Oman Butterfly Diary-1 Papilio demodocus, African Lime Butterfly.

In October 2019, we headed down to the Dhofar region of Oman primarily for our sea shell obsession…oops, hobby sounds better, less geeky really!

The first morning walk along the beach made me realise that it was far too hot to spend all day outside on the beaches and, as over the year, I had been become involved with a Dragonfly recording group in Cyprus and had also discovered the pleasure of photographing both dragonflies and butterflies, we decided to split each day into discovering which species of each we could find in the Ayn’s (valley), khors (inlet) and escarpments along the southern coastline of Oman.

Armed with “The Butterflies of Oman” we set off each day exploring the countryside.

I had occasionally seen a fairly large butterfly, mottled black and white with flashes of red and blue.

The book told me it was the African Lime Butterfly, Papilio demodocus, a member of the Papilonidae family.

Three members of this family are found in Oman, Papilio machaon-the Swallowtail, Papilio demoleus- the Lime Butterfly and Papilio demodocus-the African Lime butterfly.

They are amongst the largest and most beautiful butterflies in the country.

The Swallowtail and the Lime are known from the north of the country.

I have not been lucky enough to photograph the Lime butterfly in Oman. I have seen it, but, without my camera.

However, it is also found in the UAE  and I was lucky enough to photograph a resting one on a beach in Fujaraih earlier this year, in this linked post.

In Oman, the African lime is only found in Dhofar. The African lime is common in most of tropical Africa and in Southwestern Arabia, as far north as Jeddah.

It is very similar to the Lime butterfly, but they may be told apart through the broader central band and the larger orange spot in the anal angle of the hindwings of demoleus.

After a few mornings of finding lowland butterflies, we headed up the towering escarpment that broods above the coastal plain.

Randomly heading down a small track high above the coast, we gave one local lady quite a shock as she was heading out.I don’t think many Europeans have headed down the little track to her house.

Passing her, suddenly I saw my African Lime heading into nectar, in a little cranny of flowering plants amidst the rocky heights.

The African Lime spent awhile hovering and nectaring, so I could manage to chase after it with my camera..

A wonderful and lucky experience….

The hills are alive…

In Cyprus, during mid-Februry, for around two weeks, the hills are alive with Almond blossom.

It was fairly wet and windy at that time, so I took the opportunity to head up the road to a local village, Episkopi, where the hills surrounding the village and river valley take on an ethereal beauty.

Swathes of Almond blossom cover the hillsides. It is a glorious time to walk amongst the groves, small spring flowers popping through the undergrowth. 

As we are now under curfew on our small island, like many all over the world, it’s time to review my walks.

I hope you enjoy my Almond blossom photographs… stay safe, my friends… 

UAE Butterfly diary 1- Papilio demoleu

Papilio demoleus is a common and widespread swallowtail butterfly. It has common names of lime butterfly, lemon butterfly, lime swallowtail and chequered swallowtail. These names refer to the host plant which are usually citrus, mainly cultivated lime. Aside from it’s beauty, this butterfly is considered a pest and an invasive species found from Asia to Australia.

In Oman it is only found in the northern region and in the UAE. I’ve been hunting for this for a while and caught my first glimpse last November at a petrol station near the Rustaq oasis just north of Muscat. The butterfly fluttered over the car and off into the desert before I could turn my camera on.

I never saw another one in Oman, despite much looking.

Imagine my surprise this past weekend, when I was wandering along a beach on the East coast of the UAE, close to Dibba, at low tide looking for one my favourite shells that seems only to be found on the East coast at a couple of beaches, when I caught a flash of black, white and red and an exhausted Lime butterfly fluttered down onto the sand in front of me. I managed to creep up and get some close-up shots.

A delight to see…

Cyprus Dragonfly Diaries-1-Calopteryx splendens

2019 saw me joining into Dragonfly recording in my area of Cyprus.

I know…it seems like a random thing to do, but, you know I like to take photographs and, why not ? Fresh air and enjoying nature is something that I have discovered is beneficial to my mind, so this is a double benefit.

