Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Twitchers Paradise

The summer is drawing to a close, the holidaymakers are packing their sombreros and returning to the grey skies of Northern Europe and the temperatures are starting to cool to bearable.

Most of the almonds and grapes are picked and as the chorus cicaras and crickets start to fade we residents are looking at all the jobs to be done on the farm now we can’t use the sweltering heat as an excuse for doing very little.

However, some of our summer visitors are still around and they are a joy to watch. These valleys are a twitcher’s paradise. We have the expected early arrival of the Swallow, Swifts and House Martins to watch from early spring onwards. Building their mud and spit nests in the corners of eaves and pergolas and making a mess on patios and terraces with their dropping. We can excuse this because it is great to watch them sweeping the skies as they catch flying insects for breakfast and supper.

One afternoon in April as we sat in the shade of the terrace we heard a cacophony of squawking as large, dark, moving mass covered the sky and travelled along the valley from the Mediterranean Sea to the south. This marked the arrival of our most exotic summer visitor, the colourful Bee Eater. We now regularly see them sporting their beautiful blue, green and yellow plumage sitting in rows on the overhead electricity cables waiting for tasty morsels to chase.

In the heat of the afternoon sun, as we sit on the covered terrace, we suddenly realise that the skies have been quickly emptied of all small birds as they head for the cover of the trees. This is shortly followed by the cries of a pair of magnificent Golden Eagles calling to each other as they soar on the thermals up and down our valley looking for small rodents, lizards and geckos to feed themselves, and the young secreted higher up the mountain. Sometimes as they swoop low over our farm I worry for my poultr,y but so far none have been taken as they are wise enough to run for cover as soon as the eagles’ large shadows covers the sun.

In around July time the numbers swell of the comical Hoopoe with it’s striking black and white stripes, long curved beak and tufted head. As its’ distinctive call fills the air we realise just how close to exotic continent of Africa we now live. In fact on a clear day we can even see the outline of the Riff Mountains of Morocco on the horizon.

How lucky we are to live in such a wonderful place; even though our farm is quite remote we are never alone or lacking in entertainment.