Three Years Gone in a Blink of an EYE!!

Well it is 31st August 2019 and we have been here 3 full years today.  We boarded the plane at Stansted exactly 3 years ago on our new journey.  Can’t believe where the time has gone.

So what has this year been like???


Once again it has been a fabulous year …..

We are still continuing to learn about the island we live on….snakes, chameleons, growing vegetables and learning about all the bugs that we are pestered with during some of the humid months.

Snakes

So last week Phill stumbled across a snake skin in the garden…we are still trying to find out what type of snake it is.  The general consensus is that there are ten species of snake that are established on the island and they are as follows:

The Large Whip Snake (Coluber Jugularis) The Cyprus Whip Snake (Coluber Cypriensis) The Coin Snake or Ravergier’s Whip Snake (Coluber Numifer)
The Blunt Nosed Viper (Vipera Lebetina) The Montpellier Snake (Malpolon Monspessulanus) The Cat Snake (Telescopus Fallax)
The Cyprus Grass Snake (Natrix Natrix Cypriaca)
Pink Worm Snake  (Typhlops Vermicularis)
Dahl’s Whip Snake or Arrow Snake (Coluber Najadum)
The Dwarf Snake (Eirenus Modestus  

The Blunt Nosed Viper is the bad boy of the island’s snakes; the only potentially lethal snake in Cyprus. That said, despite an average of twenty attacks on humans each year, no one has died from its bite for nearly fifteen years. It’s easily recognised being a large fat snake, around 1.3 to 1.7m long with offset semi-rectangular markings along its silvery beige back. It is also discernible from the black spots on its head. Many bites occur through lack of care as the snake is used to remaining motionless to await the approach of the birds it preys on and its well camouflaged markings mean that walkers often get too close.  The snake is on the endangered list mainly because ignorant people see it as a dangerous pest and kill it forgetting that it is an important part of the Cypriot ecosystem. Additionally it often falls prey itself to Whip Snakes and birds of prey.

Chameleon

Another chameleon ventured into the garden last week too.  It was walking slowly along the bottom of the gate.  We managed to intercept it and look at it…..

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What a little cutie – Phill held it for a minute to take the photographs and then let it go into hiding in the hedge.

Gardening

We tried our hand at gardening this year again with the introduction of a few new vegetables including corn on the cob (well when I say we tried our hand I actually mean Phill).  We had a lovely mint plant which grew like mad over the early part of the year but due to the heat and the humidity in Coral Bay it has stopped growing and is looking a bit ill.  However, the good news is that it will recover soon.  I love having mint in the garden and is great for lots of dishes that I make including tzatziki. We had a few tomato plants too and had a few tomatoes for our salads and some chillis and peppers which also have been great for salads and barbecues.  

There are many things that we cannot grow as we slowly discover as the heat and humidity is too much for many of these plants especially in the summer months.  I wanted to grow blueberries for my porridge but alas no we were advised against it due to our location and of course we are slowly discovering what we can and cannot do.  

Phill is currently trying to grow an Avocado Tree from the seed of the avocado – it is really doing well but of course could be around 4 years before we do get fruit from it but definitely worth doing.

We are also trying to grow ginger as I use quite a bit of root ginger when cooking especially in my Indian and Chinese recipes.  So we shall see what happens – the plant is currently about 1 foot tall at the moment and looking good.  

We have had copious amounts of strawberries from our plant this year – too many to eat but we did do our best to get through them.  Next year I think I will be making strawberry jam to have with my scones and clotted cream – can’t wait!!

As always we have a problems with some of the insects that live in the warmer climate especially the Mealybug.   Every summer Phill spends considerable time treating our hedges as they seem to love the Hibiscus – unfortunately some people do not bother to treat their hedge and the bug takes over and kills it and they then move on to the next healthy plant.

Mealybugs are white, tiny little guys that form cottony nests where they are feeding.  These bugs suck the sap out of the leaves and stems of plants, resulting in stunted or deformed leaf growth, yellowing of the leaves, and leaf drop.

Archaeological Sites

We have also been visiting some of the archaeological sites, The Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates  and the ancient city of Kourion.   A visit to Omodos has to be done at least once.  It is a beautiful traditional Cypriot Village which has been carefully restored and is car free (at least to tourists).  Great day out visiting it and the little art shops and cafes which are dotted around the square and the streets.

We’ve also been to the beach a few times visiting Corallia Beach, Latchi Beach and our fullsizeoutput_13b8favourite beach Kourion which sits below the archaelogical site.

Winter Months

The cooler months this year were very wet which was great as most of the dams filled and overflowed.  Definitely something that Cyprus needed.  Last year the large dams were only filled to 13% of their capacity and this year what a difference as the large one near Paphos Airport actually overflowed.  Look at the difference:-

 

Outdoor Life

Well so far it is all good here and we are really enjoying being here and lapping up the culture and the outdoor life that we so much enjoy – we can have a barbecue any time we want without thinking about whether it will be raining.  We can also go out for dinner in the evening and not think about taking a jacket, coat or even an umbrella.  

