For Gawd’s Sake

. . not another walking and flowers post!

This is one of the really good things about blogging; we can get to bore the pants off everyone and, unless we happen to be a ‘stats freak’, never be aware of the yawns and glazed eyes! Bliss!

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So, yes, this is about a couple of back-to-back days of gentle wandering with a few impressions of what being a ‘Boffer’ in Okçular is all about. Well, not exactly ‘all’ because this time of year there are plenty of chores to be done like pruning trees and pressure-washing the fossils ferns embedded in the Muğla stone slabs in the yard.

Anyway, enough of all that. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin . .

Once upon a time, by the edge of the forest, there lived this old geezer and his missus. They felt a great affinity with the trees and flowers and creatures of the woods and loved to go a-wandering, communing with Mother Nature and her off-spring. They whispered to the trees and the trees whispered back . .

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J whispering endearments

. . even the elemental spirits, hidden from the eyes of the sceptical, would appear to them from time to time.

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the Water Spirit – can you see it?

Spring has sprung – after a cold snap and a late start the buds are budding and the flowers are flowing and flowers are – well – flowering! Come and wander, it’ll do your spirit good!

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Asphdelus aestivus – Asphodels are everywhere
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Romulea tempskyana Sand Crocus and Gagea arvensis
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Giant Orchid (pale coloured from lower slopes)
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. . and this dark beauty from higher up the mountain
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the inevitable Algerian Iris – they are everywhere

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some with the richest of colour
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early stages of Coq au Vin

We thought he was a bold fellow until we noticed that he was securely tied in place. Now, a Southerner like me can make a joke here about Yorkshireites and their funny accents and title this as ‘Chicken in t’ wine’. However J, who is well known as a regional accent buff at Pedant’s Corner, Private Eye, has spotted this over my shoulder and insisted that I insert the following correction which is a direct copy from that illustrious organ:

Dear Ed,

Pedantry Corner:
To Farmer Geddon (Eye 1289), Peter Sharples (Eye 1290) and Charles Warwick (Eye 1291) I am obliged to say “Nay lad!”
Being South Yorkshire born and bred, (although now away many decades), in our area the ‘the’ was never a ‘t’ at all. The ‘the’ was and is an almost imperceptible hiatus between  two words. The nearest I can come to writing it is “trouble at ‘ mill” – the ‘ in place of the three missing letters of ‘the’. Or, a longer example, “Down ‘ Wicker weer ‘ watter runs ovver ‘ weir.” (three missing thes)
The important thing to remember is that to really represent the accent accurately you must definitely sound these examples out loud wherever you are.
I especially fondly recall ” ‘t i’n’t in ‘ tin” (only one the here).
Yours for ‘ society o’ ‘ preservation o’ regional accents,
Janet Surman.

Alan in Okçular Köyü and forest

Midnight Marauder

Snake-in-toiletJ and I are not just tolerant of having wildlife around, we positively encourage it – all of it! The odd snake in the toilet or under the washing machine does not result in panicky shrieking and rushing around in circles. (OK, we didn’t actually have a python in the toilet but there was a fair-sized black Whip Snake) That said, there was an occasion a few years back when I sat on a dozing hornet whilst getting into bed that resulted in all of the above plus some amazingly accurate usage of Anglo-Saxon expletives and a carpet slipper!

No, generally speaking, we go out of our way to provide suitable, upmarket accommodation and restaurant facilities to satisfy regulars and passing trade alike. So, we were a bit annoyed that some vandal or other was bent on trashing one of our bespoke fat-feeders for the birds. We were regularly finding it busted off its mounting, hurled around the garden and generally well chewed up. We had a fair idea which family of delinquents was responsible but, catching them at it was never going to be easy because they are clever, resourceful and very, very cautious.

In the end, patience and technology paid off with the little tow-rag caught infra-red handed . .

Marten’s Midnight Marauders from Alan Fenn on Vimeo.

Alan in Okçular (salvaged from Archers of Okçular first posted February 2014)

Habitat 2.0

I got a bit excited about our new creature habitat and published a post before it was finished. That means there has to be a sort of post script to finish the job off and so here it is – the latest release complete with bells and whistles.

