tortoise. Stay :
there is a thin black strip of moving objects — they are all
ants, and that is one of their great highways — a beaten
track connecting two great industrial centres* Except on
the chosen line — a mere strip barely an inch wide, though
hundreds of yards in length — ^not another insect will be
visible on the wastes of sand- To the selected route each
member of their infinite community confines his course as
systematically as the steamships of our great ocean lines.
One cannot resist the temptation of interrupting this well-
regulated microcosm. Instantly confusion spreads in the
black ranks: around the point of obstruction the in-
tercepted battaUons spread out like a fan: the tumult
and disorder extend backwards along either column till for
yards the sand is carpeted with the fragments of a dis-
organized host. But these scattered units are each seek-
ing to re-establish their lost continuity. The re-formed
column deflects a little to pass on one side or the other
(not both), and in a few minutes the "trade-route" has
resumed its former monotonous regularity.

Elsewhere the sand-wastes are clothed, especially in their
deeper dells and hollows, with cistus-scrub or tamarisk, and
the stone-pine {Pinus pinea) somehow finds sustenance
and even luxuriates. How plant-life can survive on the rem-
nants of pulverized rock is a mystery — though here, perhaps,
the deep-seated roots strike into alluvial soil below — and no
more comprehensible in view of the analogous fact that the
vines producing the richest Spanish wines also flourish in
equally ungenial soils. The vintages of Jerez are garnered
from grapes grown on arid and silicious soil : the strong
red wine of Val-de-Pefias, so grateful in torrid Spain,

eggs, on the bare sticks^-only once, in each case, have we found the
dual number exceeded, viz., M, ictinua, three young, on May 2nd ;
Af. migrans, three eggs, on May 10th. We have found the eggs of
the first-named as early as the closing days of March.

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comes, literally, from a " valley of stones,'* and in the Alto
Douro the vineyards occupy hillsides composed of little
bits of (what looks like) broken slate and disintegrated
shale, so little coherent, that the slopes must be terraced
before they are cultivable. Strange anomalies — plant a
vine in rich soil, and you get vine leaves — in tropical
lands, the vine becomes a barren evergreen — in arid soil
or shale, it produces nectar.

Firm and compacted as appears the substance of these
sand-hills — the sandstone of a future age — it yet retains,
to some extent, its shifty and unstable character. At in-
tervals its masses elect to move onwards and to engulf
forests over which, for centuries, they have impended.
Immediately below where we sit, the ridge terminates,
abrupt as a precipice. Two hundred yards beyond, the
sloping sand-foot is studded with half-buried pines —
several forest monarchs already entombed to their centres,
alive, but struggling in their death-throes. Of others,
farther back, only the topmost branches protrude, sere,
yellow, and dead, from the devouring particles. And
beneath those glistening sands, hidden far from sight,
doubtless there rest the skeletons of buried forests of
bygone days.

Just above us in the peak of the stone-pine under whose
shade we enjoy the midday rest, is a huge platform of
sticks — a deserted throne of the king of birds. Now this
eyrie is deserted, the daylight shows through its centre,
and the tree is occupied by different tenants — a pair of
Cushats : before now we have seen them share the same
tree with the tyrant. Bird-notes are hushed during the
midday heat, and silence reigns over the forest : presently
from afar comes the strident karky kark of the Eaven, and
then from mid-air resounds the musical scream of a Kite
floating in the heaven above.

Biding along the open glades, the most conspicuous
birds in spring are the brilliant Boilers and Hoopoes,
parties of Hawfinches and Crossbills, always shy, an
occasional Spotted Cuckoo (C glandarins) or Southern
Grey Shrike (L. meridionalis) ; handsome Woodchats (L.

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rufus) scold in every bush, and various Finches and
Woodpeckers, Tits and Creepers, enliven the woodlands,
and sprightly Bufous Warblers the drier plain. Among
the cane-brakes and varices that fringe the marshy
hollows skulk several other warblers — the Great Sedge
and Black-headed Warblers {S. arundutacea and melano-
cephala), Orphean, Cetti's, and the little Fantail, besides
our familiar Willow-Wrens, Chiffchafifs, Blackcaps, Bed-
starts and Bobins — ^the latter resident, and very bright
in colour. The Black Bedstart has already disappeared
(April), but from day to day one sees our British migrants
arriving, resting, or passing forward on their northern

Online LibraryFrancis WhartonWharton and Stillé's medical jurisprudence .. → online text (page 19 of 36)