Leaving late

The Swifts are Still Here

I was sure they had all gone already but this evening five swifts flew over the terrace, calling and calling.  The weather is changing. It is colder and the clouds are gathering for a big rain.

I hope they get going soon and have a good journey down south.

Imagine that – swifts in mid October!

And home again

Back in Granollers.  And it is good here too!
I went to my first Catalan class of the year, actually the first in two years.
I am now doing Elemental 1 which sounds high level to me but someone  asked me  ‘is that all?’
This time my class is over the bridge in Canovelles. It’s like a different village, like going from Penzance to Newlyn. They are joined up but not the same.
The class was nice, The others were very friendly and even when the teacher wasn’t there they spoke CATALAN!  In my other class everyone couldn’t wait to revert to Castellano which meant I was at a disadvantage. Perhaps it is because we are paying for this course. It’s only 30 euros or so but still we pay so we are keen to succeed.  Class makeup – all women: one African, four Moroccans, one Valencian, two from other parts of Spain and one Scottish. A good group.

On the way home I looked again at the fields of yellow plants and still can’t identify them but now I am sure they are not Jerusalem artichokes. And I saw lots of fish in the river – so it must be fairly clean.

Then Bonnie and I walked to the Casino to meet a friend, we talked Catalan and nothing else for two hours, Bonnie didn’t bark at anyone and on the way home there were still bands of screeching swifts high above us.  Today is October 3rd and they are still here or at least some of them are. They must be the last broods, preparing to fly off to Africa.  And I am the only person in Granollers who stops mid conversation to point up at the sky and scream ‘Mira!  Falciots!  Encara!’   (Look!  Swifts!  Still!)

Nature Notes

So, I am back in Granollers and as I am finding it hard to feel settled and that is not an easy thing to write about, I decided to post some words about what is going on in the natural world.
I am out walking Bonnie every day and as we meander along the paths which are edged with plastic bottles and beer cans and strange fluffy red sponge things, (it makes a change from the brambles and honeysuckle we were forced to endure in Lamorna), I try to find some way of encouraging my roots to sink down into the dusty earth.
It’s always good to watch the birds.
Amazingly the swifts are still here. Not so many, not so often seen but as of yesterday there was a crowd of them shrieking above the city.
By the river which is very low after a long and unusually hot summer, I saw a bird with a large yellow patch on its tail. I can’t identify it. I didn’t see it for long enough to describe it better. I looked  at images on Google and found one almost identical but it too had evaded identification and was only named ‘Bird with yellow marking on tail’ .
It was lovely though.
The heron is still feeding on the river in spite of the mass of floating plastic bags and we also saw fish – quite large ones – swimming near the bridge
At 6pm this evening the temperature was 24C. The last two days have been cloudy which has meant Bonnie and I could walk in the morning without having to get up at some unearthly hour to avoid the sun. It doesn’t really feel like Summer but neither is it Autumn yet.
The Streets
The trees have blossom in the streets around our home. Yet again I must confess to not knowing what sort of trees they are. The flowers are pink and large and plentiful. I have realised one tree near the house is a pear tree as it suddenly dropped lots of fruit on the pavement. Or was it someone with a broken bag coming home from the market?
The River
The most wonderful thing about the river just now is the field of yellow flowers on tall green stems. What on earth are they?  Surely not Jerusalem artichokes but they remind me of that kind of wild abundance.

Well, that is today’s nature diary.  I am ashamed of how much I don’t know the names of what I see. That somehow reflects my general feeling of ignorance at the moment. In answer to almost any question I feel the most honest reply is ‘I don’t know’


A Swift Story

If birds come into my life I pay attention

The robin that flew round the room when I revisited my old home in Inverness, the white owl that very very occasionally flew across my vision when I was driving home from Penzance, even the two little ceramic birds that I bought when I was back in Cornwall.  They both were survivors of a shelving accident and had broken tips to their wings. I brought them home to Granollers and Pep glued them back together again.
A week ago today I was in my room which I call my Niu – my nest. It looks onto the terrace and at the door there is a sort of gully where the steps start. I noticed something dark and fluttery right in the corner of the gully. It was a bird, unable to climb out. I put it onto the terrace tiles and it stretched its wings and identified itself instantly as a swift.

