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pre-pyrenees in december

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Offline lucy

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« on: January 03, 2008, 11:29 AM »
First of all, I’d like to wish all forummers the best 2008 they could wish for.  This is a report of a short trip to Montgrony (in the Catalan pre-Pyrenees) – last June’s visit was a lot of fun, so it was decided to make the most of the recent dry sunny weather and return for a few days walking.  Going to the station I felt overdressed, but as the 7.00am train moved north and away from the coast, the temperature started dropping steadily. (Cercanias trains keep you up to date with the temperature as well as the name of the next stop, not to mention giving regular blasts of a renfe Christmas ditty that begins “choo, choo, choo”, to wish passengers Felices Fiestas.) By Vic it was below zero, by Campdevanol, where we got off, it was minus 6.  After sprinting into a bar, eating a hearty breakfast and adding more layers, we braved the outdoors again.

Snow and ice are a novelty for coastal dwellers, so we were disappointed to see how brown the Pyrenees looked – I’ve seen them whiter in June – a reflection of the drought Catalunya is suffering.  Still, there were plenty of frozen waterfalls and streams to admire, and skid over when they crossed the track.   There were an alarming number of Procesionaria nests on the pines of the lower slopes – some of them on branches at head height, so you had to be alert! This area is going to be criss-crossed with caterpillar trails in February.

The higher we climbed, the warmer it got, a clear case of temperature inversion.  At the end of the day, as we toiled up the last steep path, heartened by the sound of the Choughs that live near the hostal, thoughts of cold drinks kept coming to mind.  On these becalmed winter days, the south-facing Sierra de Montgrony absorbs the sun all day long.  You could look down on the Plana de Vic, where white mist permanently lies, keeping it damp and chill.  Up here, at about 1,400m, there was a man scaling a vertical rock face in shorts and a t-shirt. 

Compared to our last visit, the landscape was dry and dormant, the grass short and brown.  There was an occasional rustle among the dry leaves, as a lizard was tempted out by the midday sun.  Against the greys and browns there were vivid concentrations of colour: the ruby breast of a Bullfinch, scarlet splash of a Woodpecker and quantities of rosehips. Old Man’s Beard was plentiful, catching the sun. There was a lovely interlude when the route goes through a ghostly beech wood, ankle-deep in coppery leaves. No sign of the dramatic black woodpecker of last spring.

We were accompanied everywhere by bands of assorted tits: Long-tailed, Blue, Great, Coal, Crested.   Bird song was largely replaced by the sound of beaks busily working on bark – Nuthatches tapping away and Woodpeckers hammering.

The next day we walked up to the top of the Sierra, where you can crest along the rounded peaks. At last, some snow to crunch through, at least in the shadier parts. On the way, I came across a freshly dug mound of soil that was moving slightly.  It then started to heave in the middle and it seemed the digger – a mole? – might pop out. Alas, it remained underground. During lunch, a group of five Vultures cruised past and paused to circle.  Also saw a solitary Egyptian vulture. A flock of Choughs foraged nearby. As we approached the rock we were aiming for, a bird of prey took off with a single piercing call.  I took a very inconclusive photo and will post it in case anyone could shed some light.   

From the top you could see the French Pyrenees, solid with snow, and look down on the Collada de Toses.  More to the west, the legendary Pedraforca dominated with its double peak.  Much further away, you could see the serrated peaks of Montserrat, emerging from the mist, and even further, a shape that was possibly Barcelona’s Tibidabo.

We enjoyed the views, the sunsets and sunrises, the deep peace and wintry silence.  Hope it rains soon – strongly, so it can wash away some of those procesionaria nests.

Offline Technopat

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« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2008, 13:32 PM »
New Year's Greetings Lucy,
Thanx for that lovely account and pics.!
A lovely time was had by all - even those just reading 'bout it! That's one of the things I like about this forum.  :dancing:

Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:

Offline Sue

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« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2008, 14:18 PM »
Hi Lucy,

so it was a Bearded Vulture that you suprised from the rock, great to see one so close-and well done for getting a photo.
Some lovely descriptions and photos of your adventures!
Thinking of visiting the beautiful Sierra de Grazalema in Andalucia?

Offline Clive

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« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2008, 14:31 PM »
Thanks Lucy, :)

Sounds like you had a great time and I hope you get some proper rainfall up there soon. A good windy rainstorm definitely has a negative affect on those processional nests and the damp cold kills the caterpillars if they are bashed out onto the ground as well as exposing them to birds like the crested tits that I am sure eat them...

Well done on getting that picture of a bearded vulture!

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