There is a Dragonfly study group in Cyprus and a chance photograph of mine of a dragonfly into a local biodiversity Facebook group, led to a very old friend of mine contacting me to ask if I would be interested in accompanying her for her monthly recording for said study group.

As she lives in the next village and completes records for our local river valleys, I jumped at it.

In the company of a knowledgeable person, nature is that much more interesting.

So 4 times a month, we head off out to 2 river valley sites which are diverse in nature, searching for damselflies and dragonflies. At this stage, as there is diversity in nature and searching for one thing leads to another, I discovered how beautiful butterflies are too, especially for photography…( the butterfly posts are yet to come…)

To be quite honest, I didn’t have a clue what a Damselfly was, what it looked like and how you need to to have acute awareness to spot the tiny ones.

Once I blundered around for a while, marvelling at my friend’s ability to spot the tiniest of creatures, I was thrilled to start spotting them myself.

Damselflies are insects of the suborder Zygoptera in the order Odonata. They are similar to dragonflies, which constitute the other odonatan suborder, Anisoptera, but are smaller, have slimmer bodies, and most species fold the wings along the body when at rest, unlike dragonflies which hold the wings flat and away from the body. An ancient group, damselflies have existed since at least the Lower Permian, and are found on every continent except Antarctica.

One of the most obvious and to me, quite beautiful and easily spotted, owing to its shining body, is Calopteryx splendens ssp. amasina ( Bartenef, 1911). The Common name is Banded Demoiselle.

Below is a typical site for finding Calopteryx in the river areas. Wading is required. I have just bought wellingtons for the winter wading, beautiful wellingtons, black with red roses and a smart little tie thingy at the top…how wellingtons have changed! I want to wear them everyday! However, I digress, the wading environment is always beautiful…

A selection of photographs of the exquisite Calopteryx from locations in the Esouza and Diarizos areas in the Paphos district of Cyprus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been spammed….

It’s been a long time, too long a time since I logged into my WordPress account…

It’s time to put 2019 ( butterflies, dragonflies, strange insects, shells, fossils, travel) into posts, but I have been busy with being supportive and stern with Younger Child over his degree ambitions and the continuous saga of maintenance required on my old and crumbling, but well-loved home.

(Younger child, previously referred to as Darling boy in earlier posts, but I think during the year of being stern, we all had to become more adult, well, not me, I’m nearly past being adult, but DB had to grow up, so, YC is now a more appropriate, anonymous name for my blog references to said child)

Crumbling home is a feeling a bit better now. It has required much TLC throughout the year, a lifetime project that my partner has done wonders with so far… thank god for Google, his skill set is now such that I will be advertising his skills when times are hard… building skills, that is!

With my mind on other worries, to organise the blog, decide on and edit the photos, plan, write, well… along the 2019 way, I lost my blogging mojo.

But, Younger child now has his degree, Yay!

I no longer need to be a good mummy… well, I do, I know I will be, but I can start to step back now and let him flee my nest (again) and in my adult mind, I’ve earned some me-time now….time to return to my WordPress world…

So I took the first step back in tonight, the familiar side menus, the “Add new post”… all within reach, but then my eye caught sight of the spam folder.

Good grief! Azimet has done a fine job and stopped over 3,000 spam messages, but there were still over 1,000 slipped through.

Viagra appeared to be the dominant message….

I have resisted all offers and didn’t bother to look after page 1, but now I am exhausted by the thought that somewhere out there, there are people-bots or whatever does it nowadays, generating random messages, sending them all over the world to flog pharmaceuticals and does anyone actually look at these messages and think…Oh, yeah, I’ll just pop in an order for a drug to that genuine looking worldwide site ?

Instead of being creative with words and photos, I’m now feeling a bit like Victor(ia) Meldrew (of a certain age and you’ll get that one) after the spam-fest, so I’ll restart my mojo briefly with a picture I took two days ago of the beautiful, tiny and fragile Narcissus obsoletus , currently flowering in Cyprus at the moment and come back soon!

Narcissus obsoletus is a species of the genus Narcissus (daffodils) in the family Amaryllidaceae. It is native to the Mediterranean littoral from north Africa and the Iberian peninsula, east to Israel.

