It was a warm, sunny day in May when we walked into Puente La Reina. As we approached the town, something caught my attention.
“What is that on top of the chimney tower? It looks like a…nest? But that would be huge!”
It was a nest, and it was huge. And if I looked really, really carefully, I could see not only the equally huge white bird in the nest, but two smaller heads occasionally poking up over the edges.
That was the beginning of my love affair with the white storks of Spain. The precarious pile of sticks on the abandoned factory was the first of dozens, maybe hundreds, of nests, huge and precariously balanced, that we saw on almost every high point across northern Spain: clustered on church bell towers and medieval ruins, nestled in electric towers, and even a particularly classy setup on top of a Roman-style column in the heart of Leon.
Over the weeks that followed, we watched small, feeble stork heads emerge into bigger, more assertive juveniles. We heard the strange clicking sounds that storks use to communicate (storks are otherwise silent and unable to vocalize).
I was fascinated. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of all of the storks in strange places.
My European friends were amused by my fascination.
“We have a tradition where I come from,” said a Swiss friend. “We say that storks bring babies.”
Oh, yes, I told him. We have that story, as well.
“But I thought you have no storks in the United States?”
Well, no. I considered this. But since when are traditions based on things that really exist?
Maybe that’s why I loved the storks so much. It was like stumbling into the magical place that was full of Easter bunnies or Santa’s elves, hanging out in the off season.
Just another confirmation that the Camino is a path through a fairy tale.
If you’ve walked the Camino (or observed white storks elsewhere), what’s the strangest place you’ve seen a stork nest?