Diapontia Islands

The Diapontia Islands are a group of small islets located northwest of Corfu just where the Adriatic meets the Ionian Sea. Mathraki, Othoni and Erikousa are the largest and the only inhabited of the twelve little islets and rocks that make up this small archipelago. All the islands are tranquil, almost free of cars and the tourists that visit here come to enjoy the peace and to walk, swim and relax. The whole island of Mathraki is a Natura 2000-site as are most of the coastal area of Othoni and the northern part of Erikousa. The islands are protected because they are important nesting sites for birds such as Cory’s shearwaters, Calonectris diomedea, shags, Phalacrocorax aristotelis, Peregrine falcons, Falco peregrinus, and Alpine swifts, Tachymarptis melba, but birds are not the only interesting wildlife on these islands. Erikousa is a paradise for the green toad, Bufotes viridis, and in the harbour settlement of Porto there is a large and viable population that breeds in the dune pools on the beach and roams the empty streets at night. The Eastern Montpellier snake, Malpolon isignitus fuscus, is also found here and the males of the Dalmatian keeled lizard, Algyroides nigropunctatus, on this island are all coloured beautiful brick red during the mating season. On Othoni the Balkan whipsnake, Hierophis gemonensis, is unusually beautiful with a very distinct black and white pattern. The flora is beautiful and quite rich on all the islands and the specimens of the Mediterranean thistle, Galacites tomentosa, that grow here are nearly all of the white flowering form.

Please follow this link to read or download our first report of the herpetofauna of the Diapontia Islands.

Lindenia tertraphylla – Bladetail

This large and beautiful dragonfly species belonging to the family Gomphidae was first recorded from Corfu this summer. The individuals are approximately 7 – 8 cm long and can vary considerably in colouration from beige with black markings to completely black. The specimens found on Corfu were all black and very spectacular. This is a heat-loving species with a main distribution along the so-called Paneremian desert belt that reaches from  Kazakhstan  and Kyrgyzstan in the east across Central and Western Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, the Caucasus region, the Levant and Turkey to the western Mediterranean. The species is found in a few places in mainland Greece but its distribution in the Mediterranean region is patchy. Bladetails are strong flyers that can migrate over long distances and it is referred to as a migratory species. Our find has been published in Notulae odonatologicae 8(4) 2014:86-90 and the paper can be downloaded as a PDF-file here.

New publications

In May 2013 Bosse and I visited the Island of Paxos together with Matt Wilson to investigate the herpetofauna of the Island and our findings have been published in the journal Herpetozoa. The paper “Wilson. M, Stille, B. & Stille, M (2014): A short note on the herpetofauna of Paxos, including two species new to the island”. Herpetozoa 27(1/2) Wien, 30. Juli 2014,  can be downloaded here.

We have also made and printed a poster “The Snakes of Corfu” with pictures and short information of the 13 species of snake and two species of legless lizard found on the island of Corfu. The poster, that has been produced to distribute for free to schools and other institutions or parties interested in spreading information on the snakes that reside on the island of Corfu. Anybody interested in supporting this project by buying a poster for €3 please contact us at info@bluesage.se  for information.

Poster

2013

We moved to Corfu in the autumn of 2011 and our house is now finally beginning to look like a home and the Christmas holidays have been very cosy. The insulation work and new roof have done wonders and the house was warm even after the 12 hour power cut on Christmas day. We still have a bit of work to do on the inside but will finally have time to work on the garden and the exterior of the house.

2013 has been a good year for us in many ways but there have been sadness too. Our husky Indy has been taken ill with ehrlichiosis, an infection caused by the bacteria Ehrlichia canis, spread by the brown dog-tick, Rhipicephalus sanguineus. We have treated him with antibiotics on several occasions and he has been better for a while and then worse again. Right now he has been off antibiotics for two months and he eats a lot and has gained weight but still hs pain in his legs and back and has to be treated with cortisol every third day. We have started to take longer walks on soft ground so that he can exercise his muscles without straining them too much and we can only hope that this will help and relieve him of some of the stiffness and pain. Indy’s illness has been on our minds for much of the year and it is one of the reasons I haven’t been posting regularly on my blog this year.

A herping trip to Paxos in May was one of this year’s highlights. We spent a few beautiful days on this tiny Island looking for snakes and had time to take in some of the sights, too. We have had visits from both family and friends this summer and have spent a lot of time driving around the island. We have added to our lists of herps, orchids and insects and spotted several species new to us and we are confident that 2014 will bring more great sightings.

Tomato harvest

We have slowly started working on our garden here on Corfu but most of the work so far has consisted of clearing away brambles and thickets and trimming back trees and bushes. We are quite fortunate to have several species of orchids growing on our land as well as some stately cypresses, a few big and beautiful eucalyptus trees and olives of course, but it is not much of a landscaped garden yet and the soil is too poor in many places for traditional garden plants and vegetables to be thriving. Even so I have managed to clear a plot to make a vegetable garden and begun work on a little orchard of fruit trees.  The soil in this part of garden have been partly improved and cleaned from at least a million stones but it needs a lot more work to yield a good crop of fruits and vegetables. My orange oxheart tomatoes did not grow as big as they ought to but they are very nicely shaped, and tasty too. A small crop of beautiful yin & yang beans, some small Minnesota midget melons, nice patty pan squash, a variety of peppers and thousands of pretty golden currant tomatoes with a peculiar but pleasant sweet and sour taste is what I managed to produce so far in my first Corfu garden. A garden which differs in so many ways from my old Swedish garden.

