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Showing posts from August, 2020

Wandering minstrels

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Nature tells me that by 15th August autumn has arrived in Extremadura. There is something about the freshness at dawn, after nights that have now lengthened to almost ten and half hours long. The turquoise midday sky is now bereft of Black Kites, most of which are already in Africa. And the arrival of a tiny bird from northern Europe marks the change of season with certainty. This morning I watched a loose group of four of these lemon-soft sprites foraging along our driveway. In tireless fashion they popped in and out of view amongst the narrow leaves of an almond tree. It was an exploration with a search-image of miniscule arthropods, to be found on the underside of the leaves. These were reachable by peering from a perch, or by making a short, fluttering hover just bill-distance from the foliage. Exhausting possibilities there, they flew across the drive onto a patch of lawn and then onto the gravel. So engrossed were they in their morning foray for food, that they ignored me comple…

A swift appointment

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Standing in Trujillo's main square one evening this week, loud screams distracted my quiet contemplation of the socially-distanced groups dining at the pavement cafes. The disturbance came from above. At the rooftops, small bats rolled out from their roosts and fluttered over the tiles. But the sound came from higher still. Only then, squinting hard into the disappearing light of when evening turns to night, did I make out the culprits. A swirling gang, wheeling and dealing swifts, growing in density as if by vortex, others were sucked in. Perhaps there were sixty or so, it was hard to tell. I glanced back to cafes and realised that no one else was peering, stiff-necked, upwards. I was the only one mesmerised by these aerial barracudas. Perhaps no one else had even heard the screams.

Gravity sucked these long, stiff-winged birds downwards, plunging towards the cavities and cracks in the masonry in the 16th century palaces cornering the square. There they would roost. Some of the sw…