 

Gefiri tou Roudia… Finding the Venetian bridges in Cyprus.

Oh, well, ok… I have been so lax this winter with my little WordPress blog.

Apologies to any followers, I hit a blog slump…Committing to being a good mummy whilst darling boy entered his final furlong for his degree, meant that I vowed to stay at home to be a mummy support and not travelling. Hmm, it’s been very hard, I love to be a traveller, but this year I’ve been trying to be such a good mummy ( my opinion, DB may have a different view)  but, well, I’ve been missing my freedom more than a tad!

Dire weather this winter led to a kind of personal fug and, apart from the good mummy business, I just retreated under a blanket, read a lot and watched TV rubbish and looked at the rain ruining my house. This problem still needs to be addressed, probably at a large cost, sadly. I’m happy to be in a drying out mode right now… a lottery win would help though! Also a dire internet connection left me irritated and impatient, this is a bit on-going, but whittling down the fault to my provider has been tedious as they don’t want to be responsible, even if they are..little by little, I’m nearly on the winning streak with them!

I did do trips but the thought of photo organisation and editing to blog was anathema, but, suddenly I think I’ve got my mojo back! The sun is shining and I feel inspired. Out of the fug … I hope!

So, to get to the post point, there are so many places to visit in Cyprus and I tend to enjoy the awkward ones.. I miss my Gulf off-roading and if there is a difficult drive, I’ll go for it.

Luckily there is much history in Cyprus, part of which are the Venetian bridges, scattered around the island and standing well, after many years.This is an interesting link to the history of the Venetian occupation in Cyprus via Wiki… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venetian_Cyprus

One of my favourite bridges, deep down on the edge of Paphos Forest is Gefiras tou Roudia, (Roudias Venetian bridge). Access this year is currently limited to one route via Koilineia, via Vretsia, an old Turkish village, now abandoned and then down an interminable forest track winding to to the valley base.

Cyprus has been so green this winter, but the heat is now starting to burn off the vegetation and the hillsides are fading fast to the summer brown, but down in the river valley, dappled shade and greenery shields you from the heat. The water is flowing fast, evidence at this time of year of the momentous amount of rain Cyprus experienced this winter.

It was a time to relax in depths of the shade, search out some flora and fauna and just recognise that I live on a beautiful, unique island. I had forgotten that I am very lucky to live here, during this miserable winter…

Almond blossom on a grey day….

According to the news, it has so far been the wettest five months since 1901 in Cyprus. I can vouch for the fact it has been very wet!

A planned day out today was deemed prudent to cancel, as the little cloud with raindrops on the weather app seemed to be rain-dropping all day at the destination.

But the rain was intermittent and I needed bread so went out, with my camera (just in case). I decided to turn right up the hill as there was a hint of blue between the clouds.

Bread be damned, but the grey clouds closed over the bit of blue just as I turned the corner to find an almond field in full blossom.

Oh well, too beautiful to be missed, even on a grey day.

I did buy bread, by the way. A handy little kiosk on the way down the hill had some. Not too sure it was fresh today, but it did well for toast with blue cheese snacks…

Finding anemones…

Cyprus has had a wet winter this year, but the island needs the water and the dams have reached record levels so I hope there will no water shortages during the summer.

Amidst all the rain, nature has been taking its course and one of my great pleasures is to head off to the hillsides and search for wildflowers that start to pop up in late January.

One of these is Anemone Coronaria  (Crown Anemone), family: Ranunculaceae, native to the Mediterranean region.

I’ve always seen them over the years, but now I’m actively looking, the profusion of these beautiful flowers amazes me. Popping up in moist meadows, in a range of colours, it’s a delight to find them.

Butterfly of the day…

Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus) butterfly.
Taken at Ayn Athum, Salalah, Dhofar region of Oman in November 2018.
There is a waterfall, in the Khareef (monsoon) season and a park is under construction where the river begins.
It’s a place to spot birds, butterflies, dragonflies and fish.
We were there just after Cyclone Luban, the area was lush and green with plenty of wildlife to keep me busy with my lens!
It’s a lovely place to visit…

Bird of the day…

The great egret (Ardea alba), also known as the common egret, large egret, or great white egret or great white heron is a large, widely distributed egret, with four subspecies found in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and southern Europe.

