My regular readers of the blog will know we’ve been in Portugal just over a year already. It’s been a busy, hectic year with its ups and downs. And what a difference a year makes! From dreary wet and grey Wales to mostly sunny and dry Portugal, we’ve gone through big changes in the 14 months since we left the UK for our new life in the sun.
We’ve taken our time settling into the Portuguese way of life and, I must admit, it hasn’t all been easy. From trying to sort out getting our son into school, to fitting in family travel and waiting a long time to get registered with a doctor, we are slowly but surely getting there. We’re by no means completely settled, and still have some way to go to buying our home in the sun. But for now, big things are out of the way and we’re enjoying life as it comes.
One thing we were not expecting was the unseasonable weather we’ve had since March. We knew Portugal got some rain in the Spring time, but this year has been incredible. There were times we thought we were back on that mountain in the Brecon Beacons. Six weeks of non-stop rain and we were thinking “what on earth is going on?”. Everyone we spoke to felt the same way. Where was all this rain coming from?
And although the summer is well and truly here, the temperatures are still unseasonably low, not that we’re complaining. But it has meant there has been a big impact on nature and the wildlife here in the Algarve.
Spring was extremely colourful with lush green trees, wild meadows and colourful flowers everywhere. The rain had a positive impact on the flora of the Algarve and even now we can still see the impact with the growth in the farmers fields near our house. I do think they’re on for a bumper crop this summer and autumn. Even in our own little garden, the grass has been greener and plants I thought had no hope, have come back stronger than ever.
But while the flora has enjoyed the cooler temperatures and heavy rainfall, the fauna has not. By the start of June last year, we had seen plenty of lizards and geckos. Wasps were becoming a nuisance at dinner time, as were the flies. Fast forward to July of this year and we’ve seen one gecko outside our home and a significantly less number of flying insects.
But the biggest impact we’ve seen has been in the decrease in the number of migrating birds. Last May, when we were staying with my parents while our own home was being made ready for us, we saw so many Swifts and Swallows. There was one family of Swallows nesting in the field next to my parent’s house. The parents spent the whole day flying, catching insects and feeding their four babies who liked to perch on a wire fence just opposite their deck.
The parent Swallows would take turns flying off and would return with a cricket or fly to feed the chicks. One evening I got my camera out and sat very patiently on my parent’s deck, quietly waiting to capture one of the parents returning to the chicks. And my patience was rewarded with one of my pictures showing a parent feeding a chick up close, and in flight.
I felt so lucky to get that shot. All Spring my Mum has been saying I must bring my camera down when the Swallows return to see if I can get another shot like it. But the Swallows haven’t returned. One or two have been noticed around town but the numbers that were present last year have not returned.
And it is all down to the weather and seasons being out of kilter. Whether they have delayed their return north or have not stopped in the Algarve to nest this year, we don’t know. But it is noticeable how much the weather can impact flora and fauna on a large scale.
In the UK, and particularly Wales where it rained for most of the year, everything was lush and green all year round. Nothing really changed in terms of the landscape or the wildlife. But in one year we’ve seen a myriad of changes in our local environment. By July last year, flying insects were the bane of our lives, meadows and forest were dry and brown, and lizards and geckos were plentiful around our little patch of Portugal. 12 months later and it’s a different story.
Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be capturing another picture of a parent Swallow feeding a chick while in flight this year. It will certainly be interesting to see how the next 12 months play out where the weather and seasons are concerned. But for now, we’ll enjoy the ‘below average temperatures’ for July, albeit with some glorious sunshine to go with it!
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