Tuesday, 19 October 2010

More 'ticks'

Some more ticks today for my life lists.  Starting with another bird which I had previously not seen, this time a group of three Caspian Terns (Hydroprogne caspia, formerly Sterna caspia).  These enormous members of the Tern family were found standing on a small island in the wetlands.  They were also a long way from us and keeping their distance, so taking a picture was rather tricky.  The tall bird standing with them on the left, was a Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) not new to me, but a big 'tick' for Malcolm.  Both Caspian Terns and Spoonbills are threatened species in Europe due to loss of habitat.  So much wetland and marsh has been drained and built on in the recent past that birds which depend on these sites are under huge pressure.  As if they're not under enough pressure, Malcolm decided to rename the Spoonbills 'Tablespoon-faced dickie birds'......!  What would you do with him?
Next, a plant species new to me.  Growing in the sand dunes between the wetlands and the sea were lots of  these Sea Daffodils (Pancratium maritimum).
The name 'Pancratium' comes from the Greek meaning "Strength" as the plant is able to grow in extremely hot, dry conditions which would kill many other plants.  They can do this because the bulbs are deeply buried so the roots can reach more fertile soils.
A couple of insects next.  The first was spotted on the road by Malcolm as we walked to Albufeira.  This large specimen is an Egyptian Grasshopper (Anacridium aegyptium).  About 3" long, it was quite an impressive insect and quite common around Southern Europe and the Mediterranean.  Close inspection reveals the fantastic striped eyes.  They have been recorded in Britain, but prefer the more warm, dry habitats.
An invasive and unwelcome species next.  A Red Palm Weevil (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus).
This insect is the most dangerous and deadly pest of Date, Coconut, Oil and Sago Palm trees and has been introduced to Europe from it's native Southern Asia and Melanesia.  As with most alien species, they have spread by human intervention as we have transported palms and palm products infected with these insects, all over the world.  At about 2" long, it too was an imposing little creature as it scuttled across the footpath.
Lastly for today, a four legged animal and a far more attractive one too.  This delightful creature goes by the name of Large Psammodromus Lizard (Psammodromus algirus).  Still fairly common in many Southern European countries especially around the Med' it too is under threat from habitat loss (we humans have a lot to answer for).  This one was found sunning itself on a rock by the sea and didn't seem too bothered as I took it's photo.  What a little stunner!
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