Then just before dusk the bats appear, taking over the flycatching from the hirundines as they return to their nests. After dark, the whoo-hoo of the tawny owl can often be heard, or the distant screech of a barn owl. Cicadas chirrup in the bushes, and some temporally challenged cockerel will usually sound his quiquiriquí alarm at around 2 am.
At dawn the songbirds are at their busiest, darting in and out of the trees and bushes to feed themselves and their young before the heat of the day sets in. By mid-morning most of the smaller birds have taken refuge from the sun, except for noisy bands of spotless starlings which sometimes descend on the big eucalyptus tree next to the house, and sparrows which hop along the electricity cables and occasionally take shelter on our windowsill. In the distance, vultures and raptors take advantage of the hot air thermals, drifting across the sky with barely a flap of their wings.
Apart from the birds, our roof garden is visited by a colourful variety of butterflies, beetles and crickets, even the odd praying mantis blown over from Africa on the Levante. Possibly because it is almost always windy here, we are not unduly bothered by mosquitos or wasps, apart from the solitary mud-wasps with their dangly bits hanging behind them. Great big navy-blue carpenter bees, whose wings appear too fragile to get them off the ground, often blunder into the wall and lie stunned upside-down on the ground until we flip them over.
All the joys of nature - without even leaving the house.
|House martins (avión común in Spanish )|
|House martins nesting|
|Swallows (golandrinas )|
|Lesser kestrels (cernicalo primilla)|
|Cattle egret befriending a vaca retinta|
Cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis) are found wherever there are cattle, and there are a lot of cattle round Alcalá. They are a type of small, gregarious heron. Their official name in Spanish is garzilla bueyera, but they have numerous local names such as espulgabuey.
Confusingly, the cattle egret is larger than a little egret (Egretta garzetta), and has an orange bill rather than black.
|Spotless starlings (estornino negro)|
A group of spotlesss starlings made a guest appearance at the Alcalá International Music festival a couple of years ago. The Soloists of London were performing in the patio of the SAFA; confused by the spotlights, the roosting birds thought morning had come early and started to sing. At one point they almost drowned out the music!
Other "things with wings" which have visited nuestra casa:
|Green cricket in the lemon-grass plant|
|Praying mantis on the kitchen windowsill|
|Red Admiral on the lantana plant|
|Mud-wasps are not aggressive and prefer spiders to humans|
|Carpenter bee - the male has no sting, and the female prefers flowers|