Wednesday, February 8, 2012

On frozen pond

Gale force winds and cold weather have kept us from going too far from home. With cabin fever setting in we decided to visit the Aiguamolls nature park in Empuriabrava to see how the flamingoes were faring in the cold.

First we decided to cook some rustic cabbage soup to fortify ourselves against the cold. It  takes no time to cook this soup of potato, onion, garlic, stock, cannellini beans and cabbage and it is perfect for cold weather. This accompanied by some double baked bread and a piece of sheep's cheese cut from the round we bought at the market made for a lovely lunch.

 When we arrived at the Aiguamolls  we were greeted by a robin redbreast on the sign to the park. We went to the first blind near the entrance only to discover that most of the large, shallow pond was frozen and there were very few birds in sight but at one end of the pond we spotted the flamingoes. Fortunately, we knew there was another blind close to them so off we went. We had nearly arrived when our path was blocked by two calves munching ferociously on the grass. Every time we went to pass them they did a little scamper off towards the blind. Finally we passed by them and headed into blind number two.

There were the flamingoes in front of us looking a little pinker than last time. Some flew off and the colour of their wings was quite breathtaking, a vivid hot pink and black. Quite beautiful. One flamingo returned and landed quite gingerly on the ice. You could see that he wasn't sure what to do next as the rest of the flock was on a grassy island. He started to fly but really he ended up walking and flying across the ice in total slow motion like a cartoon character. It was very funny.

On this same little island we spotted two newcomers, grusgrus or European cranes from Russia or Scandinavia. They are the largest European bird. Apparently, it is very unusual for them to stop here. Later I found that they normally migrate to Morocco or Ethiopia. I wonder if they will finish their trip or stay here?

We watched these birds and the geese and ducks for a while longer. The ducks were quite funny making noises like an ambulance that wants to move traffic out of the way with four short beeps. The geese walked very carefully around the pond and they were very funny when they landed quite often skidding across the pond.

As it was getting late and a bit colder we decided to go in to Empuriabrava for a hot chocolate. We ordered "chocolat" as you would in France but we got a cup of thick, hot chocolate that you could just about stand a spoon up in. I didn't think I'd be able to drink it but the first spoonful changed my mind. It was delicious like eating a melted chocolate bar in a cup. Once again fortified against the cold and blowing wind we headed home relieved of cabin fever.

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