Wednesday 25 March 2015

The Cyclamen Woods

First bird of the day; a Hoopoe

Last week as we were rescuing beetles up on the Hidden Plateau you may recall that we looked down into the valley and spotted a couple of interesting looking ponds. So I thought we’d go and investigate them today. It’s a pleasant stroll compared with our arduous hill climbing of the past few weeks and the little stream from Milonas Waterfall is gurgling away merrily beside us. You know it’s going to be a good day when the first bird to cross your path is a Hoopoe. These wonderful black, white and salmon pink birds are sunbathers par excellence.  They flatten their bodies, wings and tail against the ground and tilt their heads to the sun, a posture that looks slightly odd in a bird and positively ridiculous if you try it yourself on the beach. 

The egg launching Common Darter
It will take us about half an hour to walk to the ponds, stopping as we do to observe the wildlife along the way. This Common Darter Dragonfly for instance, taking a more conventional attitude to sunbathing, is quite a common species with a rather interesting approach to childbirth. Whereas most dragonflies lay their eggs carefully in various places the male and female Common Darter fly in tandem, swinging down over water, and at the bottom of the arc the female releases her eggs reminiscent of the Barnes Wallace bouncing bomb, to take their chances where they fall. If you look up to the skyline for a moment you can see “The Fortress” above The Secret Hollow and The Hidden Plateau where we’ve been scrabbling about earlier this month. 

A Flower Chafer pollinating Thorny Broom
We can see the ponds now on the opposite side of the valley and even my poor olfactory powers told me that we had company a while before the soft clonking of bells announced the presence of a herd of goats.  Give man an island anywhere in the world and he’ll chop down the trees and set goats to work on the rest of the vegetation.  Some plants try to defend themselves like this Thorny Broom at the side of the track but they’re no match for the almost mechanical munching power of the domestic goat. Did you notice the little Flower Chafer feeding on the bright yellow flowers? I wonder if it’s one of the pair we rescued last week? It would be nice to think so, wouldn’t it?

A juvenile Balkan green Wall Lizard
Here we are at the ponds and with all these goats marauding about it’s not surprising that there’s not a bird to be seen. Never mind, let’s investigate what’s left of the grassy banks and see if anything has taken refuge in the last remnants of vegetation. We’re in luck, lizards galore, there’s one down by your feet.  This is another one for our phenology list as this is the earliest I’ve seen them for over five years. This is a juvenile. In the summer, when he’s fully grown, he’ll be a bright emerald green. Oh look, there goes another one, smashing little creatures in my opinion and a real sign of spring (which is now here of course, the Spring equinox was at the end of last week and I celebrated with the first barbecue of the year – steak, chips and salad, you can’t beat it).

The Cyclamen Woods
I’m not sure we’ll see much more here but I’ll take you to a place, not too far away, and give your eyes a feast. One of the chapters in Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals is called “The Cyclamen Woods”. That was in Corfu of course but I’m pleased to say that here in Crete we have our own cyclamen woods and here they are.  This particular species, Cyclamen creticum,  is as white as snow and endemic to Crete and Karpathos. What a wonderful sight, a huge bank of them glittering like diamonds in the emerald light filtered through the pines. An enchanting spot to stop and rest a while, watch the frogs dipping in and out of the stream and be lulled to sleep by the distant cantata of goat bells.

Until next week – happy hunting.

Naturalists (the facebook page that accompanies this blog)



  1. In the warm, your dragonflies are months ahead of us, common darters won't be on the scene here untli June/July. Their laying behaviour is really weird to watch!

  2. Ici il faut encore attendre donc un grand plaisir pour moi de partager votre jolie balade remplie de belles promesses ! Superbe article ....


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