Early Morning Call

I sit here on our balcony at 5.30 in the afternoon, the tab holes of two empty beer cans sadly eyeing me as they sit forlorn side by side on the table, and I am in the company of a pair of Spanish sparrows and a collared dove feeding within touching distance. They are gorging themselves on fragments of digestive biscuit I crumbled for them; they seem most grateful. These birds are common all over the island, but close to are really most handsome. Particularly the sparrows that, between bouts of feasting on biscuits, chirrup loudly and incessantly from the date palms a few metres from our balcony. With no alarm clock and thick curtains it is not obvious that dawn has arrived, but these persistent bachelors commence their piercing chirping with first light and make quite an effective early morning call. They don't stop until sunset.

We spent today exploring the northern half of the island spending some time at Mirador del Rio, a fantastic lookout point giving breathtaking views from the weirdly sloping cliffs to the much smaller island of La Graciosa and beyond. No birds or wildlife of note here though, we had to wait a couple of hours before driving past Orzola for that. Stopping at a vantage point overlooking conventional golden sand as opposed to the jet black beaches elsewhere, we espied a large bird just offshore that seemed to have an unusual flight style. It would have been easy to dismiss this as another gull, but closer scrutiny showed it to be an osprey. The bird was coasting northwards, we were heading south, so we backtracked and parked in anticipation of intercepting it and getting a better look. Success! But only for a couple of minutes before it noticed a few sunbathers on the far side of the inlet it was hovering over. It turned with the wind and was gone in a flash.

Other notables were a couple of migrating swallows and a trio of swifts (don't know which species) over the hotel. We've booked a trip with a local birder for Friday and hope she will be able to find the island specialities such as cream-coloured courser and Houbara bustard for us. Having no site guide or knowledge of this place makes looking for these birds needle in the haystack territory, but despite the avian alarm clock we're enjoying ourselves and after all that's why we are here.

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