The flycatchers were having a serious squabble yesterday morning outside my study window. The migrant birds have arrived, and this nesting spot which has been empty through the winter, has suddenly become much sought after real estate. I’m not sure if the original occupants have come back to their summer home, or if squatters are trying to take over.
You may recall this entry, Bye-Bye-Birdies, where I pointed out how the birds seem to like using my knitting and sewing trimmings. Yesterday’s argument involved pulling out the previous bedding arrangements – presumably in preparation for a fresh new look – and the dwelling was left in what realtors might term “move-in ready condition,” or des res, as in “desirable residence.”
But today all is quiet. No sign of eager tenants. There are plenty of flycatchers darting about the grounds, and many have nested at the side of the house, but this particular residence appears to be no longer desirable.
I think it’s a fine spot to raise a family. It’s sheltered, the views are fabulous, the air is fresh, and there’s an abundance of organic food for the offspring.
It will be interesting to see what happens.
The weather worm has turned, and the snow I commented on in the previous post arrived overnight on Wednesday. But it did so very quietly. Sneaked up. We were forewarned of the impending change, but it came without fanfare. No whipping wind. No roars of rage. Nary a rattle. Odd, as it typically comes smashing in as though to remind us how helpless we are, and how beholden to its whims.
I wonder what’s going on up there on big O-mountain? Zeus and Hera have barely whispered to each other for several weeks, so is this snowfall a sign that they’re gathering up their strength for a monumental row and aggressive show of Zeus’s force yet to come?
The birds were rather taken aback, for as fast as I put out seed, so did the snow blot it out.
It’s only just begun
Agitated tweets trilled from the shelter of the bougainvillea which shook and shimmied with all the activity, while I made several careful excursions across the icy terrace to replenish the buried seed. Pretty much in vain for it was almost immediately covered up again
What’s going on?
The birds persevered, and so did I, but Thursday was not a day of happy feasting for them, and only by noon Friday did the feeding situation improve. Night falls quickly at this time, so there wasn’t much chance to eat their fill.
Here comes my pal. The food’s under there…somewhere.
Saturday, and all is well!
The weather here on the Pelion is weird, as I’ve already mentioned in “EATING BREAD AND HONEY…” and is a major topic of discussion. Everyone has an opinion, everyone has a tale to tell of weather past, present and future. Some predictions are dire: “Well do I remember the winter of 19-whichever…; how we suffered in 20-whatever…” accompanied by heavy sighs and headshaking. The audience falls respectfully silent and the prophet of doom is gratified. Souls of more cheerful disposition take an optimistic view: “Isn’t the sun wonderful? It will surely continue, so enjoy!”
There are reasons for the seasons though, and much as we revel in the unexpected warmth, it really shouldn’t be so. We need rain, and we need it badly. We need snow, snow that will melt gradually and replenish the water table. We need some freezing to control pests which will otherwise inflict themselves on man, beast and plant in the hot months. Perhaps it’s reassurance that we need the most in these turbulent times; things do not stay the same, not even the weather.
Nature is also confused, blooming far too early – one can’t help but wonder if she’s about to get a stinging rebuke. Probably.
The bougainvillea beyond the kitchen window should have been bare weeks ago, but is putting out new flowers as though challenging the elements. Bees, wasps, hornets and great big bumblebees are busily buzzing and bumbling all through the short daylight hours.
Fruit and blossom on the same tree in late December
It’s strange to hear excited twittering in the branches at this time of year. Migrant birds have long since arrived to build numerous nests among the colour, jostling with the resident sparrows, all seemingly unaware that their shelter might be devastated by a north wind as sudden as it’s vicious.
Can you see the bumblebee?
I put seed out for the birds each day
and although Raki regards this as his own personal playground, his half-hearted attempts to assert himself are largely ignored by the nimble birds who retreat in a flash to the branch and leaf of safety.
There they hide, chittering at him until he loses interest and retreats to the comfort of an armchair. The sentry bird up in the olive tree trills the all-clear, and back the feasters come.
Hope springs eternal
The weather will surely change, these birds will move house and take up residence throughout the property, and I will continue to provide seed for them. But Nature is cruel, and some of these birds will be food for the raptors. Life goes on.
The Death’s-Head Hawkmoth is very large with markings resembling a skull, hence the name, and has long been associated throughout Europe with all manner of superstitions. It squeaks, which I find fascinating, but this unique ability has doubtless contributed to its ill-deserved reputation as an announcer of death, predicting everything from plague to war.
Eye-catching! The Hawkmoth caterpillar
The genus name is Acherontia, a reference to the river Acheron in the Epirus area of Greece. The Acheron flows from the mountains down into the Ionian Sea, and was prominent in Greek mythology as one of the five rivers of death in the Underworld.
Perhaps Persephone wandered its banks, weeping into the dark waters?
I’ve seen the Hawkmoth caterpillars on the property fairly frequently, feeding their way voraciously along, but have never been able to capture a good picture of the moth. Unless one happens to fly into the light, they’re not easy to spot at night but I’ve heard the strange squeak they make; one can understand why primitive peoples were so preoccupied with them.
No pesticides or poisons of any sort have ever been used on this land so we are fortunate to have quite a variety of insects which creep and crawl, flutter and fly about on their foraging missions, ducking and diving from their natural predators. Yes, of course the garden suffers to some extent, but it’s amazing how the birds by day and the bats by night sort things out somewhat.
I wasn’t ready for this close-up!
The colourful Death’s-Head Hawkmoth caterpillars are so striking that the lowly worms inching and squinching their munching way along seem insignificant by comparison.
Forget the cyclamen flowers, I need the leaves
Whether they creep or crawl, are large or small, worms and caterpillars are highly regarded by birds, so their lives are constantly under threat whatever their colouring.
Knitting needles, a few yards of yarn and a button or two – I give you GoogliBugs.
Watch out for birds!
Quite tasty, no?
Minor’s puzzled…where’d he go?
What is this stuff?
Nice ‘n’ fresh!
Trying to worm your way in?
Lots here to fatten me up!
These leaves aren’t up to much, don’t you think?
The food’s beautifully presented
Pink’s my favourite colour
With a lot of luck, these may become moths and butterflies!
Are we related?
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Tagged bats, birds, Caterpillar, colour, crawling, creeping, Europe, garden, GoogliBug, Greek mythology, Ionian sea, kids, knitting, leaves, moths, Pelion, threat, Underworld, worms