Postcards from the Ariège – March 2022

I spent March 7th to May 19th 2022 and May 20th to July 8th 2023 based at Luzenac in the Ariège Mountains. This then is the first monthly review; a chance to take a another look at this great, mountain wilderness that is so rich in biodiversity.

March in 2022 is surprisingly warm and often sunny with a range of early plants and butterflies appearing; it is also cold, damp and grey; whatever the weather, the log burner is lit most days. The potagers are being turned and old men sit by the river enjoying the midday sunshine. The forests that carpet the mid hills are bare and the highest trees whitened by hoar frosts in the early morning. The woodland ground flora is dominated by anemones, oxlips and corydalis amongst the brown, dead leaves. Black woodpeckers, nuthatches and marsh tits call from the woods and mistle and song thrushes sing. Black redstarts and the early warblers flycatch for insects over the river where there are also the ever-present dippers and wagtails. The meadows that soon will be knee high in flowers are lifeless, still ironed flat from the recently melted cover of snow. Catkins on the hazel and willows and early blossom on the fruit trees are lit by the bright, early spring sunlight. By the end of the month, fresh green leaf just starts to appear on the birches. The high mountains remain covered in deep snows that are whipped by the wind. Just below the snow melt, stunning Erythronium dens-canis and Gagea lutea flowers burst through the dead sward; these are the bright stars of March 2022.

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