This year I have been away for rather longer than usual, and it was nice to return home from a distinctly wintry Scotland to find that Spring really had reached here; the train and bus journey from the airport showed me all the brilliant greens of this wonderful season, and the cherries were still in exuberant blossom all around Ceret, including the two in our garden.
That garden was, however, a real mess, the result of a considerable amount of rain followed by real, early warmth (see Lesley’s blogs). As I worked to clear some of the astonishing growth of weeds, I was also very conscious of the noises of the season. Describing sounds is very difficult, I find, and it is hard to avoid the cliches: so the goldfinches were tinkling as they flew overhead, and the greenfinches wheezing, while, of course, the black redstarts, posed on almost every roof-ridge around, warbled and rattled constantly. More melodious were the calls of the blackcaps, ( but I think they have mostly moved on now ), while the blackbirds were both musical and loud; actually they still are-if I happen to be using the phone outside while on the terrace, anyone I am talking to always asks whether I can hear them for the racket!
And, from the wooded hills behind us and across the valley, I was hearing wrynecks - dozens of them. As Lesley has mentioned, I frequently told her this, and she always replied that she, living under the Albères and closer to the coast, had heard none, or very few. One day, I decided that I wanted to see them, as well as hear them, and went for a good walk in the hills, alert, binoculars at the ready. Of course, I only heard one, and saw nothing. Since then, I have only been hearing them occasionally, maybe once or twice a day. They now appear to have (mostly) moved down towards the coast, and an appreciative Lesley. This pattern has been repeated before, and it is an interesting - and to us, unexpected - movement of these rather elusive birds.
Initially, on my return, the weather was rather changeable, and it has, as usual, continued to be quite windy. One such day, when washing the dishes, and focussing on what I was doing, out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of something bright and yellow, bobbing up and down just below the arc of soft pink that was the tamarisk blossom outside our kitchen window. Refocussing, I realised it was a little bird, and grabbing the binoculars, saw that it was a male serin, so brilliant in colour that he made a yellowhammer look drab. He was clearly determined to sing, but had chosen a moderately sheltered perch from which to do so; he continued for some minutes.
Since then, the local hoopoe has been visiting, and adding his voice to the spring melody. I awoke to his soft calls this morning, and the sun pouring into the bedroom, through the vivid greens of the cherries’ new leaves. It is a really special time of year!