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Steve Daniels

Member Since 02 Jan 2014
Offline Last Active Apr 02 2017 07:51 AM

#29408 Crete Nature: The Sweet Smell Of Rain

Posted by Steve Daniels on 02 April 2017 - 07:54 AM

Ah, the sweet, rich smell of rain. That distinctive scent wafting up our nostrils comes from a naturally occurring plant oil that is absorbed by soil and rocks during dry periods. When rain falls, the oil is released into the air along with an organic compound called geosmin that's produced by the bacteria in wet soil. It’s this combination that creates that clean, earthy, “just-rained smell”. Rain itself has no odour. Even acid rain looks and smells just like the normal kind.





We’ve had rather a lot of rain recently but before we go down and see what effect it has had on our stream I noticed this little patch of ground when we emerged onto the track last week. It is regularly cultivated later in the spring but let’s have a look and see what’s taken hold before the rotavator moves in. Plenty of Wood Sorrell here at our feet and some stands of White Mustard in front of the Date Palms but just check out these little pink flowers. These are Small Herb Robert and they are certainly attracting the little Bee Flies. As their name suggests they are flies that have evolved to protect themselves by looking like bees. Whenever you come across an animal that seems to have two contradictory names the second name tells you what it is and the first name tells you what it resembles. Thus a Whale Shark is a shark that resembles a whale and a Curlew Sandpiper is a sandpiper that looks like a curlew and not the other way around.

Read on at https://niume.com/post/292461


#29105 Crete Nature: Tales Of The Riverbank

Posted by Steve Daniels on 26 March 2017 - 09:45 AM

If we just push our way through these giant canes we should find the…splash!...stream. I’ve found the water; my right foot has at any rate. I’ve also found a rather interesting character wandering over this rock here. An eight legged arachnid but not a spider. She is one of the hard backed ticks (like books, they come in hard back and soft back) and I think that she’s a Brown Dog Tick. Although they prefer dogs as hosts (and we have plenty of hunting dogs in this area) they will take blood from any mammal including us. As she can host bacteria that would result in us catching Mediterranean spotted fever she is best avoided – like the plague as it were. I think we’ll press on.


Read on at https://niume.com/post/287623



#28926 Crete Nature: To St. John's Ford

Posted by Steve Daniels on 19 March 2017 - 08:11 AM

Here we are below the Milonas waterfall and the cataract is still tumbling down through the rocks sounding like a symphony of swirling streams. A veritable jungle of giant cane and oleander surround us and up among the rocks small flowers like this Algerian Iris are taking advantage of every crack and crevice that holds a modicum of soil.  Not only is it a ridiculously pretty little flower but its rhizomes - the underground stems - contain some useful compounds (Kaempferol and 8-Methoxyeriodictyol if you're into phytochemistry), both of which are important in the fight against diabetes and a wide range of cancers.


Read on at https://niume.com/post/282884



#28633 Crete Nature: The Milonas Waterfall

Posted by Steve Daniels on 12 March 2017 - 10:31 AM

We seem to have emerged from the woods unscathed and the waterfall now lies directly ahead of us. We’ve had to take quite a detour to get around those imposing cliffs but it should be quite a gentle stroll today (famous last words) with plenty of opportunities to look about us. Let’s start with a few flowers that are heralding the arrival of spring later this month. In the shade of the rocks among the pine litter we have the white nodding heads of the Cretan Sowbread which is a type of Cyclamen; the yellow Fumana, a type of rock rose which we saw budding a few weeks back, is now in full flower; and our first orchid of the season: The Fan Lipped Orchid. 


Read on at https://niume.com/post/276721



#28315 Crete Nature: Into A Dark, Dark Place

Posted by Steve Daniels on 05 March 2017 - 12:25 PM

The next obstacle on our route to the Milonas Waterfall would appear to be a densely wooded slope but before we venture down into the sylvan gloom just listen to the birds this morning. The descending trill of the chaffinch; the harshdzeee of the greenfinch; the machine gun rattle of the Sardinian Warbler all coming from the trees and bushes around us whilst up above the ravens are cronking and a buzzard is mewing. What a lovely start to the day.

