Articles in ‘Cingles de Berti’

Strictly come raven dancing

Written by Lucy Brzoska

Written by Lucy Brzoska

Trona means pulpit in Catalan. But the great rock bearing this name that thrusts out of the Cingles de Berti feels more like a throne. You can sit up there on great stone slabs and survey the land: the misty Valles plain stretching south towards Barcelona, the rounded peaks of Montseny across the Congost valley to the east, and the Pyrenees to the north. In winter there are Crag martins weaving around, ganging together to chase off a buzzard. Mediterranean heather is in mid-flower, droning with bees. The day I climbed up there I found ravens courting.

Ravens are a constant presence on the Cingles. At the end of the day, they sometimes assemble near the mobile mast above Aiguafreda, where they swirl round and round. On La Trona I watched a single pair: perhaps they were setting up a nest somewhere. I’d been listening to their calls as I climbed up, including bill-knocking and a low but resonant guttural sound. (Listen to a wide range of raven calls here.)

Though very large (bigger than buzzards), they are incredibly graceful birds in flight. They were completely focused on each other, moving in perfect synchrony, sometimes touching. They plummeted down and rose up again, and spun like barrels. I watched until they were swallowed up by the mist rolling from across the flat fields.

 

 

A walk on the edge: spring

Written by Lucy Brzoska

On the outskirts of Aiguafreda, the Cingles de Bertí loom up rather dauntingly, but the climb isn’t as bad as it looks, especially if you begin early in the day.  At the side of the track was a Dappled White, keeping perfectly still.  Its green underwing markings are like the mottled pattern of lichen on a rock.

dappled-white-butterfly-underwing-euchloe-crameri

There’s a short cut near the top cutting through dark damp woods where shadows are purple with liverwort.  Then abruptly you emerge, like a prisoner out of an escape tunnel, and look wonderingly over the top of the precipice at the flat table land.

cingles-de-berti-above-aiguafreda

Spring comes at full tilt with a range of sounds not heard since the previous year.  A cuckoo starts up from the valley below.  I can hear a flock of bee eaters somewhere over the fields.  A nightingale sings, still rather tentatively, from deep inside the evergreen oaks.  Then a Tawny owl starts hooting in the bright morning,  disconcertingly, like a clock striking thirteen.

Leer

Walking on the edge

Written by Lucy Brzoska

Stepping off the Barcelona train in Sant Marti de Centelles, you can smell grass and hear House martin chatter.  If you’ve just escaped the coastal fug, you breathe in the summer morning freshness with relief.

In the woods outside the village the cicadas were still asleep and it felt almost spring-like.  Back in May these woods were starred with Junquillo Falso  (Aphyllanthes monspeliensis).  Now the long grass is full of Scabious and a leggy indigo flower – Cupid’s Dart (Catananche caerulea).

cupids-dart-in-july-catananche-caerulea

cupids-dart-flower-catananche-caerulea

Common centaury and oregano cluster about, and the air ripples with butterflies.  All day long, every step would disturb clouds of butterflies. Among the Marbled Whites and Ilex Hairstreaks were Provence Chalk-hill Blues (Polyommatus hispana).

provence-chalk-hill-blue-polyommatus-hispana-in-spain

The easiest way to breach the cinglera is by the looping dusty track from Sant Marti. As you climb you hear the ravens in constant communication, a mix of low gravelly calls and high-pitched trumpeting, and best of all, the bill knocking.

Cingle means precipice in Catalan, and the Cingles de Berti are a long rippling cliff along one side of the Congost Valley.  The slopes are steep and wooded, with layers of bare rock, where a large raven colony is currently roosting.

catalan-landscapes-wooded-slopes-of-cingles-de-berti

The slopes come to an abrupt halt on table-top flatlands, where swallows were skimming over stubbly fields. The rocky edge, gilded with stone crop, is partially hidden by a strip of woodland scrub.  Paths bring you out onto unexpected balconies, where the land falls away to unfettered views of Montseny on the other side of the valley, and the Pyrenees if the day’s clear.

Large dark brown butterflies were patrolling the path: Great Banded Graylings (Brintesia circe).  They were particularly drawn to the Lesser Burdock, nectaring at the thistle-like flowers or sucking the sap. If you dawdled on the overgrown path, the Greylings would treat you as a convenient perch.

great-banded-grayling-brintesia-circe-on-lesser-burdock

There was a moment of drama near the small reservoir.  A very large butterfly rushed at me from a tree.  After two intense fluttering attacks, targetting the back of my head, it returned to its high perch.  Though all over in a flash, I’m pretty sure the ambush had been staged by a Camberwell Beauty.

Red-veined Darters were flying in red and gold tandem.  Little Grebes ululated from the reeds and laughter and screams drifted over from the nearby farmhouse – the sounds of an open air swimming pool on a summer’s day.

I found the path that turns through the holm oaks onto a secluded balcony, directly opposite Tagamanent and other Montseny landmarks. Dragonflies were hunting at the edge of the precipice.  A Black-tailed Skimmer gorged on a large fly. A kestrel floated past, escorted by House martins.  The wild call of buzzards resonated, as two flew in unison. Swifts were flying overhead on a clear path south, leaving us already.

In a recent conversation, looking under rocks had been advocated, so out in a clearing I lifted one at random.  It was quite heavy and I had to put it down almost immediately.  The image of a pale scorpion lingered though, flat as a zodiac symbol.  Back among the butterflies, I found a small Pearly Heath (Coenonympha arcania), with a sparse clarity to its ocelli and a silvery edge to its underwings.

pearly-heath-butterfly-coenonympha-arcania-in-july

I stopped to watch the ravens before going back downhill.  They were gathering in numbers, diving and swerving, and best of all, flipping onto their backs.  I saw them assembling by the antennae for a preliminary swirl – a warm up for the major swarm before twilight.

ravens-corvus-corax-swarming-on-cingles-de-berti