Then started two days of intense relationship between me and the bird.

I found a wonderful web site that suggested ways to help a young swift take to the air again. But it had some injuries to one wing and also seemed inexperienced in flight.

We tried to launch her on the terrace – resulting in several bad thumps to the ground. I gave her water and she drank.   She allowed me to lift  and hold her up to the air without a tweet. She  just looked around with interest. Whenever she felt the air brushing her feathers she would start to flap and thentake off. But it always ended with a fall to the ground.

After a few attempts she got tired and I left her in a shady spot.

Day two and she was nowhere to be found

I knew that swifts cannot get off the ground once landed. Their wings are so long and their legs so short that they can’t push off unless they are up high on a ledge and can launch from there.  She disappeared so of course I assumed she had died in a corner.  A few hours later I heard rustling from the patio one floor down and looking over the railing, I  saw her bobbing around on the floor. She had found herself a ledge on the edge of the terrace and launched once more but unfortunately there wasn’t the space to fly and she took another rough landing. But survived!

In the late afternoon I took her up to the fields above Granollers, beside the tower.  It is a place  I go often when I need some space and fresh air.

It was a sad and worrying walk from the house up to the top with the bird quietly waiting inside a shoe box. Once there I held her up in my  outstretched palms and did what the experts recommend, gently raising and lowering my hands so the air flow encourages the bird to open her wings.

After a few moments she took off…… and then fell to the ground.

We tried again…..this time she went a little further. She was so determined yet each fall seemed to me so violent. But there is no other way. The third flight was the longest and I willed her to stay up but she lacked strength and ended up in a bush. After that she was happy to stay in my hands and stretch her wings but showed no desire to try again. We plodded home  and I found her a bigger box with air-holes and added lots of flies and mosquitoes to her home.  She didn’t want to eat from me although she would drink drops of water from my fingers.

It is such a sad thing to see a swift on the ground – it’s just totally the wrong place. Perhaps there are other birds who could manage an earthbound life but a swift must fly.
The next day I had to go to Barcelona with my friends and I left her resting at home. She seemed quiet and sleepy.  There was someone to look out for her during the day.

When I got back in the evening, she had died.

That is the story of me and the Swift. I love these birds and watch them every day from the terrace. It was a huge honour to be able to connect so closely with one and very painful to watch her plight.

I’m glad she was able to go gently and will not forget how strongly she tried to survive.

Thoughts while walking the dog

Last night I went down to walk Duna near the river Congost. It is one of my favourite areas in Granollers. There is a long stretch without buildings and you pass some hortas (vegetable patches), the geese guarded by Lolita the gentle border collie, and the field of wheat which has now been harvested. It’s like a little bit of countryside right in the middle of Granollers

Swallows swooping, people walking their dogs, the sound of the swifts high above, and occasionally a pair of ducks flying over on their circular routes around the river.
In the distance the hills.
I have some friends coming here to visit soon and I was wondering what they will think when I take them there. Will they see what I see?  Or will their eyes rest more on the ugly flats, the litter and dog shit, the large car park to the left and the industrial zone of Cavovelles across the river?
I can switch views and see all this too – it’s like having a button with two options – beautiful or ugly, nice or nasty, agreeable or disagreeable.
Sometimes it depends on my mood which one I see.
But generally I go there and feel good. I accept that I live in a town and not in the middle of nature as I used to in Cornwall. It just makes me happy that there are these wild places here.

But it struck me how much harder it is to do the same with human beings. Faced with someone who irritates me or who is nasty or disagreeable I find it much harder to just see the good parts. The option button gets stuck on negative mode far too often. I wonder why that is and what it would take to make the change. Practice?