Betty and Bert looked dashing with their multi pocketed jackets, thick trousers and wellington boots. They also looked somewhat incongruous, as all of our similarly attired group did, as we trudged along the sandy beach between two rows of scantily clad sunbathers on sun loungers. Magnanimously ignoring the stares and giggles we eventually crossed the little bridge at the end and squelched our way along a marshy path through the Giant Canes to the river bank. A Western Caspian Turtle, Mauremys rivulata, surprised at the sudden appearance of our motley crew, faltered in mid stroke and dived into the weeds at the bottom.
As we took it in turns to gain access to the river bank the remaining members of the party investigated the undergrowth. Bert suddenly dived in among a patch of smaller reeds and emerged triumphantly with a Praying Mantis, Mantis religiosa.
“Do they bite?” asked Betty.
“They can take a male's head off during mating,” I informed her.
Betty paused to consider this, “Oh, I don't think that Bert's likely to do that with it,” she said.
I wonder about Betty sometimes.
Our next find among the reeds was a whole mass of Paper Wasps, (Polistes sp.) at the nest. There are over three hundred different species and subspecies of Paper Wasps around the world and hymenopterists (the bods who study Ants, Bees and Wasps) keep themselves endlessly amused trying to sort them all out. Currently, the name Polistes bucharensis is gaining favour for the predominantly Greek species but it has been noted1 that the Cretan Paper Wasps have slightly different features to those found on the mainland so, who knows, maybe an endemic subspecies is in the offing? They are not generally aggressive wasps but they will defend the nest if you annoy them.
“What sort of things annoy them?” asked Betty.
“Sticking a bloomin' great camera lens up their backsides for a start,” I replied as she wriggled in to get a closer shot.
Elated with our finds thus far we followed the trail towards the spring and pond that feeds this very short but amazingly wide river. (The river length from pond to sea is about 200m). Proceeding in crocodile fashion we came upon an obstacle. Somebody had extended their garden into the wetlands and obliterated the path.
“Humph!” snorted Betty and squeezed through a gap in the ramshackle fencing.
But there was no way through and we had to reverse crocodile back to the beach but it gave us a chance to examine the wonderfully misnamed beach flora. Sea Lavender is not related to Lavender; Sea Daffodils are not true daffodils although they are, at least, in the same subfamily; and Sea Holly isn't even closely related to Holly. Which is why botanists use scientific names, they're not just trying to sound intelligent (not all of them anyway).
We trudged back through the sunbathers, liberally distributing wan smiles as we did so, and made our way to the pond via the main road. A kingfisher darted across the pond as we arrived and I distinctly heard a Greenfinch somewhere in the trees. Unusual at this time of year. But amidst the Muscovy Ducks, Mallards and Domestic Geese on the pond was a bird that I was pleased to see: a Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus. Common they may be, generally speaking, but I rarely see them down this end of the island.
The Taverna Bit
We headed south to the nearby village of Ammoudara for lunch and thanks to all at The Ammoudara Beach Taverna for providing an excellent lunch.
Sunday 21st October
Bramiana Reservoir, Ierapetra
A lovely place to see autumn birds and much more besides. See Bramiana In Winter and check out the water level in January 2014. It has dropped considerably since then as you will see on Sunday.
Sunday 28th October
Ha Canyon (lower part)
(Details next week)
Just For Twisted Women by Steve Daniels
A light-hearted look at life through the eyes of the fairer sex.
Kindle Edition 1.99 pounds sterling (or equivalent).
Paperback edition will be available in time for Christmas.
Read snippets, samples and stuff at Steve's Books
Share your nature thoughts, photos and comments on Naturalists (the facebook page that accompanies this blog)
Explore the region with the #CreteNature interactive Hiking and Nature Map