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Chios Nature - Spring poster Spacer
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Spring species list:
Bullet point Fox
Bullet point Tree frog
Bullet point Orchids
Bullet point Octopus
Bullet point Roller
Bullet point Loggerhead turtle
Bullet point Tulip
Bullet point Grass snake
Bullet point Ladybird beetle
Bullet point Bee-eater
Bullet point Longhorn beetle
Fox [Vulpes vulpes]
Fox - photo: mvdphoto Spacer Adult foxes grow to about 60cms long with a tail that may measure 40 cms, though the female will be smaller than the male. They make their dens on the ground using burrows abandoned by other animals, like a hare, or scraping out a hollow for themselves. Here they will spend much of the day, emerging to hunt or scavenge at dusk. They are clever and adaptable animals with a deserved
reputation for wiliness. Some are said to use diversionary tactics such as highly noticeable rolling and leaping to create the impression that they are engaged in a non-hunting activity while they inch closer to their prey. Others are known to have learned how to climb trees. Males and females live alone until the time comes to find a mate and raise a family. Then, in Spring, both parents will be involved, looking after the only litter of cubs they will have that year until the young ones are two months old.
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Tree frog [Hyla arborea]
Tree frog - photo: Aquaworld, Crete Spacer This small frog is only 5cms long. Often bright green on its back with a paler underside, it also has a pair of dark stripes that extend from behind each eye to the groin. It spends most of its life climbing through vegetation, but it must return to fresh water to breed. In Chios it has been reported in Kampos and in Marmaro marsh. When alarmed it keeps absolutely still. As it can quickly
change colour it relies on blending with its surroundings to escape detection. It is the only tree frog in Europe and it is now under threat, so where it survives it should not be disturbed. It calls with a distinctive krak.krak.krak, particularly in the mating season, inflating the skin under its chin into a balloon that amplifies the sound. This may be what attracts the snakes and birds of prey that use it as a food source. The tree frog in turn feeds on insects and spiders that it catches mainly at night, though daytime hunting has also been observed. When the eggs hatch, the tadpoles are very active in the water, unlike those of other frogs that keep to the bottom of their nursery pool. They take about 90 days to lose their tails and metamorphose into frogs.
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Orchid - photo: Mike Taylor Spacer The island group is becoming internationally known among botanists for the wide variety of orchid species that it supports. Although there are many different species - probably more than the seventy five that have been firmly identified to date - some of the most remarkable flower forms are to be seen among the genus Ophrys, six examples of which are pictured. These small plants, some of which are very rare, have evolved intricately shaped and patterned lips that mimic the appearance of a bee, wasp, or beetle. This helps the plant to attract a male of the mimicked species, which, in its attempts to mate with what it
mistakenly believes to be a female, unknowingly picks up the flower's pollen, carrying it on to the next bloom it visits, thus enabling the plant to reproduce sexually. Apart from the visual signal, Ophrys species can produce a scent that closely resembles that of a receptive female insect. Since male insects emerge first, there is an opportunity for the plants to attract them before the real females are on the scene. After this, the males prefer the real insects, ignoring the less convincing attractions of the flowers. Since timing is critical in this relationship, and the male insects seem to learn not to fall for the trick once they have been deceived a few times, only a relatively small number of flowers in any population of orchids may be pollinated in this way. So it is just as well that a single pollinated bloom may produce up to 12,000 tiny seeds. Ophrys species have not only developed this intimate relationship with certain species of insects, some also have a symbiotic relationship with certain fungi and, partly for this reason, cannot be successfully transplanted. Once flowering is over, the plants go into a dormant state for the duration of the dry summer months, storing nutrients in their underground tubers. In late Summer / early Autumn a rosette of leaves appears and a new tuber starts to form. In Spring the flower spike will shoot from the new tuber and the old one will wither and die.
Orchid - photo: Mike Taylor Spacer Orchid - photo: Mike Taylor Spacer Orchid - photo: Mike Taylor Spacer Orchid - photo: Mike Taylor Spacer Orchid - photo: Mike Taylor
Image 2   Image 3   Image 4   Image 5   Image 6
Main image - Ophrys parosica - Overall plant height 10-28 cm. Carries 2-6 flowers per stem. In flower mid-March end April. Found in the Cyclades and Aegean islands, local and rare. Recorded in 10 locations on Chios.

Image 2 - Ophrys spruneri - Overall plant height 15-40 cms. Carries 2-8 flowers per stem. In flower March April. Found in mainland Greece and Southern Aegean. Recorded in 4 locations on Chios.

Image 3 - Ophrys Regis-ferdinandii - Overall plant height 5-30 cms. Carries 2-11 flowers per stem. In flower March April. Found in the Southern Aegean islands and Western Turkey. Local & rare. Recorded in 14 locations on Chios.

Image 4 - Ophrys umbilicata - Overall plant height 10-25cms. Carries 2-7 flowers per stem. In flower mid-March mid May. Found in the Eastern Mediterranean and Turkey, rather local, sometimes abundant. Common throughout Chios.

