Almyros Wetlands

Betty and Bert looked dashing with their multi pocketed jackets, thick trousers and wellington boots. They also looked somewhat incongruous, as all of our similarly attired group did, as we trudged along the sandy beach between two rows of scantily clad sunbathers on sun loungers. Magnanimously ignoring the stares and giggles we eventually crossed the little bridge at the end and squelched our way along a marshy path through the Giant Canes to the river bank. A Western Caspian Turtle, Mauremys rivulata, surprised at the sudden appearance of our motley crew, faltered in mid stroke and dived into the weeds at the bottom.

As we took it in turns to gain access to the river bank the remaining members of the party investigated the undergrowth. Bert suddenly dived in among a patch of smaller reeds and emerged triumphantly with a Praying Mantis, Mantis religiosa.
“Do they bite?” asked Betty.
“They can take a male's head off during mating,” I informed her.
Betty paused to consider this, “Oh,…

Kroustas Forest

Last week we were looking for Griffon Vultures on the heights above Lasithi Plateau. We found some but they were flying very high. This week as we gathered on the forest road we were treated to the inspiring spectacle of nine of these magnificent birds not fifty feet above our heads. Standing half as tall as a man and with a nine foot wingspan they truly are awesome birds. Like all vultures they feed on carrion and will often circle around elderly animals that seem to have difficulty moving. As this accurately describes quite a number of our Sunday Strollers we considered it wise to move into the cover of the trees without further delay.

Kroustas is primarily a pine forest but it was the Juniper that caught the group's interest. Possibly because I informed them that a handful of juniper berries, when added to a bottle of the local moonshine and left to steep, gave a result that was (to paraphrase Douglas Adams) something that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike gin. With Chr…

The Oldest Saint

As I dropped down onto the Lasithi Plateau a Buzzard launched itself from a telegraph pole, narrowly missed my windshield and crashed into the undergrowth to my left where it had obviously spotted its unwary breakfast. That was a good omen as I was taking my little group of intrepid strollers to the heights above Agios Charalampos to look for Grifon Vultures. The saint, after whom the village is named, was reputedly 114 years old when he was martyred for his Christian preaching in the 3rd century, thus making him the oldest saint and his claim to fame was that, whilst being tortured, one of his torturers arms miraculously fell off and another had his head put on backwards. I think that I am more inclined to believe in Betty's black snake but more of that later.

As our little band negotiated the steep, narrow alleyways through the village and emerged on the hillside above the plateau we did indeed see Grifon Vultures and other high flying birds but it was the smaller passerines tha…

Snakeless in Sisi

I had two reasons for wanting to visit Sisi on the north coast of Crete; firstly I'd never been there, despite having been living on the island for 14 years and secondly I'd been promised that I would find Dice Snakes lounging in the rock pools just waiting to have their photographs taken. What better way to start my series of Sunday Strolls with an enthusiastic band of budding amateur naturalists in tow? Sisi is only a small village but somehow Betty managed to get lost in it before we had even started but after a slight delay whilst we phoned her with directions we descended upon the rock pools. I should point out at this juncture that to avoid confusion and boredom by introducing loads of names into these stories (to say nothing of potential ostracism and/or libel actions) all of the ladies will be referred to as Betty and the gentlemen as Bert.

We found plenty of life in the rock pools; everything from Peacock's Tails (see Creature's of the Blue Lagoon if you'd …