Monday, December 27, 2021

Winter Along the Muga River

Yesterday, the 26th, was Boxing Day in England and Sant Esteve here. This rates almost as a second Christmas. Everything is closed. You have Christmas dinner with one family and Sant Esteve with the other and on Sant Esteve you eat canalons. It was also one of those special winter days. The air smelled clean and the sun was out and if it was shining on you, it almost felt like spring. 

Cupcake and I went to walk on the path along the Muga river. Last Tuesday a paddle-surfer spotted a dead body in the Muga a little further downriver, but we were further up where there is a small woods. I’ve been reading a couple of books that talk about Russia and I’ve been listening to Borodin and walking under the trees made me think of the vast birch forests that I’ve never seen except in my mind’s eye when I’ve read Checkov, Tolstoy, and Turgenev. Coming out from the small woods there was a huge carob tree. There the air smelled sweet from the crushed carobs underfoot. I’ll bet they don’t have those in Russia.

Pont Vell (Old Bridge)
A medieval bridge from the 13th century
repaired many times

Cupcake doing one of his two favorite things

Snow-covered Pyrenees in the distance

Sunday, October 31, 2021

A Foggy Morning

Tonight may be Haloween for you, but here it’s La Castanyada, the eve of Tot Sants (November 1), the day when people go to visit the cemeteries, cleaning and decorating the niches of their deceased. For La Castanyada there are parties where people roast chestnuts (castanyes in Catalan) and sweet potatoes and eat as many panellets as they can afford. Panellets are marzipan cookies that come in many flavors, but the traditional ones are covered with pine nuts and are the most expensive. What am I saying? They are all very expensive. And while just about every holiday here has its related special food, often a pastry, for me Tot Sants with its panellets takes the cake.

When I lived in Tarragona, our apartment was across from the cemetery (we thought that would mean it would be quiet, but it didn’t really turn out that way) and we could watch the cemetery fill with flowers from our window. When I came to Figueres, I had to walk to get to the cemetery to see the flowers. And so I went. There are only two entrances to the cemetery and when I got there there were police cars all over the place and the street was closed off. A local gypsy had shot and killed a French gypsy over a drug dispute. In the cemetery. That saga went on for months, with others from the French clan coming here to kill a donkey or vandalize the home of someone in the local clan in revenge. The following year I skipped the visit to the cemetery.

I may go to the cemetery tomorrow, haven’t decided yet. But none of this has anything to do with today’s blog post. Early this morning when I took Cupcake out, it was a normal morning with some clouds. A little while later when we set off for Vilabertran to walk the path, we were fogged in. It is not often we get thick fog here and it turned the usual countryside into an other-worldly landscape.

Irrigation canal

Friday, October 8, 2021

Wetlands in Drought

 Early in September I returned to the Aiguamolls to see the birds. There was visibly less water but there were still birds there feeding. I found the same black-winged stilts, wood sandpipers, moorhens, and little egrets, although maybe fewer than before. I don’t remember seeing ducks.

But when I came back two weeks later, in the middle of September, there was no water and no birds. It was a depressing sight and I haven’t been back since. Where do they go when the ponds dry up?

This is the field where, on one of my first visits,
I found horses and white storks grazing peacefully together.
The greener area was the pond.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Wetlands in Flight

 All through the summer there has been very little rain. When I went to the wetlands a month ago, the drought was apparent with the pond visibly lower than it had been just a week before and there were fewer birds. But there were still some there having their lunch: black-winged stilts, wood sandpipers, moorhens, mallards, and little egrets.

So I settled in to see if they were just going to wade around and eat, or if something might happen. And as luck would have it, they did decide to fly a little bit, maybe just to please me because I was being so patient.

Black-winged Stilt

Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

Behind: Black-winged Stilt
In front: Wood Sandpiper

Little Egrets

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Murky Waters

When I go out to take photos, I sometimes have a plan and sometimes I don't, but if I do, I know that it’s also good to be flexible. Maybe the weather’s not right, maybe those glorious fields of rapeseed flowers have been harvested, or maybe the birds didn’t show up. But none of those unfortunate circumstances mean that I can’t shoot something else or the same thing but with a different perspective.

That’s what happened this week at the wetlands. It finally cooled off enough to venture out and drive over. But this time I went to a different pond – the second of the only two ponds that are being suupplied with water from the park’s reserve through the summer. 

There I found nothing exotic (by that I mean flamingos). But I did find a species I hadn’t seen before. Of course being that I’ve only recently started trying to identify birds, maybe I had seen them. In fact, from a distance I thought they were ducks. My bird book said they were coots. It seems they run across the surface of the water when they take off to fly, but I didn’t see that.

So what I did see was coots, ducks, gulls (couldn’t figure out which type – there are several), and a white stork, a gull, and a little egret in flight. The murky water and reflections produced photos that were more interesting than their subjects. It was a good day.