Snakes on a plain

Snake encounters have been increasing on Mallorca – and not just on the plain (the flatter central area known in the local language as the pla). Local media reports have revealed that people in 14 municipalities on Mallorca had found unusually large snakes…mostly in urban areas.

One friend posted a picture on Facebook of a snake she’d found in her garden in an area of Santa Ponsa. To someone who doesn’t know much about snakes (that’ll be me, then), it looked like something that had escaped from a zoo or exotic pet shop – in other words, rather large and bearing distinctive markings. My friend didn’t seem too happy to be sharing her urban garden with this creature. She was lucky: other people have been startled by finding these snakes in their store rooms, garages, basements, and water tanks.

The Horseshoe Whip Snake

While at the vet’s yesterday buying more kidney-diet food for our cat Minstral, we were talking to one of the veterinary nurses about snakes and she told us that Horseshoe Whip Snakes (not native to the island) are increasingly being found on Mallorca – having come onto the island in trees imported from the peninsula.  They seem to be breeding very successfully.

Because of the very hot weather we’ve been having, these snakes have been seeking out cool places, such as garages, store rooms, cellars etc. Only last week, someone found a Horseshoe Whip Snake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis) allegedly measuring two-and-a-half metres in length – although I’ve read that they usually grow to up to a maximum of 1.5 metres.

Coincidentally, it was in Capdepera, back in May, that we saw a few snakes amongst the attractions at the annual medieval market in the northeast Mallorca hilltop town. I’ve no idea what type of snakes were being wrapped around bystanders’ necks but, then, I didn’t get close enough to find out (thank goodness for long lenses).

Man with snake

It’s a wrap!

A little girl discovers that snakes don’t feel slimy.

Snakes at our finca

Our own encounters with snakes at the finca have been few. My first was while weeding in a damp and shady area of our finca that we call Marie’s Garden (after the former owner, who created it). As I moved close to one of the large rocks dotted around here, a snake suddenly darted out from its shelter and slithered away at great speed. It happened so quickly that I didn’t note too many details about its appearance, except that it wasn’t particularly large. It did make me jump though…

Not long afterwards, on another part of our land, I found part of a snake’s skin that had been shed; something I’d never seen before. Rural life has introduced me to many new experiences. Sadly, most of our snake sightings have been roadkill; not everyone is as careful as we are to avoid hitting wildlife that ventures onto the roads.

What to do if you find a Horseshoe Whip Snake

These snakes are not considered dangerous to people. The authorities recommend that you report any findings to COFIB by phoning 971 144 107 and presumably they’ll come and remove them.

©Jan Edwards 2017

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Never a dull moment with Pip

Never usually one to miss a meal…

It’ll be three years in September since the kitten we named Pip arrived in our lives. She’s still very much like a kitten (albeit a rather plump one): playful, inquisitive, and ready to eat anything in sight. Every day she does things to make us laugh and remind us how fortunate we are that somehow she turned up at our finca. But yesterday we feared we had lost her…

Pip when she first arrived three years ago.

Cat-astrophe?

Pip seems to be a bit of a petrolhead: she loves to get into cars. One morning earlier this year she didn’t turn up for her breakfast; this was not usual Pip behaviour, as she always appears to be starving in the mornings, but we assumed she was sleeping off a busy night doing feline stuff. Some time later, The Boss called me and pointed out of the kitchen window at our car. Standing up on the driver’s seat inside, with her front paws on the side window, was Pip. The Boss had been cleaning the car out the previous evening and Pip had managed to hide herself away in it while all the doors and hatchback were open – and had spent the night trapped inside. As you may imagine, there was a little more cleaning to be done afterwards…

We’ve been super-careful ever since. If friends come to visit, or we have a delivery or tradesman calling, we’ve always made sure that Pip hasn’t somehow managed to get into their vehicle.

Chill-out furniture delivery; not-so-chilled cat mum!

Do not disturb.

Yesterday we had a delivery of some new chill-out furniture for the terrace. The two guys who brought the stuff left the large van’s back doors open while they were carrying the items from the drive to the back terrace. As well as our furniture, there were protective blankets and other stuff inside the van. It was another hot day so we assumed Pip would be asleep somewhere on our land.

It was only later, as we were having lunch outside, I remembered that we hadn’t asked the delivery men to check the back of the van for a feline squatter before they left. Had she jumped up through the open doors into the back of the van? Was she on her way to who-knows-where?  We abandoned lunch and repeatedly called out to Pip; usually she appears when she hears us (in the expectation of food). We even shook the large plastic box that contains the cats’ biscuits. Nada.

Stowaway alert

At this point I had a mini-meltdown, imagining her trapped in the van and what would happen when the doors were opened – either back at the store or on another delivery somewhere. The consequences didn’t bear thinking about but that didn’t stop me thinking about them! I phoned the store to alert them to the possibility of a stowaway in the van and the helpful woman there rang the drivers to warn them.

