Communing with Deer

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(There’s a big map in reception showing the path through the park)

I woke up early this morning to birdsong. The rain had stopped and I had an idea. Before I could change my mind I had popped on some shoes, my furry fleece and was standing outside the van recording the sound. We’re still parked at the Parque Biológico de Gaia so imagine a lot of birds. I walked for a few paces to position myself where I thought the loudest birds were and turned on the recording app on my phone… Before long I was mesmerised but then I noticed something move in the park behind the trees.

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(Look closely)

It was when Fernando was taking me on the tour of the park that I realised the motorhome parking overlooks the deer enclosure. There’s a line of trees between us but at certain points the trees thin out and you can see part of the enclosure. Their area is quite big so the deer were off in another section most of the time we’ve been here but this morning as I listened to the birds I realised the deer were less than a 100m from me.

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(The lighter coloured deer by the fence was very cute, from time to time she used to put her head through the fence and nibble on the green plants and then wriggle her head left and right to get it back inside the fence)

There were no one around just me and the deer and it was awesome… There are lots of signs around the park telling you that the animals don’t like noise so visitors should be quiet and respectful. Well I just love rules and boundaries, I see them as guidelines for a happy life. So I was more than happy to stay quiet and this morning I was rewarded by the company of deer. They are so calm and gentle and slow and focused and standing with them I felt calm and focused too.

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(I promise you that fuzzy bit behind the branch in the middle of this photo is a red squirrel, you can just see his little ear)

My phone was still recording sound when I noticed something moving in the tree above me. It was a red squirrel, he mustn’t have noticed me because he squirreled (you can’t call it running, can you?) towards me and then stopped to shake his tail and squirrel away again out to the edge of the tree’s expanse on the tiniest of branches. Until he jumped to the next tree and was gone from my sight.

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(I know its hard to make out but…that one in the middle, that’s a stag!)

When I looked around again, there was a stag in with the deer. With huge antlers. Walking around. Just over there, over the fence, across the path, over the other fence. A stag!

I love this lovely life, Mairead.

It’s not a Zoo!

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(He’s in a bit of a hurry)

Turns out the Zoo I thought we were staying at is more a nature reserve with botanical park, called Parque Biológico de Gaia. There are no elephants but there is a dinosaur…

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(There are little birds…)

I went to check it out this morning thinking I’d be done in 10 minutes or sooner if the rain returned. It’s quite big… it covers 35 hectares with a 2.8km path running through it. Two and a half hours later I arrived back to the camper with my camera battery exhausted from taking pictures!

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(…and big birds – storks)

I had met Fernando who has worked at the park for 18 years. We walked every path and he pointed out loads of interesting things. Despite no common language we got on really well! He told me about the cork trees which grow for 25 years before their bark is first cut to produce cork and then they are cut every 9 years.

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(The Cork tree)

He pointed out camouflaged birds in the enclosures that I missed. He knew how to bring the deer up close to get the best pictures…

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And he knew where the teen tiny wild boar baby would be…

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(Ok it’s not a great picture but… that’s the mammy wild boar on the right with the little boar – he’s fawn coloured – walking out from under her. Can you see him?)

But the most amazing animals were the Ibis, they looked like statues, they were standing so still and so proud, then the younger ones moved. As well as all the animals and the natural setting there are farm buildings which I think are original. One has a water-mill and five pairs of millstones. Another is called the Brazilian farm, when locals returned with their fortune from Brazil they built bigger farm houses… at least I think that’s the story?

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(The Ibis. Can you see the one in the cave?)

I’m going back again tomorrow. I’ll bring food and water and Denis, Mairead.

Ps Thank you so much to all the people who sent me pictures of the snow in Ireland. Below is the one I got from my mother-in-law…

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Birds and Toddlers do it.


(A Robin)

The birds are singing outside the window again as I write and I continue to be amazed at how much their singing affects me. For the better. I’m cheered just listening to them do their thing. They have no idea I’m here enjoying them. They are definitely not doing it for me. In fact I don’t know why they sing. It makes me feel good to imagine that they sing because they enjoy singing.


(More birds)

They remind me of the daughter, when she was a toddler. She used to sing to herself as she played with her toys. The tune was never recognisable and the lyrics were a jumble of words and syllables. One day I told her I would write down the words so she could keep her song forever. She didn’t seem that interested but she let me write every word and syllable.


(Rory, a long, long time ago when he was a toddler)

To the little toddler forever is right now, this moment, because this moment never ends… now is always now. To the adult, now is just a passing blink as we head straight for tomorrow. The singing birds halt everything…… and bring my attention to now, here and now, exactly where I am… now.

Now, where are you? Mairead.