I love spring in this area. After the long, dark, cold winter, when everything in the garden hunkers down against the inhospitable temperatures and the bitterly cold Tramontane, spring is the time for a new start, and to see wonderful, new things. What better time to return to the Mediterranean Pyrenees?
Our tiny garden beneath the Alberes has been shut-down, bare-earth-brown until now, with the only colour coming from an olive tree's slender blue green leaves holding on against the wind, and a Mandarine tree providing a small oasis of deep, rich green. For a time there are some shiny bright orange splodges there too, but only briefly, because the mandarines are always so deliciously more-ish that they rarely last beyond January.
Now the garden is coming alive again with the sights and sounds of a new year of growth. The bare cherry tree is suddenly transformed, covered in fluffy, white blossom within a matter of days. Bees are buzzing around it in the sun, and butterflies appear, as if by magic, all flitting busily from flower to flower. Those tiny winter buds on the fig tree suddenly grow and small bright yellow-green leaves burst out, together with the tiniest green globes, which, all being well, will become sweet syrupy figs by June.
The bird feeders we put up bring in many old friends: it's good to see that the (almost tame) robins that have staked out our little garden as their own are busily fluttering around, and it's lovely to hear the nuthatch's whistling call again. There is a definite hierarchy among them: blue tits are the bravest, and are first onto the feeders after a disturbance, closely followed by the robins and the great tits. Only then will a shy Sardinian warbler, or blackcap appear quietly, and surreptitiously eat a few beak-fulls before darting away into the safe haven of our bay tree, which is currently in flower. But those birds all instinctively back away when the nuthatch flies in, aggressively pecking away whilst occasionally checking out the immediate area for threats. The magpie's nest in a neighbouring pine tree is uncharacteristically quiet at the moment, but the birds are around, causing the songbirds to scatter in seconds, I assume to return to guarding their nests.
A couple of days ago I was in the garden, quietly sorting a few things out (tea leaves make excellent rose fertiliser, I've been told, so we are putting that to the test this year). I took my camera with me, and to my surprise (I was wearing a bright pink t-shirt) found that birds were visiting the feeders as if I wasn't there. Often I heard the flutter of their wings before seeing them darting to or from the feeders. Sometimes they were even too close to photograph - I couldn't believe my luck! I also spotted a large, but surprisingly well-camouflaged butterfly flying around the cherry tree. It was a scarce swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius) that had clearly already been in the wars, as one half of its "swallowtail" had disappeared. The photos from these encounters can be found here.