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Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Birds, Beasts & ... Corfu

Paraphrasing the second book ("Birds, Beasts & Relatives") the follow up to his most famous book "My Family & Other Animals" in the wonderful trilogy of my hero, the late Gerald Durrell's account of his childhood experiences in the 1930's on the Greek island of Corfu... Jenny & I have just returned from a relaxing holiday on Corfu.
Gerald Durrell is a very heroic figure and much missed figure because he did so much to raise the plight of endangered species from around the world, he established Jersey Zoo (whose work included pioneering captive breeding programmes of endangered species to re-introduce back into the wild) and even rescue from extinction such species as the Pink Pigeon, the Mauritian Kestrel and others.
Our stay on this very green island coincided with a heatwave with average temperatures rising from 32C to a blistering 37C (and even touching 40c in the valleys!)
My quest was to seek out some of Gerald Durrell's old stomping grounds and share some of the wildlife spectacles he experienced seven decades earlier.
I was delighted to find Lake Scotini, a place Gerald visited as a boy and although there had been much development around it, including a quarry and a few houses nearby it was still there and I was delighted to see Balkan Green Lizards, a European Pond Turtle, Roesel's Bush Crickets, Scarlet & Ruddy Darters, Black-lined Skimmer, Cleopatra & Glider butterflies. Birds included a Lesser Grey Shrike and several Little Egrets, not bad for the heat of the summer.
I was also delighted to find Lake Gavrolimni nearby where several Marsh Frogs were seen near the waters edge. There must have been around 60 of their number around the muddy water's edge, as I approached they all hopped into the water and as I retreated they immediately hopped back out again, a very comical thing to see!
Nearby the chortling calls of 4 Bee-eaters heralded the wonderful sight of these rainbow coloured birds flying overhead. Nearby a restless Small Pearl- bordered Fritillary butterfly flew by.
A visit to Mount Pankrator enabled me to see such species such as Rock Bunting, Blue Rock Thrushes, Black- eared Wheatears but sadly no raptors were seen here. This was redeemed wonderfully later with a sighting of a magnificent adult Golden Eagle near Skipero.
Around our apartment confiding Erhard's Wall Lizards (especially those stranded briefly on the steps!) and at night up to 3 Turkish Geckos on the walls near the lights posed nicely for the camera whilst on a flowerbed by the local bakery, a Scarce Swallowtail also gave good views.
On a local beach at San Stephanos we were treated to a wonderful display of the white flowers of Sea Lilys or Sea daffodils.
On a visit to Corfu town, I witnessed the amazing spectacle of hundreds of Alpine Swifts swooping in groups feeding low over the roofs of the tall buildings here, an incredible sight! In a local park were commemorative statues to the Durrell brothers, Gerald & Lawrence.
Sadly, I never found the former childhood home of the Durrells now reputed sadly to be a ruin.
But on a visit to the White House at Kalami, the famous former home of Gerald's brother Lawrence, we saw 2 young Red- rumped Swallows which sat on wires whilst on a bush nearby several Long- tailed Blue butterflies and Lang's Short- tailed Blue butterfly were seen.
A visit to Peter's Biological garden revealed a colourful Hoopoe on the track ahead and a confiding bathing Icterine Warbler as well as 4 Clouded Yellow butterflies in a nearby field.



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