Wildlife in Corfu

My weeks holiday allowed me to experience a small taste (no I didn’t eat it!) of the wildlife on offer in Corfu.  This lovely green and verdant Greek island in the Ionian Sea is awash with wild flowers in spring, though it seemed like every other Corfoit was in possession of a petrol strimmer and was doing their best to blitz it!  Away from the villas and holiday apartments things were much quieter, even so some olive groves were getting the treatment.

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A Dalmation Algyroides on a wall of the old fortress in Kerkira.

Loved the lizards, never see many in the UK but here they liked to sunbathe on the rocks.  They are very wary and scuttle off when approached making photography difficult.  The biggest was a Balkan Green Lizard living in the front garden of our villa, pity he had lost his tail.

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Green Rose Chafer (Cetonia aurata) enjoying some nectar.

Those of you who have read Gerald Durrell’s book ‘My Family and Other Animals’ will remember his meetings with the Rose Beetle man.  These beetles or chafers are big, up to an inch (25mm) long and are a glorious metallic gold/green.  Mostly seen flying around tree tops they like to feed on nectar.

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Egyptian Locust (Anacridium aegyptium) is a big beast, nearly 3 inches (75mm) long, and caused me to jump when I disturbed them and they flew to cover!
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A beautiful and large moth the Cream-spot Tiger (Arctia villica) has a wingspan over 2 inches (50mm) long. This one nearly met it’s demise under my foot as I left the front door. Well spotted (and saved) Tina!
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A rather pretty grasshopper Omocestus rufipes, the Woodland Grasshopper.

The birdlife on Corfu was somewhat disappointing, so much so the zoom lens never got bothered.  There was a distinct lack of garden birds and the countryside was pretty quiet too.  I fear the large amount of empty shotgun cartridges and feral cats may be responsible.  The hunting of spring migrants on Mediterranean islands is a big problem, although it is part of the culture it is not big and not clever!  We did see some nice birds though, Scops Owls by our villa at night and the Red-rumped Swallows in the old fort.  A highlight of an evening meal in our favourite taverna the ‘Olive Press’ was the Barn Swallows coming in to roost a few feet above us and the owner welcomed them.

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Another dinosaur! A Greek Algyroides on our terrace wall.

“But wait!” I hear you say “Where are the butterflies?”  Well butterflies were in a great abundance and if you would like to see a few check this out https://blhphotoblog.wordpress.com/portfolio/corfu-butterflies/  I decided to put a gallery on my HOME page, enjoy!  For a taster feast your eyes on this beauty!

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Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius)

 

Corfu – Island Holiday

It has been many years since we have had a holiday abroad and even longer since we have visited Greece.  The arrival of the Lemming put paid to our trips but this year Mrs H and I decided to treat ourselves.  The destination we choose was the island of Corfu.  This was always on my wish list ever since I read Gerald Durrell’s brilliant book ‘My Family and other Animals’ as a child.  Although the story was set in the 1930’s we hoped to try and find traces of the past on what is now a very busy tourist isle.

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An evening view from our villa driveway toward Kerkira (Corfu Town)

Corfu is set in the Ionian Sea.  It is noted for being lush and green with a landscape of olive groves and tall cypress trees.  Even though we travelled in the second week of May we experienced some rain.  For our base we rented a villa in the beautiful village of Nissaki on the north/east coast.  Fifty yards from our terrace, through an olive grove filled with scrub and wild flowers, lay the sea and behind us the impressive backdrop of Mount Pantokrator, at 910m the highest point on Corfu.

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Looking down on Barbati. A view from 400m above Nissaki
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A calm Ionian Sea

On the fourth day we visited Kerkira or Corfu Town.  We had a hire car but having experienced the drive from the airport thought it safer to take the local bus!  To drive on Corfu you must forget everything you have learned, it’s every man for himself!  Indicators are frowned on, pedestrian crossings mean nothing and you can stop without warning and park up in the road.  The road surfaces are rough and that is being kind and to meet a coach on a steep hairpin bend is, er, interesting.

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Kerkira. Looking from the old fort toward the new

The capital is a very busy, bustling place.  Although there are many new shops some areas look pretty tired.  One downside being a problem with waste disposal meaning big piles of rubbish bags here and there.  We made our way through the back streets and along the promenade to the Old Fortress where we spent several hours exploring.  The fort was built by the Venetians in the 1540’s but the original fortifications date back to the 6th century.  The New Fortress was built a few years later to strengthen the town defences.

