The Natural World

True to form, at 3:20 AM Jake, the black and white cat, decided that it was time to go out and roused me by scratching on the bedroom door once again. Naturally, I made the journey across the cold tiled bedroom floor obligingly to let him out.

Orange plantation To recover from another disturbed night of rest and relaxation, we took a walk up the valley to try to get into Alcalalí, the next village up the river, for a beer before wandering back. Our route started off beside the river with crag martins swooping about, egrets on fishing missions, and the occasional kestrel hovering over the fields looking for lunch. There were a number of small LBJs hopping about on the edge of the river. We didn’t instantly recognize these guys but we eventually identified them, with the help of a field guide, as chifchafs. They’re not by any means rare but it’s the first time we’ve had a positive spotting of them. Passing almond and orange plantations, we could hear the almost ever-present serins chattering away frenetically but they are quite shy and difficult birds to see.

Alcalali, remaining inaccessible We couldn’t really remember the precise route to take to Alcalalí. In fact, since last years floods, there is a lot of flood defense work being undertaken and it’s possible the route has changed. Eventually, however, we did find a river crossing that would have taken us into Alcalalí. However, probably due to winter rains, the fording point was a little too deep for our footwear, so we retraced our steps for a beer at the Aleluja Bar in Jalon.

Parasitic pod On our return trip we noticed a strange vine-like plant bearing large pods, roughly the shape and size of papayas. The plant was certainly using many of the orange trees for support and, since the orange trees bearing it looked less healthy, it may have been parasitic. Unlike papayas, the pods were very light for their size. Eventually we found one of the strange pods open revealing a host of seeds with feathery parachutes. We have as yet no idea what this plant might be so we’ll have to try asking a few locals.

Parasitic seedsTo complete the excitement on our return trip, Carol spotted a hoopoe flying before us to sit for some time in a tree before deciding that we were finally too close and fluttering off. There is no stranger ornithological creation than a hoopoe and they are always a thrill to see.

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