Thursday 28 October 2010

Testudines (1): Sea Turtle Mystery, Caretta Caretta - in Greece

Turtle Priority
I was particularly thrilled to learn that there were breeding Sea Turtles (Caretta Caretta) in our area of the south-western Peloponnese. I wondered if we would see any sign of these beautiful but endangered creatures.

Those of you who have followed my blogs may know by now that I always enjoy seeing unusual animal road signs (see below) - and although this sign referred to the beach and sand dunes, I have included it since it was in a car parking area!

Turtles allowed - and dogs on leads ...
The turtles lay their eggs in the sand dunes and then when the young hatch, they make their way down to the sea under cover of darkness. The adults certainly chose some beautiful beaches for their nurseries.

Surprisingly strong waves
I kept an eye open for any tell-tale signs, like shuffle marks in the sand. I stopped in my tracks for a moment when I saw the scaly object below ... but only for a moment!

False alarm!
Turtles have a number of predators. Sometimes they get caught up in fishing nets. You can read about 'Rafael' (here) and how he was rescued after a fishing net encounter. 

Fishing net may be fun for cats, but can endanger turtles
We kept a sharp eye out, but there were - apparently - no turtles to be seen. You can imagine my surprise when I arrived back in the UK and looked at the photo below. I can't be sure, but I think there may be something lurking in the water!

Archelon is a Greek-based organisation dedicated to the protection of Sea Turtles. The Peloponnese boasts about 900 turtle nests per year. Volunteers carry out patrols in key areas to ensure their protection. They try to raise public awareness through education initiatives such as slide shows. You can read more about these conservation measures here.

For a wonderful blog post on the Sea Turtle, do visit Vickie Henderson's Art blog here

A Couple of Unusual Animal Road Signs ...

Monday 25 October 2010

Butterflies and Moths (13): Painted Lady of the Peloponnese

Painted Lady at the archaeological site of Messine in Greece, early autumn 2010
Helen of Troy may have had the face that launched 1000 ships, but the Swallowtail and Painted Lady were the butterfly species that caught my eye at the amazingly extensive archaeological site of Messine (sometimes written as Messini) in the western Peloponnese.

Messine: part of the site, with its olive and lime trees
The site of Messine in Messinia, not far from Kalamata (of olive fame) was a fruitful haunt in this respect. The Painted Ladies flew among the white scrubby flowers, flitting in and out of the Swallowtails, who clearly enjoyed the same vegetation.

End on!
I found some interesting web pages about butterflies, including the Painted Lady and Swallowtail, on the Gerald Durrell Zoo site. I particularly enjoyed the quotations. You may like them, too. The link is here, and the Jesrsey Zoo Ark Gallery is here.

Feeding time
You can watch an amazing life cycle video of the Painted Lady here. Like other butterflies, they belong to the class of Lapidoptera: lepidos means 'scales' and ptera means 'wing' in Greek as the wings are made up of scales. 

I love the unfurling plants
Painted Ladies have a row of four 'eye spots' on the outside of each wing, plus a smaller dot. You can just about make out these eye spots in my photo below. The American Painted Lady has two large eye spots and the West Coast Lady does not have any at all.

A change from thistle nectar, which is often a favourite foodstuff

You might like to check out other 
Wildlife Photography Blog posts ...

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Herpetofauna (3): Frogs in the Peloponnese

A number of frogs like this one were enjoying the lily pads ...
They were actually pretty camouflaged in the dappled sunlight and shade, and we only realised they were there when presumably they heard us walking by and leaped off their 'sunbeds' into the water.

Guess who ruled the roost in this pond!
I am wondering if they were examples of the Epirus Water Frog (Pelophylax epeiroticus) - or at least the frog in the top photo. We were staying near Pylos, in the region of the beautiful lagoon at Yialova.

Land of the Lotus Eaters?

Monday 18 October 2010

Wildlife Webs (1): Wildlife Photography Blogs

Wildlife Photography Blog

I have just joined Wildlife Photography Blogs.

You can find the site here.

I'm just off to visit some of the other sites now ...

Thursday 14 October 2010

Beautiful Birds (9): RSPB 'Adopt a Nestbox' Results

The RSPB Reserve, Clydach, South Wales: a leafy environment, good for nesting birds

One of the way-marked RSPB trails

I have just received the results of the nestboxes we adopted for 2010 in Clydach RSPB Reserve, to the north of Swansea, here in South Wales, UK. 

My box, 138, was occupied by a Great Tit, and David's box, 139, by a Blue Tit.

