Showing posts from October, 2017

The Springs of Paraspori

We'll continue to make our way northwards today and gradually drift eastwards as we approach the zenith of our circular tour. I have found, in the thirteen years I've been on the island, that Crete has very distinct changes of seasons. Soon after the autumn equinox, clouds begin to make their way back, nervously encroaching upon the wall-to-wall sunshine and blue skies of summer, and eventually the rains will come. This valley to our right is the perfect place to admire the acres of sky above us and there's a rocky outcrop just here where we can be monarchs of all we survey so let's get out and do a bit of rock scrambling. Magnificent view isn't it? But look what I've found nestling in between the rocks at our feet. The first Autumn Crocus of the year. This is the earliest that I've seen one, my previous observations have been three or four weeks later in the year.
Hello, what's this? It appears to be a pot handle of some kind. I've no idea how old i…

Steve's Nature Quiz #22

Mantis, to most of us, conjures up a picture of the familiar Praying Mantis (Mantis religiosa). In this week's #CreteNature blog I introduced you to another, the Mediterranean Mantis (Iris oratoria) but how many types of Mantis are there in the world?

a) 24

b) 240

c) 2,400

Somewhat surprisingly there are over 2,400 species of Mantis in the world (and probably many more that we've yet to discover). They are a distinct order of insects (Mantodea) on a par with Flies (Diptera) or Beetles (Coleoptera) and there are fifteen different families of Mantises within the order Mantodea. Here in Greece the ancients believed that Mantises had supernatural powers and could show you the way home. I wouldn't rely upon it; this one is pointing away from my front gate!

More on mantises, as well as frogs, flowers, stone chats and grasshoppers plus a bit of folklore in this week's #CreteNature blog: Skordilo, Where God and the Devil Meet

Skordilo, Where God and the Devil Meet

As we wend our way from the village of Chrysopiggi around the base of Mt. Ornos I thought that we'd stop off about half way, admire the scenery and see what we can find along these seldom visited tracks that diverge from the road to who knows where. You can see the end of the Ornos range to our right and the end of the Thriptis range ahead. Between them runs a rough road from Chrysopiggi to Kavousi on the north coast. But turning our attention to the track at our feet, notice these little clumps of purple plants budding at our feet. It isn't always easy to tell what a plant will become at this stage of its development but if you're lucky enough to find the plant at different growth stages along the track, as we are here, then it's worth taking a couple of photographs so that you can recognise it the next time you see it. This one will grow up to be Galatella cretica whose flowers turn from yellow to mauve to purple as they age and whose leaves are decidedly green rath…

Steve's Nature Quiz #21

Nature isn't just about flowers and animals, it's about the soil and rocks and everything else that allows them to exist. This week we met up with Gypsum but which city is most associated with this rock?

a) Beijing
b) Sao Paolo
c) Paris

Gypsum is used to make plaster, as used in artistic molds, construction and most famously for plaster casts when setting broken bones. Although plaster was probably first made by the Egyptians for architectural purposes and then taken up by the Greeks (gypsum is Greek for plaster) a large deposit was discovered near Montmartre, Paris in the 1600s and calcined gypsum (which involves heating it to a very high temperature and then grinding it to a fine white powder) has been known as Plaster-of-Paris ever since.

For more fascinating insights into the natural world follow the#CreteNature blog 

Chrysopigi – Source of Gold

There's gold in them thar hills! (or so the saying goes) and the name of the next village on our route means just that. I can't promise you gold but there are plenty of blues and whites, the colours of Greece; from the light fluffy clouds in a forget-me-not sky to the small white and common blue butterflies that dance along the roadside verges. The former preferring the smelly Henbane whilst the latter opt for the more delicate European Heliotrope. But let us delve down between these two rock pillars and see what we can find in the hidden depths.

In a month or two's time there will be torrents of water rushing through here but now there are treasures to be found in the sylvan gloom (if you'll just stop looking for gold nuggets under the rocks a moment). These magnificent berries ripening from green to gold (found some!) to brilliant red are the fruits of Black Bryony (Dioscorea communis). Definitely not on the menu though as they are highly poisonous. It is a climbing p…

Steve's Nature Quiz #20

This is a male Common Darter dragonfly but where does the female drop her eggs?

In the soil?

In the water?

In the air?

To Stavrochori

As we leave the village of Orino we have a decision to make. There are two ways in which we can drive on to our next port of call which is Stavrochori; we can go over the mountains (which is prettier) or return to the coast road (which is less painful). Although there is a lovely tarmacadamed road leading out of Orino it isn't quite finished yet and the last couple of miles into Stavrochori is a dirt track. Quite drivable in a 4x4 but a bit rough on our little Alto. Now may be a good point to mention hire car insurance: you are not automatically covered for off-roading (not even for a quad bike). In view of that, and the fact that there's a little reservoir I want us to take a look at, we'll drop back down to the coast, turn left at Koutsouras and come up through the valley.
According to my reckoning the reservoir should be somewhere down beyond that church.
OK, so it wasn't. No matter, I'm sure we'll find it somewhere nearby. Meanwhile here's a lovely bit of…