Signs of hope

A Spotted Flycatcher on migration (Martin Kelsey)

An obession drives the sun-beaten people once the equinox has passed, and this year especially. Yes, I find a sense of conclusion at this, the end of nature's year. Flaxen gold swathes of crisp dry vegetation have locked-up the story of last year's autumn rains, winter mists and spring luxuriance.   Summer's end is the epitaph of the annual cycle. And rightly it feels as a time for rest, stasis and reflection, deep as the shadows left by the holm oaks in the dehesas. But we are getting fidgety and slightly nervous. Save a couple of days of rain a fortnight ago, the summer has shown no sign of breaking. The overgrazed pastures on the plains are dustbowls, shrivelled olives lie wasted on the ground and water bodies stand shrunken. We wait for autumn's reward.

But whilst the landscape is on hold, deeper, more fundamental cues of change are all around us, the silent tsunami of migration, on cue and unstoppable. For a few weeks denizens of boreal forests and central European woodlands linger with us on their journey south. They are everywhere, but for most people they pass unnoticed, a flicker out of the corner of one's eye. A Pied Flycatcher pausing on a fence, a Spotted Flycatcher on a branch, a Willow Warbler at the base of a solitary shrub on the plains. Northern Wheatears curtsey on dried cowpats, flights of Pintail pause on lonely pools. On massive dam walls, vast numbers of House Martins congregate, this photo shows at least 1300 (I counted them) gathered this morning at Alcollarín.

Over a thousand House Martins at Alcollarín dam (Martin Kelsey)

And at my feet, there are signs of hope and rebirth. Brave autumn flowers that draw sustenance from the energy they carefully stored in the spring, as their erstwhile leaves, unremarkable and ignored, photosynthesed under the March sunshine and their bulbs and tubers swelled with sugars. In September these leaves have long-since withered and crumbled, but fragile, yet stoic stalks have emerged to carry the tiny delicate flowers aloft. A miracle from the dust.

Autumn Snowflake (Martin Kelsey)

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