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.

 

Lara Bay in the Akamas Peninsula

What a day for a swim and lunch at  Lara Bay….

September is here and slightly cooler now but still in the 30s of course but the humidity has gone and it is Sunday after all so what more could we want today but to spend time at the beach with our friends Jan and Keith.

Having been to the Akamas Peninsula quite a lot of time but never gone to Lara Bay I was really excited about going to see the turtle nests there.  If you have never gone to the Akamas Peninsula it is definitely worth a visit for the beautiful scenery.  Of course be prepared for a bit of a bumpy ride as it is all off road and most definitely not a smooth ride. Hold onto your hats!!

These photographs below are of the coastline we passed on the way to Lara Bay and as you can see it is beautiful and rugged – with the exception of the blue sky it often reminds me of the west coast of Scotland with its rugged look.

We finally got to Lara Bay and parked the cars – you can either park at the beach (which we did) or stop before the beach at the beach restaurant on the hill.  Towels and umbrellas to the ready we headed to the beach for a refreshing dip in the crystal clear water of the warm Mediterranean Sea.  It is so peaceful here with very few people on the beach. So perfect.

We sat close to one of the turtle nest but unlucky for us there was no activity so didn’t manage to see a baby turtle head to the sea on this occasion – maybe one day if I can get the day right.  See Cyprus Insider for lovely photographs taken in August of the turtles hatching and heading to the sea.

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Turtle Nest

Time for a little snack at the restaurant where the views were amazing.  As it was a Sunday the restaurant was full of Cypriot families having lunch and enjoying their time together.  Some were having a celebration and the men were doing a bit of Greek Dancing.  We were so pleased we had gone there.

Lara Bay and the surrounding area is definitely worth if you visit Cyprus.  Our next venture to Lara Bay is next week when we are going to go out on a kayak with our friends.  I’ve never tried kayaking before so should be fun – I hope – will of course have the life jacket on just in case.   Watch this space ……….

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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.

The Long-eared Hedgehog

 

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Long-eared Hedgehog in our pool

Well who would have believed it!!  Look what we found in the pool the other day.  A Long-eared Hedgehog!!

 

We have been coming to Cyprus for years before moving here and didn’t even know Cyprus had hedgehogs let alone long-eared ones, also we had never heard anyone ever mention them to us.  We had of course heard of all the usual things like snakes, cockroaches and praying mantises and even large spiders but no one had ever mentioned hedgehogs.

It was time for me to a bit of investigating to find out a bit more about them.

I discovered they were native to these countries – Afghanistan, China, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

This species of hedgehog is considered one of the smallest middle eastern hedgehogs and is insectivorous but may also feed on small vertebrates and plants as well as eggs, fruit, seeds and carrion.  It is also able to survive without food or water for up to ten weeks .

The long-eared hedgehog inhabits a few different types of dry steppes, semi-deserts and deserts. It prefers dry river valleys, gullies, forest shelter belts, abandoned irrigation ditches and shrubby areas, and often settles in oases and around human settlements (sometimes in cultivated habitats). They live in burrows that they dig under bushed with a length of 45 cm long with only one opening. They may also inhabit abandoned burrows of other small mammals. They are nocturnal solitary hedgehogs.  During the day they are found resting under rocks, hollows or rock piles.

In captivity they may live as long as 7.6 years.

Who knows this could be my next pet !!

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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.

Gardening Discoveries

Yesterday was a gardening day in Villa Corrado where we spent time working on the hedges and climbers around the property. During our time there we discovered some of the wonderful nature that can be found here, a chameleon!!

Common Chameleon

I was lucky enough to have my mobile phone and got some great videos and pictures of it as it crawled along the branches of the hibiscus hedge.

Having never seen a chameleon before except in photographs I was really excited and had to look up the internet to find out more about them  and thought I would share it with you.

The common chameleon (native to Cyprus)  like others of its family enjoys a branchy habitat, scrambling about in trees and bushes with feet that have four toes, two on each side for grasping branches. It also uses its prehensile tail to maintain balance and stability. As I found out yesterday movement is slow, and often with a slight swaying motion this is to avoid detection by predators. The animal can move more rapidly when involved in a territorial dispute.

They are usually solitary animals which maintain a territory and only tolerate members of the opposite sex during the mating season. Average length of the common chameleon is from 20 to 40 cm, with females often being substantially larger than males. The colour of the common chameleon is variable, between yellow/brown through green to a dark brown. Whatever the background colour is the common chameleon will have two light coloured lines along its side. It has a small beard of scales and some small hard scales on the top of its back.

Colour Changing

Many assume the colour changes undergone by the chameleon are a result of its attempting to camouflage itself, when in reality the chameleon changes its colour as a response to light and temperature stimuli and as an expression of its emotions (like chameleon body language). Often when caught for analysis, the chameleon may turn a dark colour, Their colours are also important for interspecies communication, especially during the mating season.

The common chameleon eats insects, capturing them by stealth and the rapid extension of its long tongue which has a terminal pad which grasps and adheres to the prey. Adults are known to eat young chameleons and have been observed to eat fruit.

It is definitely worth keeping an eye on the hedges and green shrubs when visiting Cyprus as we also found a praying mantis in the hedge too.

Praying Mantis

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These creatures are so difficult to spot hidden in their lush green surroundings, however, it is well worth keeping an eye out for them as they are so interesting to watch.

They have triangular heads with bulging eyes supported on flexible necks. Their elongated bodies may or may not have wings, but they all have forelegs that are greatly enlarged and adapted for catching and gripping prey; their upright posture, while remaining stationary with forearms folded, has led to the common name praying mantis.

It is definitely worth having your camera ready to snap these creatures!!