Today I found myself singing an oldie way back from 1957. Pat Boone was the crooner and the song When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano.  Boy! Does that bring back memories and fill the heart with nostalgia. All because in Salies it is time for the cranes to fly over on their migration back north and fly they did!

It was between late November and mid December when I saw them leave, one frosty afternoon. I remember hearing their distant cries and searching the far off forest for a sign of the birds that were making such a ruckus. I looked for a long time and saw nothing until I asked a man who was walking along the road if he heard them squawking.

“Oh yes,” he said, pointing skywards, “it’s the cranes: their leaving is a sign that cold weather is coming. We’re sure to get a frost soon.” I looked up and, sure enough, there they were: long strings of them sometimes forming a V, sometimes flying in parallel lines. They were migrating south, most of them having come from Germany where they had spent the summer and brought up their young.

Today I once more heard the distant cries and this time I knew to look up. There they were, flying now in the other direction: north, thousands of them squawking up a storm.  It’s not that they come to or leave from Salies; I have only seen one crane on a field about twenty minutes out of town en route to Navarrenx. It was standing in the middle of a harvested corn field (obviously a lingerer from some early migratory group) and its height struck me as much as its location; I had always thought cranes were strictly water birds but it seems they are as comfortable on a field as in a lake.

This time, no one had to tell me that the cranes were announcing spring weather. In fact, it had already begun over a week ago. Temperatures have been rising, the occasional freeze at night seldom goes below -1º; tiny yellow blossoms are braving their way out from under green leaves and daring the frost-bite to wither their gaiety. On the lawn, the small white daisies that will decorate it like stars in a green evening sky for the rest of the summer are already appearing here and there. It’s been two days since I had to put gloves on in the morning or wrap a woolen scarf around my neck, and winter undershirts definitely have been washed for the last time this season.

But to watch the cranes as they make their way across the early morning or late afternoon sky is something which never stops marveling me. I don’t know what it is about migrating birds that excites me so: I never tire of seeing them and will stop anything I am doing to stand in awe as they paint their uneven designs against the blue. Another winter has come and gone; it is my second one in Salies. Soon summer and its busyness will be here, the delicious warm weather, the soft breeze wafting through open windows, the flowers, the tourists, the moules-frites, ice cream melting before you can get it in your mouth, sun lotion, hats and sleeveless shirts. I look forward to it, as much as I will eventually (around August) begin to look forward to the crisp wintery air and shorter days and the southward migration of the cranes. One might think that in their sweeping of the skies it is they who change the season, signaling to the lesser creatures below that it is time to seek cover indoors or step once more out into the world reborn.

Most photographs in this blog came from the following internet site:


  1. Oh the nostagia…

    In Southwestern USA and Northern Mexico, one can see yet another migration: that of the Monarch butterflies. Impressively, delicately breathtaking if you are lucky enough to be in the middle of it. Love, Muso

    • One of the most incredible miracles of life, the Monarch Butterfly. I have been to the reserve in Michoacan, town of Angangueo, and when the millions of butterflies begin to flutter about, on a quiet day you can hear their wings beating there are so many of them. Bisous, b

  2. I stand before the awsomness of Nature. The Innate Inteligence in all. The perfect coordination of life cycles . And to think we are all a part of it Enjoyed your blog, your pictures and the feeling of reverence for life.

  3. Ahhh, I have watched the migration of the cranes from Africa to Northern Europe on the BBC programme ‘Flying’ – incredible and beautiful. I have also been lucky enough to see them in ‘real life’ when visiting Morocco and Gibraltar (one of their stopping off points).
    Nature is truly amazing and, as Conchita says, show us a perfect co-ordination of life cycles. In spite of our urban sprawl and destruction of many natural habitats, animals/birds adapt and continue to do what they have always done – survive. Bless them! And we could do so much more to help, if enough of us wanted to.
    Winter here, in Mijas Costa, has been so different from last year when we had rain continuously for three months (no frost though – I truly don’t miss it and nor do my plants!) Rarely has the temperature dropped below 10C and has often been in the mid to high 20s. I notice the difference in the plants that grow…no wild sweet-peas this year, but the wild irises still bloom, as do the wild lilies and indominable wild rosemary, thyme and sage. I dearly LOVE this beautiful country that I have adopted as my home!

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