Wednesday, 4 December 2019

The Last Ever Crete Nature Blog?























At the end of my last blog I left you rather floundering at the Hotel Astir in Patras. Sorry about that but my own life has been a bit astir since then. To finish off that part of the story, the following day comprised a morning swim in the rooftop pool, crossing Greece from Patras to Piraeus by bus and train, then boarding the overnight ferry to Heraklion. From thence back to Ferma and home. More tiring than exciting and little time for nature watching.


I then spent the next three months finishing The Quick Guide To Creepy-Crawlies which, I am pleased to say, is now available on Amazon alongside my anthology of short stories, Not Just For Twisted Women (the ebook is now free with Kindle Unlimited). Both books can be viewed on my Author Page and both make great Christmas presents (honestly!).




So, why The Last Ever Crete Nature Blog? Well, without going into detail, at the beginning of November I began to feel a bit lost and lonely down there on the south east coast of Crete and decided to return to the UK for a couple of months and spend Christmas with the family up here in West Cumbria. I shall be returning to Crete in early January but my plans for 2020 are very fluid although I suspect that it will involve more time in the UK and less time in Crete.

I daresay that I shall continue to write next year (I can't keep quiet for too long) but after six years of the Crete Nature Blog it is time for something new. Until then, have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 

Steve







Crete Nature Catch-up



Thursday, 31 October 2019

Down The Adriatic from Venice to Patras





Despite trying to be clever and booking a hotel between Venice city and the ferry terminal it was still a fifty euro taxi ride to the port. Oh well, I'll know for next time. If there is a next time. Let's get on board and see where they've put us. This is going to be home for the next day and a half. Oh, that's nice, right up the pointy end.



It's a midday departure so I suggest a stroll sternwards and we'll watch Venice recede. Is it really necessary to have so many posts I wonder? I feel like I'm travelling up an old bagatelle board (fore-runner of the pin-ball machine for younger travellers – the metal ball did run between actual pins). Still, they make great perches for the Yellow-legged Gulls and the Black-headed Terns.



And after that, quite a lot of sea. No whales, dolphins or porpoises unfortunately but we have had one unexpected visitor, a Painted Lady butterfly. You may recall that back in March of this year I introduced you to the Butterfly Migration Project which was studying this remarkable butterfly's migration patterns (see No Place Like Home). The study is still ongoing so that's another observation to add to the list. Nip up and ask the captain for the ship's current position would you? Tell him we've just seen a butterfly - I'm sure he'll be impressed.



Now I suggest that we go and have a wash and brush-up and see what the restaurant has on offer this evening. (The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that this photo was taken at lunchtime. You can clearly see the port through the windows. Still, if Messrs. Durrell and Attenborough can 'fake it' I don't see why I shouldn't!)



The journey is now entering its final leg as we pass into Greek waters. It has been interesting but I have come to realise that travel, like so many other things in life, is a pleasure best shared but Patras on the north coast of the Peloponnese, is looming into view, so lets see what the Astir Hotel has to offer by way of entertainment.



Crete Nature Catch-up


Just waiting for the author proof copy of The Quick Guide To Creepy-Crawlies to arrive (due here Nov 8th). So long as everything is OK it will be available on Amazon very soon after.


A light-hearted look at life through the eyes of the fairer sex.

Kindle Edition 1.99 pounds sterling (or equivalent).
Click on the link to the right to read two complete stories for free.

Paperback Edition 4.99 pounds sterling (or equivalent)..
Read snippets, samples and stuff at Steve's Books





*********************************************************************
LINKS:
Share your nature thoughts, photos and comments on Naturalists (the facebook page that accompanies this blog)

Explore the region with the #CreteNature interactive Hiking and Nature Map



Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Lugano To Venice



As our next port of call, literally, is some distance from the city of Venice I thought I'd book us in at a midway point between the two. By sheer chance the hotel is only a short walk from the 19th century Forte Marghera which is now a cultural centre and wildlife refuge. I think that this will be a good place to start our explorations. A good place to build a fort, surrounded on all sides by a double waterway and the wildlife starts here below the bridge in the shape of this crab mumbling his way through the residents of the green algae.




