A walk in Montseny

Written by Lucy Brzoska

White tufts were floating up into the stratosphere.  It was liberation time for poplar wool, with clouds of the stuff trapped among the grass like studio mist.  It was also the time when flowers explode.  There were places where one species had rioted to the exclusion of all others.  A ditch in Campins was thickly covered in Tufted Vetch and above the field the slope was pink with Snapdragons.

snapdragons-in-montseny

Water was rushing down the varied slopes of Montseny.  Where the GR5 climbs out of Campins, streams were pouring into brimming irrigation tanks.  Swallows were bathing on the wing, skimming in and out of the water like stones, and then preening on the wire.  Buzzard calls were coming from the farmhouse roof: the Montseny starlings do a good impersonation.

The path takes you through endlessly changing habitats.  In the sheltered cork oak wood, it almost felt like summer, partly because of the steepness of the track.  Among the white rock roses, filaments glittered in the aromatic heat: the micro moths.  Hairstreaks (Callophrys rubi) blended with the leaves, both matt green.

green-hairstreak-on-cistus-salvifolius

The route levels off by open fields, heavily grazed by cows, who often plod along the track in search of more succulent fare. I noticed some austere purple stems among the pines.  Some were producing violet flowers, with the familiar orchid shape: it was the Violet Limodore or Violet Bird’s-nest Orchid, a chlorophyll-free saprophyte.

violet-birds-nest-orchid-limodorum-abortivum

Among the pine needles were pure white Stars of Bethlehem, whose petals have cool green stripes underneath.  They’d survived the cows, though their leaves had been bitten off.  A froghopper was emerging from the safety of its blob of spit.

froghopper-emerging

I tiptoed through the farmyard, vainly hoping not to wake up the guard dog, who bursts out of his wooden kennel en cue, like an enraged cuckoo in a clock.  The outraged snarls fading away, I found a meadow tangled up with a dizzy array of flowers: Tassle hyacinths, euphorbias, daisies, buttercups, plantains, vetch, more Stars of Bethlehem embedded deep down, Crimson Peas, poppies.

If you look closely at a flower in May, you’re almost bound to see a spider – dashing to the other side like a woodpecker round a tree trunk – or a technicolour beetle.  My guide to Montseny suggests this hairy individual, with its red and black stripes and turquoise head, is a Trichodes apiarius, or Bee beetle.  Its larvae prey on beehives, while the adult visits flowers in search of pollen and small insects.

bee-beetle-trichodes-apiarius