Moments out of time, immersed in Nature
Natural companions in the poztho field … June 12, 2021
There hasn’t been a Blackbird around the crumbles, where we live, since late December. That was when our ‘wintering’ birds departed, presumably to establish breeding domains in the neighbouring dehesa (here that is wild olive savanna). Only yesterday I was thinking when will the juvenile blackbirds be turfed-out by adult territory holders, forced to leave ‘dehesa knoll’ which is 800 metre east of the farmstead. Evicted and thereby, I hope, encouraged by my rewilding work to return and chuckley skulk here at “Tumbling-Crumbles Gompa”. Perhaps to stay here for spring and sing.
Today being Saturday I walked out at about 0800 after a big morning mug of organic passerine-friendly coffee, notebook in breast pocket:
“It’s calm, it’s moist and to the west, the mills stand still below eurosmog hill.
The Barn Swallows nesting in our outside bathroom are incubating their second clutch. The five juveniles from their first brood are still here, dancing around the tall canes that grow beside the white cement donkey trough. Both Thekla and Crested are singing in that delightful, wistfully solitudinous way that Afrotropical larks do. From the fence I can see a tiny bit of Africa: the summit ridge of Jebel Moussa, no doubt in my mind that it’s the southern pillar of Hercules.
It is to my amazement, yet with joyous manifestation, that out of the blue I hear the quiet melody of a Blackbird from the ragged wind blasted Eucalyptus belt behind the old white hut. By getting into a better position and standing stock still I see him. Unlike most rustic blackbirds hereabouts he permits a close encounter. Maybe he remembers my gait and stature from last November when we were both in the ruins.
A line of Cattle Egrets ‘squoik’ as they pass overhead. There are lots of House Sparrows away in the bushes, over by the bullpens. Sibilant of nuptial voice the Spanish Sparrows are breeding here too. Now the weather is hot both species are attracted to the seepage springs below us, where the reddish gravelly metamorphic mantle of this ridge meets the grey clays of the Laguna de La Janda.
Confiding Sardinian warblers are seen; for juveniles are especially numerous now, flitting from olive to olive, they accompany me all morning.
Bee-eaters swoop north across this ridge, one might say, in dribs and drabs. Molten sprites more like, incarnate drops of sunshine these. Is it the same few who return south each evening?
Spotless Starlings are organised into families or clans, chevrons of noisily churring juveniles commute between roost site and the fruiting wild figs. Big leaved beings, who grow wherever they can find a foothold out of the reach of ungulate mouths.
Two Tawny Pipits sing, one in the Poztho field, the other out on the ridge beyond the bullpens. I duck through the rusty barbed fence without snagging my cryptic off-the-shelf summer plumage of short-sleeved khaki shirt and short pants.
Half a dozen Greenfinch and Linnet bob around the big dry thistle patch on the eastward facing slope as I head across towards “Block rock”, which is where I put-out smelly offal for fox, raven and vulture.
This morning the sweet scent of the drying grasses is strongly reminiscent of wild times past. The heady smell is rising heavenwards from the brush, sucked out with the moist air by the heat of the morning sun.
As I watch some Goldfinches charming the wilted clumps of greater thistle I am aware of sticky gossamer, most drifting at knee height. Some floats higher and tickles my face, but I persevere as far as block rock before having to wipe away the sticky strands.
The white headed, presumed second year, Short-toed Snake-eagle roosted on the ground in the great yellow pasture last night. Usually it perches high, on one of the power poles down in the valley.
Juvenile Blue Tits are dispersing westwards out across Poztho field. They reach, we meet, at my new position; the westernmost nose of the stunted, scattered wild olives. There they stop, half turn back, before squeakily bouncing off, north into this calm June morning.
Corn Buntings are about. They have finished breeding. ‘Colourful’ youngsters, fledged 10 days or more ago, are frequent now, and the parents less neurotic nowadays. They remain for me the affable brown Gimpel. Birds before grain these few individuals up here. For here we have in part a pre-arable experience of Triguero and Calandria.
Occasionally there is fitful song and counter song from a couple of Nightingales; they are through the frontier fence, in the olive thickets over in Grogallero’s land.
A few more Greenfinch, Goldfinch and some Linnets pass my vantage point in various directions. I think these are simply to and fro local watering movements.
I first become aware of the highway N-340 at 0845. Visually two large yellow combine harvester are resting in the corner of one vast toxic wheat field, down in the valley, toward the village of Facinas. Spanish Sparrows are zooming hither and back, do they know?
Now I must move directly from shade pool to shade pool. Minimise time in the glare. I find a good vista looking south east toward the Ojen valley and the hazed-out Rif mountains in Maroqui. Four Pallid Swifta are hawking high above the ruins of old house at the Huerta (orchard).
I am an investigator into anthropogenic biological Muzak. Jackdaws call-out in the pasture, where they are the spicy pepper to the cow angel’s salt, around the herd of dun cattle facing east out on the plain. There are a few midges now. The attention of these tiny blackish Ceratopogon devils, and their even tinier trombiculid, eight legged harvest mite mates, have kept me out of this desiccating Poztho field for most of the past ten days.
