While parts of the UK were celebrating some long-overdue sunshine yesterday, we were glad to see rain. February, often billed as the worst month of the year in these parts, has been dry and mild so far.
Sunny again today but everything had a fresh feel first thing. Chaffinches, long-tailed tits and woodlarks were flying around the dogs and me earlier on, singing their hearts out. We were in "The Park" as I call it - a small area of open woodland near Sorède. I imagine it was originally designed as a kind of mini botanical garden with information panels about various trees and shrubs. Sadly the panels - and irrigation system - have been systematically vandalised over the years and the area is returning to its natural state. The only ongoing maintenance seems to be an annual strim for fire prevention reasons, given its proximity to a retirement home.
"Strawberry trees" (arbutus unedo) are scattered throughout. They do well in this region and it's good to see so many in the park because they're the larval food plant of the striking Two-tailed Pasha butterfly. No butterflies today (unsurprisingly) but I was surprised to spot a hummingbird hawkmoth, hovering around a rosemary bush in full bloom. Don't remember seeing one of those before, so early in the year.
A bigger surprise was in store, however. A few metres further down the track the dogs stopped, sniffed, and 'pointed' to something up ahead. Clearly flummoxed (and a little nervous), they weren't budging. I was practically on hands and knees - down to their eye-level - before I could see what they could.
It was a wild boar, about fifty feet away, on its way up the same track. It too had stopped and was giving us the once-over. We all stood motionless for a few seconds, sizing one another up, before it turned tail and disappeared into the undergrowth.
It was quite small and had no tusks (something of a relief) but it's unusual to see them in the daytime and I couldn't help thinking it should have been tucked up in a thicket somewhere. An errant teenager late home from an all-nighter with his mates perhaps? Or simply celebrating an abundance of worms close to the surface, thanks to yesterday's rain?