A few days ago, a large padded envelope from Spain dropped importantly onto our doormat. It contained a big surprise - the pictured book above - a celebration of 20 years of s'Albufera, a Parc Natural (bigger in importance than a nature reserve, but smaller than a national park) in Mallorca. The reason why I'd been sent it? To thank me for the time I'd spent out there researching aquatic invertebrate populations. My name's in the book (as an investigacio and principal collaborador del Parc, doesn't that sound grand?), as are loads of stunning photographs like the one below. It sums up the memories I have of the place: the picture is of Ses Salinas, a now disused salt pan complex where salt was dried for use in cooking. Now it's one of the main feeding grounds for all kinds of birds (s'Albufera is a RAMSAR designated wetland), both resident and migratory, and it's also where two of my invertebrate sampling sites are located.
Photo copyright: Miquel Angel Dora
I haven't been back to the project since 2000 (I went 2-3 times a year from 1994) as one of the aims of my study was to ensure someone continued with it locally, instead of me waltzing in from England from time to time. On going through the pages of the book, I realised how big a place s'Albufera still has in my heart. As well as sumptuous photographs of the Parc and its wildlife, there's plenty of the staff too - such as Biel, Pilar, Pere, Margalida and Xisco - thus it makes me feel like I've found an old treasured family album in the attic rather than receiving a book. This feeling was enhanced when I opened the accompanying letter from Biel: it began - Apreciada (= valued, fond) - English is often considered to be the richest of languages, but there's nothing like Spanish for setting the tone of a whole letter by the choice of the opening word. I'm so touched by this gesture.
Now I need to press my half forgotten Spanish into service to write a suitable thank you - and I want to book a flight to revisit one of my favourite places in the whole wide world. I also need to find a way of converting my slides into digital format, so I can show you more of this wonderful area.