Image 5 - Ophrys oestrifera - Overall plant height up to 50cms. Carries 4-9 flowers per stem. In flower April May. Found in the Balkans, Eastern Mediterranean, rather local, sometimes abundant. Recorded in 5 locations on Chios.

Image 6 - Ophrys sitiaca - Overall plant height 10-15 cms. Carries 3-5 flowers per stem. In flower February April. Found in the Aegean, Anatolia and Crete. Very local & rare. Recorded in 17 locations on Chios and also on Psara.
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Octopus [Octopus vulgaris]
Octopus - photo: Vladimir Motycka Spacer These animals are not only able to change colour to blend with their surroundings, they can also release a cloud of toxic ink that confuses their enemies and allows them to make an escape when they are threatened. They exhibit behaviours that have led scientists to speculate that they are highly intelligent, learning
and then planning their actions, and even showing signs of play. Some have been found to create larders of food, bringing living shellfish back to the area round their dens and 'planting' them there so that they can eat them when they like. They use discarded shells and other objects they find on the sea floor to build nests (and sometimes to lay their eggs in), and can learn and remember techniques for opening different types of shellfish - one of their favourite foods. They are amazingly agile and can squeeze into the tightest crevices. Octopuses are night hunters that can grow to about 1m in length. They move to shallower water in Spring and look for a mate. A huge number of eggs are laid - up to 500,000 - but even though they are guarded and cleaned by the mother until they hatch, only one or two will ever reach adulthood. The rest will become food for other species.
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Roller [Coracias garrulus]
Roller - photo: Rasim CET-NER Spacer These strikingly coloured birds are found over a wide area of Europe in the Summer and leave in the Autumn to winter in Southern Africa. In order to support their sizable bodies (up to 32cms long and with a wingspan of about 55cms) they need relatively large insects to feed on and may even take small reptiles. They can be seen perched on wires, on posts, or in a
tall tree, from where they watch for grasshoppers and beetles. They are easily recognisable by the warm brown colour of their backs that contrasts with the brilliant blue of their heads and undersides. In the air their distinctive black flight feathers also help identification. Rollers do not build nests, rather they look for a suitable crevice among rocks, or a hole in a tree, which they will not line with any nesting material. In spite of this lazy attitude to homemaking they are industrious parents (studies have counted at least 400 food items being brought to one nest) and usually manage to raise a clutch of four offspring a year. In Chios rollers are most likely to be seen during their migration in the Spring or Autumn.
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Loggerhead turtle [Caretta caretta]
Loggerhead turtle Spacer In Greece these endangered creatures nest principally on Zakynthos but increased building and tourist activities at the beaches they use are constantly putting pressure on their survival. There have only been a few reports of loggerheads nesting on Chios, though it is not unusual to catch sight of one at sea, close to the islands. An adult can grow to 1.2m long and weigh as much
as 100 kg. They live solitary lives and only come together to mate. After this the female will make her way back to the beach where she was hatched, dig a hole in the sand and lay her eggs. About two months later the eggs hatch and the young turtles scramble down to the sea. It will be twenty years before any of them return to the beach to lay, in their turn. Turtles eat crabs, lobsters, sea urchins, fish and jellyfish. Some have learned to take fish from nets, which in the process they damage, and this has made them unpopular with fishermen. However it is unlawful to harm them or to disturb their nesting sites.
Loggerhead turtle tracks Spacer Loggerhead turtles hatching - photo: Natura Sicilia
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Tulip [Tulipa praecox]
Tulips Praecox - photo: Giannis Makridakis
Tulip Praecox - photo: Mike Taylor
Spacer There are four species of wild tulip on Chios. They flower in March and April, flooding the meadows with a sudden flush of colour. The blooms do not last long - 7-10 days - after which they give way to foliage that has a few short weeks in which to set seed and gather energy before the leaves wither and the bulb goes into dormancy until the following year. Human agricultural activity seems to suit the tulips as they are mostly seen in cultivated areas. The plants originated in Central Asia in the mountains of Pakistan and Kazakhstan from where they spread gradually westwards. It has been said that the 'tulip fever' that gripped Holland in the 17th century came about as a result of the travels of a Dutch botanist, Carolus Clusius, in the 16th century
and the collections of wild plants that he made. It is certainly known that Clusius was in Smyrna at the right time, but there does not seem to be any definite indication that either he or any other Dutch travellers collected bulbs from Chios, as has been claimed. Other collectors had certainly carried tulips to western Europe before Clusius. The tulip was widely admired and cultivated throughout the Ottoman Empire . This is echoed in the local name for tulips, "lalades", surely an appropriation of the Turkish word for the plant, "lale".
Tulips Clusiana - photo: Franck Le Driant Spacer Tulips Agenensis - photo: Dr Ori Fragman-Sapir Spacer Tulips Undulatifolia - photo: M Hassler
Image 3   Image 4   Image 5
Main image - Chian landscape with Tulipa praecox. Photograph: Giannis Makridakis

