Swallows and Swallowtails

06/07/2015 00:00

Coming from the lush, verdant landscape of North Wales I imagined that Almeria, renowned for its sunshine and arid conditions, would be somewhat devoid of flora and fauna. How wrong I was! Despite the dry soil there are magnificent, colourful plants and trees, both wild and lovingly tended in gardens. I sit in my own garden and marvel at the ingenious insects, fabulous butterflies and diverse bird population: a feast for the senses.

Outside my bedroom window on the first floor is a tall bottlebrush/Callistemon tree (native to Australia) which the birds, especially sparrows, love. They cling on whilst it sways in the breeze, flitting back and forth to the lofty row of cypresses, then shrieking and chattering on the almond trees. The dawn chorus is deafening yet delightful: a reminder of the joy of life.

The larger birds soar on the mountain wind currents: magpies and orange buntings have been spotted so far but I need a good pair of binoculars to identify more species, though they move so fast it may not be possible for me to do so. The swallows (las golondrinas) dip and dive over my pool, trying, I think, to take a sip on the wing, despite the chlorine.

There are numerous small, colourful butterflies, all of which I intend to identify in time, but the most spectacular has to be the swallowtail. Previously I had seen this gorgeous creature only in books or in 'butterfly jungles' ('Pili-Palas', Anglesey) so was amazed and spell-bound when one landed beside the pool. There was a tiny drop of moisture on the concrete paving into which it dipped its long proboscis, obviously desperate for a drink. Camera! I feared it would fly off immediately but it stayed around long enough for a decent photo-shoot! I now see them regularly visiting my flowers; they especially love the roses.

We think of roses as being quintessentially English but they have been grown in Spain for over 800 years. Mine are flowering profusely at the moment but I do water them thoroughly every evening: essential. Everywhere one travels in this region, along motorways or up in remote spots, stately, ubiquitous oleanders are to be seen with their bright pink, coral, salmon, blood-red, white clusters of flowers. I have a hedge of oleanders fronting my garden; it gives perennial privacy as well as colour.

Another popular and magnificent shrub/climber is the bold and beautiful bougainvillaea. It bursts forth in a profusion of pinks, maroons, purples, reds, whites, with many permutations, from parks and gardens all over Spain. They are not to be messed with, however, as the spines are sharp in contrast with the come-hither flowers! I have a large pinky-purple 'Boug' which throws itself over the stone wall to the adjacent valley. 

But, by far the favourite for me at this time of year, are the startlingly blue masses of flowers adorning the jacaranda trees. I had not seen anything like this natural display in the UK so had to do some research to find out what they are. It is a tree native to south-central South-America which has been cultivated world-wide due to its beauty. I must get one, I thought, only to discover I have three in my garden! Being in the mountains, we are a little behind everyone else so, when those bare trees bearing large, brown, woody pods burst into blue, I was delighted! I will download some pictures soon when my camera has stopped misbehaving.

My garden is relatively small but it also hosts citrus trees, almond trees,  three jacarandas, a GIGANTIC fig, palms, cacti, a wisteria, geraniums, and many more, too numerous to mention. So saying, it is time to do a little tending and watering so I shall write later about the fabulous insects I have encountered in my brief time here in Los Utreras.