With afternoon temperatures hovering listlessly around the forty Celcius mark the best time for walking the hills around Ferma is, without doubt, just as the sun is beginning to rise. As the pre-dawn blues of Strongoli begin to melt in its rays only the olives, pines and lentisc retain their green. A lingering Bugloss fades its final flowers from pink to violet but the overriding impression is one of a sepia landscape. It is a time of grasshoppers, crickets and dragonflies.
I think we'll head off into those pines for a bit and try to find some shade. This is a part of the gully we explored a few years back in A Kingdom in the Pine Woods.
I see we still have a couple of beetles about; a False Blister beetle feeding on the last remaining nectar of the Fennel (all adult False Blisters are pollen feeding) and in this dying Globe Thistle another Chlorophorus varius. This is the beetle we found last time out that we think is new to the island (see The Ultimate Jigsaw Puzzle). He looks to be on his last legs – insects don't tend to live very long once they've reached adulthood and mated – so lets box him up and let him die in peace. No-one has let me know of a previous sighting of this beetle yet on the island so a physical specimen may be needed at some point to find out a little bit more about his origins. It's amazing what you can find out these days with a little genomic sequencing but you can't do it from a photograph.
We'll just rest quietly here for a while, listen to the birds and see who comes to visit. I can hear greenfinch, chaffinch and great tit flitting around in the foliage and... “Good morning to you Sir (or Madam – I'm never too sure which with buzzards)” A nice little early morning encounter. Pity it saw us and decided not to grace us with its company a little longer. This may be one of its favourite breakfasting spots, Buzzards always catch their prey on the ground and there are plenty of vantage points here to spot anything rustling the dry grasses in this little clearing.
The cicadas will be safe on the trunks of the trees, there must be dozens of them here this morning. I can hardly hear myself think. The cicada song (if one can dignify such a horrendous racket with the term) almost defines Mediterranean summer nights in literature and, on my recent exile to the bustling town of Ierapetra, I did indeed hear cicadas in the wee small hours, but out here in the country they start at sunrise and cease at sunset. Incredibly difficult to spot, cicadas, unless you see them land. There are two above your head, look. Just there on the trunk. Much as I'd like to stay on my back here, gazing up at the moon there's another little place up the road that I want to show you where we can look for some lizards.
This is Ferma, ancient and modern so to speak. Behind this old stone structure you can see our new solar electricity generating plant but it's in the old bit (and I've never been able to determine what it was) where you can find lizards coming out to bask on the stone walls. If we just crouch here in the shadows and wait for a bit. Ouch! And ouch again! I don't know about you but I appear to be being bitten by house flies. Now this is odd, not to say painful, because house flies don't bite. If you look at this picture that I took a while back of a fly rubbing his legs whilst sitting on a red leather purse you can just make out his mouth parts which act like a sort of sponge for mopping up liquid nutrients. This little expletive on my leg however seems to have a pneumatic hypodermic attached to his face. Although he looks very much like a house fly, albeit a little smaller, he is in fact a Stable Fly, Stomoxys calcitrans, also known as the biting house fly and the power mower fly. These can pass on diseases to horses, cattle and poultry but thankfully, in this part of the world at least, not to humans. It's quite a painful little bite though and I'm beginning to swell up already so I think we'll leave the lizards for another day. Besides which I really do think that it's time for breakfast.
The Extra Bit
For anyone requiring further information about Chlorophorus varius I have diagnostic photos available and a specimen. Email me at Chlorophorusvarius@outlook.com
Many of you have asked me what photographic equipment I use so here's a quick rundown on the cameras used for each picture. For details of aperture settings, shutter speeds etc. my pictures will be on Flickr within a few days and that has all the geeky stuff.
Picture 1 Nikon Coolpix S33
Insets Canon EOS 1300D, Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3
Picture 2 Nikon Coolpix S33
Insets Canon EOS 1300D
Picture 3 Nikon Coolpix S33
Insets Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3
Picture 4 Nikon Coolpix S33
Insets Canon EOS 1300D
Picture 5 Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3, Nikon Coolpix S33
Insets Canon EOS 1300D
Extra Bit pictures Canon EOS 1300D
Pictures cropped and lighting adjusted with FastStone Image Viewer
And finally...thanks for all your good wishes for my wife who is now recovering at home.
Share your nature thoughts, photos and comments on Naturalists (the facebook page that accompanies this blog)
See detailed pictures on Flickr
Read more about the flora and flora of the island in The Nature of Crete (Flipboard Magazine)
Explore the region with the #CreteNature interactive Hiking and Nature Map