Leela’s Nature Field Note

Living in a big city, sometimes it feels like the only wildlife are you and your friends, but beyond the roads and buildings of Madrid are many hidden treasures.

Introduction:

Can you imagine owning Central Park? Imagine it’s yours, and you can invite all your friends and have private parties there among the trees and lakes. In the capital city of Madrid, Spain, Central Park (which here is called Parque del Buen Retiro) was owned by the monarchy—the king and queen—until about 100 years ago. This massive park houses not only trees and gardens but also a giant lake, a crystal palace, black swans and, during the Spring, an abundance of delicious smelling purple lilacs and adorable baby ducks! Fortunately, the king and queen don’t own the park anymore, since in the late 1800’s, Charles III decided he wanted to share! Hooray for sharing! Who do you think owns it now? The city! That means that it’s public and that anyone who wants to go take a walk and admire the little ducklings is free to do so.

What do we see in nature at the Central Park in Madrid, Spain?

Aside from the traditional animals, like pigeons and dogs, this park also has gorgeous black swans with bright red beaks and gaggles of soft yellow ducklings. The flora, or plant life, of the park boasts an impressive array of trees, including weird looking sumacs (these are the trees that look like green popcorn) and lush lilac.

But this park isn’t just the 15,000 trees and birds. It also has a giant crystal palace, made entirely of glass. Inside the palace, artists hang up their statues. The park has other impressive structures as well: a huge lake you can paddle boats on, several soccer fields, and two museums that used to be royal houses. It sounds like a big place, right? It is! It’s 300 acres! But that’s less than half the size of Central Park in New York.

What does the black swan look like?

The black swan has shiny black feathers, an oval shaped body and a long, snake-like neck. It has wide, leathery black webbed feet and a bright red beak. It’s neck has impressive movement, similar to a snake, and it can twirl its head around over 360 degrees! How far can you turn your head around? The black swan’s neck is so mobile, in fact, that if one of its green eggs rolls out of its nest, it will use its neck to wrap around the egg and place it safely back in the nest.

How did I feel when I saw the black swan?

Just like many other people gathered around the pond where the two black swans stood on a patch of green grass in the sunlight, I became hypnotized. I was in awe. I watched in awe as they lifted and twisted their long, strong necks so they could reach various parts of their bodies. They would lean their neck forward and dip their red beaks in the water, creating a rippling reflection of red on the glossy surface of the pond. Then with this bit of water they turned their necks back around and brushed the water over their sleek black feathers until they shone like stones.

Where does it live?

Not surprisingly, the black swan does not come from Spain. It comes from far away: Australia! When the king and queens of Spain’s past first built the park (it was private, remember) they wanted to have exotic plants and animals to impress their friends. With its dark black feathers and red beak, the black swan seemed like the perfect exotic bird to impress their friends.

Many other kings have felt the same way, and the black swan has become a popular imported bird in royal gardens all over Europe, especially in Britain. But these birds are crafty, and they often escape the gardens!

How does it use its environment to survive?

After the black swan breeds, it cannot fly for up to a month. This means that it cannot escape from predators, or fly to more water in case of drought. The swan needs a safe, calm body of water during the month after their breeding. The pond outside of the crystal palace provides a safe haven for the two black swans that live there.

What can harm this creature? Are we worried about it?

The National Park and Wildlife Act protects black swans, and they have no natural predators. No one is very worried about black swans. In fact, Australia is so confident in black swans being around for a very long time that they are featured on the flag of Western Australia. In Spain, the only thing that harms these creatures could be the people who try to feed them all kinds of weird things: corn nuts, pretzels, cotton candy, you name it! It’s better to just admire nature and not try to feed animals food that might hurt them.

Watch a video here! https://www.dropbox.com/s/wffzaltxk2lxzew/Black%20Swans%20Retiro.MTS

Baby Duck Perching

Baby Duck Perching

Black Swan Crystal Palace

Black Swan Crystal Palace

Black Swan One Foot

Black Swan One Foot

Black Swans Long Necks

Black Swans Long Necks

Black Swans

Black Swans

Lilacs!

Lilacs!

Retiro Lake

Retiro Lake

Soccer Field in Retiro

Soccer Field in Retiro

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