Saturday, 20 August 2011

Spain 10th August

Today three of us head back to London - Catriona and the girls leave tomorrow. It's a stunning morning with a clear blue sky and just a slight breeze and already at 10am it is quite warm. There seems to be a movement of hirundines through the high part of the valley. For the first time this week I saw a small group of House Martins feeding around the house and fields, they spent an hour feeding and then they were gone.

I mentioned before that the valleys around here are very important migration routes through the Pyrenees for birds. In September there are quite large numbers of raptors move through - especially Honey Buzzards. Again as I mentioned before, the main interest in the autumn (apart from fungi) is the annual passage of Wood pigeons through the mountain passes. One of the traditional ways of taking them is by using large nets set up through the lower woodland valleys. To ensure they descend down, the hunters hide in their tower hides (Palomeras) and as the birds fly over, the hunters throw dinner plate size flat discs out over the birds which cause them to drop down in to the nets in the valleys below. That's the general idea from what I could glean from the translation !

A Palomeras

Late morning, Catriona, the girls and I took a walk up the hill behind the house. There was a brief flyby of a Red Kite and a couple of Griffons soared pass high overhead. Lower down, we had numerous lizards, small brown butterflies and large unidentified dragonflies.

Bracken cut and stacked to dry

This fly was at least an inch and a half long and looked quite menacing

 Returning back an hour later we had lunch before our departure time of 5pm for the airport.

The time went quickly and it was now time for Liz, Lily and me to head for Bilbao airport. Saying our farewells to both my family and our hosts, we headed off up the narrow road which then leads to the main (but still narrow) mountain road down into Extalar. It was here that we had a shock. Just around the bend from the junction were 8 or 10 Civil Guards, complete with automatic weapons across their chests. Asking us to stop (which we were only too happy to do) I quickly said 'Ola, English' and they waved us on. Sitting in the grass beside the road was a rather seriously looking 'stinger' - the sort of thing the police throw across the road to puncture tyres - they certainly meant business ! Further down the road was another vehicle, but no road block. Thankfully the rest of the journey to the airport went without a hitch, arriving at around 7pm and soon having a cool beer . The flight left on time and in what seemed like no time at all we were arriving at Stanstead, just before midnight.

After the rioting that had been taking place in London over the last couple of nights, we were wondering what we were going to find. Things looked fine apart from one group of four police officers patrolling the street on foot.

Getting to my bed at just after 1am was a really nice feeling I have to admit.


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