What have the Romans ever done for us?!

Apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system, and public health, it seems we can add ‘fish sauce’ and ‘great places to go birding’.

The well-preserved ruins of a Roman town, Baelo Claudia, are a mere stone’s throw from our base at the eco-lodge of Huerta Grande, and the flower-rich meadows and farmland scrub in which they are set make them a popular attraction for history buffs and wintering birds alike!

We were entertaining guests this week so we took the opportunity to explore a bit of local history- naturally with bins in hands!

The town’s prosperity came from its coastal farmland location, giving it access to salt, tuna, ceramics and beeswax – all the things needed to make, store and transport garum, a seasoning thought to be the predecessor of modern-day fish sauce.

These same features and the fact the location is protected from development now make for a very pleasant stroll for the biodiversity enthusiast. It’s around 17oC here at the moment and well into ‘second spring’ so there’s lots of wildlife activity going on.

As we wandered through ancient Roman equivalents to shopping malls, entertainment multiplexes and erm, ‘nightlife areas’, we were treated to scratching Sardinian Warblers, jangling Serins and some very obliging Common Chiffchaffs, Stonechats and Crested Larks.

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Plenty of butterfly action too, as Monarchs, Painted Ladies, Red Admirals and Clouded Yellows all made use of the warm sun and the late burst of flowering plants.

To our surprise we even witnessed a group of around 50 White Storks crossing the Straits from Morocco – maybe they too were on a day trip to the Bolonia area…

Baelo Claudia fell into decline around the 6th Century AD, as Southern Spain was riddled by earthquakes, the Roman Empire collapsed and presumably people started scrawling “Romani ite domum” on the walls…

Many civilisations have come and gone in the Straits, but we enjoy thinking that all of them, at some point, would have looked up and admired a migrating flock of White Storks.

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