Showing posts from May, 2017

A Bush Full of Beetles

One of the marvellous things about Crete is that there is food growing just about everywhere. Even here on the side of the main road running through Ferma we have wild chicory, a relative of the dandelion. People often get confused between chicory and endive which is not surprising as basically they are merely different species of the same plant. This one is Common Chicory (Cichorium intybus) whereas Endive is Cichorium endiva. Endive comes in two cultivated varieties; curly (var crispum) or broad-leaved (var latifolia) and the wild Endive is Cichorium pumilum which also grows here on Crete. Whichever you choose they're packed full of vitamins A and K and high in fibre so they're good for you.

This is the lane we'll be taking to the sea and there are quite a few plants growing down in this gully here so let's go on a bug hunt (and by bug hunt I mean let's concentrate on the 'true bugs', the hemipterans1, as opposed to anything that creeps or crawls). First …

Old School Spiders and Killer Spuds

We'll start where we left off last week at the derelict dwellings and make our way down to the heart of the village but before we do I've just seen something large and red fly by my nose and land on that wild carrot over there. What a magnificent specimen (and go compare that for a facial appendage). Those fantastically large antennae mark him out as one of the Longhorn Beetles (family Cerambycidae). The antennae are used primarily for smelling the air but in some insects they actually help to stabilize their flight (which is a bit counter-intuitive as you'd think that they would make the creature a bit of an awkward flier). But when you think of a tightrope walker with a long balancing pole it makes a bit more sense.
This is something I wasn't expecting to find, a terrace full of potatoes planted on the hillside totally out of context with everything around it. The flowers are rather pretty and very similar to Silver-leaved Nightshade. The reason for this is that they …

Jumpers, Jewels and Jurassic Shells

We'll leave the denizens of the Wildlife Hotel to their own devices and continue our walk around the village along the top track. A couple of weeks ago (Say It With Flowers) we found some interesting looking fossils. Just down the hill from where we are now in fact and this is a great fossil hunting area, particularly for sea shells from the time that Ferma was raised from the sea bed by a huge tectonic upheaval about twenty odd million years ago. So let's poke about in this exposed limestone and see what we can find. Not a bad little haul for ten minutes work; it looks like a couple of clams and a slipper shell. OK, so they're not from the Jurassic (roughly 145-200 million years ago) but Neogenic (2.5-23 million years ago) but that would have spoiled the alliteration. We'll probably find some of their modern relatives when we investigate the beaches later.

We'll wander off the track here for a bit and see what this rocky outcrop has to offer. It seems as though we…

Welcome to the Wildlife Hotel

This is it, the Wildlife Hotel. It wasn't designed as such but is an abandoned project that has been this way since before I arrived in 2004. Gradually the native plants have taken over the gardens and the wildlife has moved in. Before we nose around though I'd just like to draw your attention to these poppies down here. To me, poppies used to be those red things that you wore on Remembrance Day or the mauve things in the middle east that provided the world, for better or for worse, with opium. I was quite surprised to learn that there were nearly eight hundred species dotted around the world with nine here on Crete alone including the familiar red and mauve ones. This particular one is widespread but not very common on the island and is called the Red horned-poppy. Presumably on account of that massive, rampant seed pod.

The other flower that is prevalent in this region is the endemic Cretan ebony. This is acting like a magnet to the honey bees and I see that some enterprising…

Say It With Flowers

Following on from last week's walk I thought we'd cross the road, stroll up past the Remembrance garden and explore the meadow and hillside beyond. I call this track Recreation Road on account of this small fenced in sports pitch on our left here. There are quite a few wild flowers to the right of the track which we'll stop and photograph as we're going to use them later but first let's get down in the grass and see what's happening.
These pendulous grasses, looking like culottes hanging out to dry, are wild oats from which we've been cultivating oats for ourselves and our livestock for thousands of years. I see that the 7 spot ladybirds are out in force in all their disguises. Being beetles they undergo complete metamorphosis (see In The Arms of Giants) and here we have an adult, a pupa and a larva. The only thing missing from the life cycle is the egg. OK, now we have a hill to climb. Keep photographing the flowers (there are plenty of them) and we'll …