Thursday, October 11, 2007


My eldest sister (and brother in law) have recently returned from a holiday in the mountains of Crete.
I'm sure they sure plenty of interesting things like Anna and I did in Kephalonia.

I do know, however, that they saw a veritable plethora of Swallowtail Butterflies (both "normal" and "scarce"), a plentitude of Kingfishers and also a superfluity of Lammergeier Vultures.
NB. My sister referred to this abundance of butterflies and birds in a slightly more coarse fashion... involving sticks and er.... faeces, but I thought I'd ponce it up a bit for the blog!

She has sent me a photo of a Swallowtail Butterfly they snapped, which can be found below. Compare it, if you like to the photo of the Scarce Swallowtail we saw in Kephalonia (not scarce at all in mainland Europe - in fact probably more common than the one my sister photographed) HERE. Notice the absence of horizontal lines on the wings of the Scarce Swallowtail compared to the Swallowtail.

Really interesting to hear they saw Lammergeiers in the mountains of Crete. These huge birds (with a wingspan of almost 3m), are rare indeed in Europe - although much more common further south and east in their global range. They are being introduced (carefully and very slowly) into parts of the Alps, but obviously have found a mini-stronghold in the stony mountains and hills of Crete.

Lammergeiers (image courtesy of Wikipedia) are also known as Bearded Vultures, due to their pale FEATHERED head (very unusual for an old world vulture) and black moustache. They are very unlike most other vultures in flight due to their large, narrow wings and amazing wedge-like tail.

They obtain their name from the German language - Lamb Vulture (meaning in English). They do not really need a bald head like most vultures as 90% of their diet consists of bone marrow, not meat, obtained by dropping bones from a height, onto rocks below. They also have been known to drop tortoises for food also. (According to legend, the Greek playwright Aeschylus was killed when a tortoise was dropped on his bald head by a Lammergeier, which mistook his bald pate for a stone).

The Lammergeier's old name is OSSIFRAGE, or Bone Crusher.

I'm sure my sister and her husband feel very privileged to have seen such a wonderful bird - I would love to see one of these! I'm off on a fugus foray with them soon ( I'll post about it when we return), so am bound to find out what other wonderful sights they saw on their holiday in Crete then.
Thanks for the photo Sis!

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