Having been out at sea quite a lot recently, we visited the other end of our territory, making two trips to our favourite upland, the foothills of Canigou about which I have written before. On both occasions the weather was good, pretty warm but with really clear air so that the distant views were good. On the first occasion, we were alone and decided to tackle the rocky spur, which leads up to the real summits of the long massif. It was steep and stony, and I (in particular!) toiled upwards in the heat. Eventually we decided that the path was becoming too eroded (by sangliers, we are sure), for it to be a comfortable way down when it came to retracing our steps. On the return trip, which was rather hard on the joints, we halted at an attractive little col and took some photographs of the rocks, the heather and the juniper which made the place so pretty, - and also the gentians. There were a few clumps, some white, some purple, but I think both variations of the same species: gentianella campestris or field gentian (although the Albera book gives it as gentiana). This is quite a common plant in Scotland and it was fun to see it at this altitude, way above the height of any Scottish hills!
The next day up there, spent with some American friends, was rather more exciting. The choughs were busy, but there were also lots of ravens around and they were fairly tame, unworried by us. We had some excellent views of their glossy plumage and imposing bills. At one moment a kestrel flew by, and we briefly saw a buzzard, perhaps a booted eagle, certainly a short-toed eagle in the distance.
But for the first two or three hours, that day was totally dominated by the vultures, I think no fewer than eleven of them. When they were all in the air together above us, it was intimidating, like facing a squadron of Second World War bombers, when they flew below us with the brilliant sun on their huge wings it was simply magnificent. They flew down the marmot valley, and I heard the piercing alarm call from those plump inhabitants of the sandy burrows. A couple landed, resting in the sun with wings outstretched like cormorants on a rock. For a while it was hard to know where to look. It was a wonderful day.