Great Tit 
Nest building observed: 17th April
First egg laid: 23 April 
Eggs hatched: 14 May
Number of eggs hatched: 6
Number of young fledged: 5

Blue Tit

Nest building observed: 17th April
First egg laid: 24 April 
Eggs hatched: 22 May
Number of eggs hatched:14
Number of young fledged: 12

If you have the opportunity to adopt a nestbox or to take part in a similar scheme, I would encourage you to give it a go. The cost of 2011 sponsorship for the Clydach Reserve is £2 per nestbox. We first took part in the survey in 2009. You can read about our 2009 fledglings here.

I have only visited this reserve once to date, and on that occasion (very early on in my blogging days), I hoped I had encountered a rare beetle. You can read about that expedition here (the beetle) and here (the ID) ...

Monday 11 October 2010

Butterflies and Moths (12): Swallowtail

A Swallowtail at ancient Messine, near Kalamata, Greece
I grew up in East Anglia, where the occasional Swallowtail could be seen on the Norfolk Broads. I spent five years, working in Cambridge, during which time we often visited the nature reserve at Wicken Fen, where these butterflies were spotted on rare occasions. Needless to say, I don't ever recall seeing one.

I noticed a lot of Swallowtails of one kind or another on blogs from the USA and Canada (and here) earlier this year, and began to feel that I was missing out!

However, my (lack of) patience was rewarded in Greece, this last September, when I was privileged to watch and photograph a number of these beautiful creatures. The Ancient Greek word for 'butterfly' is apparently ψυχή (psȳchē), or 'soul'.

Friday 8 October 2010

Eye-catching Insects (1): Fiery Red Colours in Greece

Here are some of the colourful beetles
we saw in the Peloponnese, while we were in Greece ...

Shield Bug, probably Graphosoma italicum (or is there a Greek variety?), seen at Messine, Peloponnese

A Fire Bug. Seen at Nestor's Palace, Pylos, Greece

Ironically, King Nestor's Palace suffered a bad fire. Amazingly, the fire baked all the clay tablets, thereby preserving priceless examples of the early Linear B script.

The beetle below was in a different archaeological site, namely ancient Messine (sometimes seen as Messini), high up in the hills above Kalamata, of olive fame.  

The beetle heard me, and began to move fast ...
I was able to see the figure of 8 on its back ...
... as it scuttled out of sight. 
I have as yet been unable to identify the intriguing beetle above (update: 14 Feb 2011 - which I now know is the larva of a True Bug and not a beetle - please see comments below). Any help here would be appreciated!

I particularly enjoyed reading the Red and Black Insect page on the Honeyguide Wildlife Holiday site, and hope you may enjoy it. too. You might also like to see the Blister Beetle here

Oh, and by the way, it was Rosie's Ladybird that got me thinking 'red and black' today.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Beautiful Birds (8): No Hoopoe, but a Crested Lark ...

We hoped to see a Hoopoe in the Peloponnese, but the 'closest' match was a Crested Lark ...

...on the beach near Homer's 'sandy Pylos'.

Head down among the Sea Holly and other foliage...

Not the best photo, but you can see the crest!

The Crested Lark had this lovely beach all to itself!
Not a soul in sight ... except us.
We were sad that the Hoopoe didn't put in an appearance during our week in the western Peloponnese, but it was a joy to watch this Crested Lark as it foraged in the scrub along the top of the beach.

I believe I first 'encountered' the Hoopoe in the comedy, The Birds, by Aristophanes when I was at school. The play opens with two friends making their way across a hillside on their quest to find the legendary King of Thrace, Tereus, who had taken the form of a Hoopoe. All the birds band together to build their Cloud Cuckoo Land empire in the sky, in a bid to 'reclaim' lost power from the Olympian gods. The play was first performed in 414 B.C.

It is possible that we will be seeing Hoopoes in the UK before long. I was interested in this Hoopoe information on Adam Tilt's blog.

You might also enjoy this blog about Hoopoes and other birds in Greece. These are the Hoopoe-related posts.

If you are on Facebook, be sure to check out the 'Hoopoe' page by typing the word into the search box.

As for the Crested Lark, well, I had not realised that it was such a complex creature. There are apparently over 60 forms of the species. The variations appear to be due in part to the different habitats, as the colour of the bird in a particular area often matches the local soil. I have no idea whether this is fact or theory. Back in 2007 folk at the RSPB were expressing concern over the dwindling population of the species. My thanks to Wendy Lister for this link - and this one.

I wonder where the Hoopoe will pop up next ... or will it be a Crested Lark?