With the Ravens of Asciscar

A sweet and healthy spot at a freshwater spring on an olive-studded yellow hillside in Andalucia.

It’s nine in the morning, an east wind blows off the nearby craggy grey wall of the Serra del Turco. I am sheltered from the wind and shaded from the brilliant morning sun by a clump of old gumtrees. I stand in a grove of wild olives next to the frontier fence that separates this common grazing land of the Pozo field from the less heavily grazed savanna of a large hunting estate.

I look out westwards into Eurotrazh. At modernity’s white windmills and great yellow blankets of biofuel. Land sacrificed to the lust for more and more power. Power to negate nature.

Beyond the wires: thickset chestnut cows graze knee deep in golden oat grass. Gullible great ungulates seemingly oblivious of their role in the middle scheme of things. They amble past against far distant blocks of metamorphic limestones that stand between us and the ocean. Peaceful under a smoky blue sky. Swifts and below them swallows perforate the heavens. Beneath those flickering blackish beings iridescent bee-eaters rejoice. Sometimes it seems they only need heat to sustain the myriad hymenoptera upon which we all depend. Pollinators as crucial as the flies; the garbageman of history. Biting rubbish girls too these flies. Ravens, first one, then her mate, quickly cross the hill side below me surfing the fluctuating breeze. Kronk is also in search of carrion.

An old broken ruin, 300 m south, has a crumbling white gable wall upon which a young little owl blinks with bleary eyes at the morning sun.

I am so safe. Contented, just to be surrounded by the sounds of twenty birds species. A selection of confiding juvenile passerines come and go to perch just in front of me. Arranged along the top of the deer fence like Christmas decorations. Finches mostly, but also occasionally a warbler, slim, dusky grey and off-white, Sardinians usually. But also momentarily a Blackbird (they are shy here in Spain). Occasionally a clumsy young Woodchat Shrike all over frosted grey yet with rufous hints to the covert feathers of wings and fanning tail; bill agape. Six young at least, both broods here and more, are out and about today in this so-special Pozo field. Only once a primrose yellow fresh Melodious Warbler perches right in front of me. But my bins, draped over my right shoulder in order that I may scribble these notes, cannot be untangled fast enough to get those gripping views.

Here there is no bloody awful blood-pressure traffic whine, nor techno tinnitus windmill wifi to distract a vagrant mind from the ever present moment. No din to hinder the quality of livingness for the one man standing here. Secreted in those shades of green, a cool manger of the morning day, albeit my body is tickled high and low by muscid flies, itchy, spindly brownish legs. Delighted by sensuround am I not-I, by the 360° of connectivity with “Nature”. Nothing special, just perfect.

The purring of Turtle Doves, a regular sound like summer ripples quickly breaking on a tiny pebble shoal. Only two songsters are still going strong on this first morning of July at 36° north: the sweet and gentle warbles of flighting Thekla Larks and on the crown of this hill a Tawny Pipit’s insistent “che-wee … che-wee”. Though greenfinches still trill in every stand of trees.

It’s the ITCZ folks, google it in your browser, now approaching its northernmost limit, it’s a 3000 mile roll of thunderstorm clouds tracking the apparent movement of king sun.

Although three adult Barn Swallows flicker fast and low northwards, very late migrants, across this hillside vantage point this morning, VisMig reveals the start of autumn proper here. A juvenile House Martin and a juvenile swallow hurry past, the other way, heading south.

Whilst Nordic colleagues revel, in a temporary snuggle-down of glorious simmer dim, the stream, it’s started. Covid or no Covid, the winged ones are heading south over the vast Sahara to humidity, to moisture, too feed. I pray they make it quick. Oh yes! the return to Nubia-Equatoria it begins.

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