Showing posts from August, 2017

Steve's Nature Quiz #17

Is Turkey Tangle Frogfruit effective against

a) suppurating sores

b) stones

c) the common cold

According to Sanskrit literature Turkey Tangle Frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora) is/was considered by the Hindus to be efficacious against all three. Phytochemical analysis by  the Department of Plant Biology and Biotechnology at Loyola College in Chennai, India in 2015 showed that "All the extracts from Phyla nodiflora had inhibitory effects in both bacteria and fungi. The results of this study clearly proved that (the) plant is a potential source of natural antimicrobial agents." Good for suppurating sores then and possibly against the common cold if it is bacterial and not viral in origin but not necessarily against stones. More fascinating facts and photos in this week's #CreteNature blog Ferma's Covert Coves

Ferma's Covert Coves

I thought I'd save the best until last. For the past weeks we've been ambling around the village of Ferma from the hills above to the underwater world of Livadi bay but at the eastern end of the village there are a series of tiny coves that few know about. From up here on the eastern cliff you can see the curvature of the horizon which means that we have a fair few steps to negotiate to get down there. 

It's over forty degrees today and I pity this poor spider with a mass of egg cases on her back. That's one hot mamma. Spiders of course are arachnids, named after a Greek peasant girl called Arachne and I'll tell you her story as we make our descent. Arachne had a talent for weaving, quite a prodigious talent in fact. So much so that she came to the notice of Athena (the goddess after whom Athens is named) who also considered herself a dab hand at the loom. Now gods and goddesses tend to get a bit sulky when us mere mortals approach their standards of excellence and …

Steve's Nature Quiz #16

Dragonflies have been the theme for the week so was the wingspan of the biggest ever dragonfly nearest to that of

a) a sparrow

b) a kestrel

c) an albatross

The biggest dragonfly ancestor from the fossil record is the Meganeura which flew around 300 million years ago towards the end of the carboniferous period. It had a wingspan of about 70 cm (which is over two feet in old money), just a little under that of a modern kestrel. By contrast the largest living member of the Odonata today is the Forest Giant Damselfly (Megaloprepus caerulatusof  Central and South America which has a wingspan of 19cm (7.5") which is about the same as a Blue Tit or American Redstart.

For more on dragonflies and more besides see this week's #CreteNature Blog: Dragonfly Summer

Dragonfly Summer

One of the loveliest sights of the summer has to be the dragonflies like this beautiful Scarlet Darter sitting on a fennel stalk. They are quite distinguishable from other red dragonflies by the orange flash at the base of the wing but have you ever wondered why we associate dragonflies with summer? Well, there isn't quite so much flying about for one thing but mainly it is because the majority of dragonflies are busy in the other seasons developing from an egg into a nymph, a process that takes place in freshwater where they look very different as you can see.
Ants are still about of course and the grasshoppers are skittering around our feet but generally anything with any sense goes into aestivation round here in the summer and with temperatures hovering around the 40C mark it's only mad dogs and Englishmen (like me) that go out in the midday sun. Thankfully our journey is all downhill from now on.

Many insects of course draw a substantial part of their diet from flowers and t…

Steve's Nature Quiz #15

In the UK there were an estimated 3,000 breeding pairs of Collared Doves in 1964. How many breeding pairs were recorded in 2008?

a) 300

b) 30,000

c) 300,000

In the USA less than fifty escaped from captivity in the Bahamas in 1974. They can now be found in virtually every U.S. State as well as Mexico. Such is the phenomenal spread and increase in the population of the Collared Dove that the answer is c) 300,000 breeding pairs were recorded in the UK in 2008, a one hundred fold increase.

Taken from this week's Crete Nature Blog: In The Quietest Moments

In The Quietest Moments

Last time we were out and about we finished up being bitten to death by Stable Flies in an old stone structure but I couldn't tell you anything about the origins of the building. Today we're going to start off in a similar structure a little way down the road (but without the flies). These structures are about two and a half metres long by two wide, square at one end with a cut out that suggests a large pair of doors once stood and rounded at the other. I now think that I know what they were: Venetian windmills [1]. The Venetians held Crete from 1205–1669 and these milotopi, as they are called, were one of their legacies. This morning though, the dried grasses poking up through the floor are proving of great interest to some small, pale insects flitting about in the morning sun. Sweep net time.

I didn't catch one but I did get one of the small blue butterflies; the rippling waves, two eye spots and double tail protruding from the wing are enough to identify it as a Lang…