Two harsh, scratchy notes from somewhere in the canopy immediately made me look upwards, searching the leaves of the Combretum tree for a glimpse of the long, chestnut tail.
Those notes were succour to my sweaty October brain exhausted by months of dust and increasingly oppressive heat. They meant the rains were coming!!! The Paradise flycatcher was back and in breeding!! Hooray!!
And with them heralded tropical storms, rivers of mud pouring across the maize fields, and flying ants (termites) covering the kitchen floor in clouds of delicate discarded wings each night in search of a mate.
photo: Grzegorz Lesniewski / Wild Wonders of Europe
The European swallows also arrived for the rains, their familiar high pitched trills sang at a hundred miles an hour as they swooped through the African sky. Late in the evening when the storm clouds piled up into vast meringues, the termites would miraculously appear from tiny holes in the lawn. Fluttering tentatively skywards, only to be feasted on by the swallows as they dive bombed the poor unsuspecting souls. A snappy click of their beaks and they were gone..
So around about now October/November, those handsome guys (the swallows) will be arriving in southern Africa at the end of their long trip south from Europe. One of nature’s incredible marvels.
photo: Sandra Bartocha / Wild Wonders of Europe
For me, here in England – my African brain needs realigning to tune into nature’s northern hemisphere nuances. Everything is fresh and wondrous – childlike and spectacular! My walks across the fields and down the countryside lanes are such a joy. I’ve discovered that the white flowers of the blackthorn bush turn into plump dark purple sloe berries!!! Who would have guessed! I scared another walker witless a week or so ago as he was sneaking around a thorny, nondescript looking bush with plastic bag in hand. Very suspicious… but he revealed to me that it was sloe time! So feeling like a true local I took heed and copied suit a few days later. We got to work in the kitchen and now have several bottles stashed away hopefully doing their magic.
A couple of weeks before I had witnessed our Swedes going nuts at our annual general meeting at Ulvsbomuren. Well not nuts per se… heh heh.. but there was a special kind of mushroom which grew beneath the old forest, amongst the huge mounds of moss carpeting the floor. They gathered handfuls of the fungi, cooking it up to take back to the city. And each day we were fed off wonderful delights, pure and unadulterated by man.
photo: Staffan Widstrand / Wild Wonders of Europe
Wild nature really does provide. But the key is to leave some for others – two, or four legged, or no legged even. Harmony.
Perhaps then, no small coincidence that I’m writing this just as the acclaimed documentary “The End of The Line” has received The Puma Creative Impact Award, after being hailed for bringing about real change in its efforts to stop the oceans being emptied of fish. The marine environment is one aspect of European nature that we have NOT lived in harmony with. The award is perfect timing as the European union is debating and negotiating the future of our seas. Some of the reports and allegations that have emerged have been nothing short of alarming, and I’ve honestly struggled not to bombard our facebook page with all the news for fear of turning us into a purely “fishy” lobby group. But its serious stuff and if you havnt watched the film, please do!
To leave you on a positive note – From Autumn this year, the UK government now requires all government departments and agencies to source their fish from sustainable fisheries. A good step in the right direction and Iets hope this will convince many other governments to follow suit!
Please note that blogs reflect our photographers' opinions and not necessarily those of the directors of Wild Wonders of Europe.