Needless to say, after an afternoon of anxiety, Pip turned up later in the day for her dinner. I went outside and there she was stretched out under our car. We’ve never been as pleased to see her as we were last evening.

“What was all the fuss about, hooman?”

Cats can be such a worry sometimes … or maybe it’s just that this cat-mum worries too much about them!

©Jan Edwards 2017

Mallorcan rural lifestyle suits Minstral the Birman

Regular readers of this blog about our life in rural Mallorca will know that we share the outdoor areas of our finca with seven cats that have adopted us.  But we share our indoor space – our home – with Minstral, our adorable Birman cat.

“I share my home with a couple of humans – one of whom is forever trying to take my photo.”

We adopted him when he was four years old and yesterday was a bit of a landmark in Minstral’s life: it was his 20th birthday. Our vet has told us this is a surprising age for a cat on Mallorca, let alone one that is a pedigree (his is rather impressive). He’s in pretty good shape for his age – Minstral, not the vet (although he’s probably not doing too badly either); however, like many older cats, his kidney function is not what it was.

We’d love to have given Minstral a special treat to eat for his birthday but he’s on a low-protein diet designed for cats with kidney problems, so it was breakfast/lunch/dinner as usual for our much-loved senior ‘catizen’.

An official birthday photograph was deemed “a good idea” but, as anyone who has tried to photograph cats will know, they’re not always very obliging models. Curiosity means they usually come straight towards the camera to check it out. And so it was for much of yesterday. Until this…

 

Cat

“Why are you pointing that thing at me?”

 

©Jan Edwards 2017

Good news at our finca in rural Mallorca

Animals can be perverse. You boast to a friend that your cat always does a certain thing: for example, you say its name and it flicks its tail; you say its name twice and it flicks its tail twice; that kind of thing. Of course, the fickle feline never obliges when you try to demonstrate this amazing feat to your friend.

So, perhaps you can guess what happened after I posted about our little cat Sweetie’s eight-day absence…. yes, she turned up last night.  Looking rather thin but otherwise apparently fine, she wriggled under our gates and came to greet her siblings, who sniffed around her as if trying to work out where she’d been (which was probably what they were doing…none of them told us). Beamer seemed particularly pleased to see her and immediately began to give her a jolly good wash.

And Sweetie was back, as she always had been before, for her breakfast this morning. She seems pleased to be back again and, thankfully, Pip has chosen to ignore her.

We’ll probably never know where she was, what she was up to, or why she didn’t come to our finca in Mallorca as usual. We’re all just pleased she’s back and unharmed.

The prodigal daughter gets a good clean-up from big brother Beamer

©Jan Edwards 2017

So long, Sweetie…

When we took on the responsibility of caring for the feral cats that were born on our finca in rural Mallorca (in two litters to the same mum), we knew that some of them would one day no longer be with us – for whatever reason. We lost Brownie, as a very young kitten, when she jumped out of an old almond tree in the lane straight into the path of one of our neighbours as she drove home. Poor Maria – an animal lover herself – was unable to stop her car in time, despite driving relatively slowly. Brownie is buried at the bottom of our field, just a metre or two away from the very spot where she was born.

Quite some time later, Bear – a lovely black cat (born in the same litter as Beamer and Dusty, still with us, and poor little Brownie) – disappeared. Although we hadn’t been able to pick him up for a cuddle, he did enjoy a fuss and seemed perfectly happy around the finca but, one day, he didn’t come as usual for his breakfast or dinner. We never saw him again and were unable to find out what had happened to him. We like to think that he decided to strike out on his own and be independent, preferring this to the possible alternative fates.

Baby Bear and Right Patch were both from the second litter and they too disappeared while still quite young. We had expected some of the kittens to leave once they felt ready to be independent, as that would be natural cat behaviour, so we were pleasantly surprised that the rest stayed with us.

Searching in vain

One of the problems of losing a cat in the country is knowing where to look for it. In a village or town in the UK, we would have put a notice on lampposts or checked whether any neighbours had accidentally shut the missing feline in a garage or shed. But here, in our part of rural Mallorca, we’re surrounded by fields – many of which are overgrown, having been long abandoned.

For just over a week we haven’t seen Sweetie – one of the cats from the second litter. At the end of July she would have been six years old which, for a feral cat, is probably a good age – given the perils of rural life (hunters, poisoning, disease, etc). But Sweetie – like the other six cats that have adopted us and remain here – is no longer truly feral, as she has almost always come for her daily breakfast and dinner and to drink from the several water stations we maintain for our feline family.

