Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Ornithology surprises

In a mood of industriousness this morning, I wrote two sermons, one for the Aljambra Eucharist on Thursday, in honour of St Simon and St Jude (about whom precious little is known),  and another for All Saints' Sunday. While preparing the former, I discovered there's an ancient church at Maku in northern Iran, in the region where Iran meets both Armenia and Azerbaijan. It's possibly one of the world's oldest Christian sites where the apostles are said to have been buried, martyred nearby, after evangelising in Armenia and Iran. Under islamic rule today, the church is said to be only accessible to pilgrims on their festival, one day a year, rating this as the world's most inaccessible Christian places of pilgrimage.

After lunch I had a phone call to tell me this this Sunday, it'll be Bible Sunday readings at the Mojacar Eucharist, and not All Saints. It didn't take me long to re-edit last Sunday's effort for Llanos, so now I am a week ahead! What shall I do with myself? There are no weekday services here next week - so far, but it was possible there could be another funeral, after all. I quite enjoy being in a position to pick up on anything that comes my way. It keeps me on my toes. It does my mind good. Heaven help me if I ever run out of things to do!

Later in the afternoon, I made myself go out for a walk. The weather is warm, but overcast, just like Cardiff, except that the clouds are a bit higher. Blue sky is such an incentive to get outdoors, a day like this is a temptation to turn in on myself. Anyway, I decided to explore the road on the north side of the Rio Aguas nature reserve. On the way over the bridge I got some good shots of a moorhen and a reed warbler, one of several pairs active in the reed beds, expressing itself occasionally with a noticeably loud distinctive call. Several pairs of moorhens were there before, but I'd not identified them, but confused them with the gallinules that are also present. There's this tiny diving duck with scruffy plumage. It might be an immature something, though what, I can't begin to think. Earlier I identified it as a teal, but now I'm less than sure. Its behaviour rules out it being a coot or a moorhen. For now it's a mystery bird.

The walk up the un-metalled road took me was the end of the golf course which is part of a golfing resort occupying land between Mojacar and Garrucha. I've walked around sections of it before, but have never seen anyone playing a round, and just one person on the driving range. The weather is great right now for a round of golf, so why is the place deserted? I wonder. 

After tarmac ran out, I followed the un-metalled track for another kilometre, as far as the cement works, and then crossed the dry river bed for the return leg. The entire length of the arroyo, both the section where there's water, and where the watercourse is underground, is rich with a variety of small birds, very hard to identify. At one point a flock of several dozen took to the wing at the same time. The energetic sound of the birds taking off surprised me. I would have needed the camera to be on, and set to video record to capture what I saw. 

It wasn't a flock of sparrows, the sight of which I am used to, but of even smaller birds, whose flight pattern was both erratic and distinctive, the entire group flew in patterns to avoid and confuse predators in a way I don't recall seeing before. I wonder how many more time I'd have to return to their territory to see that again.

So glad I made the effort to get out of the house for an hour or so.

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