Welcome rain and flamingos

The rains are late this year in Greece.  Everyone is waiting.  The olives need it to plump up ready for the harvest and the rivers want replenishing.  Just like elsewhere climatic changes are altering the seasonal shifts; the tick tock of the annual clock.

Climatic uncertainty affects our ontological security, that is when things that we have come to know and believe become unreliable.   Confusion sets in. Birds arrive or leave earlier or later, or maybe even overwinter, and new species turn up unexpectedly on our doorstep such as the hundreds of Portuguese man-o-war washed up in the UK (Plymouth Sound) over the last week.

Fortunately the rains are coming here.  As I write this evening, sat upon my apartment balcony, distant lightening momantarily illumines the sky and thunder rumbles in the background. Rain is on its way at last.

Two nights of rain and the wetlands which were dry yesterday are totally transformed. Water has made its silent journey through the mountains and the vegetation to settle in the flat plains of the coastline, and with it, its wildlife.

So it is with excitement that myself and three students from the Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation, undertake a bird survey in the wetlands across the bay from the research base. As we pile out of our minibus, Jack calls out ‘flamingo’ and there they are, 14 of them with 7 grey herons as companions. We climb precariously up the side of an old ruined building to take a better look. There are no bird hides here so we have to make do.  But from this spot, we balance in silence taking in the strange shapes that are feeding on the water.  Flamingos, although beautiful are undoubtedly odd beings.  Their shape blurs with the water and it is very difficult to see where bird ends and water begins.  Instead them and their reflection merge to create alien pink shapes.  Quite astonishing in the afternoon sunlight.

The grey herons are grouped together bar one who mingles in with the flamingo crowd, in turn one flamingo wanders over to join the herons who are grey, old looking and hunched compared to the elegance of the intruder:  a swan amongst the ugly ducklings. It is amazing how soon they have arrived; they must have smelt the rain and set off on their journeys. They live up to 60 years old and are spread though Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East and here in Southern Europe.

There are some other interesting birds too: a lone broad-billed sandpiper, a willow warbler, stonechats and the usual hooded crows.  We quietly meander through the vegetation, over old walls and along the seafront; so lovely to be out of the office.