Alarm, extreme heat: Nature is calling for help

Just by showing some ability of observation when walking through the forests of the mountainous landscape of north-eastern Guadalajara, any person can see how the trees shrivel and many of them wither at the top. And those that bear fruit are much smaller than other years. Deciduous trees lose it before long.

Hazelnuts, thistles, hawthorns, rosehips… are halved, offering a gloomy image. Even those that colonize small wetlands are not spared by the relentless drought.

Most of the small springs dried up almost a month ago, leaving the terrestrial and flying fauna without an essential resource: water. So they have to travel long distances if they want to survive.

In this municipality, Aragoncillo, there are two large pools with a diameter of about 30 meters, which we call lagoons. Their water levels have dropped a lot, but they continue to be the lifeline of thousands of species, both migratory and resident. Huge flocks of bee-eaters fly south, cooling off in one of them. The terns, which have already gone to their winter quarters, have spent the entire summer launching themselves at full speed with their beaks open above the water to water their chicks and at the same time hydrate themselves. And if the hatchlings have not fallen to the ground because of the heat, as in other places in Spain, it is because the eaves are much better insulated in these places than in modern buildings, and also because it is a cool place both at night and in the morning morning temperatures are tolerable.

However, not all representatives of the fauna have the same luck. One of the lakes is in a closed area, accompanied by an abundance of Pyrenean oaks of a certain size. And most of the times when I went to “measure” its water level, two eagles in boots flew out of the tallest specimens. They are very clever and know that they find their food more or less easily there, waiting for rabbits, partridges, pigeons and other types of birds and mammals to enter.

Someday, if it hasn’t already been done, scientists would do well to do a study on the pressures that birds of prey, both diurnal and nocturnal, exert on fauna. It is obvious that this whole family of carnivores is growing and that they are quite deadly.

A silent death

When you walk through these mountainous landscapes, everything creaks and breaks like a wooden toothpick. There is not even a bit of smooth ground anymore. Even the thyme snaps as if it were stubble itself; while most of the small birds fly from place to place with open beaks in token of suffocation.

The only trees that at first glance seem capable of withstanding the species are junipers. And this is that this species does not want to talk about competitors: in the fields of sunflower seeds or cereals, farmers already know that they do not let anything grow in the space occupied by their deep roots. Thus, all nutrients are absorbed by them. But will they be able to withstand droughts like this summer?

Grassland, wood, lavender, rock rose, lavender, small and great pyrenees, among others, are quietly dying, turning the mountain into a powder keg. And the worst thing is that they are already irretrievable. It did not take any of the terrible fires of that summer to destroy them. The intense heat coupled with the lack of water is the perfect lethal cocktail.

But the only ones who seem to see this are extensive ranchers who need to supplement their cattle’s forage diets and hunters concerned about the scarcity of certain small game species, such as the quail that visits us in the spring and can be heard singing in the grain and the banks of the rivers, and that before the middle of August it migrates to cooler lands, if it can find them, as Spain becomes more and more a desert.

Smaller, better protections

The ones that at first glance seem less affected by so much heat are the insects. That phrase so common in the cities, “if you go out, the mosquitoes will eat you” is as clear as it was in the past. And yes, as long as you don’t arm yourself with a small branch to shake in your face, any walk becomes unbearable at this time of day.

The tireless ants continue with their task of carrying supplies as if nothing is happening and do not slow down, especially the red predators who leave no live bugs in their hunting fields.

As far as I can remember, no other summer has the wasps been so active. They go after the food of unsuspecting visitors who venture to snack or eat outdoors. They always did, but never with this almost agonizing intensity. It was as if they would never eat.

And those who are unfortunately less visible are the bees pollinating the healthy and graceful mountain plants. I don’t know if it’s because before those years the migrant honey traders watered the beehives in the municipality in the spring and collected them at the beginning of autumn. At least these beekeepers put containers of water next to the hives so they don’t have to travel long distances.

Unbearable heat is another effect of climate change. And from now on, every day we will have to learn a few more words from the vocabulary, such as floods, huge fires, heavy snowfalls, hurricanes, huge hailstones, etc.

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