23rd June, 2023
This is my favourite Col, with a narrow road that in places is now deep in cow manure as the herds have been moved up to the mountain grasslands for the summer; each is about 30 to 40 grey, white cows, many with huge bells hung round their necks, accompanied by their newborn calves and one lucky bull. The flora is rich and on this warm day, the butterflies elusive. The grassland bird community includes tree pipits on the slopes with occasional whinchats in the bracken. Woodlarks are on the barer ground and skylarks the open grasslands. Where there is Juniper and other scrub there are stonechats and red-backed shrikes.
The Col du Pradel marks the border between the Ariege and the Aude. On the road down through the pine forest, where a sign advertises the presence of capercaillie or grand tétras, and before you reach the pretty village of La Fajolle where the Rebenty runs between the road and the houses with lots of little bridges between the two, there is a track that runs up through the forest to a rich grassland. On the track that cuts across the steep slope, the butterflies appear transfixed by the salts presumably from the cows’ urine and come down in good numbers This is a rare opportunity to get close to Dark Green Fritillary and Amanda’s Blue. Between the Col and this lower ground, there are two or three Erebia Ringlet species and these are as hard to decipher as the Blues.