The wonders of the woodlands - #CreteNature blog: Into A Dark, Dark Place  https://niume.com/post/269790




#27186 Crete Nature: Worlds Within Worlds

Posted by Steve Daniels on 05 February 2017 - 12:37 PM

Do you want the good news or the bad news? The good news is that we’ve made it safely through the Milonas Gorge. The bad news is that we have a flipping great waterfall ahead of us which means we’ll have to find a way around and down and there are no paths to follow.
No matter, the sun is shining and there’s a flying circus in the sky. In case that seems a bit odd, forget the tents, clowns and performing seals and think of the origin of the word. Circus comes from the Greek kirkos meaning a circle or ring and was applied to a place of entertainment where the seats were arranged in a circle around the performing area. It is also the generic name of the birds that circle as they hunt which we know as Harriers. There have been four species recorded on Crete: the Marsh; Hen (or Northern); Pallid; and Montagu’s. The last three are rare and the Marsh, although a frequent passage migrant in the spring, only overwinters here in small numbers. It’s a bit too high to make out details but it’s still an exciting start to the day as it’s the first Harrier of any type that I’ve seen in these parts.

#26965 Crete Nature: The Milonas Gorge

Posted by Steve Daniels on 30 January 2017 - 10:07 AM

I think that I may have lulled you into a false sense of security last week with all that beauty in Where Three Valleys Meet. Not that this week’s stage of the journey is any less beautiful but it will require a head for heights and nerves of steel in places. You have been warned! Those three mountain streams that were gently carving out valleys have now got together and their combined force has carved through the limestone like a knife through butter and we’re going to try and get through there. If you’re up for it, follow me.

#26655 Crete Nature: Where Three Valleys Meet

Posted by Steve Daniels on 22 January 2017 - 08:21 AM


Let me take you by the hand
To a far and distant land
Where peace and tranquility reign
Where bare winter branches
Form cathedral like arches
And the earth smells of soft winter rain

#26406 Inside The Rainbow

Posted by Steve Daniels on 15 January 2017 - 08:32 AM

I see that you’ve got your wet weather gear on this morning which is just as well looking at those clouds covering the mountains. I’m not sure we’ll get down to where three valleys meet but never mind; seeing that beautiful rainbow pouring itself into the village of Agios Ioannis gives me an idea. We’ll see if we can find all the colours of the rainbow reflected in nature. I say ‘reflected’ advisedly for the colours that we see are mere reflections which we should be able to illustrate as we go along but first, have you ever stopped to consider how we perceive colour? It’s all down to cone cells in our eyes. Back in 1672 Sir Isaac Newton first discovered that light was made up of different colours when he recreated a rainbow with a prism. If you could slow light down you could see that it came in waves, like the sea crashing onto the shore, but whereas the distance between the crests of the waves in the sea may be several metres or more, waves of light are infinitely smaller (about 4-7 ten millionths of a metre) and the different colours have different wave lengths. This is where the cones come in. We have three different sizes: one for catching the longer red, orange and yellow wavelengths; one for the medium green; and one for the smaller blues, indigo and violets. These send electrical signals to the rest of the brain telling how much of each they’ve collected and the brain then combines these signals, like an artist with a palette, to give us the colours that we visualise. Read on at https://niume.com/post/219805

#26145 Water Divining

Posted by Steve Daniels on 08 January 2017 - 09:46 AM

The winter rains have started in earnest and our gullies should be starting to fill nicely now. There is an ancient practice called dowsing whereby you can divine the presence of water by wandering about with a Y shaped stick. Whether this actually works or is merely some sort of ideomotor effect where an action is prompted by the subconscious is open to debate. I prefer to use a simpler technique: walk downhill and when down changes to up that is where you’ll find water if there is any. So the water should be down there somewhere. Just before we start our descent take a look at these harvester ants down here who seem to be having a bit of a problem. Falling olives can be a nuisance. At this time of the year my courtyard is littered with them and they get trodden into the house and make a right old mess. As yet, I have never had one fall and totally block my front door. It would be interesting to stop and watch how the ants solve this particular dilemma but it’s a bit chilly this morning for hanging about so we’ll press on.


Read on at http://bit.ly/2hPQzoK



#26025 Crete Nature: Life In The Olive Grove

Posted by Steve Daniels on 01 January 2017 - 10:18 AM

Last week we were prowling around an old olive mill and, somewhat unsurprisingly, this week’s stroll looks as if it is heading for an olive grove. We’ve covered olives and olive trees before (see Up The Olive Tree) so today I thought we’d take a closer look at what goes on in the olive groves themselves. But first there are a few fruit trees planted along the edge of the grove and, a somewhat unexpected find, an ornamental rose. Although unexpected it’s not totally out of place as I rather suspect that it was planted for its fruit rather than its flowers. The hips can be used for making jams, jellies, tea and are the central ingredient of the Slovakian national drink, cockta. That they have been used here in Crete since time immemorial can be implied by the appearance of them in the frescoes at Knossos which were painted some three and a half thousand years ago.

