Well, the first snows are high on Canigou, the weather is fresher, and for us the boating season is firmly over. It has been more mixed than usual this year, weather-wise, with a lot of wind and sometimes an impressive swell to cope with. Despite that, we have had some lovely days, and ventured a little bit further along the coast, both to the north and south.
The last few days at sea gave us some nice moments, and some interesting sightings; as ever, there were gulls and cormorants, as well as a few immature terns. Once again, we concluded that these were sandwich terns, despite the fact that they look rather chunkier than most books suggest. Strange that we never seem to see the adults. With them, we again once saw an immature gannet; even in the distance, its magnificent dives made it obvious. But as we have slowly increased our awareness of the richness of the life in this sea, we remain puzzled at the lack of seabirds – there are plenty of fish for them to feed on!
What we did see, at last, were dolphins; not the fabulous, breaching-all-around-the-boat vision of my dreams, but good, repeated views of two dolphins nonetheless. They did not leap high out of the shining sea, but we could see little variation in the dark grey of their bodies, and that, allied to their size, relatively restrained behaviour, and the fact that there were only two of them, convinced us that they were common bottle-nosed dolphins, a nice sighting with which to end the season.
But Martine also added to our list of things seen underwater; this was a strange creature, which we visited twice. It was a common sea cucumber, new to us, weird and spiky. According to the invaluable "Marine Wildlife of the Mediterranean", they are found "on shallow bottoms, covered in sand and seagrass, rich in organic matter. Spawns at dusk (which this was not), during summer, when it is easily spotted in a vertical position releasing eggs or sperm".
I shall only say that on our second visit, it had clearly performed this vital task, and had returned to its normal, probably rather unexciting, life.
And on land, one wonderful, end-of -season view: I was working inside one dull grey day when I heard, repeatedly, the familiar call of the bee-eater – lots of them. I grabbed the binoculars and ran outside to discover that on this one occasion, the birds were all around the house, flying low, sometimes even below me, landing briefly on trees and bushes in nearby gardens. In the dull conditions, not for once blinded by the sun, I could see their glorious colouring, and admire their excited flight around me, even seeing them catch and carry bees (presumably!) in their bills. Simply wonderful!