I stopped to chat with friends in Lefteris’s kafenion at the top of the Kali Strata on the way back to the house from the restaurant close to midnight. After a short while the owner started hurriedly carrying the wooden chairs and tables inside. We helped. Task complete I stepped out from under the canopy to resume the 10 minute walk just as the first large, heavy drops of rain started to fall, leaving dark spots an inch across on the ground. Within seconds they coalesced until the stone-paved surface, dry for months, was shining wet.
By the time I reached the shoe shop barely 100 metres further up the Kali Strata I was wet to the skin. As I turned right up the couple of steps through the arch at the top the whole width of the rough-paved alley was flowing with water. The next right turn, more steeply and narrowly uphill, and the water was cascading ankle-deep. I could have just about come down it in my kayak if it hadn’t been hanging in the garage at home in Wales, though I doubt I could have taken the tight bend at the bottom. Back at the house the avli (inner courtyard) was ponded at the lower edge, the drainage outlet unable to cope with the volume of water so it flowed out under the door to join the stream in the alley.
For 24 hours after that it was cloudy with thunder showers and longer periods of heavy rain. That was nearly a week ago. Then the sky cleared and has been cloudless ever since.
Symbolically it marked the change from Summer to Autumn, from temperatures pushing 40 to a mere 28-30 in the day, plummeting to 20 overnight. It also marked the beginning of growth in a landscape parched, crisped, straw-brown for nearly 4 months. Hence the change of focus in the blog from pre-history to natural history.
Hillsides covered in oregano or sage are showing the start of fresh growth on dried-up twigs, the scents stirred up once again as you pass. The prickly thyme is showing a second flush of flowers, albeit on a very small scale compared with the major flowering this year (honey should be good!).
But by far the most dramatic change is that sea squill is now in full flower. It had started to push its alien-like flower heads through rock-hard bare soil, from fissures in the limestone, from shrivelled looking bulbs.
Now it has suddenly shot up to full height, mostly about a metre, some closer to 2 metres. It dominates the landscape, million upon million of gleaming white spears, tall and erect, bent and contorted, tight white buds opening gradually in turn from the bottom to the tip of the flowerhead on finger-thick stems. They stand like avenues along compacted, trodden paths and in swathes across hillsides.
Squill is by far the most prolific and dramatic but not the only flower to push naked out of the soil. One small area of craggy limestone mountainside has tiny clusters of ‘Biarum marmarisense’ starting to show their shy heads, bowing down like tiny white-cowelled monks. It doesn’t seem to have a common name in English but its Latin name ‘Biarum’ because it’s related to Arum lilies, which indeed it looks like, and ‘marmarisense’ because it’s native to South West Turkey where lies the town of Marmaris.
Hardly surprising then that it’s found on Symi which is about the width of the Bristol Channel from Turkey and shares the same arid limestone mountainous landscape. My guess is that it will become more prolific and larger over the coming week. As far as I know it is only found in a very limited area on Symi but, very difficult to spot, it may be more widespread.
Seen for the first time (by me anyway) is the flower of what I think is a low growing thistle. Flat to the ground in the middle of dead, crisped-up leaves the vivid purple eventually gives way to a fluffy-white cushioned seed-head, thistledown soft to the touch.
With an end to the blistering mid-day heat lizards are now to be seen everywhere, absorbing energy from the sun without overheating, rushing around almost manically. I stopped for a bite of nutbar and found a pistachio embedded in it still in its shell so, not wanting to break a tooth, I put it on a rock alongside me. Soon an Oertzeni lizard came and started to lick the honey of the shell. Then ants homed in on the honey and chased off the lizard. Answers one question anyway, lizards obviously don’t eat ants. Perhaps formic acid isn’t to their taste. I know honey is to the taste of ants, I found my jar of honey in a high wall-cupboard, lid screwed on tight, crusted in them.
Butterflies are back in profusion. Mostly what I’m told are Meadow Browns but on a climb up the knoll on the ridge, now one of my regular tarmac-bypasses, a Painted Lady with which I had a dalliance as I followed it from squill to squill until it overcame its camera-shyness. Like painted ladies everywhere it was flawed. This one had a damaged wing. But still looked good.