Lots of beautiful restaurants to enjoy and lazing by our beautiful pool.  What’s not to like!!!

What will our fourth year bring for us?  Who knows but definitely lots of sunshine and fun to be sure !!

Wood Pile Chrescendo

The wood pile is growing high and is well and truly ready for our cooler season already this year.  Phill has been chopping wood endlessly in preparation for the evenings when we light the log fire and drink copious amounts of tea and hot chocolate in front of the blazing log fire.

img_7250 Last year on some evenings when we had the wood sitting in the log basket waiting to be put on the fire we could hear the logs making a loud ticking noise only to be told that it was likely to be burrowing wood worm !! My immediate reaction was to get my feet of the floor in the event that they got out of the wood and starting running across the floor towards me!! OMG!! Of course nothing happened and the little critters were sent to wood worm heaven in the log burner

Phill has of course seen these insects under the bark when he has been chopping the wood with their little bodies big teeth going like mad through the wood.  They love hard wood and they love the pistachio and carob wood that we have.  And not so keen on the soft wood.

There are several different types of worm and beetle that infest the wood.  Some of them lay their eggs in the plant pots and Phill has noticed them emerging ready to attack the wood with their mighty teeth all over again.

With the olive wood that has been chopped and lying on the ground a small grub will burrow under the bark and travel up and down the olive wood leaving tracks behind it.

Did however 2 minutes ago go outside to the large woodpile to try recording the noise and this is what I got…. can’t believe the sound when I play it on my computer !! eek!!!  I feel that they are inside it….

This is a new experience for Phill as he had vast wood piles back in the UK and very rarely noticed any burrowing insects or worm.  This of course isn’t just a problem for Cyprus as the whole of the Mediterranean suffers with similar problems.  4b3d039c-6ca4-4948-bbd2-306ea9d03d84

Phill is trying desperately to save some of the carob wood with its rich red colour for making into ornaments and other things so he has treated it with an insecticide and stored it away from the log pile for his winter projects.  Once treated and stored he will carve it and sand it then lacquer and it will be safe from all the insects.

Phill is making weapons of mass destruction but I am trying to get him to focus on salad bowls and wooden spoons.

And on Christmas Day (2018) we have now found some of the grubs under the bark – Felt like we were in I’m a Celebrity Get me Out of Here – we decided we would stick to traditional turkey

Bee Eater Time Again!!

It is that time of year again where soaring overhead each morning and evening are the Bee Eaters.   Flying so high and fast overhead looking like they are playing with each other.  The sound of these birds is also amazing too and so lovely to hear.  As yet though that I haven’t been able to take a photograph of these colourful birds with my camera or even my phone camera…..to high and too fast and I’m too slow to get them!!

Bee Eaters are one of the more beautiful migratory birds visiting Cyprus, they arrive in large numbers in the spring (normally in May you will see them swooping around in the air) and autumn (September) as they make the long journey between Central and Eastern Europe and Africa.  Small numbers of these beautiful colourful birds sometimes stay for extended periods (up to 3 months at a time) in Cyprus, but this is not normal.

Of course as with many animals and birds Bee Eaters are subject to predators as they migrate to and from their destination with as many as 30% of these birds not surviving the round trip.  Eleonora’s falcons, are the main cause of these casualties.

As the name suggests Bee Eaters “do” eat bees but it isn’t their main diet and they will of course also feed on flying insects too, including those detrimental to bees such as wasps.   The food they consume is only those that are caught on the wing.  They do not eat any insects that are on plants or on the ground.   They will mostly feed in areas where they can perch and watch their food flying around and then launch themselves after their prey.  They snatch the insects out of the air with the tip of their strong beaks, crushing the smaller ones and devouring them on the wing.  Where they have caught larger insects they will hold these until they perch again, where they will proceed to beat the insect on the perch to kill it and break it up.    The poisonous insects they will also beat and wipe (with eyes closed) in a ritual to extract the poison before devouring it.

Although they are illegal to shoot bee hive owners have been known to take a pop at them as they worry for their hive industry.   These birds are definitely wrongly named but are in fact a part of nature’s balance. Without their contribution, predatory insects would have a devastating effect on the hive populations of bees.

If you are here in Cyprus at these times you have got to watch out for these birds swirling through the air as they feed as well as sitting on the telegraph wires.

 

The Dreaded Ant

I’m not sure why I haven’t written about ants before now since I see them every day scurrying around outside and even the odd one that manages to get into the house. I dislike them so much but to be fair they are very clever.

Having had some in the house earlier this year we had to do some investigating to find out about them……..foraging ants come out in search of food and can venture up to 200 metres from the nest.  A scent trail allows them to find their way back to the nest in the dark and sun aids them during the day.

Those ants sent to look for food can identify how much food there is and how many ants are required in order to move it back to the nest.  They go back and tell the nest and then bring just the right amount of ants required to carry the food back.  Best thing to do is ensure that they don’t make it back to the nest to tell the others otherwise they may invade your house.  We have found a poison gel that we put down and the ants love it.  They gather round it and take it back to the nest and this kills all the ants in that nest.  This has really helped in keeping the ants down around the house.  We do however, still get ants in the house looking for food especially sweet things like sugar, therefore don’t leave any food stuff, crumbs etc lying around otherwise you will find the ants working to take this food to their nest.

