Week 48: Ricochet

Our home between meadow and sky

Our home between meadow and sky

Wild flowers in our garden; when I think of how we tried to grow this lavender in London - and failed - and how prolific it is here without us lifting a finger!

Wild flowers in our garden; when I think of how we tried to grow this lavender in London – and failed – and how prolific it is here without us lifting a finger!

Our abundant prickly pear: two kinds growing close together, and producing both buds and new pads

Our abundant prickly pear: two kinds growing close together, and producing both buds and new pads

We hear plenty from these, but this is the first time we saw one: the Iberian pool frog, or Pelophylax perezi

We hear plenty from these, but this is the first time we have seen one: the Iberian pool frog, Pelophylax perezi

 

How foolish of me to have said last week that we hadn’t heard the hunters since January. How easy it is to tempt fate. Our Sunday morning peace was shattered by the sound of gunshot ricocheting around the valley. Sunlight glinted off weapons on a nearby hill. We decided to pack up and go to the beach. In itself, not a bad thing.

On the way to the sea, we stopped to see some Dutch friends and take them a new loaf of bread to try out. We told them about the hunt we’d heard earlier. Our friends are well-informed and have a no-nonsense way about them. Hunters are only allowed to shoot at certain times of year, and this time – breeding season – is emphatically not one of those times. Should we wish to discuss this with anyone, here’s the name and number of the local mayor, who is very highly regarded.

We haven’t made a call yet; thought we’d wait and see if it happens again. We don’t want to make enemies – certainly not of men with guns. I don’t, for the record, object to hunting. I’d rather eat wild boar that’s succumbed to shot than a factory-farmed beast any day – for both my sake and that of the animal. But the hunters should follow sensible rules, and it seems as though they don’t. Even our Portuguese neighbours think the hunters are crazy.

Beach

The beach was beautiful and swept all cares away. Things are hotting up there now, but we walked past the recently installed lifeguards and sunbeds until we were free of everyone else and stretched out on the warm golden sand by the blue-green water under a mackerel sky. (We had bought fresh mackerel ourselves from the market the day before. Its iridescence was enough to light up the sky; clouds are but a poor imitation of it, really.)

Birds

The other sound that ricochets around our valley these days is the ‘fee fiyoo’ whistle of the golden oriole, which has arrived in numbers. Husband mimics the sound quite well and it seems that he sometimes gets an answering call. He has also seen plenty; perhaps the whistle gives him privileges. I haven’t seen one yet this year, but it can’t be long. Since their Portuguese name is papafigos, or fig-eater, I’m keeping an eye on our fig tree. Husband’s best friend from Berlin, staying with us this week, also got a good view of the bird and could hardly believe that such a gloriously yellow-lacquered creature was real. He was equally enchanted when we got a clear sighting of the little owl, which arrived on its telegraph post before dusk had quite fallen: such a beautiful thing, and so small, like ‘an owl that has been shrunk in a hot wash’, he said.

As the hunters threaten decrease, Nature all around is on compensatory increase. The space around our front terrace has been fertile ground for coition: lizards, sparrows and serins. The oh-so-elegant – though inelegantly named – red-rumped swallows continue to appear on the telegraph wire, swifts criss-crossing the air behind them. The swallows babble at high-speed, their black-capped heads and long piercing wings glossy in the sunlight. One morning this week, the male was there alone, preening. Along came the male sparrow and shuffled towards him inch by inch, with each hop swiping both sides of his beak on the wire, as though sharpening a blade, until he closed in and the swallow gave up and flew off. It is the sparrows who have won the mud-tunnel nest. The heavy whirring of their wings as they approach and leave it suggests they only just have the flight dexterity required. I’m a little prejudiced against them; it’s not their nest, after all.

One bird, however, has not been seen for many weeks now: our very own black redstart, the bird that drank daily from the water bowl I put out for him, and roosted under the terrace roof. It seems he only winters here. I will be happy to see him – or his kin – again, even though by then summer will be a distant memory. Summer. We have yet to experience a full Algarve summer.

PS The jeep (see last week) is fixed; it wasn’t a big problem and was very satisfactorily dealt with by the garage.

4 Comments

  1. Hazel

    So you won’t be missing London’s pigeons!!! The hunters remind me of Malta, where they pick off migrating small birds as they fly over. Here, we’ve blossom busting out all over, sun shining, birds tweeting away above the traffic hum. We’re still almost muffled up in coats and gloves, though — although a few hardy folk are to be seen in vests and shorts and flip-flops. Dunno how they can bear it — there’s a nippy wind. Looking forward eagerly to late June! xx

    Reply
    1. Edith (Post author)

      Hello H! Looking forward to late June too. About Malta: thankfully it’s nothing like that here. By comparison with that island, the natural environment here is quite well protected. (Doesn’t mean it’s perfect though.) xx

      Reply
  2. Patricia Roberts

    How lovely are your descriptions of the life around you ,it will be good to see for myself love Ma.

    Reply
  3. fatma

    Love the picture of the frog; what a wonderful abundance of wildlife and plants you are presenting to us!

    Reply

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