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Saturday, 25 July 2015

A week in Zante (part one)

Having worked too hard for so long with so few days off it was fantastic just to get away to the sun with the family for a week on this Greek Island.  Of course with all the media hype over the state of the Greek economy and with deadlines coming and going it was difficult to imagine what awaited. Were there going to be strikes, civil unrest, empty supermarkets, no cash for change to purchases, VAT hike hitting all prices, tourists being mugged for their extra cash, and the rest.....   Not one bit of it!  A very pleasant green island, not too many tourists and those that were there were mainly from other European countries like Poland, Sweden, France and Germany with not too many Brits.  The shops were full and had no problems at all; perhaps heeding the tourist advice to take plenty of cash and not to embarrass anyone by offering credit cards did the trick.

A great villa with own pool near Lithakia not far inland on the south coast, quiet and secluded but close to amenities.  Usually 34-36C but up as far as 38C daytime temperature with wall to wall blue sky all week until day 6 when a distant towering cumulus appeared on the horizon and several scattered cumulus on day 7, but not anything to prepare us for just 15C and rain at Manchester Airport.  
This was the first trip abroad that I did not bother with my proper Leica bins; perhaps an indication of where my interests lie these days I took my ultra close-focus 8 x 20 Pentax which are much more useful for insects while still being able to pick up birds further away.  I took an 8w actinic with a super battery (but forgot the Safari trap) and also my MBTF blended bulb (does not need the bulky and heavy control box); I used the MBTF suspended over the patio most nights but awoke each morning to find very few moths.  It wasn't until I looked during the night and found that the few moths that were attracted were being pounced upon by the local ants and been carried off struggling. The ones that did make it through the night were of only a handful of species, and several of those I had seen in the UK.  The most common moth (numbering no more than 20 a night) was a Rush Veneer type moth, one still to be determined.  Next in number was Palpita vitrialis (up to 5 a night) and one I have encountered several times in Dorset.  There were several Blair's Mocha, a Vestal, a Small Blood-vein, a half-eaten Beauty of some sort, a Golden Twin-spot and an Aporodes floralis the last two were new species for me.
Blair's Mocha

Small Blood-vein

Aporodes floralis
The best moth of the trip was not attracted to light but was one Nattie found in the villa saying she had seen a large black moth (but perhaps not quite so delicately..) and I eventually found it and potted it the next evening. Obviously a Crimson Underwing sp., but which one?  My copy of Townsend and Waring showed Light Crimson and Dark Crimson Underwing but the Minsmere Scarlet Underwing was not illustrated.  A quick google looked promising but then again confusing - some images good for 'Minsmere' while others so labelled were mis-identifications; I think I trust those from the Suffolk website and a Bulgarian one.  Despite the ludicrous name attributed to a Mediterranean and near Asian species that just had the misfortune to straggle to a Suffolk reserve in 2004 (it could so easy have been Harvey's Crimson Underwing which is just as questionable), I am happy that it is that species Catocala conjuncta and remains one of my favourite families.
Minsmere Crimson Underwing Catocala conjuncta
The most obvious yet extremely difficult to see insect were the ever-present Cicada.  From sunrise to sunset the buzzing chirping was almost incessant and always loud.  The rhythms at times would coincide to make a constant buzzing rather than strident chirping and it took me several hours to track one down.  Their camouflage was extremely good and when on the rough bark of the olive trees blended in very well.


A cracking beetle which I rescued from the pool was kindly identified by my mate Andy Pay was a Pine Chafer, almost 40mm in length and would certainly make a mess off the windscreen...
Pine Chafer
...part two to follow

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