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  • Writer's pictureHummingbird Retreat

Week 18

Wildlife wonder – Flamboyant Trees

These beautiful trees are also known as flame trees and are currently in blossom. We have three of these trees at the front of the house but they seem to take it in turns to flower, with the smaller one just finishing and the middle one in full bloom. The third one, not in the photo, still has the large seed pods hanging off its branches and is just beginning to show some red flowers. The trees lose their leaves just before they blossom and then there are new leaves as well as flowers making them very vibrant when they are in blossom. They also have a distinct, plateau shape with short trunks that are very striking, even without the blossom. Flamboyant trees are originally from Madagascar but are now common in tropical climates worldwide. In Puerto Rica these trees represent hope so it is appropriate that Hummingbird HOPE has three in our garden.

One of my new friends here showed me how you can eat the blossom bud which, if I had my eyes closed, I would have thought I was eating cabbage. As children, they also used to play a game with the flower stamens, trying to pull the head of the opponent’s stamen.

The brown seed pods are about half a metre long and 5cms wide and can be used as musical shakers, before they release their seeds. When I visited Glastonbury I saw that a shop was selling these seed pods for £2 each as musical instruments. When I picked one up, the shop assistant explained to me how they worked. I resisted the temptation to tell her that I had some growing in my garden!

Grenadian Gift – Levera Pond

When we first visited this area, we went for a walk to look for Levera Pond. We came across a small pond which was about 15metres in length and thought that this was the pond. However, walking further we came across a lovely lake which we discovered was actually Levera ‘Pond’ despite it being lake size of about 500metres in length.

This expanse of water is part of the Levera Nature Reserve and is surrounded by mangroves and is beautifully peaceful. There is a covered, wooden platform on the edge of the lake that is an ideal bird hide and this is linked to the footpath by a short bridge over some of the mangroves. Sitting on the platform, I have seen various types of birds, as well as land crabs and the occasional large fish coming up to catch flies.

It is an important conservation area because the mangroves are a home to a variety of wildlife and it is one of the best birdwatching sites on the island. The mangrove plants are very important in preventing erosion in this area, which I will come back to later in this blog.

Sadly, a Chinese developer who also has investors from Singapore, the Middle East and elsewhere is creating a large hotel adjacent to this site, despite local protests. It will include a golf course and various other features but will change the landscape forever. The building work is slow and we hope it remains so. Thankfully it is on the other side of Levera hill, away from the retreat house and so it will not be visible from our house but we hope that they maintain their assurances that it will not affect the nature reserve.

Reflections from the Retreat

Recently it was World Oceans day and the Grenada Museum hosted an event to mark the date. It was a very informative evening of speakers including an ecologist and professor from St Georges University talking about the impact of global warming and rising sea levels in Grenada. Their slides included photos of Levera Pond and the importance of the mangroves there and elsewhere in Grenada. The roots of these large plants help to bind the soil together and the roots above the ground, help to slow the water flow to reduce soil erosion and help to maintain the water level. There have been various reports done for Grenada over the years, suggesting proposals such as preserving and developing mangrove areas and changing certain farming practices but the implementation of these changes have been slow.

There are a number of places where the sea levels have been rising in Grenada and this is a serious issue on such a small island. There are cemeteries in Carriacou that have already lost graves to the sea and there have even been houses that have been washed away in some places. I visited the capital last week, going via the Western side of the island instead of my usual East side route and was saddened to see that the main road on the West side was closed for repairs due to erosion near the coast. There have already been other coastal roads that have had to be built further inland as the cliffs have eroded.

After hearing these talks, I decided to go and pray about what I had heard, at Levera Pond. The photo above shows the wooden shelter, at the edge of the lake. As I arrived there, the rain came and a heavy shower made me stay longer than I planned. However, as I sat in the rain, words came out of my prayers and so I thought I would share this piece of writing with you in this blog. It mentions a family trip that we had there and the photos below are from that afternoon as well as the family photo here.

Countless pinpricks of rain dance upon the surface

Water upon water as the torrent falls on the lake

Waves of wind ripple across the calm surface

And I shelter on the platform, as the water seeps closer on the wooden boards.

The hard-hitting rain pounds on the trees

Lead weights bend old branches and pummels the roof

And I huddle with the mouse and the mongoose in the mangroves

As the water seeps closer on the wooden boards.

And I think of Noah and the story of the flood

People living in oblivion to the imminent loss

And I think of rising sea levels and eroding rocks

And my tears add to the water, as it seeps closer on the wooden boards.

In my mind’s eye I see beyond the lake

To the senseless destruction and developing doom

Of a structure more suited to a Singapore skyline

As the water seeps closer on the wooden boards.

And I look out to the bridge where we laughed as a family

And I wonder if my grandchildren will see the same view

Where their granddad joked and we took a family selfie

And my tears well up as the rain enfolds me, and the water seeps closer on the wooden boards.

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