After a while I move to the frontier fence. Seeking another pool of cool shade from which I can comfortably observe the “pie-chart puddles”. There is nothing much in the ‘bird line’ here, where all four fences meet. Fences that divide the land into subtly different regimes, regimes of ‘grazing pressure’ in this case!
Suddenly, my reverie is snapped, lifted by an eagle. All too briefly a pale morph Booted Eagle (I hope a local breeder), rows south, just overhead, through the still blue sky.
Switching to ears I am aware that a Serin is singing, in the big eucalyptus grove below me, beyond the deer fence of this perimeter. The song is brief and falters. It’s getting daily quieter now; for we avian minded ones are enveloped in sultry summer months of ‘dispersal’. The time of flies, of midges, many of whom seek the shade and moisture of mammalian noses, eyes and ears, and then there’s the stable fly muscids who are wont to jab your legs.
My how beautiful! A Spanish Speckled Wood butterfly, freshly minted by the morning sun basks on a dried thistle leaf, just in front of me. Moments later another Satyr, a pristine Wall Brown butterfly likewise – in the name of all the gods, how beautiful! Browns and more browns, brown and going small; that’s the last refuge of we the last naturalists, the Neanderthals of C21. “Be Here Now” they seem to send semaphore with their wings. Be here, in chaos. Natural companions these, philosophers, in moments out of time.
I descend into a tiny valley in the southernmost fold of the Poztho, past “the hole”. A patent gap in this high frontier fence that marks an interface of human ownership, if not stewardship.
Loving hopefulness, those of us who care about “Nature”, we must live each day in loving hopefulness and pin our dreams to those adaptable ones, lives who can ride out this tsunami of foolish greed, the human tragedy, the curse of capital, that one simply cannot avoid.
Walking on I find the first yellow flowers (this season) of the little cluster thistle, flowers who compliment the galaxies of lowly yellow flax, peaking now, yet close to the cracked grey clay.
Briefly I turned again to face the valley, to face the music of the west. Ecological impoverishment, forever deepening, driven by the hungry ghosts of insatiable monetisation, now finding profit in our own bodies, fooling with our spike proteins, mapping our extinction. In the valley the white satanic mills stand dejected, petrified for there is no breeze. They stand there, serried rows pinning the ground like wasted junkies’ needles, impaling the Earth. As if waiting for the shrieks of electropolis to get them spinning. In fields between the ranks of mills it’s peak sunflower, scattered bald patches, the GM fields of Eurotrazh.
I can’t take that Oceania thread no more, so I turn my back again, turn to pace the perimeter, walking northwards, to face the great silvered Serra wall; that blocks-off Eurasia to the east. Now I am transported back into an old Rajasthan of memories, to a tiny savanna fragment of the losing world. As at last my being rises to the “Goldilocks effect” I am rewarded with a sumptuous feast of aculeate hymenoptera.
There’s five species of big wasp here, one species fields at least 50 individuals, all of them quartering the sandy ground around my tattered sandals in what is evidently an extra special spot. In a sense I’m back home now, ensconced in my own little interface of affluence, Hunter-gatherer style, no longer am I down-the-waiting-room at the reserve ward in the care home for nature. Dumbly awaiting the death of true diversity. And no longer am I in need of any “critical species theory” to inform my qualitative observations.
Finding myself once more alongside the frontier fence and in the shade, I turn again towards the Tropic realm. The “global south”; from here!
A beautiful Turtle Dove jinks past me, three metres out, a slalom flight. For this is Euro-south. So the flight is an adrenalin wave. That weaving flight beloved by gallic gunners. Songs Thrushes, here in winter, down from Fenno-Scandia, they fly this way too. It’s truly strange, for someone fairly fresh from Africa, to find that little doves (among the catholic and arab men) are so furtive and shy.
Three hours after sunrise now, and I’m aware of something in the sky above me. Yes, a dreamy Griffon Vulture mantas past me. Then I spot an eagle in a farther group of five circling Griffons. A dark morph Booted Eagle, always rarer here than pale. The big birds find that morning hot air bubble, and arms outstretched, the magnificent seven and me, we Eagle-dance together, only one is in the shade, flightless beside an olive tree. Wha-hey! The others are free. Never mind, even if I am forever grounded, the Great Reboot.
Yes, it’s three hot hours after sunrise. And now the Levante stirrs. Whispering at first: “Pay close attention, all ye who’re made of water“.
Then the first “zit-zhit” grasshoppers of the day start a-rubbing I decide to turn and head for home and brunch. After only a few paces a big flappy Monarch crosses my path, steadily heading south. Only my fifth here of the year. Why south, why now?
I’m wondering if there’s any moral to my story. Is it make the most of wherever you might be? Is it simply – be wherever you may be? Maybe.
Yeah, I am. I am here. I persevere in an “a-poztho-carry” morning. Here again to meet the Indian gods! I’m learning everyday out here that it’s not all, or not at all, in any of those books.
Is this doubtful, nonsense?
No, and as if to egg-me-on again. “Great Faith” the Raven loudly croaks to me as she flies across this field. She is here, just to be. She too is here to see. To see especially who’s dropped, and what and can you eat it now? We shall see.
Around her Gompa.