Sub main image - Tulipa praecox. Photograph: Mike Taylor

Image 3 - Tulipa clusiana. Photograph: Franck Le Driant

Image 4 - Tulipa agenensis. Photograph: Dr Ori Fragman-Sapir

Image 5 - Tulipa undulatifolia. Photograph: M Hassler
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Grass snake [Natrix natrix]
Grass snake - photo: Paul Hobson
Grass snake - photo: Beverley Heath
Spacer Like most of the snakes found on Chios, grass snakes are non-venomous and will rarely bite, even if threatened. Identifiable by a yellowish collar just behind the head individuals can vary in colour from dark green, to brown, grey, or even black. Since they have no venom with which to protect themselves, grass snakes have developed a different kind of defence - they can "play dead". Twisting into a knot and rolling over to expose the lighter-coloured underside, the mouth is left hanging open while absolute stillness is maintained in what is a very convincing visual display. To make sure of fooling a predator this can be combined with the release of a foul-smelling fluid from a gland near the tail, adding the smell of death to the appearance of it. These snakes hibernate during the Winter and emerge again in Spring to hunt the frogs that are their main food source. They are strong swimmers and are usually seen where there is a good supply of fresh water. By June or July the female has found a mate and is ready to lay her eggs. She will find a protected place and leave
between 8 and 40 eggs there. Adults can be as much as 120cms long, but the young, which are immediately independent from the moment they hatch out of the egg in August or September, measure only about 18cms.
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Ladybird beetle [Propylaea 14-punctata]
Ladybird beetle - photo: Thomas Andersson  Spacer There are many different species of ladybird beetles. Most have a pattern of spots (usually black) on their wing cases and some, like these 14-spotted ones, also have them on the area just behind the head. In winter the adults gather together in sheltered places to hibernate. As soon as spring comes they re-appear and feed voraciously in preparation for mating and egg-laying. Their pale yellow eggs are laid in clusters of between 10 and 50, typically on the undersides of leaves, and always near to a possible food
source for the larvae when they hatch. Aphids are their favourite food, and both larvae and adult ladybirds eat them in large quantities - an adult beetle needs to eat about 300 medium-sized aphids before it can lay eggs. It is for this reason that gardeners everywhere think of ladybirds as highly beneficial insects. The larvae, when they hatch, are shaped like tiny alligators with three pairs of legs and will grow in stages for about one month. Then they attach themselves to a leaf or stem and pupate. This stage in their development lasts for about 12 days. Finally the winged adult form of the beetle emerges and sets off to feed and mate or, depending on the time of year, prepare for hibernation.
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Bee-eater [Merops apiaster]
Bee-eater - photo: George Reszeter
Bee-eater - photo: Carl McKie
Spacer These small colourful birds, both sexes of which are alike in appearance, arrive from the tropical regions of Africa each Spring in large numbers. Adults weigh only 50g and can grow to 29cms in length. Even though they look so decorative and harmless they are determined and successful predators of wasps, and hornets, but also, as the name suggests, of honey bees. Since they can take up to 250 bees a day the bee-eater is not much loved by people who keep honey bees, particularly as they feed and roost communally, so where there is one, it is likely there will be more. They watch for their prey from a perch, launching themselves to attack on the wing, displaying no fear of stings. Once caught, insects are persuaded to expend their stings by being struck against any hard surface. Males defend a perch near their chosen nesting site each June and court a female by offering her food. Between 5 and 8 white, spherical eggs are laid at the end of a long tunnel that the birds will dig in a sand bank or sometimes where soft earth has been exposed by the construction of a road. Usually both parents help to incubate the eggs (7 days) and rear the young, sometimes with the help of another, closely related, bird. For the last five years bee-eaters have been reported to be breeding near Volissos.
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Longhorn beetle [Purpuricenus desfontainii]
Longhorn beetle - photo: Mike Taylor
Spanish broom
Spacer There are not only more species of beetle than any other kind of insect but no less than a quarter of all known animal species on the planet are beetles. This colourful pair, shown mating on a seed pod of the Spanish broom plant, (Spartium junceum) show the typically long antennae of their genus, the purpuricenae. Many of the genus are wood-borers and those that prefer living wood can be serious pests, threatening forests in some parts of the world. However most favour dead or dying wood, and perform an ecologically useful function, helping to break down decaying vegetable matter and return nutrients to the soil. While the adults may feed on stems or bark, their hairy, legless larvae feed on wood, creating individual tunnels in it that can be as long as 50-60 cms. In this state they will over-winter, pupating in late Spring and emerging as adults in early Summer. It is thought they can live for up to three years in total, with the greater part of that time spent in the larval stage, as the nutrients in wood are difficult to assimilate and the larvae can only grow slowly. Desfontainii have been recorded in a variety of locations in Greece and also in Morocco , where it is known that they feed on the carob tree. In Chios, the probable food plant is the Spanish
broom. Both sexes look alike, but the male's antennae, which are thought to play a role in helping him to detect a mate, are considerably longer than the female's.
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