I’ve discovered things about ants which I find to be quite amazing:-

  • Up until the year 2000 the largest colony was found of the west coast of Japan 2.7 km² and had 306 million worker ants.  In Europe a colony of Argentine ants is believed to be 6000 Km long.  The colony stretches along the Mediterranean coast.
  • There are more than 12,000 species of ants all over the world.
  • An ant can lift 20 times its own body weight.
  • Some queen ants can live for many years and have millions of babies! Normally around 12 years.
  • Ants don’t have ears. Ants “hear” by feeling vibrations in the ground through their feet.
  • When ants fight, it is usually to the death!
  • When foraging, ants leave a pheromone trail so that they know where they’ve been.
  • Queen ants have wings, which they shed when they start a new nest.
  • Ants don’t have lungs. Oxygen enters through tiny holes all over the body and carbon dioxide leaves through the same holes.
  • When the queen of the colony dies, the colony can only survive a few months. Queens are rarely replaced and the workers are not able to reproduce.

The video below was taken in our garden showing the ants out in search of food.  When viewing the video you will see one on the ants carrying something.

Baby Praying Mantis in the Garden!!

As you know if you followed a previous blog Gardening Discoveries I already mentioned the praying mantis and showed you the photographs too.  Well here are more but this time it is the baby praying mantis which was in our garden.  Phill and I were so excited to see them on one of our climbers the other day.  Phill saw about 5 of them wandering over the plant but unfortunately I have only ever seen 2 and been able to take photographs and a couple of videos of them.  They are so cute I wanted to adopt them into our family but perhaps not such a great idea after all they below in the wild.

You can get an indication of size too if you compare it on the finger – can you believe it.  Their size ranges from 1/2 inch to 6 inches!!

 

I also managed to video one of them but these youngsters moving so fast and I couldn’t keep up with them on the video, they are so amazing.

If you’re unfamiliar with praying mantis, you should know that they are wonderful bugs to have around in the garden. The little ones will gorge themselves on aphids, flea beetles and other tiny pests, while larger mantises eat cabbage moths, beetles and, occasionally they have been spotted snacking on large spiders, frogs, lizards and even snakes. Mantises have also been known to eat one another. Hungry praying mantises don’t discriminate.

However, as with all insects and animals there is a sinister side to them as they are formidable hunters, and silently blend into their surroundings before snagging prey on their powerful front legs.

A first-of-its kind study has found that praying mantises across the globe regularly kill and eat small birds as well, and studies have found that they could threaten US hummingbird populations.

They normally live for about a year.  In cooler climates, the adults lay eggs in autumn, then die. The eggs are protected by their hard capsules and hatch in the spring. Females sometimes practice sexual cannibalism, eating their mates after copulation.

Mantises were considered to have supernatural powers by early civilisations, including Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt.   Mantises are also among the insects most commonly kept as pets.  Forget getting a dog get a mantis !!

Can’t believe it managed to see another 2 little baby mantises today 7th July – look at the size of them they are quite incredible!!

And today 8th July there is an even smaller one on the climber. Look at the comparison between Phill’s thumb.  Maybe tomorrow we may find a smaller one !! Watch this space 😁

                                                                           ΨΨΨ

 

Cyprus Cicadas

I had no idea until a few weeks ago what the sound was that we heard  except it was very loud – my thoughts were – could it be a tree frog, a cricket or something else?!!  No we discovered from friends it was a “Cicada”.    These insects are most famous for the loud buzzing noises that can be heard during the day and into the evening.  They are at their most quiet at the coolest times of the day.

At last I have managed to see a cicada today!!  Well it was twice as good as I actually managed to see 2,  one in a friend’s  garden and the other in our own.  They were around 2 inches in size, however sizes vary and they can range between 3/4 inch to 2 1/2 inches.

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A Cicada

For those of you who are like me and know nothing of these insects I did some digging around today and found out a few things about them.

Amazing to find out that the majority of the lifespan of the cicada is spent underground and can remain underground for 13 to 17 years where they feed on the juices of tree roots.  After this time they emerge from the soil when the temperature eight inches below the surface reaches 64 degrees.  Once above ground, the periodical cicadas feed from a wide variety of deciduous plants and shrubs.

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A Cicada

Once the cicadas emerge they break out of their shell into their adult form and it is at this stage that the male adult starts calling to find a mate before it dies so they are very loud (up to 100 decibels) and sometimes as loud as a rock concert and can be heard up to a mile away.  This is done by tymbals in their stomach vibrating in their hollow abdomen.   The tymbals contract 300-400 times per second to create the buzzing noise we know so well.  The abdomen amplifies the sound like the hollow body of a guitar.

Cicadas remain above ground for about a month to reproduce, before laying their eggs on tree branches and dying. The cicada offsprings will fall to the ground and burrow in the soil until they re-emerge 13-17 years later.