One of my other interests is dragonflies and a couple of species did make it into the villa garden, a large Hawker sp. which was far too quick and a couple of Scarlet Darters, one of my favourite species. It was not until the last afternoon that I found the one small area of standing water on the island near Keri, mostly reed-bed with a few dykes of fairly stagnant water, surrounded by housing and gravel tracks encroaching into the vegetation. It did yield a few dragonflies but not as many as hoped and quite difficult to photograph in a fair breeze.
|Violet Dropwing Trithemis annulata|
|Scarlet Darter Crocothemis erythraea|
|Emperor Dragonfly Anax imperator|
|Southern Skimmer Orthetrum brunneum|
This small oasis of wetland is in desperate need of protection from encroachment. There is hope in that a species for which Zante is renowned, the Loggerhead Turtle Caretta caretta enjoys a remarkable amount of protection and education opportunities to the general public. There are only a few beaches on this rocky island mainly in the south and these obviously are a magnet for the sun-seeking tourists too. However, on entering the beaches, there are young volunteers from many countries advising all visitors to keep to the 5 metre strip closest to the sea, and to avoid the rest of the beach which were dotted with little wooden cradles covering known nests. The island boasts c.750 known nest sites so far this year, located each night by the volunteers, the adults being measured and the nests marked for protection. Fortunately, all the visitors kept to their narrow strip of the beach and one hopes that up to 100,000 eggs hatch allowing the young turtles to make it back to the sea. The mortality rate is high as they are fed upon by most species larger than themselves but those that do make it will return to their birth beach to breed themselves.
This image from Google earth shows the Laganas to Kalamaki bay in the south of the island, with the unspoiled beach hinterland clearly visible between Pefkakia and Kalamaki and under the flight path of approaching aircraft to Zakynthos airport. Fair play to the Greek authorities and long may it continue; anywhere else in the world and it would have had hotels and tacky shops all over it.... Of course, there is money to be made from the turtles too: regular boat-trips into some parts of the bay are allowed, and there are limits to the number of boats allowed and how long and close the boats are allowed to approach turtles surfacing for air. Initial views are often just blurry dark shapes the size of dustbin lids under water but are fantastic once they surface to take in some air.
|Loggerhead Turtle Caretta caretta|
How times have changed. Birds were the main reason for me walking out of the door and I never went anywhere without my bins, but on this trip played a very small part. I can proudly present one of the most impoverished bird lists I have ever achieved:
MALLARD Anas platyrhynchos - Up to eight grotty indiduals ate Keri 'pool'
SHORT-TOED EAGLE Circaetus gallicus - One at long distance over hills n of Keri
ELEANORA'S FALCON Falco eleonorae - Three at long distance over hills n of Keri
YELLOW-LEGGED GULL Larus michahellis - Three seen in total off Laganas to Keri
ROCK PIGEON Columba livia - Very grotty feral pigeon types normally around habitation…
EURASIAN COLLARED DOVE Streptopelia decaocto - Widespread
TAWNY OWL Strix aluco - One heard from olive grove behind villa
EUROPEAN NIGHTJAR Caprimulgus europaeus - One found dead as a road casualty near Keri
PALLID SWIFT Apus pallidus - Up to 15, sea cliffs near Keri
ALPINE SWIFT Apus melba - One seen with Pallids
CRESTED LARK Galerida cristata - One seen Kalamaki beach area
BARN SWALLOW Hirundo rustica - Widespread
RED-RUMPED SWALLOW Hirundo daurica - Usually in twos and only on the coast
CETTI'S WARBLER Cettia cetti - One in the hedge next to villa
ZITTING CISTICOLA Cisticola juncindis - Two heard, Keri 'pool'
SUBALPINE WARBLER Sylvia cantillans - A pale fem/imm seen poorly in garden
SARDINIAN WARBLER Sylvia melanocephala - One only, seen in flight n of Keri
WOODCHAT SHRIKE Lanius senator - Two singles n of Keri and one Keri 'pool'
HOUSE SPARROW Passer domesticus - The commonest bird
EUROPEAN SERIN Serinus serinus - No more than a dozen seen/heard
GOLDFINCH Carduelis carduelis - Several groups of no more than three
Butterflies did not do much better. There were plenty of Swallow-tails, Scarce Swallowtails, Clouded Yellows and others that were far to quick to see let alone net. There were several Blue sp,, and a White sp. in the villa gardens but not one butterfly was ever seen settled.
I did, however, spend an awful lot of time scouring the skies for any high flying raptors, and doing my best to keep cool and hydrated....
On a non-nature note there was a bit of an environmental disaster going on in the mountains above Kalamaki. On the Monday night we noticed smoke rising from the hillside immediately above a mountain road. The flames worked their way up the hillside with astonishing speed and the lone fire appliance looked on in vain. A couple of hours later in the evening I could hear several turboprop aircraft in continual motion over by the airport and correctly surmised they may be fire-fighting aircraft. They continued until dark and resumed next morning at first light and were watched with great interest from the Kalamki beach area. There were three aircraft, all Bombardier CL-415 aircraft (Super-scooper) belonging to the Hellenic Airforce, 383 Special Operations & Air Fire Fighting Squadron (383 MEEA). They did several hours of continual circuits scooping up sea-water from about a mile out, flying back in over the coast and sweeping round dumping their load on the hillside fire.
To finish off these short notes I add a couple of photos of one of the Islands attractions, of what is the largest Greek flag anywhere in the world atop a 50m pole.
The Island of Zante's motto is "Freedom needs virtue and courage" (ΘΕΛΕΙ ΑΡΕΤΗ ΚΑΙ TOΛMH Η ΕΛΕΥΘΕΡΙΑ - théli aretí ke tólmi i elefthería)