Wednesday 15 April 2015

Along the Ardefsi

After last week’s somewhat arduous trek, both physically from the top to bottom of the Milonas valley and mentally through the annals of evolution, I thought we’d reward ourselves this week with a quiet walk along an ardefsi. To be more precise an ardefsi kanali or, in English, a less poetic sounding irrigation canal. These little concrete canals were built to take water from the hills and mountains to the farmlands below but nowadays have fallen into disuse, replaced by ubiquitous black plastic pipes that snake their way across the landscape like so much spaghetti negro. In truth, they are not too obtrusive as they soon get covered with a layer of brown dust and begin to blend in. So with the sun shining across a millpond like sea, the sky turning a shade of cornflower blue and the first Swifts of the year wheeling overhead and uttering their shrill squeaks of delight let us sally forth along the ardefsi and see where it leads us.

Cistus, Star Clover and Pimpernel
The swifts? Yes they usually appear at any time from mid March to the end of April along this part of the coast. Last year I didn’t see them until the end of May which either means that they were delayed or I was being unobservant, both of which are possible. But what have we here? See how the ardefsi has filled up with earth over the years providing a microhabitat for some of our smaller flowers. Shielded by the ridge behind and in the lee of the pink flowering cistus bush we have some Star Clover (those of you with long memories will remember that we found this and other clovers last Spring out at Bramiana Reservoir) and some Scarlet Pimpernels. Yes, I know that they are blue but if you’ve read Baroness Orczy’s novel of the same name you will recall that Sir Percy Blakeney, the eponymous hero of the story, was a master of disguise. There are three forms of this flower: orange, red and blue. Personally I have only seen the orange and blue forms out here, never the red. I seek it here, I seek it there, …that demned elusive Pimpernel. Sorry, getting a bit carried away there.

Robber Flies mating on a fallen Pine
It would seem that our path is not going to be as easy as we thought. We’ve already had to clamber up and down the hillside a couple of times to avoid dense shrubbery and now a fallen pine tree is blocking our way. However, fallen trees are always good for a find or two and this one I see is providing a marital bed for a pair of Robber Flies. Now this is interesting: Fauna Europea only lists one species of Robber Fly out here, Cerdistus creticus, which we had the pleasure of meeting whilst walking round The Bottomless Lake of Agios Nikolaos but these look slightly different. We’ll send some pictures off to a few experts and see what they make of them. Now, do we go over, under or round? Over I think.

Longhorn Beetle among the Yellow Asphodels
The fallen tree seems to have presaged a slight descent around a pine cloaked valley which will give us a bit of welcome shade. It really is getting quite hot today. Is it my imagination or is that stretch of our canal opposite us going uphill? Never underestimate the powers of Greek geometry. I see we still have some of our old friends the Yellow Asphodels in flower down here in the cool depths although most of them are now setting seed and looking like stalks of tiny Golden Delicious apples. A couple of weeks back on our walk to The Chamomile Lawn we found the dying flowers full of Orange Blossom Bugs but today we have a new visitor, a beautiful little Longhorn Beetle that goes by the name of Agapanthia. Just look at those magnificent black and white banded antennae.

Quaking Grass and Swallowtail Butterfly
With the valley dropping far away below us the ardefsi seems to be making a loop around the head of it. I wonder if we can peer over the edge? Wow! Another vertiginous chasm, we must find a way down into it at some point in the future, make a note will you? The rock face opposite looks quite damp, there may well be pools at the bottom teeming with interesting discoveries. But that’s for another day, let’s go and sit on the ardefsi and just soak in the sights, sounds and smells that surround us. There’s a beautiful warm breeze coming over from Africa and we’ve all the time in the world to relax and take it all in. This part of the ardefsi is full of little Quaking Grass, nodding their heads in approval of the Spring Sunshine and look, the first Swallowtail butterfly of the year and I do believe I saw a Clouded Yellow earlier, flitting through the pine trees like a slice of lemon on the wing. Ahh! Let’s just stay here in this idyllic spot all week shall we?

Until next week – happy hunting.



Naturalists (the facebook page that accompanies this blog)

Flowers of Crete;


Crete Birding

Greek Butterflies and Moths

Aquaworld Aquarium

Visit Greece (National Government Tourist Office)


  1. HA...oh! What a beutiful walk with an intersting guide this week. My only tough task during our walks - or more exactly just after - is to sign in down here. Today i will test via a Google account:

  2. One memory I have of Crete is how little flowing water there seemed to be, rivers really rare. I remember one flowing into the sea near Aghion Nikolaus, that's it!


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