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my dizzy sister will be delighted to see her Meerkats have moved in (they’re concrete and she put them in my flight bag!!)

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I love this ‘thing’, it’s a bit like a cross between a roadside farmer’s stall and a Buddhist shrine in the Himalayas.

Alan in Okçular Köyü Nature Reserve

Habitat

harborne-groundsFrom Archers of Okçular September 2013

Back in June of this year J and I were in residence for a Summer School at Fircroft College in Birmingham. Fircroft is one of those fine old houses that have extensive grounds with plenty of mature trees and shrubs – it’s a very pleasant place to be. So it was that as we wandered the gardens one day J spotted a strange-looking construction. On closer examination it proved to be a stack of wooden pallets stuffed full of all sorts of scrap building/household materials and garden waste. It had obviously been there a while as all sorts of plants had colonised it.

‘What is it?’ asked J. ‘A habitat.’ said I, knowingly. ‘I want one!’ said J. ‘Really!’ said I, filing that one away in the bottom drawer.

Izmir-mimosa-acacia-retinodesFast forward to this past week. We used to have a rather large Acacia retinoides, known locally as İzmir Mimosa – we rather liked it! We also rather like (amongst other things) Oryctes nasicornis – the European Rhinoceros Beetle which in its turn likes İzmir Mimosa. Last year the tree began to shed bark and looked decidedly unwell and so a week or so ago I began adding to our store of winter logs. As work progressed the culprits and their handiwork became apparent . .

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male and female Oryctes nasicornis – the European Rhinoceros Beetle
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the culprits and the crime scene
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fortunately wearing gloves – the business end of a rather large Anatolian Yellow scorpion that was sharing the grubs’ tunnels

As J and I stood and contemplated our own mortality where the tree once blossomed, she looked up and said, a bit too brightly for my liking, ‘This will be the perfect place for one of those habitat things!’ For someone who worries about the onset of dementia she seems to do remarkably well remembering things/projects I need to be getting on with.

A few days ago a tractor delivered five pallets and the project commenced . .

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always knew that builder’s stuff would come in useful one day
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Spike doesn’t like being photographed
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Spike’s basement flat
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high-rise des-res coming along nicely

There’s still a bit of work to do to finish off, frog and toad halls, mouse and shrew holes – that said, this has been a fun project for J and me. You too could create something similar to attract all sorts of beneficial creatures to your garden – with natural habitats vanishing or being sanitised you could add your drop to the bucket of conservation. Here’s a link to download a pdf from Cheshire Wildlife Trust that will get you started.

If you are not impressed by what you’ve just seen, then in the best ‘Blue Peter’ tradition, here’s one I made earlier:

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. . not true! This was made by Cheshire Wildlife for a RHS garden show

Happy condo building!

Alan in Okçular

ps in case you wondered where Spike’s place actually is . .

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Even More Amazing!

As I said in the last post – ‘Amazing!’ is all around us – staring us in the face and begging to be noticed. ‘Amazing!’ is in our gardens, behind our cupboards, down the street or lane outside our houses. ‘Amazing!’ is everywhere – if only we are patient and take a few moments to observe – the ordinary becomes extra-ordinarily – ‘Amazing!’  That being the case, and not having got out much lately, here are some more photos, all taken in my garden, that are ‘even more amazing’ depending on how you feel about these things!

It is also an easy way for this lazy blogger to stick up a post without too much thought or effort – enjoy or not as the fancy takes you! Let’s start with something that should fill you with wonder . .

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this macro shows the ‘engine room’ of one of Turkey’s rarest dragonflies, Anax ephippiger – Vagrant Emperor
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this was a very inquisitive Chameleon
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I do like flies!

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copulating snails – snails are hermaphrodites, both sexes in the same body. Here you see an AC/DC couple having an intimate, slimy moment – when all else fails they can turn themselves on and, as the song goes, ‘Sisters Do It For Themselves’ or words to that effect!