Sweetie as a kitten

One for the ‘Lost’ poster…

Chilling out in our dining room window recess

Beamer’s bestie

The little spayed cat was always nervous around humans (including us) and would rarely allow us to stroke her (unless she had her head down in her food bowl). She had a very special bond with her older sibling Beamer though and they used to have regular mutual grooming sessions; at times, she would bury her head in Beamer’s tummy fur – as she and her other siblings of the same age had done for comfort, after their mother Jetta had abandoned her offspring.

Sadly, Sweetie wasn’t popular with Pip – the female kitten dumped here more than two years ago, changing the dynamic of the cat clan. Although we’d had both females spayed, Pip had recently started to hiss at Sweetie sometimes and even chased her away a time or two. Perhaps that happened once too often for Sweetie to tolerate?

She had long had her own territory on the finca of our neighbours and good friends Maureen and Peter, and came back to ours only for her food and water. Maybe she decided on a new life of self-sufficiency? We’ve called her and searched for her in as many places as feasible, but to no avail.

In the meantime, we miss seeing this shy little cat and watching those affectionate moments she regularly shared with Beamer. And we’re sure he’s missing her too.

Come home, Sweetie, if you can…

©Jan Edwards 2017

Poppies popping up – but not on our finca

Rural Majorcan poppies

A blaze of colour, although the farmer probably didn’t appreciate the invasion of his cereal crop!

Poppies seem to have been late emerging this spring on Mallorca. Perhaps it was because of the huge amount of rain that fell on the island over the winter months?

I love poppies and was keen to plant some in the garden, imagining a future scene reminiscent of Claude Monet’s famous Poppy Field. A welcome gift of California poppy seeds was liberally sewn over the small patch of our garden that has more than an inch or two of soil.

Lost to the lane

Last year a few of these seeds did grow into poppies but, this year, we haven’t had a single one in the garden. However, the wildflower-strewn verges of our lane have become home to a few that are more West-Coast America than rural Mallorca. Ho hum. Well, this is a breezy island…

A touch of Monet on Mallorca?

Elsewhere in rural Mallorca poppies are having a field day (pardon the pun). On our way back from an appointment in the town of Sa Pobla yesterday we spotted a particularly colourful field. I didn’t have my camera with me, so the image is courtesy of my iPad. And there are quite a few similar displays of poppies elsewhere on Mallorca…just not in our garden.

Text and photo Jan Edwards©2017

Mallorca 312 passes our rural finca

Earlier this week a placard was tied to a post near our home in rural Mallorca, warning us that the lane would be closed yesterday for about five hours from 14:00h because of a sporting event. The event in question was the Mallorca 312 – the most international of all cycling events held in Spain. Of the 6,500 cyclists taking part, 33 per cent were from the UK; presumably Mallorca had greater appeal to these Brits than Yorkshire, which had its own racing event (Tour of Yorkshire) happening yesterday.

Our lane hasn’t been closed since our first few years of living here, when the Manacor Rally used to come through the valley. We were forced to be either at home all afternoon or out somewhere for the duration. It was a noisy but entertaining spectacle and we could watch some of the action from our terrace, so we always stayed home. Souped-up rally cars and old stone walls occasionally had brief encounters and, after the local council had invested in building new walls for the community’s shared watercourse in the valley below us, the rally was moved to a new route.

Road closed!

Our lane closure yesterday wasn’t much of an inconvenience to us or our relatively few neighbours, but many people across Mallorca were cursing the event because main roads through the mountains and in the north and northeast of the island were closed to vehicles. Social media was buzzing with complaints and stories of delayed journeys, as well as triumphant messages from race finishers.

I certainly felt sorry for any holidaymakers who arrived on the island yesterday morning only to learn that the road to their destination was closed for several hours. Or those staying in places like Deià, forced to leave the village before 7am for an afternoon flight home, because the road was part of the race route and vehicular traffic was suspended for the morning.

Looking at Lycra

Meanwhile, The Boss and I walked up to the corner of our property during the afternoon for a prime view of cyclists coming up the hill. It’s a steep haul on foot and several of the cyclists evidently found it tough to negotiate.

One of our Mallorcan neighbours was already spectating with her son, seven-year-old grandson, and a couple of his friends and we joined them in clapping and encouraging the participants as they passed us. Also there were a female marshall (who must have been desperate for a pee by the end of the event) and an official photographer. We offered to make them tea or coffee, but they’d come prepared with their own food and drink.

I had my own camera with me and, having reviewed my numerous shots, I can tell you I won’t be changing careers anytime soon to become a sports photographer. Respect to those who manage to take sharp photos of sportspeople on the move…and look good in a hi-vis vest.

During our time as Mallorca 312 spectators we saw Lycra in every hue imaginable; it’s certainly a colourful sport. We heard quite a few English-speakers and, as we bystanders shouted out  ‘Ánimos‘  (which means encouragement), I did later wonder whether they might have thought we were calling them ‘animals’…

 

Text and photos Jan Edwards©2017