Showing posts from June, 2019

Trespassing on ghosts

"What's Bill up to over there?" "I've just put in an offer for €30,000 and it's been accepted! Just needs a lick of paint... bird observatory or taverna?" At the southern end of Elounda, a thin spit of land runs away east for several hundred metres before joining the Spinalonga peninsula, also known as Kalydon. In essence it is a series of hills that run north for maybe 4km and are, at their widest, 1km. Steep slopes run down to a rocky beach. There are a series of footpaths than criss-cross this area, but apart from those that service the beaches they are seldom walked. Brother-in-law Bill and myself spent several hours exploring the higher ground and were taken with what we found - a series of abandoned dwellings, linked together by miles (or, if you prefer, kilometres) of dry stone walls that, in turn, defined small parcels of land. There must have been hundreds of people that once settled here, tending olive groves, simple crops, sheep and go

Elounda birding

I'm sure that most of us have gone on a 'family' holiday and made the decision that, although there will be birding potential, it is best not to show any intent to act upon it. The binoculars, of course, still come along for the trip - just in case we might find ourselves near to a bit of decent habitat - but the scope will be left behind, as that would be a dead give-away of our true intentions! This is how I treated our recent holiday to Crete, although I'm sure that I fooled nobody. I'm not the most widely travelled world birder, but have seen a good cross-section of what Southern Europe has to offer, and there was just Lammergeier and Italian Sparrow present on the island that I had yet to see elsewhere. We were staying at the fairly small coastal resort of Elounda in the north-east, nestled underneath a range of imposing hills. I spent a good couple of hours each day mooching about the surrounding countryside, wandering no further away than 3km. I got

Cretan Small Heath

Now, where was I? That's right, I was moaning about losing my mojo/religion and finding things a bit of a chore... the remedy was to disappear to Crete for a (mainly) non-natural history holiday with Katrina in the company of Fiona and Bill. Of course I packed my binoculars and camera... A modest bird and butterfly tally was made, and these - plus a bit of the scenery - will make up a few future posts. Until then, and as an appetiser, here is a Cretan butterfly endemic, the Cretan Small Heath. I found a handful on the Spinalonga peninsula, close to where we were staying in Elounda, on the north-east coast.

A life beyond

Hogweed, similar to the one that I was staring at this week, sans the insects. I bumped into Yossarian (aka Adam) this lunchtime. He is a much valued visitor to this blog and a fellow Spurs supporter to boot. We got chatting about many things, including my recent 'slump' - see the last post for an explanation of that. Adam appreciates natural history on a wider scale to me. He goes out into the countryside and takes in the 'greater whole' around him, whereas I tend to go out and obsess on the minutiae, trying to disentangle and identify the species that are before me. He said that he wanted to get closer to my approach and I replied that I was having a break from all of that and was moving closer to his! It was brought home to me earlier this week as I stared at the flowerheads of a stand of Hogweed. They were all crawling with life - bees, wasps, hoverflies, beetles, micro moths - and I stood entranced. So many species, with dazzling colours and varied shapes. I co


I was pleased to see that it isn't just me who is suffering from a bit of birding lethargy, as Jono seems to be likewise inflicted . It has crept up on me. I had most probably birded as heavily as I have done for many years over the period of January to April. All of it locally and, bar the odd day, most of it disappointing - maybe that is why my efforts during May have receded and my feelings are ones of deflation. In fact, a two-week break to the Dungeness shingle failed to wake me up from this malaise, and there were times when, even down on the coast, I felt positively jaded. And not just the birding. Plants, moths, you name it, I have approached it all with half-heartedness. But it is not as simple as suffering from a bout of phasing. I still look up at the Swifts scything overhead and get excited. A field in full flower brings me out in pleasure. I've identified that part of this flatness is the belief that I have to identify and count everything. I've used the wo

Picture this - a late-May round-up

Red-backed Shrike, Dungeness. This splendid male spent all day long in, and around, the moat. I can just about remember when they regularly bred in the UK. Yes, I know that I don't look old enough... Marsh Frog, Romney Marsh. The ditches and dykes are full of them, and once one starts to 'laugh' it sets them all off. Turtle Dove on Romney Marsh. I cannot think of a better looking (and sounding) dove than this species. 

Art or out-of-focus?

It's not too late to see the Littlestone Green Sand Catchflies! They are a devil to photograph, being small and no higher than the blades of grass that grow among them. I resorted to my ancient DSLR with macro lens to get something passable. Not for me the mucking around with f-stops and exposure times - just focus on one plant and claim that those that are out-of-focus around it makes the shot 'arty'. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!