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The Old Fortress, a scene of many sieges
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On Corfu wild flowers grow everywhere

To find the island of Durrell’s book you have to venture off the beaten track.  We walked for many miles in the countryside, our favourite being the steep climb behind Nissaki.  We discovered a peaceful world filled with a profusion of wild flowers of every hue, also the wildlife but that must wait for another time.  One week and you are not even scratching the surface of this gem of an island with it’s friendly people.  At the end of each day after enjoying a meal at our favourite taverna, the Olive Press, we would sit back on the terrace and watch the neon flashing of the fireflies in the olive grove and listen to the whistling ‘twoo’ call of the Scops Owls.  In the distance, over the bay, the twinkling lights of Kerkira.  And relax!

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The hills above Benitses on the south east coast typify the Corfu scenery

 

 

Tiger, Tiger?

When it has been warm and sunny I have been dropping in on my local heath a couple of miles away.  My main purpose has only been partly successful but with no photos as yet I’m keeping quiet.  The heath is gorgeous at this time of the year.  The soil is very sandy, gorse and heather grow in profusion.  I just love the gorse, the flowers vivid yellow and the heady aroma of it’s coconut like scent.

The insect life is quite prolific and whilst walking the paths in full sun I had been noticing several pale green bugs.  I tried to get close for an image but every time they flew away.  At last one stayed put and I managed to get the macro on it, it turned out it was laying eggs in little burrows it excavated.  I had an idea what these were but made a check on google to confirm, they are Green Tiger Beetles (Cicindela campestris).

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Up close what an amazing looking creature, unless you are another small insect!

Now I don’t know about you but I can’t recall ever seeing a green tiger.  So why the name?  Well it seems as this little critter, only 1/2 an inch (12mm) long, is one of the fiercest and fastest hunters in the bug world.  If you are a spider, ant or caterpillar you better be prepared to run and run fast!  How fast?  Well according to the aforementioned google one of it’s family can run at a speed of 9 km/h (5.6 mph2.5 m/s), or about 125 body lengths per second!  Scale that up and it’s quicker than a Top Fuel dragster!

Another insect I’d noticed actually did look more like a tiger.

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‘Wonder what’s in this burrow?’

Same size as the beetle this is Goodens Nomad Bee (Nomada goodeniana).  The identity of this confirmed by a facebook group.  It is known as a cuckoo bee or cleptoparasite.  What it does to earn this illustrious title is to lay it’s eggs in the nests of other species of bee of the andrena family that nest in burrows.  The grub then tucks in on the stored food meant for the host grub, similar to the avian cuckoo.

Amazing the world that goes on right under our noses!

 

A Little Touch of spring

Get out of the cool easterly wind, find a sunny sheltered spot and there are spring insects to be found.

In my garden Holly Blues (Celastrina argiolus) have emerged and these gorgeous little butterflies can be seen fluttering around the ivy and holly bushes.

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Female Holly Blue warming up on ivy

A trip to a local common gave sightings of several Orange Tips, Peacocks, Brimstones, Green Veined White and Comma.  While Buzzards displayed overhead flies and bees went about their business.

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Gymnocheta viridis, not everything is pretty
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Dark-edged Beefly (Bombylius major) The ‘spike’ at the front is it’s proboscis for gathering nectar

On the heath was a small shrub covered in blossom.  This was very attractive to the Peacocks and they spent a lot of time nectaring instead of fighting.  Can anyone id the shrub?

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Peacock (Aglais io) on mystery shrub, pure spring

Norwich…. A Fine City

Took a trip to the city today with her who must be obeyed to pick up a few bits and bobs.  I don’t often visit Norwich (pronounced norridge as in porridge) I much prefer the countryside but when needs must.  However it is a fine city and unlike most cities in the UK is not infested with the glass and steel of modern architecture.  From medieval times to the industrial revolution it was the second largest city in the country after London, and one of the most important due to the wool trade.  It is home to many fine old buildings, two magnificent cathedrals, a Norman castle and a colourful outdoor market.  At one time there was a pub for every day of the year and a church for every week of the year.  We also have the best football team in the country, the Canaries, come on you Yellows!

