Seeing red! :)

I thought you may be interested to hear about a most unusual spider I’ve encountered whilst here in Corfu. It belongs to the spider Genus Eresus, and its extremely colourful – it has similar patterning to that of a ladybird, from which it takes its common name. The male spider I photographed today never stopped moving for a second – I think he has the female of the species on his mind!

Ladybird Spider (c) Andrew Gray

Ladybird Spider (c) Andrew Gray (click on image to see in more detail)

These spiders are very rare to come across, and even in the UK they are probably one of the rarest spiders of all. They prefer living on south-facing hillside slopes, such as the one behind where I am staying. Females construct a silk-lined burrow then wait for the males to approach. At this time of year, the males, like the one pictured, are actively searching for females, which are velvety black and much larger. Unfortunately for this particular male, when he  finds a female and mates with her it will be the last thing he ever does – as with many spiders, the female, who in this instance will see his red coloration, then kills the male on the spot.

One thing I did notice when photographing this spider was that he seemed very aware of everything around him – he had excellent eyesight and seemed to be thinking of where to go before doing so. His behaviour and intelligence enthralled me. When feeling threatened he also dipped his head and raised his bright body up as a defence strategy, similar behaviour to that of some frogs I’ve seen. These spiders, which eat beetles and millipedes, appear to have pretty decent sized jaws (something I only saw in scary detail when photographing the male after filming the video below!) Anyhow, he didn’t bite me, and I very much hope he finds his female – and that she then turns out to be colourblind! 🙂

 

Martin Nicolas shows me some slightly larger spiders 

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Kiss from a Rose

On the very last night of my previous visit to Corfu, I was told an almost fairytale-like story about a special flower that is said to exist here: the tale tells of a very rare white wild rose which was found on the island, and of which only very few people know anything about. It was a sacred rose that only existed as one or two plants, it only flowered for a very short time, and it had the most beautifully scented flowers you could ever imagine …

Today, rather than a reptile hunt, my quest was to look for it.

IMG_3416

I set off early, and headed north on foot towards the bay of Agni, where the tale arose (forgive the pun!) The sun was up to meet me, and so were the beautiful goldfinches, which appear to be even more abundant here than the sparrows. The rocky coastline, where tall Cypress trees meet turquoise waters, just increases in beauty as you near Agni – it’s stunning. To make my hike even more of a pleasure, many fast-moving reptiles slithered ahead of me as the heat from the midday sun started to bake my path.

IMG_3267The path twisted through scented olive and lemon groves until I finally reached Agni, where the sweet smell of Jasmine hit me as I entered the small bay. Time for a break, and lunch at Toulas, my favourite restaurant, before continuing my quest. But not before being told a secret…

The Rose

The Wild Rose, Corfu (c) Andrew Gray

Armed with new knowledge, I finally found the Rose today – stood, in all its majesty, over ten feet tall, like some mythological golden fleece, its flowers basking in the sunshine.

It was beautiful, and its fragrance was like a kiss to the senses.

Herbology Manchester 

Plant Sciences

Toulas       

Inspection (check one)

IMG_3148Whilst in Corfu I will be checking my footwear a little more closely from now on! 🙂

What was it that ran up my arm!

 

 

 

Leftfield

Wake up call

This morning I woke to the sound of what I thought was a gardener strimming the grass outside the room where I am staying in Corfu. The noise was loud and incessant, ceaseless and unforgiving. Waking more fully, I realized the noise was coming from inside the room. I turned back the curtains to the patio to  find a huge and formidable looking hornet was up against the glass. At approx 35mm, it was the largest I have ever seen! Only yesterday I was discussing such insects with the manager of this superb hotel, which is situated at the very foot of Pantokrator mountain.

The hillsides here are carpeted in colourful wild flowers at the moment, and yesterday I spent all day hiking through them with the overwhelming scent of the flowers and wild herbs in my nostrils. I saw 3 beautiful giant legless lizards, but talking of insects, there are so many incredible species to be seen here it would be a real entomologists paradise: All the species are out enjoying the sunshine, breeding, and egg laying at this time of year – it really is a spectacle to behold!

Awakened to the fascinating world of insects, here are just a few photos taken yesterday, with more to be added soon!

 

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