Early birds on Montjuic

November 30th, 2008 | Written by Lucy Brzoska.

Written by Lucy Brzoska

Remains of last night’s storm were still strewn across the eastern sky this morning. But the sun struggled free just as I reached the castle and it turned into a cold but clear day.

Too early for tourists, the castle was alive with birds, who find unexpected sources of water to drink and bathe in. A leaking waterpipe has created a long damp streak on the wall, like a banner of blue silk unfurled from the ramparts, capturing the vividness of the sky. There was a constant movement of visitors clinging to the wet stones. Black redstarts, which congregate in Barcelona for the winter, flurried to and fro, chasing each other in between sips. A handsome Great tit stopped by for a while, waistcoat matching the yellow poplar leaves. A lilting flock of goldfinches arrived, sweetly calling. The House sparrows, residents of the castle walls, had their turn, as did serins, a couple of Coal tits and a Tree creeper.

Round the corner, water has collected in an old stone gutter, to which someone once hastily attached a plastic pipe. A Blue rock thrush (Monticola solitarius) disappeared inside, emerging ruffled and damp. It dried off on the end of a canon.

This port-facing side of the castle is a haven in winter, secure from the north and westerly winds. The walls act like a storage heater, absorbing the sun all day. Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) has spread unchecked on the grassy slopes, its fragrance living up to its name. A faded, threadbare Red admiral sunbathed on the wall. High up near the battlements, a Painted lady (Vanessa cardui) spread its wings on a plant rooted between two stones. Crag martins turned circles over the dazzling sea, over the castle and the half-bare fig tree. They only come in winter, but their leisurely swoops remind you of summer.