Early signs of spring in Barcelona

Written by Lucy Brzoska

The sound of serins pouring out their song means spring has arrived in Barcelona. This male was glowing from his tree top perch, almost as yellow as a canary, the serin’s close relative.

serin singing in Barcelona

In a corner of Montjuic’s botanical gardens, ruderal plants explode in flower: citadels of asphodel arise among lagoons of common borage.

flowers on montjuic

Montjuic’s cable cars are in motion, after their annual February check-up and clean, and long queues of tourists form again.  Starlings nest inside the metal towers, unbothered by the noise and moving machinery.

starling nesting in Montjuic cable car tower

In the few calcareous areas of Collserola, thyme flourishes, and when its first flowers appear in March, so does a diminutive blue butterfly. The Panoptes blue (Pseudophilotes panoptes), native to Iberia and north Africa, favours thyme as a food plant and source of nectar.

panoptes blue in Collserola

Butterflies out of hibernation

Written by Lucy Brzoska

The woods in Montseny are at their brightest in late March.  They’ve still to grow a roof, and the light pours down.  We’d wandered off the track, picking a way over rocks buried in last year’s leaves, and sat down among dazzling celandines, next to a stream turned into a torrent by melting snow from Turó de l’Home.

Stephanie had just poured us tea, when a shadow came fluttering, and something settled behind me.  Looking round, I was amazed to see a Camberwell Beauty sitting by my elbow.  I took a photograph, trying to move as little as possible, which explains the strange angle.

camberwell-beauty-nymphalis-antiopa-out-of-hibernation

After a winter of hibernation, the rich mahogany wings were threadbare, like old velvet curtains.  The pale yellow border looked like fragile parchment.  The blue spots, which can be an intense indigo, had also faded.  But despite this, it was a magnificent sight in the woods, still only on the verge of spring.

Underneath the wings are dark brown with a pale edge, which helps with identification when the butterfly is flying high in the tree tops.

camberwell-beauty-nymphalis-antiopa-underwing

And then there were four of us: another Camberwell Beauty had arrived and was perched next to us on a branch.  The two noticed each other, and went whirling off together.

That day the sun roused many butterflies out into the open.  Brimstones were nectaring on dandelions – they had thousands to chose from. A missing piece from its wing couldn’t detract from this stunning Peacock feasting on catkins.

peacock-butterfly-inachis-io-out-of-hibernation