Read on at http://bit.ly/2hmYS64


#25446 Crete Nature: The Old Olive Press

Posted by Steve Daniels on 23 December 2016 - 10:48 AM

After last week’s stroll through the village of Agios Ioannis I thought we'd walk down the road for a bit and then cut across into the valley below where there’s an old olive press that I’ve long wanted to prowl around. But first, here growing wild at the side of the road is a magnificent straggling clematis climbing the rocks.


1%2BThe%2BButtercup%2BFamily.jpg The Buttercup family - Ranunculaceae
Obviously, like anemones and delphiniums, it’s a type of buttercup. No, I haven’t finally taken leave of my senses they are all part of the Buttercup family, the Ranunculaceae. But how can such wildly different looking plants all be closely related? It all comes down to plant systematics, the biological classification of plants. A couple of hundred years before Christ was born, a wandering Greek philosopher called Theophrastus started us off by grouping plants loosely into trees, shrubs and herbs. Another Greek, Dioscorides who was a medic in the Roman army, refined this a few hundred years later when he classified over five hundred plants according to their medicinal properties and this became the standard reference work right up until the sixteenth century. Classifying plants by their similarities in structure then took over culminating in Linnaeus publishing his Species Plantarum in 1753 (he dwelt on their sexual organ arrangements but then, he didn’t get out much). Darwin’s publication On the Origin of Species in 1859 pushed us towards classifying plants based upon their evolutionary relationships and nowadays we use DNA analysis to refine that concept in the science of cladistics (see Taxing Taxonomy and Confusing Cladistics) and that’s why clematis is a type of buttercup – they share a common ancestry.

#25128 Crete Nature: The Village Of Agios Ioannis

Posted by Steve Daniels on 18 December 2016 - 10:10 AM


Welcome to the village of Agios Ioannis, or Saint John if you want a rough English translation. It’s a village very much in slow transition at the moment. Once an important hub of life in the area, over the past few decades people have gradually moved down to the seaside villages of Ferma and Koutsounari or the nearby town of Ierapetra. I read recently that in the last census the official population was somewhere in the region of eleven, all of them avid vehicle collectors judging by the number of cars I see parked around the place at times. However, the place seems to be coming back to life with newly refurbished dwellings standing cheek-by-jowl with tumbledown relics. This looks like the path down into the village so let’s follow it and see what we can find.

Read on at https://niume.com/post/196514

#24793 Crete Nature: Every Breath You Take

Posted by Steve Daniels on 11 December 2016 - 09:42 AM

I thought that as we walk down the next part of the gully we’d have a look at air – there’s some, look, right in front of your nose. You can’t see, smell, taste or touch it so what exactly is it? Mainly it’s a mixture of two elements (not a compound – they don’t combine together). The two elements are Nitrogen (78%) and Oxygen (21%). The other 1% contains other elements, primarily Argon.
1%2BRossularia%2Bserrata.jpg Rosularia serrata
Every breath you take (don’t worry – I’m not going to start singing again) is for the most part Nitrogen, a vital element for us but the problem is; we can’t use it directly. We need plants to do a bit of work for us like this Rosularia serrata here. It can’t use Nitrogen from the air either, it needs help from special bacteria in the soil that use enzymes to convert the nitrogen into organic compounds that it takes up through its roots. We, and other animals, can then take the nitrogen that we need to produce things like essential amino acids from the plants that we eat. When it, and we, die we pass the nitrogen back into the soil for reprocessing by bacteria. 

#24394 Crete Nature: The Snail That Built A Mountain

Posted by Steve Daniels on 04 December 2016 - 09:47 AM

Forgive me if I break into song as we commence our walk into this gully but it’s such a beautiful morning – Sweet painted lady, seems it’s always been the same, getting paid for being laid, guess that’s the name of the game - that’s better; nothing like a bit of Elton John to start the day. OK that was not a bit like Elton John. 
1%2BVanessid%2BButterflies%2B1500.jpg Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui  and Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta
The reason for this sudden burst of exuberance is the orange and brown butterflies that are accompanying us, Painted Ladies, which we saw a couple of weeks back pollinating the ivy (Life in the Uplands). The red and black butterflies that are also joining us are Red Admirals and the two are closely related. The Painted Lady is Vanessa cardui and the Red Admiral is Vanessa atalanta. I find it intriguing that one should be named after a lady of the night and the other after a high ranking naval officer, a sort of lepidopteran equivalent of the actress and the bishop I suppose.