Spring Gentian

 DREW THE bluest of the gentians on Männlichen, the Spring Gentian, Gentiana verna, then set out again on the Panoramaweg in what we thought would be a brief shower but which turned into rain. We dried out by stopping at a mountain restaurant for soup and a roll.

1.30 pm, Kleine Scheidegg station.

The Alpine Choughs have very dark eyes, which don’t show up at any distance like those of our Jackdaw. Perhaps the dark pigment in the eye acts as a U.V. Filter.

2 then 3 or 4 choughs descend on plates of noodles and spaghetti as soon as they are left, casting plastic forks and paper serviettes aside before throwing the paper plate itself onto the ground.

We take the train down to Grindelwald Grund then return back up via the gondola to Männlichen. We can’t resist fitting in our marmot-spotting journey just one more time.

A buzzard circles in a clearing amongst the tall conifers, giving us a view from below, then on level with (we can see the details of its eye and cere) and finally from above. As we glide past in our gondola it’s like being in a wildlife documentary where they film at treetop level from a microlight.

Some of the conifers are the height of our electricity pylons and in proportion as long and thin as slender pencils. Very long slender pencils. Some have bunches of long purple cones, similar to the weights on traditional cuckoo-clocks.

We spot only one marmot, sitting like a sphinx, looking uphill but as a final bonus a red kite gives us a fly-past just as we near the upper station. Like the buzzard it gives us a perfect, unhurried diagnostic view, enabling us to see the shallow ‘V’ of its wings as it glides towards us, then the markings as it dips below us.

No Chamois today but flock of Alpine Choughs dip down to the cable car, as if in a farewell salute, then fly off over the crags.

6.30 pm, After all the travelling around, looking at wonderful scenery during this wonderful two week holiday, I realise that I would have been equally happy to have been fixed in one spot, taking a close look at the birds, butterflies, flowers and fossils. Perhaps next time I should go to a small island!

I draw these wild flowers in the meadow by the children’s play area in Wengen. It’s on an embankment with a retaining wall, so I don’t even need to bend down to draw them. My varifocal spectacles are perfect for this kind of work with flowers and my sketchbook both comfortably in their focus zones. I find myself using a fine no.1 tipped Pilot Drawing Pen and adding small-print notes to my drawing, as I did 30 years ago when compiling my Richard Bell’s Britain sketchbook.

The flower on the left is a bellflower, Campanula rhomboidalis, which is found in the Alps and the Jura up to 2200m in meadows and on grassy banks.

On the right is a species of scabious, either small or shining, S. columbaria or  S. lucida.

The Spiked Rampion, in the middle, is a member of the bellflower family but it lacks the showy bells of its relative. Instead it has this plume-like flowerhead.