On Masirah Island, Oman these elegant birds are everywhere to be seen, indeed, all along the Omani coastline.

Al Qudra Lakes, Dubai…

In Dubai there now seems to be a huge awareness for ecological protection which is very positive, given the fact that the city is ever-growing.

Maintaining the natural wetland environments and creating new ones seem to be part of the city plan.

Al Qudra lakes are around 30 km into the desert from my flat. It’s now a popular place for city dwellers to drive out to in the cooler evenings, take the family for a walk, observe the birds, meet up with friends and eat al fresco. It’s beautifully maintained and there are cycle tracks all around the drive down area.

I took a trip out tonight, maybe a mistake on a Bank holiday weekend as it was extremely busy, and as I drove up I did wonder if my desire to photograph the wetland birds would be thwarted by the number of cars and people around.

But, not so, I think the birds must be used to being on show…

Some shots from the wetland…

 

October 2018, Travelling in Oman and surprises on the roads…

I’m back in one of my favourite places for a few weeks. There is something about Oman that draws me back time and time again, the pace of life, the people, the incredible scenery and the sheer vastness of the country never fail to excite me as I cross the border and we start the extremely long drive to the South.

Currently, I’m spending time in Dhofar.

The Dhofar Governorate is the largest of the eleven Governorates in the Sultanate of Oman in terms of area. It lies in Southern Oman, on the eastern border with Yemen. It is a rather mountainous area that covers 99,300 km (38,300 sq mi) and has a population of 249,729 as of the 2010 census.The largest city, as well as the capital of the Governorate, is Salalah. Historically the region was the chief source of frankincense in the world.

On my first trip here in 2013, the roads were poor outside of Salalah.

A major road building project has been taking place during the subsequent years to upgrade the route from Salalah towards the north of the country through the small villages and coastal communities that lie so far from major towns.

The difference this visit is quite amazing, the road is nearly finished and it is now a far smoother and faster journey, however, as with all road travel in the Middle East, the camel is a road danger.

Our drive down to Dhofar continued through the night. At god o’clock in some remote part of the central plains, we rounded a corner, luckily having just slowed down to look at a flare from a nearby oil-field (this sort of observation is a way of passing time on the 14-hour car journey) and out of the dark a pair of camels came leaping onto the road…screech, slam of brakes, disaster averted, you really don’t want to hit a camel, even in the beast of a Nissan patrol that we are driving. More caution was required for the rest of night!

No photo of the night encounter but here are some camels along the roadside near Hasik.

Down here in Dhofar, cows also roam freely…

The new road, complete with cow, looking for her herd, a bit of a traffic impediment!

Here were the rest of the herd, on the other side of the cow-proof barrier…

I was a little surprised to see a whole herd making their way down the dual-carriageway. From physical evidence left on the ground, it appeared that they had joined at the previous slip road, possibly an easier route than the surrounding terrain…

On the return journey back down the dual carriageway, we then came across a camel herd being marshalled to their destination on the wrong side of the road by the familiar Toyota pickups that every Omani farmer seems to possess…

Then entering the town of Mirbat a herd of goats on the trot through town…

Laid back and typically Omani, life goes on, even if an enormous road has just cut through the grazing grounds. I’ll just remember to look out for herds when I’m driving at night…

So what did I do during my free time in the Summer of 2018…?

Well, I wasn’t blogging!

This year, after an India and Oman trip during April, I headed back to Cyprus for the summer.

Now I’m not working in the UAE, visiting the region during the summer months isn’t appealing but my home in Cyprus is.

Sorting the years of never sorted clutter (still an ongoing and tedious project) and fixing the house ( Luckily the OH does D-I-Y extremely well) were my priorities and working on the garden is my ultimate pleasure.

I was happy to be here enjoying my home at long last, but I want to learn new skills, my background has been leaning towards the arts forever and last year I started Mosaic classes with a local Mosaic artist, Sharen Taylor ( interesting links below) who is extremely talented and has her own unique take on the ancient art and is an established face within the Arts scene in Paphos.

