This is an enchanted island where the blackbirds sing all day in the sunshine.
The bird fauna is similar to that of northern Europe (no doubt to help prevent confusion amongst the sun-burnt visiting Brits) and black birds and pigeons of many patterns dominate the city. (There is a rumour that the black birds in Madeira are a little smaller and have a slightly different expression to their more northerly relatives. But really this is just in the imagination of many keen twitchers seeking an extra tick on their ‘life-list-of-birds-I-have-spent-vast-sums-of-money-and-time-trying-to-see-when-I-might-have-been-doing-something-more-productive/socially-interactive-instead.) Let us assume that the blackbirds sing all day because the climate is nice, there is plenty of food and they are feeling pretty pleased with things generally.
Anyway, it is nesting season here and a pair of happy blackbirds has set up home in a remote corner of the casino (volcano) building where deep in dark inner magma chamber the IWC is meeting. (I won’t say quite where to avoid too many delegates – who have nothing better to do and who read this blog – disturbing them.) The chicks are quite large now and must be fledging soon. Their fully-feathered heads can be seen protruding from the nests with beaks ajar as the frantic parents deliver their next load of pulped insects. It is nice to know that amongst all the madness some blackbird domesticity proceeds unhindered. Life goes on!
Portugal has obviously studied the WDCS IWC blog from recent years and noted the long-term concern about absence of biscuits (or for our American reader ‘cookies’ – I don’t want any confusion here) during the coffee breaks. The technical and scientific meetings have not only been blessed with a wide range of delightful biscuits but every day this has been augmented with many slices of local cake. (This is of course the land of the cake – most well known being the eponymous (I knew one day I would be able to use this word in the right context) Madeira cake – but the local specialties go far beyond this and include some honey and fruit-type cakes roughly twice the density of lead and with a potential longevity of centuries. Indeed it is possible that long after our species has disappeared, the cockroaches – or whoever inherits the Earth – will still be enjoying these dense little morsels.
So there is plenty of cake and plenty of biscuits. Indeed possibly too much and we shall be rolling out of here at the end of the week as somewhat dense little morsels ourselves in due course. But there will probably be no complaints on this front; thank you Portugal.
We may however be complaining about the temperature inside the volcano! Stay tuned.
(In fact the plenary of the Commission brings some innovations to the coffees breaks because we move out of the upper magma chamber where the Scientific Committee was allowed to stew for two weeks, onto the bridge outside and here … no this is unbelievable, some might even say some kind of miracle… there is fruit… slices of fresh orange and apple and pineapple and banana and more cakes… and we might just stay out here and never go back into the dark and the hear and the confusion.)
Coming soon - some more pictures and the report of the final day.