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Ischnura elegans – Common Bluetail not a very good photo but a chance to see how delicate and ‘friendly’ some damselflies are
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Kirina roxelana – Lattice Brown, I think the sunlight shining through the wings is quite beautiful
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young Cone-head Mantis – Empusa pennata
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Laudakia stellio – Starred Agama

This guy lives in hole in the wall that is too small for him – every night his tail is hanging out. He is very shy and very entertaining and will have his own post the next time I don’t feel like doing much! I hope the photos made it worthwhile dropping by . .

Alan in Okçular

‘Amazing!’

‘Amazing!’ is all around us – staring us in the face and begging to be noticed. ‘Amazing!’ is in our gardens, behind our cupboards, down the street or lane outside our houses. ‘Amazing!’ is everywhere – if only we are patient and take a few moments to observe – the ordinary becomes extra-ordinarily – ‘Amazing!’

These shots are all from my garden – I don’t pretend to be much of a photographer or that these are great photos – it’s just that, for me, these are amazing subjects . .

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the amazing and very beautiful compound eyes of a fly
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eyeball-to-eyeball with a young Leopard Snake Elaphe situla often referred to as Rat Snakes they are constrictors that feed on small mammals and lizards
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Hyla arborea – Common Tree Frog these are the noisy little blighters that keep you awake at night and they can change colour very quickly
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Libellula depressa – Broad-Bodied Chaser common and found all over Europe – how often do we notice?
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A grumpy-looking Chamaeleo chamaeleon – Chameleon sitting on my hand whilst being transferred from kitchen to garden
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Robber Fly – Asilidae family sucking the life out of a hover-fly
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Saturnia pyri – Viennese Emperor Moth, Europe’s largest – this one has just hatched and is still pumping up its wings
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a detail of the wing of an emperor moth

. . and finally something with an ‘Ahhhh!’ factor for everyone . .

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there is a family of Syrian Squirrels living in a tree just outside the garden – they are regular visitors to the bird tables

That’s it for this time – more later.

Alan in Okçular

A Rose By Any Other Name

r1Last week I was rambling on about wandering over the mountains and getting overly excited about a huge stick of ‘asparagus‘ that I’d discovered. In my sweaty, fevered state I’d convinced myself that it must be the biggest tongue orchid anyone had ever seen and vowed to return this week to check it out once it had flowered.

Two things came to mind this morning; well, three actually: 1 – I should check my reference stuff more thoroughly; 2 – I should keep my mouth shut until I know what I’m talking about (a point J makes often); 3 – J can be a hard taskmaster in an ‘Onwards and Upwards’ sort of way.

We’d determined to revisit the site on the very steep mountainside by approaching from a different direction. We knew there were no tracks and that footing would be precarious in places – the best we could hope for was a lot of sweat and a goat track to guide us. It proved to be a heart-pounding climb – even J suggested a couple of rests.

On the way we were looking out for other interesting stuff and here are a few photos to break the monotony!

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Orabanche aegyptiaca – Egyptian Broomrape (totally parasitic has no chlorophyll)
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Gladiolus italicus – Field Gladiolus
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Phlomis fruticosa – Jerusalem Sage

Arriving at the site of the ‘asparagus’ I knew right away that keeping ‘schtum’ and checking references (engaging brain before opening mouth) is a good mantra for there were indeed a few that were open including the one in the photo below.

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What we have here ladies and gentlemen is Limodorum arbortivum – the Violet Limodore or the Violet Bird’s Nest Orchid (for some obscure reason). This orchid is interesting in that it has no leaves, lives off decaying matter and is totally dependant upon, but not parasitic of, fungi of the Russulaceae family. It produces the largest seeds of any of the European orchids and the seedlings are very slow to develop staying below ground for 8-10 years before flowering! It is also fairly common and very widespread.

So, an interesting but disappointing find, especially considering the physical effort needed to get to it? Not at all, because there is a twist in the tail (or tale) – as you can clearly see from the photo it is anything but ‘violet’. We have violet near the house and in other places around the area – these specimens are pink. That means that what we have here is a variation or sub-species named Limodorum arbotivum var. rubrum which was only confirmed in 1997 and is spread very thinly on the ground only recorded at 20 other sites in Turkey.

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Now ask me if it was worth the blood, sweat and creaking joints . .

Alan in Okçular