July 2006
2nd: In a Provarma garden we noticed this lovely moth which shows bright red underwings in flight. Someone has kindly emailed to identify it as a Jersey Tiger Moth - Euplagia quadripunctaria. Photos below:

In my experience although there are many interesting insects on Crete, many especially the larger ones are only seen individually, the photos below show that this is not always the case:

At least 10 Cicada in this photo.
6.7.06 Stilos area.
12 Banded Demoiselle Damselflies in this photo.
10 male and  2 female. 6.7.06 Stilos area.

Evening visit to the old wells, just north of Paleloni on the road to Drapanos. I was looking to see if any dragonflies used these wells. No sign of dragonflies, but not the best time of day for these insects. Some goldfish! and developing tadpoles were present in the water.

One of the wells

Tadpole, hind legs forming

11th: An evening visit to Aptera, the fortress headland, high above Kalives Bay. A large gathering of Alpine Swifts were feeding and calling low over the summit. Superb high speed flyers, I was pleased to be able to rattle off shots with my digital camera. Of over 200 photos, I was very pleased with one (see bird list) and kept about 5, one of which is below:

An early morning walk (7.15am. a rare event!) was interrupted by a  Kestrel, calling as it mobbed a Peregrine. In the photo below the slimmer, longer tailed Kestrel is above the more powerfully built Peregrine. 

We had previously found a nice pool formed by a dammed stream which then enters the Stilos River. As we approached we could see a lot of work had been done in the area. A bridge crossing the stream had been cleared removing some of the invasive bamboo and had fortunately improved the pool by letting in more light. A new trench had been built leading into the stream, over an area of cleared land . This had water in it and was attracting several species of dragonfly and allowing close approach for photography. We can only hope further work does not harm the area. I had not previously seen one of the species on Crete before, see photo of Small Red Damsel - Ceriagrion tenellum, below:

20th: Visit to Lake Kournas. The painted Lady Butterfly in the photo below is on a plant very visible around this time of year - the Chaste Tree - Vitex agnus-castus a member of the Verbena family.

I have been intrigued for some time by an article on the internet entitled: Short note on the Dragonflies of Crete this describes a visit to Crete in 1999 and the discovery of the larvae of the three endemic Cretan dragonflies all in one area. (See links page) The new field guide to European dragonflies had also enthused me, so as this might be a good time to see the adult insects, we set off on another adventure.

The river runs past the villages of Mixorrouma and Spili ,south of the major town of Rethimno, a round trip of 134km for us. Although the internet article was complete with grid references we did not know how accurate they were. Our two good! maps varied somewhat so we decided to opt for the one which bothered to show rivers. We drove through Mixorrouma and took a small turn to the right signposted Mourne and shortly arrived at a river bridge and parked nearby. Walking to the bridge we saw a couple of fresh Sympetrum striolatum - Common Darter. Over the river and in the trees above Orthetrum brunneum - Southern Skimmer and one of the species we had come to find Calopteryx splendens cretensis - Banded Demoiselle an endemic subspecies. We could not find a way down to the river near the bridge, or after driving around, so just watched from the bridge.

We then carried on through Mourne before coming to another bridge over the river, this time near Spili. From this bridge we could follow the river bank for some way on each side of the bridge. Banded Demoiselle and Southern Skimmer were here plus

Crocothemis erythraea - Broad Scarlet, Ischnura elegans - Common Bluetail, Lestes parvidens - Eastern Willow Spreadwing and just one male Coenagrion intermedium - Cretan Bluet, one of the Cretan species we had come to find.

We adjourned to a Spili Taverna to cool down and eat. We asked for a good place to view the river and were directed to take a path from the new car park. We probably opted for the wrong path, there turned out to be a choice! However the path we took was quite a green haven for insects including another two species of dragonfly Orthetrum coerulescens - Keeled Skimmer and Sympetrum fonscolombei - Red-veined Darter. We had to retrace our steps without finding the river and as the other path was blocked by a pickup, and its two rather possessive dogs we decided to head for home. We had seen some lovely habitat and had seen two of the three species.

29th: We decided to visit the river pond area, a five minute drive from home, and try for some better photographs of Small Red Damsel, which we achieved. On the way back to the car we decided to take a look at the river from a cool sandbank. Banded Demoiselles were present and then a larger dragonfly joined them before flying on along the shady bank inspecting tree roots and rock crevices on its way, just the behaviour of Boyeria cretensis - Cretan Spectre, the third and undoubtedly the most interesting of the Cretan endemic dragonflies! and just down the road.

Between 2pm and 2.30pm we saw it on six patrols. It came very close on a couple of occasions, but even so it was very difficult to see any details and we really only saw its green eyes and pale rear area. The new field guide says its very similar western relative has a military camouflage appearance and I think this explains why it is so hard to really see this species and why it has only been seen by a handful of observers. I was really chuffed especially as we also got a photograph, poor as it might be. See below:

Down to the sandbank to try to see and photograph the Cretan Spectre.

Yesterday had proved how difficult it would be to photograph this species, which seemed to be in constant motion and in the shade. I decided I would try flash, which would however limit me to one photo at a time, not continuous which is possible without flash. We arrived and set up camp on the sandbank at 1pm with the first sighting at 1.30pm. Then three more sightings the last at 2.15pm with no further sightings until 3.15. then another 3 sightings with the last at 4pm just before we left. This individual was perhaps the same individual patrolling its territory and behaved as yesterday flying along the shady banks searching under roots and into rock crevices. Today it also flew much higher into the trees a couple of times, presumably hunting for food.

One sighting was different the individual in question staying closer to the waterline and perhaps dipped tail into water (egg laying) and also appeared a slightly different colour, but so difficult to see could not be certain except for the flying closer to waterline, just possibly a female? We took lots of photos as yesterday with again only one fairly poor result. See below:


A single Bee-eater over Exopoli (report from A&M)

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