In the sumptuous landscapes of the Ariège Pyrenees hide priceless treasures. They respond to funny names that intrigue me: chamois, desman, tetra lyre or bearded vulture. These animals, coveted and threatened, must be protected. Sanctuary places exist to allow them to flourish and see their population grow. Near Ax les therms, at the end of the Orlu valley, there is one of them, the national reserve of Orlu, in the middle of ♥️ the Pyrenees.
It is at the mountain observatory, a place of awareness and information of the Orlu national reserve, that my quest begins: observe the izard, the symbolic animal of this territory. For this I am accompanied by Jérôme who works at the reserve and knows the ecosystems and fauna of this natural space well. Well equipped, snowshoes on our feet and pushed by our impatience, we quickly reach the path that crosses the reserve.
A magical atmosphere of undergrowth picks us up from the start. Between the bare branches the first rays of the sun penetrate. Stripped by winter, the trees reveal their architecture.
The path is covered with a beautiful layer of snow follows the Oriège river. We inaugurate this immaculate cover with our steps. At first, that's what we think anyway. In effect, we are not long in spotting many footprints preceding us. Invisible to our eyes, the inhabitants of the forest are nonetheless present.
Their footprints are so many clues that reconstruct their passages and their habits. It is up to us to know how to recognize and read them. The most numerous belong to foxes. And if they are mostly on the path reserved for hikers, it is not just a happy coincidence. If they choose to use it, it is above all to save their energy, which is so precious in this season.
Near the shore, another footprint particularly intrigues us. Delicate and barely perceptible, it is complex to identify it. Jérôme, a fine connoisseur, is quick to make some connections. His answer surprises me. This is an otter. Although rare, they are gradually returning to the Orlu reserve. We then understand why its passage stops abruptly at the river. She simply dived into the water to continue on her way or to get back to the other side.
before joining the heart of the nat reserveional from Orlu, other animals will leave some clues in their path for us to eat. Hare and squirrel prints here and a tree trunk threadbare by the successive passages of wild boars there.
At noon, we reach the jasse d'en gaudu, a meadow nestled in the hollow of the fabulous mountains of Ariège.. A magnificent site for observing the isard ?
As we take out our picnic, we can't help but scan the sides of these mountains to find it. It is a completely different animal that becomes embedded in our attentive contemplation: a majestic deer whose brown coat stands out perfectly from the snowy coat. The sandwiches will wait a bit. We will be rewarded once again by our enthusiasm because a second deer and a few izards will soon complete this winter picture?
A chamois in the snow © Les Globes Blogueurs – Ariège Pyrénées Wildlife observation © Les Globes Blogueurs – Ariège Pyrénées
The slender silhouette of the chamois permeates our retinas and arouses our curiosity a little more. So we set off again, or rather on snowshoes, to explore the jasse d'en gaudu. The snowy crust, sometimes sparse, of this meadow is a godsend for the chamois. The herbaceous layer is more accessible there.
A few brown dots move on the horizon. There is no doubt that this is a herd of chamois. The small curved horns similar to those of its alpine cousin, the chamois, make it easy to recognize them.
We detail with wonder the beige, black and brown shapes of their dresses which give them all their elegance. While remaining well on the authorized path, we advance cautiously. Thus, we can precisely observe the behavior of these emblematic animals of the Pyrenees without disturbing them.
The way they scrape the snow to reach the shoots or roots, this way of advancing quietly from grass to grass or even the quivering that runs through their body when they hear a suspicious noise. Each of their actions provokes in us a strong emotion. We feel really lucky to witness this moment of grace.
Further, without knowing it, it is we who are observed! By three hinds! They freeze the moment our gaze meets theirs. Curious, they nevertheless retain their wild instinct. At this moment, we know that we have only one stake, not to move an inch. The risk would be to let this precious moment slip away, but above all to make them waste energy unnecessarily by encouraging them to run off at full speed.
Thus, by remaining as discreet as possible, we can continue our observations of deer on one side and chamois on the other. Gradually sated and the light declining, they retreat to the heights or into the thickets to spend the night there.
Still flabbergasted, we decide to go to the refuge for the night. It was without counting on the extreme generosity of nature which offered us an ultimate treasure: the aerial ballet of two golden eagles and a bearded vulture at sunset.
At nightfall, wrapped up in my duvet, I only dream of one thing: to come back in summer for other animal observations in a transformed setting. Who knows the adorable marmots who like it so much here will honor me with their presence?