Sunday, 23 September 2007

A stroke of luck!

A few years back Liz and I were holidaying in Gaucin and, hoping for a good lunch at a rustic venta we headed into the mountains. Naturally, this being Sunday afternoon, the venta was packed and we couldn't get a table. Now ravenously hungry, we continued on our journey towards the nearest village - Alcala de los Gazules. Here we found an excellent meal at Pizarro's and, despite the rain, were very struck by the view from the top of the village. Accordingly when we were out in Spain again we gravitated back to Alcala and weren't disappointed. If the village still managed to look charming in the rain, then it looked positively stunning in the sunshine. Not only did we find the view, but also some very obliging Lesser Kestrels to watch. This seemed to amuse one of the locals who witnessed, from his terrace, my antics in the street below as I tried to photograph the birds. As we turned away I looked enviously at the small house with such a fantastic view and commented that it would make a fabulous home for a birdwatcher. The journey back to Gaucin as the light began to fail, a thunderstrom crashed about us, hailstones whitened the road and reduced visibility to nil feet was an utter nightmare.

However, the memory of the handsome little village persisted. When, a year or more later when we unexpectedly found ourselves in a position to buy a house in Spain, we knew we had to go out and look in Alcala. In a morning trudging round the village we'd seen a couple of pleasant properties, but our guide told us of one more we had to see that afternoon. As we walked up the road that afternoon to our incredulous disbelief, we paused outside that same house to be told that this was the property we were to see. Few estate agents can have made such an easy sale, but once we'd seen the view from the terrace (see the photo above) we'd no doubt that we'd found the right place!

Tumbling Lesser Kestrels

One of the highlights of staying in our house in Alcala for me are the Lesser Kestrels. Despite being largely summer visitors to Europe, a few of these charismatic birds are present throughout the winter around Alcala. Come February - which is hardly the spring let alone the height of summer - they can be present in good numbers. With 40 or 50 over the whole village there are often a few dozen bouncing around above the terrace at this time. Keeping up a cheerful chatter, constantly playing tag and so full of energy that they constantly race across the skies, they bear an uncanny resemblance to a mob of small children in a school playground! One favourite trick is for the adult males to dive bomb rivals as the hover. There's little doubt that these lads are showing off to the ladies! Superb views can be obtained of the birds as they perch on the trees opposite the house particularly from the bathroom. You do get some strange looks, though, as you scuttle up to the loo armed with binoculars, camera and telephoto lens!