It was a bit grey today so I left the camera at home.  Back in November 2016 I took a few images, here are a couple of my favourites.

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The box on the hill. Norwich’s Norman castle from Davey Steps. The castle is home to a fantastic museum with everything from art to natural history
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A man with a lot on his mind! Statue of Sir Thomas Browne (1605-82) on Hay Hill
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Reflections. Crystals in the wrought iron fence of St Stephens church
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Wildlife! Not a Norwich Canary but a juvenile Black-headed Gull looking over the market stalls for any stray scraps

An Anniversary & Upton Fen

Tuesday.  On my notifications wordpress informed me I have been blogging for two years!  Wahey!  Happy birthday to me etc, etc.  I remember so well when I started.  I thought it would be nice to share some of my photos, why keep them to yourself?  Spurred on by the Lemming who has her own blog –  https://crazystupidmusic.wordpress.com/?wref=bif , I searched the internet for advice. The kind man on google said easy, be done in ten minutes!  Don’t make me laugh!  Six hours later and I had somehow managed to cobble together the beginnings of this blog spot.  I hadn’t a clue what I was doing, or the terminology used (still don’t lol) it might as well have been in ancient Greek.  Anyway, we got there and through this medium I have been able to meet some incredible people!  You fellow bloggers inspire me to carry on.  The range of photography out there in wp world is mind blowing.  So a HUGE THANKS to every single one of you!!  12,560 views from 79 Countries WOW!

The day started frosty.  By the time I’d finished the housework (love my days off!) it was warming up nicely to 14c.  Decided to visit a nature reserve about twenty miles away as a recce for the summer and dragonfly potential.  It’s called Upton Fen.  According to my new dragonfly book the Common Hawker can be found there in July.  Common?  not in this part of Britain, anything but!  Found the car park easily enough and set off on a lovely walk through woodland along the banks of a dyke.  This is perfect habitat.  Crossed over the dyke and the path took me through a section of reedbed, through another gate and I was overlooking the Bure Marshes.  The sky was deep blue, no breeze and now about 18c, phew!

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Hello Deer!

I should have taken my binoculars or telescope to scan the wetlands.  I could hear a strange call I just could not place and then realised I was being watched!  About thirty yards away was the motionless head of a Chinese Water Deer (Hydropotes inermis).  Originally introduced to Woburn Park in Bedfordshire in 1896 and later Whipsnade in 1930.  These very small deer, about the size of a retriever dog, inevitably escaped along with their cousins the similar Muntjac and spread through the Country, finding the Broads much to their liking.

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The Marsh Harriers appeared this a near adult male

In the sky above the Marsh Harriers started to appear, soaring up on the thermals emitting their strange squeaky mewing call which doesn’t befit their looks.  In total there were five and a very pale Buzzard.  Mostly these birds were well out of range of my camera.  The Harriers started to display, what we call ‘sky dancing’, where the male rapidly climbs and dives, twisting and calling before spiraling into the reeds.  Later on the pair will continue to perform to each other, bringing nesting material.

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There are pale morph Common Buzzards (Buteo buteo) and then there is this one! I don’t think I’ve seen one quite so white

It’s been a fabulous day out, so warm it could be May and great to be alive.  I had the reserve to myself and shall definitely return in the summer for the dragons.  I will leave you with one last image of a Harrier, a bit of a lucky capture.  Again many thanks for all of you who visit this site, I really appreciate it.

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Come fly with me?

 

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Just cannot think of a title for this image.

 

 

 

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Cantley

If you buy sugar from the UK there is a good chance that it started here.  Standing on the banks of the River Yare, overlooking the Cantley Marshes, this is Cantley sugar beet processing factory.  Every day during the winter period over 8,000 tonnes of beet is cooked to extract the sugar.  Hundreds of huge lorries daily bring the crop from a radius of over forty miles.  The smoke can be seen from quite some distance due to the flatness of our countryside. I live over 20 miles away and if the wind is in the south I can smell it.

On the plus side there is many acres of settlement lagoons where the sludge is deposited.  These are a magnet for waders and wildfowl.  When the factory is not in production you are allowed to go birdwatching there, and it has turned up many rarities.