Friday, 14 October 2011

Of storks and snails

It is called the Park of of Birds, but it should really be the Park of Snails. They were everywhere, congregating in clumps and attaching themselves to inhospitable looking plants. This strange, in-between place, where fresh water meets the sea, is definitely poised between two worlds; humidly marshy, as though you might disappear into quicksand if you ventured off the track, but with sudden blasts of fresh sea air. When it started to rain we heard frog voices all around, ribetting appreciatively, and because of the swampy feeling I couldn't help thinking of gumbo stews and what would go in them here! I am told that there are also eels, which are very nutritious and delicious I'm sure; I'm vegetarian so I don't really know...  

As we ran along a path of wooden slats with bamboo grass on either side, gekko lizards scurried out of our way and the local mosquitoes welcomed us as only they know how. Crossing one stream I saw many groups of fish gathered together, all pointing in the same direction, not swimming at all, as if they were queuing or assembled for some purpose other than that of daily life. A mystery, like many others, that will never be answered.

You may not immediately recognise these for what they are; manmade stork nests!  I know that from the scale of the photo they could easily be mushrooms, but they seemed to be about a metre by a metre on top. They look a bit deserted at the moment, though.  From far back people all around the world used to build nests for storks in their roofs to encourage them to hang around, as they were supposed to bring good luck.  In some cultures they were even credited with possessing human souls!  Whether that is true or not I couldn't say, but they seem to enjoy an excellent reputation everywhere. I would really like to see a stork chick, which is bound to be less elegant than it's parents, but is even more sweet I'm sure. Because of the good weather here I think they can probably have their chicks at many different times of the year, so maybe I will be lucky sooner rather than later.

You are not allowed to get very close to the birds because it is a conservation area. My camera's zoom is not brilliant but you can just see some of the many storks, egrets and herons we found here, cavorting about in this little lake. I asked the girls if these storks brought babies to worthy French couples and they assured me that it still happens!  Clever things.

More storks, happily perched.  There are few predators to harass them here; maybe foxes? In other parts of France, the Alps for instance, there are wolves, but I don't think there are any near Montpellier.

White horses; after all, we are very near to the Petit Camargue.  My brother suggested that it is called the Petit Camargue because everything is small; little white horses and little black bulls, dwarfed trees and so on, but strangely enough everything seems to be the right size. Nice idea though. I will come back again to see the storks and snails, but I might need to go further afield to find something that is one of the symbols of this region but I haven't seen yet, although I am told they are everywhere; flamingoes.

1 comment:

  1. I'm envious of your storks, sister. Here on Dartmoor, the leaves are turning by the day and Autumn's coming in fast. I love it. (No flamingoes here, either, though.)