The Greek Magician

Saga hellenica

The Greek Magician (Saga hellenica), one of the six Saga species that occur in Europe, is a large bush cricket belonging to the family Tettigonidae. It is easily distinguished from other species in the family and once seen it cannot be mistaken for anything else. The ”Magician” is a flightless, predatory species that feeds on other grasshoppers and crickets and it occurs in grassy habitats such as meadows and cultivated fields. The male and female are more or less of equal size and appearance but the male is somewhat smaller, usually between 4,8 – 7,6 cm while the female is between 5,5 – 7,8 cm long. The male has small, rudimentary wings that he uses for stridulating to attract the females and he obviously also lacks the ovipositor. The females are often found walking on the roads at night during late summer searching for prey and places to lay their eggs. It is during this period that it is easiest to spot them and both the size of the insect and its typical gait, that resembles that of a chameleon, quickly gives it away. The eggs of the ”Magician” are incubated for two years before they hatch. The males are not as easily spotted but are occasionally seen during the day in the summer.
Saga hellenica is primarily a ground dwelling species but it sometimes climb on to grasses and low bushes. It can be found all over Greece except in the far north-east and it also has been reported to occur in Albania and the Republic of Macedonia. There is a second Saga species found in Greece,  the partenogenetic Saga pedo, but this species has not been reported from Corfu.

Old Sinies – Palaeo Chorio

Finally made it to Old Sinies, Corfus’ abandoned village. Husband was here with a friend a couple of weeks ago and although I would have preferred to visit in early spring when the bulbs are in flower and the air is clear I thought I better go and have a look and take some photographs. The road here is one of the strangest I ever encountered. It starts out small, narrow and steep when meandering up among the villas and through the village of Vigglatouri. This part of the road is narrow but paved then the paving suddenly stops and then the next part of the road becomes a very rocky and bumpy dirt track. Bumping along deeper into the beautiful valley the road suddenly widens and becomes paved again. The sides along this part, that by the way looks rather new, are lined with very sturdy railings and it almost looks like a small version of the Autobahn has been dropped down into the mountains from above. However, the  winter rains have had bad impact even on this part and a 10 meter section has dropped about a meter. The new road does not continue all the way to the old village and the last part is a very bumpy dirt track again.
The village, embedded in greenery, is situated in the most beautiful surroundings and the view up over the mountain and out over the bay is quite magnificent. There are three churches in the village, stone wells, a threshing floor and cobbled paths between some of the houses. However, many of the house ruins are inaccessible due to overgrowth of bramble and other plants.
The surrounding meadows are still full of summer flowers and Bosse found an exciting and very big spider hiding under a rock. We also encountered our second Corfiot fox, unfortunately dead, but hopefully visits later in the year will give us opportunity to met our first live fox on Corfu.

Paxos trip

We have spent the last couple of days on the beautiful little island of Paxos exploring wildlife and relaxing. The island differs  from Corfu not only in size and looks, but also in the general pace of life. The roads are of better quality than those on Corfu and villages are very neat and picturesque. The fauna and flora are not as species rich as that of Corfu, and for most of the plants the flowering season is now over and a visit in April or early May would be the best if the flora is to be explored. However, I was able to photograph a few species of plants, some reptiles, a few spiders and got snaps that capture the general feeling of the island, I think.

Summer and hay-fever

Summer and hay-fever are here and husband suffers badly as the grass grows taller and taller. The recent rain showers gave him some relief and a visit to the farmakeio this morning, in an attempt to find more effective pills and sprays, hopefully will be successful. The snakes are now out and about and we have seen several road-kills but also many live ones, the most spectacular being a very large Platyceps najadum dahli – Dahl’s whip-snake (Σαΐτα). The orchids around our place flowered early and in great abundance this year but the hot weather made several of the helleborines, Epipactis helleborine, that grows close by us drop their flower-buds. Hopefully the recent rain will have saved some of them so that I can be able to get some decent photos.  Our vegetable garden is slowly taking shape and most ot the stones have been removed and salad, beans, peppers and squash are thriving, at least so far. I will plant some seed grown tomatoes and melons that I have been cultivating on the balcony this evening.

Cold, wet and windy

The Corfu spring has been slow in progress this year, but all the rain has been benificial to frogs and newts as well as to the flowers and we are constantly adding new observations for both fauna and flora. Still, sun and warmth will hopefully be here soon.

Much of the winter has been spent working with the house, but we have also managed to do some writing, photographing, wildlife spotting and garden planning and digging. The list of bulbous plants found has been added to, and as the orchid season is progressing we are hoping for many nice sightings and photo opps. We are fortunate to have at least nine species of orchids growing in our garden, which gives me  great opportunities to take a lot of photos when the light is right. There are also several species of orchids both in flower and in leaves on our regular dog walks so we are looking forward to many new encounters. The frogs have been active since February, some since Christmas, and the choirs of the green tree frogs can, on warm nights, be heard far and wide. The cold weather has unfortunately kept the snakes away  but many of the lizards have long been out and about, and yesterday Indy, or Siberian Husky, found  the first tortoises of the year.