At this time of year the P-O transforms into a kaleidoscope of wildflowers. Lesley McLaren takes us through a few of the more common ones to be found in the verges, hedgerows and rocky slopes of the Albères and Vallespir.

t’s been such a mild winter that our feathered friends haven’t been very busy on bird feeders in the garden. Nevertheless, we’d love to know what you’ve spotted. Anything unusual – this last week in particular perhaps? The combination of spring migration and colder, wetter weather always increases the likelihood of something exciting dropping by. And what about their table manners?

Coming from the French word terre for “soil,” the word terroir originally described the special characteristics of a region, or piece of land, which gave different varieties of wine, coffee and tea their individuality. (Soil, climate, position, regional traditions….)

First we had the ‘Recluse brun’ (brown recluse spider, fiddleback, or also known as the violin spider due to its shape and markings) spotted last year in the Gard and Herault departments, now it’s the ‘veuve noire’ or Black Widow, also known as the Mediterranean or European Black Widow!

At this time of year, we read a lot about Pine Processionary Caterpillars, hairy and dangerous little fellows who can cause severe irritation and allergic reactions in both human and animals who touch them or who come across their hairs, which can also blow in the wind.

The P-O is on red alert for pollen allergy. According to the RNSA (National Aerobiological Surveillance Network), responsible for the analysis of the content of the air, cypress pollen is at a particularly high level in our region as well as the Hérault, Aude, Lozère, Aveyron and Tarn.

These are in fact caterpillar nests, constructed by the pine processionary caterpillar (chenille processionnaire) larva, who live in large ‘tents’ and march out at night in single file (hence the name) to feed on the pine needles.

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