|a wonderful place for a holiday - the Paps of Jura from Islay - a true wilderness for wildlife|
If you’re looking for a vision of hell on earth that is often a reality, try travelling. Airports, queues, check ins, delays, long flights, cramped seats, no sleep, lost baggage, hours waiting for hire cars, finding accommodation in the dark, dodgy beds, poor food and all designed to empty your hard earned pot of cash. We’ve all been there and got the tea shirt.
|Noto's ornate celebration to God|
|The Hebrides again - Islay's thousands of barnacle geese and famous malt whisky distilleries|
|there were glorious drifts of wild flowers everywhere in April|
|the size of Roman amphitheatre in Syracuse impressed us|
|the conservation and detail of the mosaics at the RomanVilla Tellaro just down the road from our villa are wonderful|
Armed with a coffee table groaning under the weight of brochures, we started on the needle in a haystack search but with the attractions of Syracuse, Noto, Ragusa and Modica tucked into the less developed SE quarter, it seemed like a good area to start. What’s more, a marshy area along the nearby coast looked good for migrants. Then I struck lucky, for turning the pages, there was Villa Favorita. Having ‘Google Earthed’ it, I became excited at the prospect for it looked like the perfect place for our holiday – and it was!
|what a beautiful place for a holiday|
|the owner's special family room in which we could relax in perfect peace|
Fearing this is turning into a book, I’ll ignore the beautiful Villa and rooms, the kindly and faultless staff, the excellent food and wine … why can’t every country serve such tasty food … and concentrate on the estate and it’s birdlife.
|service with a smile ... and their own estate 'house' wine was delicious|
|citrus groves and the sea|
|a perfect place to read and write|
|dawn from our balcony and the oriole trees in the garden|
|such exciting birds to admire every morning before breakfast ... c. Mike Read|
|hoopoe nested nearby, flying over the pool with food for their young|
|the weather was simply perfect|
With the air now tepid, the sky above is filled with swifts as they scythe the blue for insects. Some are bound together in flight, mating on the wing and I find myself humming that Paul Young song ‘Love is in the Air’. But it’s time for some culture now, so it’s Syracusa or maybe Noto, visible just across the valley from the swimming pool.
|the ancient city of Noto seen from our villa pool|
|Sue admiring Noto Cathedral as it glows in the warm afternoon light|
|frescos adorn the ceilings|
|an impressive18th-century Baroque balcony on Palazzo Nicolaci in Noto - there were lots like it in the town|
|Sicily's southern tip - over the Med. lies troubled Libya|
|most of the offshore islands have forts which now act as lighthouses|
|water flows into the Vendicari lakes from the sea to ensure a welcome for thousands of migrant birds|
|greater flamingoes and many species of wading birds make this an exciting birding spot|
|an obliging curlew near one of the hides as it refuels for it's migration north|
|flowers adorn every corner of the reserve, providing insect food for warblers and woodchat shrike|
|numerous lizards appreciated the warm sun as much as we did|
|the once numerous but sadly endangered turtle dove were a delight on the reserve|
The delights of the pool are shared by numerous thirsty birds, so there’s never a dull moment. The design of the pool ensures there’s always shallow water at the edge and this proves a magnet to many collared doves and wood pigeons, two of the villa’s commonest birds. Serins, goldfinches and linnets love it too, along with smart Italian and tree sparrows, magpies and spotless starlings – they are spotless even before they bathe – but most amusing was the Sardinian warbler, that attractive bird with it’s charcoal grey head and blood red eye.
The shower had been left dripping slightly and the warbler thought this was just the ticket, sitting under it until fully soaked, then jumping up into the olive tree above and having a good shake and preen. It evidently decided it enjoyed the cool water so much that it repeated the performance several times. It was like a Disney cartoon character, feathers splayed all over the place until groomed to sartorial elegance.
|a splendid viewpoint for some pre breakfast birding|
Whenever out in the gardens, we were always alert to passing birds and some rarer ones were seen every day. The sky was often lit up by the flocks of bee-eaters heading for Europe, there were alpine swifts among them, hobbies too, along with specials like Eleonora’s falcon and Montagu’s harrier.
|colourful bee-eaters hunted the skies above us every day ... c. Mike Read|
|serenading scops owl ... c. Mike Read|
There never seemed to be a dull moment in the bird world so we’d sleep well, except when woken by the delightful pair of scops owls that hooted duets to each other in the moonlight. They sung every night, signalling the end of another perfect day in paradise.
|... and so to bed after a day of delights ...|
So my verdict on whether holidays are heaven or hell. Well, if you make good choices and get lucky like we did in Sicily then they are heavenly … even if it’s always good to be back home!