The place is an absolute haven for insects. There's a Shield-backed Katydid in the grass alongside a Click Beetle; a Mediterranean Spotted Chafer Beetle getting itself covered in pollen as it feeds on a mallow flower and a rather handsome Leaf Beetle of the Lachnaia genus down there. Hang on, I'll just root him out for a second so that you can have a closer look.




Hello, looks like we've got a bit of wildlife action on this Mallow over here. A ground crab spider, Xysticus sp. has taken a fancy to a small bee for its lunch. You can tell that it's a bee and not a fly mimicking a bee because you can clearly see all four wings and flies only have two. Bee mimicking flies also have much shorter antennae than bees but I think that the spider has them in its jaws. Talking of lunch there's a nice rustic looking restaurant here so I propose that we adjourn.


That was delicious and very reasonable. I liked the complimentary bottle of home made wine. I think that all restaurants should adopt that policy. Shall we go and have a look at Venice? Very pretty, now get me out of here. It's full of hat and tat stalls and camera clicking tourists. Let's find a quiet backwater and have a civilised cup of afternoon coffee. If I hear one more person singing 'Just One Cornetto' they're in for a ducking. Giovanni Capurro, who wrote the original lyric to O Sole Mio, must be turning in his grave.




I have another reason for visiting this part of Venice. Did you notice that small park that we passed earlier? That is the Giardini Papadopoli and it is one of the scenes in my novel, The Magic of Nature of Magic which is now complete . I just want to go and soak up the ambiance and sit with the Lizzies for a bit. These are Common Wall Lizards, Podarcis muralis, and I see that we are being watched over by a Yellow-legged Gull, Larus michahellis. These predominate over their pink legged cousins that you find further north.

Talking of books, The Quick Guide To Creepy-Crawlies is now under final revision and proof-reading stage. I was hoping to produce a paperback version and a Kindle version but as Kindle cannot handle internal hyperlinks (What???) I've had to abandon the Kindle version.






Crete Nature Catch-up




A light-hearted look at life through the eyes of the fairer sex.

Kindle Edition 1.99 pounds sterling (or equivalent).
Click on the link to the right to read two complete stories for free.

Paperback Edition 4.99 pounds sterling (or equivalent)..
Read snippets, samples and stuff at Steve's Books




*********************************************************************
LINKS:
Share your nature thoughts, photos and comments on Naturalists (the facebook page that accompanies this blog)

Explore the region with the #CreteNature interactive Hiking and Nature Map


Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Strasbourg to Lugano


After that beautiful stopover in Strasbourg we are now burrowing our way through The Alps like a maggot through Swiss cheese, emerging from long, dark tunnels into beautiful vistas of lakes and snow capped mountains. A quick change at Basle and then on to Lugano on the Swiss Italian border.



Hitched a lift on the local bus up into the mountains and was told where to get off by a beautiful young music student who sat next to me. (No, literally: she informed me where to disembark as her stop was a few before mine). This is the Pensione Agra run by Annemiek and Fritz and was my favourite place of the whole tour.



Surrounded on three sides by Lake Lugano it is a magnificent place for hiking through upland meadows and woodland and we have another free day with which to explore. Walking through the village, lizards scurry along the walls through clumps of Ivy-leaved Toadflax.



Butterflies are everywhere, along with a whole host of other inverterbarates while in the woodlands songbirds of every description orchestrate the air but remain firmly out of sight in the dense summer canopy.



A weird humming noise fills the air which I took to be a swarm of beetles such as this fellow but it turned out to be hundreds of bicycle tyres on tarmac as dozens of Swiss clockmakers hurtled down the hill to make sure that they got to work on time.




Crete Nature Catch-up

Steve's Books (well, just the one at the moment but 'The Quick Guide to Creepy-Crawlies' is nearly complete and I hope to publish it later this month).

