Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Guide'sTale - no one to lead but himself.

It’s been a hectic time leading various tours and day trips so far this year, but what to do on those rare occasions when you have some spare time? I mean time truly on your own, no one else at home or anyone demanding your time! I must admit the temptation is to lay back, relax, read a book or simply do nothing at all, but living where I do, between 2 UNESCO Biosphere parks here in the centre of the Serranía de Ronda, the call of the wild constantly rings in your ears. It’s a calling I am unable and unwilling to resist, so spare time is spent taking-in details of nature without constraints or demands, just strolling through wild places stopping to appreciate the comings and goings of late autumn birds in my favourite surroundings. Time too for reflecting on a hectic schedule and experiences gained over an autumn migration of wonders.
It now seems an age since the door to autumn slowly opened, the sounds of Africa escaped and weaved a spell on our summer resident birds here in Europe. The month of July may sound early for the call to return to Africa but here, near the main crossing point over the Strait of Gibraltar, evidence of migration was overhead and through our valleys. The sheer volume of birds involved in the autumn rush to leave for warmer climes was staggering. For the grand spectacle, then the larger migrants perhaps offered the audience a star attraction, but to see thousands of our smaller passerines, such as Bee eater Merops apiaster, forming colourful clouds as they left our shores was, I think, a sight that all should witness at least once in their lifetime. Here in southern Spain, we are so very fortunate to live so close to areas where we can bear witness to one of the natural wonders of our world.

Now there is a keenest to the air and a bite on the strong winds that sweep our valleys, most of our summer visitors have departed and we await the return of wintering birds. It’s a strange time of year, the lull before the storm, an in-between moment where still there are signs of migration with the fall of birds such as Black Redstart, Common Redstart and both Pied and Spotted Flycatcher, but lengthening shadows support the arrival of an ever shortening day and an air of resignation descends upon a landscape anticipating respite from the blistering heat of a long summer. The red haw berries and rosehips are ripening as leaves change colour, fall and drift across a dry landscape, soon these fruits will provide a banquet for visiting thrushes and fallen seed a feast for Alpine Accentors, truly the arrival of large concentrations of Ring Ouzel will herald a beginning to the end of our autumn.

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