Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Wedding wildlife, Part 1

First Born's wedding, taking place on the island of Rhodes, presented the father of the bride with a bit of a conundrum... just how much wildlife watching is appropriate on such an occasion? Common sense prevailed and my camera and lenses remained in Orkney, though I did sneak my bins into our luggage. Our Lass took along a small compact camera, but I opted to just use my phone for photos.

The wedding day itself was a decidedly warm 40 degrees C, but everything went smoothly and everyone had a great time [... and a Buzzard flew over immediately post ceremony].

For the remainder of the week, either side of the Big Day, there was an amount of lounging by the pool, swimming in the sea and driving around the island with the air con on full blast.

But I'll start at the beginning...

After three separate flights and an hour's drive, we arrived at our hotel, just outside Lindos, at about midnight... to discover that our room was double-booked and we'd have to spend the first two nights at another hotel a further 20 minutes down the road. Whilst this standby hotel was of a similar standard, it was much larger and consequently a lot busier. However, by this time, we simply wanted to catch up on some sleep.

At the back of mind, I was still trying to figure out how I would see any local (and therefore completely new to me) wildlife. I needn't have worried... it was part of the room service... hot and cold running ants, a wasp and a cockroach.

The following evening, whilst returning to our room, our ears were assailed by a wall of sound that was strange yet oddly familiar. In the centre of the hotel complex was a large tree, which turned out to be the roost for a huge flock of sparrows. I have never heard such a barrage of chirruping, it even drowned out the cicadas.

Once settled into the correct hotel, we were pleased to find that our balcony had a view across some scrubland. This small strip of habitat produced a flock of Crested Larks, a Black-eared Wheatear and a shrike (possibly Red-backed).

The pool area and beach were equally blessed with wildlife (even if it was difficult to capture with a camera). The day before we arrived, there had been an emergence of small dragonflies, a species of darter, which flitted about between sun and shade, often landing to obelisk in the heat. Occasionally, a larger dragon was seen whizzing high over the swimming pool, but this was impossible to identify. There were loads of hornets buzzing about, several locusts in the flower borders and a five-legged grasshopper risked life and remaining limbs by walking across the paved area in full view of the local feral cat population.

It took me several days, but I eventually figured out what the darters were. There were several options available for this part of Greece, including some of the species we have in the UK, but I eventually managed to spot a mature individual that had enough diagnostic features to nail it. Unfortunately, it needed binoculars, so the best picture I could come up with involved trying to hold both bins and Our Lass's camera whilst focussing both on a distant insect. The results were rather unsatisfactory to say the least.

However, here's a couple of mobile phone pics of an immature specimen, discovered the next morning in the flower border between the hotel and the pool.

Whilst not yet coloured up, there are several clues here (as I learned): the eyes are brown above and blue below; the pterostigma has a thick dark leading edge and a paler area behind (see topmost part of wing in either photo) and the legs are not completely black. All this adds up to Red-veined Darter, a species occasionally seen in the UK, but not by me so I was chuffed to bits. The individual seen through bins was much redder, with obvious wing colour (eponymous veins and yellow wing bases).

Both First and Second Born tried to rescue darters that landed in the swimming pool, but to no avail. I can only presume that the chlorine in the water was bad for their health, but it didn't stop enterprising wagtails from wandering around the egde of the pool, scooping up any unfortunate dragonfly.

If there is an upside to a dead dragonfly, they're much easier to photograph!

Certainly, the view of the underside is not one that I've had previously, and is interesting from an anatomical perspective (male dragons have 2 sets of genitalia). Those eyes look so alive :o(


biobabbler said...

Aw, that's lovely. Congratulations to you and yours. =)

Those brown above, blue below eyes are such a surprise. Nice work ID-ing them. One of the largest dragonflies I've ever seen (no idea the ssp.) was dead, at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, Utah. A real stunner.

I'm very impressed you all survived those temperatures--that's hot, even for an inland Californian. =)

New-to-you species really are one of the delights of travel. I remember the one time I went to Tahiti, they had HUGE cockroaches and I fell forever in love with geckoes. They come out at night, climb your walls, ceiling, and floors, and have a marvelous time catching and eating the cockroaches. =) And make cute little sounds which translate to, "Few cockroaches tomorrow."

Imperfect and Tense said...

We can't quite decide whether we now have the bug to travel further afield to see spectacular wildlife. Maybe if they invented a low energy teleportation device?