Wednesday 19 March 2014

The First Eden

Eden Rock, Agios Fotia, Crete, Greece

When Sir David Attenborough made one of his first nature documentaries about the Mediterranean he called it “The First Eden”, presumably on account of the marvellous variety of flora and fauna to be found here. Crete is at the heart of the eastern Mediterranean and just a couple of miles from Ferma is this sandstone outcrop called Eden Rock. It’s such a pleasant sunny day today I thought we’d climb to the top. Don’t worry, ropes and pulleys won’t be required, I know a much easier back route.

Just before we start let’s have a look around the base of the rock. There’s a little path off to the right which may prove rewarding.

Long-tailed Blue (family Lycaenidae)
Our first spotting of the day: a Long-tailed Blue. This is one of the Gossamer-winged Butterflies of the Lycaenidae family which includes Blues, Coppers and Hairstreaks. This one looks as though it’s been in a bit of a scrap but if you look closely you can see that it has emerged with one of its tails intact. There should be a corresponding one on the other wing where that tear is. The theory goes that the tails and the black markings nearby look like antennae and eyes, in other words a false head. This fools ambush predators such as spiders into attacking the wrong end giving the butterfly a chance to escape. Seems to have worked in this case.

Honey Bees (family Apidae)
There’s a drainage tunnel under the road here, just big enough to stand up in, which looks worth investigating.  No bats unfortunately and it seems to be narrowing. Oh well never mind. It’s a bit of a tight squeeze at this end but I think we can crawl through. Mind the puddle. For some reason it’s humming like an electricity sub-station.   
I think we’ve found a honey bee watering hole. Look there must be fifty bees milling about taking moisture from the green algae round the edges. This must be their equivalent of the local bar.

Buzzard (Family Accipitridae)
Onwards and upwards. 

Do you hear that “kee-oo” overhead? It seems we have a buzzard for company. There he is. We have quite a lot of them down here and Crete even has its own endemic subspecies. The Cretans call them Hare-hawks and they’re lovely birds who live for ten to fifteen years and mate for life. Luckily there are no Hooded Crows about – they mob the poor buzzards mercilessly.

Capsid Bug (Family Miridae) and Beetles
Do you remember a couple of weeks ago in ‘A Garden of Small Delights’ I mentioned that I’ve photographed more insects on Crown Daisies than on any other plant? Just look at this – four sharing the same flower! 

The large red one in the middle is a Capsid Bug, the two blue ones are Soft-winged flower beetles and I’m not sure about the green one, he’s a beetle of some kind but it’s difficult to tell with his head down like that. Quite possibly he’s another Soft-winged flower beetle but if anyone would care to enlighten me?

Sheetweb Weaver (Family Lyniphiidae)
Here’s another good plant for insect spotting, it’s a Mallow. (Big green leaves and relatively small pale purple flowers).

You see that tiny black blob in the middle of the leaf? That’s a Sheetweb weaver (not an insect but an arachnid – eight legs or more rather than six). He’s related to the little black money spiders which we always thought lucky as children because if you found one on you it meant that you were going to get a gift of money. You can just see some fine filaments near his head, that’s his sheetweb used for catching his lunch.

Bee Orchid (Family Orchidacae)
Nearly there now. You may wonder why I haven’t mentioned any of the plethora of flowers we’ve seen on our climb. Well there have been so many I’ve decided to put them all in a gallery that we can peruse later in the Naturalist’s Group at our leisure but I’ve saved one because it’s a type of flower that many people rave about. It’s an orchid. This one is a type of bee orchid, a cunning little plant that mimics the back end of a female bee so that a male bee (maybe on his way back from supping on the algae at the watering hole) tries to mate with it and gets covered in pollen for his pains. He then transfers this to another bee orchid which he also mistakes for a female bee. (It must be heady stuff, that algae water).

Rock with a view
Here we are at the top. I think that the view was worth the climb, don’t you? Below us is the beach at Agia Fotia and the inviting cool blue of the Mediterranean Sea. It really is getting rather warm this afternoon, I think that it’s time to go home and dig out the snorkelling gear. 

Until next week then – happy hunting.


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  1. Excellent blog - well written and informed. Enjoying it!

  2. Thank you Phil. Tomorrow we're going underground - you may need to lose the shades :)


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