|Red sky in the morning|
Red sky in the morning: shepherd’s warning so the old saying goes. A bit of a late warning here in Crete as the rain has already been – torrents of it. Although I’m often bemoaning the lack of rain in this part of the island my records show that we are getting wetter. The problem is that the dry summers are now lingering into late autumn and the rains, which are getting heavier, are being squeezed into the winter months.Boots on then and we'll have a splash about in the puddles.
From a naturalist’s point of view the onset of the rains is like the opening of a whole new world as the earth reawakens after a long period of aestivation. Now here’s a flower that I don’t usually see until next month, it’s a Mallow-leaved Storksbill. They are part of a family called Geraniaceae which includes Storksbills (Erodium), Cranesbills (Geranium) and those garden plants that we’ve all been calling geraniums for years which are in fact Pelargoniums (Pelargonium). To add to the confusion in the USA Pelargoniums are called Storksbills. Personally I blame that fellow Linnaeus who lumped them altogether in the first place as Geraniums.
And along with the flowers come the insects like this beautiful Dor or Dung Beetle. This is one of the Scarab group of beetles which you can tell by those specially modified clubbed antennae. As you can see he is a very robust beetle with powerful front legs which he uses for collecting dung. This he rolls into a ball (often much bigger than himself) and drags backwards into a hole in the ground which is a nursery. The dung ball provides food and warmth for the larvae when they hatch. He's looking a bit tatty for a photograph so we'll just clean him up with a bit of puddle water and some soft tissue. "OK little fellow, I'm not going to hurt you". Oh, he didn't like that one bit, he's complaining more loudly than I used to on a bath night during my school days. Listen, you can hear him telling us what he thinks in no uncertain terms. click here
And of course we all know that rain brings out the snails. We’ve already looked at the Garden Snail (Red Autumn) and the Mediterranean Coastal Snail (Dawn By The Riverside) but this one is a Green Garden Snail (although he looks rather brown in this early morning sun). There is, however, an olive green sheen to his shell which we can see if we move him back into the shade. As you can see he’s not happy about being trundled about from place to place for photographic purposes any more than the beetle. He’s exuding froth as a defence mechanism which supposedly smells of garlic but my nose isn’t sensitive enough, can you smell it? Here’s something I bet you didn’t know about snail slime – it’s used in cosmetics. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
The other good thing about heavy rain is that it collects in seasonal puddles of varying depths and sizes and that attracts the birds so let’s go and find who’s discovered the latest watering holes. Would you believe a Muscovy Duck? The originals of these are native to South America up to Mexico but they’ve been domesticated for many years and there are feral populations all over the place. I often see them out at Bramiana in the winter but this is the first one I’ve seen here. If, like me, you’ve decided on Barbary Duck to celebrate the upcoming festivities then this is what you will be eating. Muscovy Duck in common parlance, Cairina moschata forma domestica in scientific circles and Barbary Duck to chefs and gourmets. Talking of upcoming festivities, the Winter Solstice is coming up (December 22nd this year) so however you celebrate this time of year I wish you a good one and until next week – happy hunting.
There simply wasn’t room to include everything this week so there are more pictures of flowers, bugs, harvestmen and more in Naturalists (the facebook page that accompanies this blog).
With special thanks this week to all at the Coleoptera Group on Facebook for their help with identifying the exact species of Dung Beetle.
Naturalists (the facebook page that accompanies this blog)