We return to our flat in Portugal. There seems to be some normality but with fewer people and more masks. We walk the boardwalk of Cabanas and add more steps in the light and warmth of a southern sky. The house martins’ first families are almost fledged under balconies where they are allowed to nest. From our balcony I watch them dart and swoop around the Judas tree which once again is betrayed by the chopping of strong limbs and so gives home to fewer insects to feed the hungry young birds, I hear the sounds of the old man’s chickens and watch him water his vegetables. But for how long as the traditional portuguese house with its large garden is now for sale. Yet another building plot to be and at what price.
We walk our favourite walk by the old fortress where the umbrella pines bow over and the old mulberry tree sheds a few half ripe berries. The goldfinches are still there but we do not see the hoopoes or the little owl. The path now closed for public access allows the rabbits to dart by. But the dogs and the people have moved below to the sand flats of the lagoon.Here we see no waders such as greenshanks, red ones, sanderlings, plovers and curlew. A large and lonesome cattle egret stalks some fish.
Along the beach grows sea purslane with its thin tough leaves lined with tiny lilac flowers. I wonder how it sees the sea, feels the sea when the tide rolls in to lap close by. By the sea purslane is the samphire and higher up the beach is the shimmering white of the lygos in the cooling Atlantic breeze.
Myriads of fiddler crabs dart on the wet sands and into the bushes of samphire. Some so tiny but also there are some large ones with rather bleached white singular claws waving to one another and warning of our presence as they finally slip below the sand as we approach. Further along the beach there is the other path to the cliff also considered private and where we used to walk. The prickly pears are in flower and the bees are tempted to invade and somehow avoid the large and tiny prickle of needles. The European swallows like to live here and nest somewhere within or by the sandy cliff.
Above the normal tide mark are some strange squidgy looking shapes of a deep purple colour. This being is not of the earthy land but perhaps from the bottom of the sea. Ants are investigating one and a fiddler crab darts out and seems to claw it but then either sensing us or some inky poison it withdraws suddenly. Turning the splodge over we see some tiny feet like protuberances. This one is hardly alive in the heat.There are others nearby. One moves and seems more slug like as it turns and tries to move towards the far off water. Will it make it? Can we help? There is a sense of helplessness at the distance to cover. Why didn’t we walk out with a bucket? Would that action help or hinder the natural cycle? Other purple sea slugs are more buried in the sand, waiting for the sea to return if it reaches this far again, and soon.
I feel the Portuguese sense of ‘saudade’ for what is lost. We wait and wait for the boat to come home, for the tide to turn. We sense the changes in the wind.
All feels far away
Like the young summer swallows
In need of new homes
The photographs show the house martins not the swallows but they too have a long journey to their African homelands and on their return here have to build up their mud nests again. And below are the birds seen one February. I wonder where they go in May when it is usually much busier here. As the lockdowns unlock slowly I hope there will be changes for a healthier planet and we can be closer to the places and people we love to see. All the best from Portugal now the border is open between Andalucia and the Algarve.