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Spanish Secrets: A Wily Old Bird

…Spring in Galicia is a time of rejuvenation and new life. Beautiful song birds perform romantic mating rituals. Tiny buntings whistle their song, darting from branch to branch amongst the leafless Spanish oaks. Colourful male finches preen themselves in the hope of luring a young mate. Giant storks loudly clack their long bills and circle the sky in contented pairs…

Craig Briggs welcomes the official ending of winter gloom and is entertained by the antics of a wily old duck.

What a difference an extra hour makes, particularly when it’s at the most useful end of the day. What started in 1916 as a wartime effort to save fuel, has become a contentious bi-annual event.

Since its introduction almost a century ago many individuals and governments have championed its cause. A host of reasons have been given for retaining this eccentricity of time, few of which make any logical sense.

For me, the most appropriate reason is “the feel good factor”. Altering the clocks in spring instantly lifts the gloom of winter. Long, dark days are now behind us and the joys of summer are on their way.

Spring in Galicia is a time of rejuvenation and new life. Beautiful song birds perform romantic mating rituals. Tiny buntings whistle their song, darting from branch to branch amongst the leafless Spanish oaks. Colourful male finches preen themselves in the hope of luring a young mate. Giant storks loudly clack their long bills and circle the sky in contented pairs.

Far less romantic, but much more comical, are the mallards. Whilst walking along the river bank in Monforte I noticed three young males stalking an older, larger female. She glided gracefully through the water, minding her own business and searching out a tasty breakfast. Before long the three young drakes, line astern, were paddling furiously through the river in pursuit.

Noticing her three would-be suitors, the female let out a disgruntled quack and upped the tempo. Like an Olympic slalom skier she twisted this way, then that, in a forlorn attempt to shake off the chasing drakes. Slowly but surely the eager young ducks closed the gap. One last effort and the prize would be theirs.

Just as the first young drake was about to mount his trophy, the old duck lifted her skirt, dipped her head and dived under the surface. The highly aroused males looked on in disbelief and waited for her to emerge. But this wily old bird still had a trick up her sleeve.

Shortly after diving she resurfaced upstream, lengthening the gap from her pursuers. Before long the three drakes were back on her tail paddling for all they were worth. Unbeknown to them, the metre gained by her skilful underwater manoeuvre, had allowed her to recover her breath and refill her lungs. With one final gulp of air she upped her tail and dived beneath the dark surface.

Confident of her reappearance upstream, the three young males, still line astern continued their swim against the current. A few moments passed and then a few more. Finally she reappeared, looking slightly worse for her dive to freedom. But instead of continuing her submerged swim against the flow she’d backtracked underwater. Swimming with the current she’d re-emerging at the river bank, ten metres downstream.

After a thorough shake she scrambled up the bank leaving her eager and inexperienced admirers chasing shadows someway upstream.

This wise old bird once again proved that there’s no substitute for experience.

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craigandmel@msn.com

Copyright © 2007 Craig Briggs




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