Year of Grace, Day 44. A bird sanctuary

I woke up to a low band of red on the horizon that hinted at the coming sun. Yesterday’s forecast had been rain today, all day.

The sun peeped between two banks of grey clouds, its heavenly duvets as it were — perfectly formed – a grey circle limned thinly with gold. Before I could capture this magic on camera, the sun had hidden itself in the uppermost duvet. It stayed there for about 20 minutes. Perhaps it was making its mind up about today, perhaps even drinking its first morning cuppa, just like me. Ah, there it is now, out from its snug and fluffy quilt, it has decided to go out and work after all. It hurts to gaze on it now and gone is the perfect circle it had been just minutes ago. It is turning out to be another sunny day. I am no longer used to having sun on a reliable basis everyday. I find this regularity surprising and most wonderfully amazing!

I have to admit it is rather a challenge sticking to my normal journal-writing schedule. I wonder how Jane Austen managed; not that I’m in the same class, mind. Biographers report she had a portable desk (the forerunner of today’s laptop 🙂 ) and wrote in the midst of whatever was going on. Household chores, parties, her family conversing and conducting their normal daily routines all around her – these didn’t faze her, apparently.

The sunbirds are calling out to each other outside – click, click followed by a high-pitched “too wheet” or possibly “to eat?” They are like humming birds with curved beaks and bright blue-green feathers over a dark tiny body and they hover over the citrus trees in enormous clay jars set on the rooftop terrace just outside.

I am reading “The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared” again. It is the first novel that I was given to read in German by a friend. It is even more hilarious in English!

Perhaps it is the abeyance of my normal routine that’s affecting me. I feel I do not write with the same ease and fluidity. Perhaps too much excitement and novelty all at once hinder me. Perhaps. But I shall try and not ponder the whys too much and not let this bother me.

I have never seen as many cranes in the space of two hours as yesterday. They began as a pair twenty years ago and as the years passed, news spread by mouth (by beak?) among the wider community and now they spend all winter here, as many as 30, 000 of them. They congregate in several large flocks around these water meadows protected from cold winter winds by surrounding mountains. Egrets, nutria (an alien species — a water rodent imported for an incipient fur industry decades ago, but have escaped and are now a nuisance), kingfishers with their brilliant blue feathers, spectacular red and blue dragonflies (one of my favourite insects), orange butterflies with their wings tipped in black and white (lots of them), tilapia in ponds, owls, red kites and other predator birds – all are protected here and co-exist among groves of native oak, eucalyptus, pomegranates (many with hanging fruit), and other flowering shrubs and trees.

Dwarf kingfisher

Dwarf kingfisher

There were no pelicans or flamingos or water buffalo to be seen but I was not disappointed. The cranes were enough spectacle for me – every few minutes, a pair or more would detach itself from the huge flock, and go off and fly overhead and provide an aerial show. The flocks made such a din – their honking was loud and often it seemed to me that they were just nearby, when they were actually quite far off. Their calls reminded me of that Japanese children’s anime series, Nils Holgersson.

There were not too many people around – we hired a golf cart for a leisurely trip around the small lakes. Families picnicked under the shade of trees all around this wildlife sanctuary. I would have loved to sit and have lunch surrounded by the warm comforting scent of fig trees. Perhaps in a charming botanical garden with ponds filled with Nuphar lotus, Nymphaea water lilies, and papyrus, where lots of small fish, including endemic tilapia, swam close to the surface. These tilapia are survivors of a tropical climate here a million or more years ago. One small kingfisher on a reed was exceedingly enterprising: in the space of 2 minutes, it had dived repeatedly, each time bringing up a fish in its beak, which it swallowed rapidly once back on its reed perch. Perhaps it was just showing off for my camera and me.

We had a late lunch in a family-run, very informal eatery shaded by bitter orange trees full of ripening fruit. Here and there some fruits had fallen onto the ground. “Please do not pick the fruit,” a sign said. Stuffed peppers and courgettes, a baked kibbeh, beef braised in a sour sesame seed sauce with chopped vegetables, rice with noodles subtly seasoned with nutmeg and a bit of clove. Preceding these homely but delicious dishes was a refreshing salad of a few sweet tomatoes and sliced wild chicory greens and their stalks (olesh), mildly bitter and naturally sweet, sharply dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, and flecked with purple sumac. This plain but lovely salad keenly sharpened appetites already primed by hunger, as it was already past 2. We were much too replete for dessert. A finjan of coffee perfumed with cardamom poured into a tiny white ceramic cup rounded this simple but satisfying meal. It was a lovely finale to a great day, another beautiful, sunny day.


4 thoughts on “Year of Grace, Day 44. A bird sanctuary

  1. 4+3=7 One of my preferred number with 3 and 9…..Your 43 was excellent always so entertaining….Carry on ! Bisous Pat


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