Not Just For Twisted Women by Steve Daniels 


A light-hearted look at life through the eyes of the fairer sex.

Kindle Edition 1.99 pounds sterling (or equivalent).

Click on the link to the right to read two complete stories for free.

Paperback Edition 4.99 pounds sterling (or equivalent)..  Read snippets, samples and stuff at Steve's Books





*********************************************************************
LINKS:
Share your nature thoughts, photos and comments on Naturalists (the facebook page that accompanies this blog)

Explore the region with the #CreteNature interactive Hiking and Nature Map




Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Koblenz to Strasbourg


After last night's debacle at the hotel in Koblenz you'll be pleased to know that I've booked us in to Le Jean-Sebastien Bach in Strasbourg for the next couple of nights. We should be there for lunch. Or would have been if all the trains weren't running up to half an hour late, the connections disconnected and the wheels hadn't fallen off the Vorsprung durch Technik in general. The hotel's a bit swish though; we've even got a trouser press. A freshen up and a walk in the park before dinner is in order I think.




I think that we could recommend Le Parc de l'Orangerie for an evening stroll if only for the magnificent White Storks (Ciconia ciconia) nesting in the carefully pollarded Plane trees. Did you know that these birds gave rise to the ancient Greek Law of Pelargonia, (Pelargos being the Greek for Stork)? Storks were thought to care for their aged parents and Pelargonia enshrined in law that Greek citizens should do the same. Storks don't, by the way, but the majority of Greeks still do.



Apart from the storks they have a wonderful selection of well labelled trees here and what is more, they have Red Squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) running around in them (a bit too quickly for my little camera). These are still quite rare in England due to the introduction of the Eastern Grey Squirrel in the last century coupled with the virtual eradication of its natural predator, the Pine Marten. However, conservation measures are under way for both the Red Squirrel and the Pine Marten.







Time for an aperitif before dinner (I spotted a nice looking restaurant near the park entrance) and there's a small cafe overlooking the lake here which has a Pastis with my name on it. It looks as if we have company. I have a great fondness for sparrows as they are different wherever you go. This is a House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), the same species as we have in the UK but when we get to Italy next week we'll be accompanied by Italian Sparrows (Passer italiae) possibly meeting up with some hybrids on the Swiss-Italian border. When we get back to Crete we'll be with an intergrade species; part Italian, part Spanish (Passer hispaniolensis).









A relaxing day with no travelling. I want to search out the Zoological Museum later but first, a walk by L'ill (the river that flows through Strasbourg as opposed to The Rhine which runs alongside) down into the old town, and it is old, it held its 2000th anniversary in 1988. I particularly want to see La Cathederale de Strasbourg to see what inspired Thys van Leer to dedicate a piece of music to it. This is a comparitively modern building, it wasn't completed until 1439. It was actually started in 1176 but you know what building projects are like when you've got a multitude of materials suppliers to deal with.








And so to the Musee Zoologique which is not the best signposted Museum in the world, being buried in a mass of old buildings of identical construction in the academic quarter. Found it at last and it was worth rooting out (and you must admit that the psychology seminar we attended was interesting and the guy from the geology department was positively fascinating). A real old fashioned museum, full of stuffed animals and well layed out display cases full of insects and other arthropods. No, you go on ahead. I may be some time. Ah, Chrysomelidae...





Crete Nature Catch-up

Steve's Books (well, just the one at the moment but 'The Quick Guide to Creepy-Crawlies' is now at the proofreading stage and on course for publication next month).

Not Just For Twisted Women by Steve Daniels 

A light-hearted look at life through the eyes of the fairer sex.

Kindle Edition 1.99 pounds sterling (or equivalent).

Click on the link to the right to read two complete stories for free.

Paperback Edition 4.99 pounds sterling (or equivalent)..
Read snippets, samples and stuff at Steve's Books





*********************************************************************
LINKS:
Share your nature thoughts, photos and comments on Naturalists (the facebook page that accompanies this blog)

Explore the region with the #CreteNature interactive Hiking and Nature Map



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