17 May 2022
The mountains above Col de Marmare are crossed by drovers’ paths which run through wide pastures. The grasslands are covered in elder-flowered orchids and gentians, woodlarks and tree pipits sing ceaselessly and the wall of sound is joyful. On the steeper slopes, juniper scrub is filled with territorial green hairstreaks that bound off nearly every bush; there are also singing dunnocks and the rasping call of a male red-backed shrike.
The Col du Fajou is a small and distinctive bluff a few km north of Col de Marmare and supports a large colony of noisy alpine choughs that shadow me in pairs as I check the cliff flora; they number over 40 and are a constant source of tumbling action. A red kite circles up from the beechwoods to the south and three or more griffon vultures drift over from the Gorges de la Frau. There is distant view through the summer haze to the lowlands to the north and the high Pyrenees to the south.