Wednesday 2 December 2020

The Self Decorating Christmas Trees of Pica


We’re off to a couple of large ponds to see if we can find some waterfowl today. These are on the outskirts of the village of Pica, and judging by the terrain, I would guess that they are old slate quarries. Of course, the bird I’d really like to photograph here is not a water bird but a magpie. This is purely because its scientific name is Pica pica and it would amuse me to have a pic of a Pica pica from Pica. (I’m easily amused). What we do have is a number of Spruce trees, who’s scientific name is Picea, which is close enough. This one looks just about the right size Christmas tree for my front room. Better not. Tempting, though.

Some of the trees even come ready decorated. This bright, natural tinsel is Oak Moss. Now, provided you haven’t got sensitive skin, rub a bit between your fingers and take a niff. This is growing on a conifer, so there’s quite a turpentine overtone. If you find it growing on oak, it’s more woody. For many years, oak moss has been used by the perfume industry to provide the base notes. It’s being phased out now and being replaced with a chemical substitute, because of the skin sensitization issue. 

The keen eyed amongst you may have noticed a small dog in the background. That’s Jack, the navigator hound who comes as a package with our intrepid local guide.

Sometimes, when you’re wandering about the countryside, you come across something that defies explanation. Like this little figure, sat on a plastic toadstool in the middle of nowhere. He does lead us on to the subject of fungi and, if you’ve been following the blog, you’ll recognise the mushroom in the top right hand picture as a member of the Agaricales, the gilled mushrooms. 

I’m going to upset you now by telling you that not all mushrooms with gills are gilled mushrooms. The great majority of them are but some, like the Russalales, have also developed gills through a process known as convergent evolution. Spotting these is just a matter of practice. You can tell a lot about a mushroom by the way the gills meet the stem. There are eight different ways which are neatly illustrated, here on Wikipedia. These would appear to be ‘free’. Free, white gills are a bit of a warning sign as many of the poisonous species display this characteristic. The fungus at the bottom looks to be a member of the Pezizales, which includes such delicacies as morels and truffles, but requires further identification.

And so to the ponds, and our appearance has immediately put to flight a trio of ducks and a deceit of lapwings (another collective noun for your collection). Still on the water, we have a pair of Mute Swans, easily recognisable from other swans by the knob at the base of the beak, and a Goosander. These we talked about last week in Welcome To The Cornmill so I won’t repeat myself. Talking of The Old Cornmill, the new windows are being installed as I type, and with a bit of luck and a following wind, I shall be spending my first night here tonight.

Steve's Wild Kitchen

This, of course, means that we’ll be able to get out foraging again and putting together some more recipes for Steve's Wild Kitchen. I’ve made a bit of a start with these sloes from a nearby Buckthorn hedgerow. I doubt that the Sloe Gin will be ready for Christmas, but I’ll keep tasting it, nearer the time, in the cause of scientific research.

As the bedroom window is now in place I’d better go and make my bed – literally (it’s still in pieces at the moment). Now where did I hide the big screwdriver.

Until next time,

Be happy and be safe


Steve's Books

The Quick Guide to Creepy-Crawlies

All you need to know to identify any type of insect, spider, worm or snail very simply and find out more about it.

Yvonne: This was a gift for a family so that the children can understand what they see on days out. The second was for me. Logical and easy to use. If you know anyone who likes nature you can be confident that gifting this book will give years of pleasure.

The Eggs of Saramova

A science fiction novella for those who don't like science fiction. A fast-paced thriller that is, literally, out of this world (and it starts right here in Crete).

Too new for reviews yet!

Not Just For Twisted Women by Steve Daniels 

A light-hearted look at life through the eyes of the fairer sex.

Janet: If you are short on time but enjoy reading and are maybe not into long extended novels then Not Just For... Twisted Women provides readers with concise stories that stand alone and most certainly entertain with their ultimate twists. Loved it.

Helen: A very good read! Well written and entertaining!

Margaret: Each quick tale gives a glimpse into a character's life and has an often humorous twist at the end. I would love to read more.

Yvonne: These days many people find it hard to find the time to read a novel, so this book of short stories is ideal to dip into. It is also makes a good gift.

See sample pages of all my books and latest blogs, and keep abreast of latest publications here:

Crete Nature Catch-up

Series 1 - Welcome to Lasithi

Series 2 - The Rhythm Of Life

Series 3 - A Journey Begins

Series 4 - The Milonas Valley

Series 5 - This Is Ferma

Series 6 - Upland Villages

Series 7 - The Forty saints

Series 8 - Sunday Strolls

Series 9 -Stormy Weather



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

Cretan Flora Flowers of Crete BIRDS OF CRETE Crete Birding

Greek Butterflies and Moths Aquaworld Aquarium

Visit Greece (National Government Tourist Office)


  1. Now I have to go out and smell some lichen! :)

  2. An excellent read as usual. Look forward to learning more about Jack. X


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