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Crete Nature Almanack 2018 – Summer

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Summer is here, the temperatures are regularly over 30C (86F) and sometimes over 40C (104F), so there is only one place to be; the sea. The shallow waters are teeming with fish like these (Yellowtail Barracuda I think) whilst Brittlestars clamber among the rocks and Sea Hares mate among the seaweed fronds.



Flowers are few and far between in the height of summer but as you wander along the beach look out for Sea Daffodils, Yellow Horned Poppies and Sea Rocket.



If you wander inland through the grasses see if you can find some of these amazingly beautiful insects. It's a Cretan Bright Bush Cricket and you'll only find it here on Crete (if you're lucky!)



And finally... towards the end of August watch out for the massed congregations of European Barn Swallows as they gather together for their migration to sub-Saharan Africa.


The Extra Bit
The Crete Nature Blog will take its annual summer vacation now but I'll be back in the autumn with more delights of the Cretan countryside. Ha…

Butterfly Bonanza (How to identify butterfly families)

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If you want to know a little more about the fascinating world of insects then you can't do better than to start with butterflies. They're colourful, reasonably easy to tell apart and they don't bite. What is more there are only six families, at least five of which are present here on Crete and if you are lucky, as I was recently, you can see representatives of all five in one day. So here's my guide to the five butterfly families of Crete.
1 The Whites and Sulphurs (Pieridae family)

I guess that we're all familiar with the Cabbage White (Pieris brassicae) and its little sibling the Small White (Pieris rapae) but next time take a closer look; you may be observing a Bath White (Pontia edusa) which has a mottled green underwing. On my trek around the hills near Tylissos to the west of Heraklion I came across two of the sulphurs: The Clouded Yellow (Colias croecus) and this one, the Cleopatra (Gonepteryx cleopatra) with its very distinctive wing shape.
2 The Swallowtai…

The Urban Wildlife of Agios Nikolaos

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Unfortunately we seem to be spending a lot of time in and around hospitals at the moment; in fact Mrs D is collecting hospials and departments like cards in a game of old maid. At the end of March she collected Pneumology from Agios Nikolaos and while we were there samping the delights of their cuisine (one night it was just a plastic bowl of wet rice) I managed to escape a few times and find a bit of peace with the urban wildlife. Here are a few of my favourites:

Psilothrix viridicoerulea, Soft-winged Flower Beetle

These are very common over here at this time of year and just look at the amount of pollen he's transferring as he makes his way among the flowers.

Syrphidae, Hoverfly


Beetles, bugs and bees are not the only pollinators of course; flies such as this Hoverfly (here pollinating some Cretan Viper's Grass, Scorzonera cretica), contribute vastly to plant pollination (see The Far Side).

Spring, of course, is nest building time and this individual is bosy building her umbrell…

Full Circle

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Here we are on the final segment of our walk around the Forty Saints and if you cast your mind back to the beginning you may recall that we saw some little Mirid Bug nymphs on some Asphodel leaves. I hazarded a guess that they may have been the young of the Orange Blossom Bug, Dionconotus neglectus, as we'd seen the adults before on Yellow Asphodelswhen we visited The Chamomile Lawn. However, it seems as though we have another contender because if you look closely, these Yellow Asphodels are being visited by another type of Mirid Biug, Horistus infuscatus. But what does it matter which bugs visit which plants? Simply, plants and their attendant insects move around over time as conditions on the planet change. They are climate refugees in a sense and by monitoring the direction of their migrations it helps us to predict where our future climate refugees will go as Earth temperatures continue to rise. The plants, the bugs and us all react to environmental changes in much the same w…

Into The Valley

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Into The Valley

In last week's Almanack I introduced you to Borage, one of the hairy guys in the family Boraginaceae. The name derives fro the Latin for hairy or woolly and their stems and leaves are covered in the stuff. This particular one is Cynoglossum creticum or Blue Hound's Tongue which is native to the Mediterranean basin and not just Crete as its scientific name suggests and the leaves do indeed look a bit like hound's tongue. Some of the chemicals in this are not particularly good for us or our livestock but caterpillars of some butterflies use it to harvest and store chemical defence weaponry whereas some female moths find it an alluring addition to their pheromonal perfume. One man's meat is another man's poison as the saying goes.

Look Mum, I can see the sea! We've now come around the far side of Agioi Saranta, or the Forty Saints and we're going to head down towards that deep ravine before cutting back around the hill. The air down here is absol…

Crete Nature Almanack 2018 – Late Spring

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“Now every field is clothed with grass, and every tree with leaves; now the woods put forth their blossoms, and the year assumes its gay attire.”Virgil

Yes, the month of May is here and yesterday's May Day dances and revels marked the middle of Spring which started with the equinox in March and ends with the Summer solstice in June. So what should we be looking for in the second half of the season? In the insect world, butterflies abound at this time of year. I went for a walk earlier in the week and photographed no less than seven different species including this beautiful African Queen (also called the Plain Tiger but I prefer the former).

As the weather begins to heat up in preparation for summer it is time to get inventive with salads. Try adding a few borage flowers and shredded leaves with their delicate cucumber-like flavour and look out for other herbs in flower, many of which can be found on the Cretan Flora website in the family Labiatae.

This is also a great time of year t…

Waterfowl Special

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I promise you that we will finish off our walk around the Forty Saints but at the moment I am over 100km away just to the west of the capital, Heraklion. In between taking Mrs D for her daily zap of radiotherapy we have a fair bit of free time. You may remember that four years ago I brought you up here to visit The Electric Wetlands "an outstanding area of wetland where you can happily spend all day pottering about investigating the wildlife".I've had another potter - but this time with a zoom lens. So here are a few pictures of some of the gorgeous waterfowl that you can find here.


And this is where to find the place (courtesy of Google Maps)
Incidentally, Manos Studios where we are staying is also marked on the map; highly recommended.