This year I moved onto the intermediate level and joined a course where we were to make a table.

My choice was to make one for outside, I have a lovely seating area in the shade, but, no table for the morning frappe or glass of vino that perfects a Cyprus summer’s eve.

Measurements taken, 60cm x 120cm, 50cm high, a perfect fit.

Then I drew a blank on the design, vague notions of vine leaves, grapes, olives, and pomegranates swirled around in my head but wouldn’t flow on paper. So, I left the designing, feeling inspiration would eventually arrive.

Teacher messaged to advise to have our design expanded to the actual size.

Hmm, panic, this was my project, I had to do something, I only had a head vision which wasn’t coming together.

I spent the evening cobbling together a little design ( you will note this has nothing to do with the aforementioned head plan of grapes, vines or pomegranates, but leans towards lemons, oranges and almond blossom, such are the vagaries of head art, but it’s all relevant to Cyprus life).

Scrabbling around in cupboards for pencils, crayons, old geometry sets, observant folks will note the ruler in the pictures and understand just how old that is!

I like precision and it started to take shape. Enlarged the next day with some blank parts (To be decided), working on the principle that the design would flow as it evolved.

Head thoughts, to be worked on in progress…

This was quite a big project and I was going to be living with the end result, so I needed to do what I wanted to do, break a few rules if there are any and go with my art heart!

Once it started, it became my nightly pleasure. “Darling” son who lives with me, is working in the hospitality industry, late nights are the norm, there was no one who needed my cooking skills and I can live quite happily on cheese and biscuits, bread and cheese, biscuits and cheese, cheese and… well, you get the picture!

Work in progress…

July mosaiced into August, my daughter arrived for three weeks holiday so I put my tile nippers and glue away and became social again, but there was a deadline to the final session ticking away so whilst she was out clubbing away some evenings, I was snipping, cutting and gluing, racing towards completion day.

Grouting day appeared, a messy time, plus apprehension as to whether I’d done it right, had I used the right amount  of water and grout, had I stood on the tiles hard enough to make it level ( Yes, one way of ensuring a big piece is glued down evenly, I didn’t think of that either! Thank you, Teacher!)

Finished-pre-grout…

Luckily the OH had appeared for a D-I-Y visit, he helped me and we brought it home. Horror, there were cracks appearing, panic built, but Teacher passed by on her way home and taught me the grout fixes.

The mosaic panel was inserted into the table frame.

The result for me was the pleasure of the whole project.

I’d enjoyed the creation and the finished table was something I’d completed, finally!

A very satisfying summer and a new table!

Finished, post-grout…

I did mention I’d only be doing this once, but, well, I’ve now joined into another glass and mosaic workshop and guess what, I’m doing another table! The table journey to be continued…

And I need to catch up on rather a lot blog-wise. Hmmm…

My excellent teacher:

http://www.sharentaylor.com

www.facebook.com/SharenTaylorMosaics

India,1/4/18 :Trivandrum arrival and elephants, in the first hour…

We flew on the red-eye from Dubai to Trivandrum to start the South India trip. Luckily I slept for a short while on the plane.

Indian airports, at any time, are a rapid and fairly frantic introduction to local color, noise and antiquated bureaucracy. Early in the morning, after little sleep in the air, it’s a lesson in patience.

Our travel company, Magic Tours of India, had arranged our driver to meet us.

Outside in the huge crowd, I spotted a sign with my name.

Major relief, the plan was about to work. There is always a nervous moment when you spill out into the crowd and hope the plan has worked.

Bundled into the car, we headed off into Trivandrum.

We had made up our day’s schedule from online research. We knew we would be tired out after the flight, so desisted from planning too much culture on day one and had decided to head to Trivandrum zoo, where there was also a museum and gardens.

Down the road, suddenly we pulled over.

“Elephants,” the driver told us, “there is a religious procession”.

“Can I take photographs?” I asked.

“Of course”, he said.

Completely unprepared, the wrong lens on the camera, but I hurtled out into it all.

Wonderful, it was unexpected India at it’s very best.

I knew it would be a good trip…

S.India trip planned with Magic Tours of India : http://www.magictoursofindia.com