When you arrive by car, be careful not to squash Frogs and Salamanders along the track through the woods. It’s not surprising to see Salamanders and Frogs when the rains come. The Frogs return every spring to deposit spawn in the tub of the aquatic plants and they wait impatiently if Paola hasn’t already filled it with rainwater! At night, Wild Boar make their way along the gullies in the woods to the side of the house. It’s possible to catch the odd grunt and hear loud rustlings of leaves. Occasionally, as you are going along the trail in the woods, Roe Deer bound across it and stags from the mountainside also descend this far. They are huge! Redstarts nest in the crevices of the stone walls of the house and there is much toing and froing to feed their hungry chirping chicks. The jaybird imitates the call of others: I once heard one imitate a cat meowing but then… perhaps I had drunk a touch too much? In winter, titmice, robins and other feathered friends come to peck at the bread and seeds that we hang out for them on branches close to the house, especially when it snows.
We plant numerous plants that carry berries: they are beautiful, and even in winter they attract a lot of birds for their fruit. If the snowfall is abundant, we put hay out in the woods for the Roe Deer. Dormice are curious acrobats who happily spend their winters in the roof, with stores of chestnuts, making a ruckus. Driving along the road at night, the Fox sometimes “appears” along the side of the road lit by headlights. The mighty Buzzard hovers over the woods and performs large loops to gain height: you may even glimpse one perched on a branch, but it’ll take flight as soon as it perceives your presence, showing off its ample wingspan. The Badger is entertaining when he runs, but not over affectionate with anyone who threatens his burrow. Before dismantling a wood pile, I always check to make sure there isn’t one beneath it. The wonderful Green Woodpecker is almost tropical in appearance; the Red Woodpecker pecks the trunks of lime trees making that characteristic knocking sound and leaving small holes in the bark, each perfectly lined up. Have you noticed? At night it’s common to discern the diverse calls of the mysterious Tawny Owls, as the male hoots and the female responds with a “kee-wick”. Then by day you may see them asleep on the branch of a tree. In autumn, migrating Storks sometime spend the night in the woods, making a rackety “krukru”. The Cuckoo call announces the arrival of spring and rest assured that when you hear him, winter is gone for good. At the beginning of summer, fireflies sparkle in the pitch-black woods like a fairy tale. Earthworms fertilize the soil and in autumn they churn it tirelessly, leaving a trail of little hills, spongy and generous. Bees love to stay at Casa Payer while the chestnut trees are in blossom. On more than one occasion a swarm has taken up residence in the crevices of the stone walls. It is a surprising scene; a large ever-changing cloud of bees swarming over the house harming no-one yet producing a “cosmic” sound. The splendid metallic green and blue Dragonfly often flies above the mirrored water of the stream. What a wealth of wildlife!