Autumn update from Dol, 2016

Steve Jones has kept up his Nature watching through Hvar's mild autumn weather. More dragonflies, but less birds than expected.

Broad-bodied chaser dragonfly Broad-bodied chaser dragonfly Photo: Steve Jones

SJ, 23 9 2016. Do you know much about dragonflies on the Island? Over the Summer I have seen several and I know Norman nearby has also seen similar numbers.

Common Darter dragonfly. Photo: Steve Jones

While I know a few of the more obvious ones, I am puzzled: one thing I do know is that they like water in which to lay. The dragonfly life cycle is for the most part spent underwater and they only emerge as what we see towards the end of their life and to mate. So I am puzzled as to where they can possibly lay eggs, I only know one source of water down near the airfield and I don’t believe from there they would travel up to Dol. I often think they could be laying in the numerous wells/water storage places in the fields but most are covered and I don’t know how they would emerge. One species described to me was the Golden Ringed Dragonfly and I've read that this likes fast flowing water so I am even more at a loss.

Red Veined Darter dragonfly. Photo: Steve Jones

I was down near the airfield yesterday and several of just two species that I could recognize were flying, including the Common Darter. One of the species tended to be flying joined to their mate, there were several of these.

Red Veined Darter dragonfly. Photo Steve Jones

Norman and I are both seeing more Dragonflies than either of us expected here in Dol – more investigation needed.

Apart from the dragonflies, I was in Jelsa on Wednesday (September 21st) and saw that there were still Swifts around, with a few House Martins scasttered amongst them. And the odd Swallow was still around yesterday. A friend in the UK told me that the Swifts departed from our street pretty well in the first ten days of August.

VG, 23 9 2016. Yes, actually there are many more sources of water than you'd think, off the beaten tracks, but also in the fields. A lot of the enclosed wells have an open basin on top, which can be home to all sorts of insects, including water snakes - one of those regularly basks in the cistern beside my land, heading off reluctantly into the undergrowth after the water has completely evaporated.

Water cistern near Ivan Dolac. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Of course the wildlife population is adversely affected if the fields have been doused in herbicide. Talking about herbicide, did you see that the sale of Cidokor/Roundup is to be banned in the EU from October 1st, together with 11 other glyphosate-based herbicides? Good as far as it goes, but it still leaves 12 other glyphosate herbicides on the market!

I'll look forward to hearing the results of your dragonfly investigations. A good place to see them is in the environs of Humac, where there are some lovely natural pools where the horses and hunting dogs drink, and butterflies abound, as there are no poisoned fields in the vicinity.

Natural pool near Humac. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

VG, 3 10 2016. Have you seen any bats recently?? I'm really concerned at how few there are, compared to crowds up to about ?10-12 years ago, counting from when I first arrived in Pitve in 1988. And bee-keepers tell me they have no honey this year, and are taking their hives to Šćedro, where there are fewer environmental poisons around.

SJ, 3 10 2016. Bats? Yes, a few. Some around the house but not often or regular. Couldn’t identify species either.

I've just returned from Stari Grad where I saw a few Swifts flying around and still one Swallow, so I suspect it will be much the same in Jelsa. Can’t remember which evening, in the latter part of last week and very high up about 150 birds went over the house, by far the majority were House Martins with a few Swallows amongst them.

VG, 25 10 2016. Maybe this recent article by Chris Baraniuk about ring-necked parakeets in the UK might be of interest? I used to love watching those birds squawking their way to and fro across west London! More recently I learned that the same kind of parakeets arrived in the rgion of Heidelberg in Germany and Barcelona in Spain at around the same time as they were first seen in the UK, sometime in the 1970s. I wonder where they came from, and why they spread over parts of Europe?

SJ, 25 10 2016. Yes – thanks for the article, not being a frequent visitor to London I was overjoyed to see some parakeets while I was at Twickenham for a Rugby match some years ago, life doesn’t get any better than that – Rugby and Bird Watching!

I am helping neighbours pick Olives for my sins for another week ( I’d forgotten how much fun that was/is ………….. ummmm) but managed a trip to the airfield on Sunday morning: I saw at least 100 Pied Wagtails in varying sized flocks, with smaller stuff too distant to identify properly. There was also an unidentified Pipit which I will persevere with. Robins are singing everywhere now but seldom prominent . My last Swift was seen on October 23rd, it's possible that there are a few still around, but as I've not been into town I can't say for sure. I saw a Black Redstart yesterday in Prapatna. A rough count gives me around 60 species which is a little disappointing, I had expected more. But I might have missed several species, through not travelling to different locations.

Black Redstart. Photo: Steve Jones

VG, 25 10 2016. I'm also up to my ears in olives. Mercifully I picked my own early, with pleasing results. I'm now helping my friends and neighbours, which in some ways is more arduous.

SJ, 28 10 2016. Don’t know whether or not you can help me here. Is there a bird called a “lugarin” I heard yesterday in conversation so I am presuming it is a dialect word for something? Would you know – Serin perhaps?

VG, 28 10 2016. My Pitve-Zavala dialect dictionary defines lugarin as 'zelenkasta konopljarka', which seems to be commonly translated as greenfinch. Konopljarka is linnet. Any help? I hope those people weren't talking about trapping them. It's now against the law to trap migrating songbirds, but....

SJ, 28 10 2016. No – I think it was flying overhead – the person who was talking about it is definitely not a trapper/ hunter of anything like this for sure. Thanks for very much for that, I keep periodically hearing them but am not seeing many. But just didn’t know the word ……………. One day perhaps! I keep waiting for this book “Ptice Hrvatske i Europe” , if I ever get a copy. Have been in touch with someone now who may be able to help.

Was picking Olives yesterday and came across this spider, pretty well the same size as an Olive or just a fraction bigger and it very nearly got picked as one. The circular part of it was the size if an adult thumb nail. Tried to ID, am thinking it is a female of the Garden Spider variety (Araneus diadematus) – although I wouldn’t bet on it - of which there are many, it seems. Anyhow the second biggest I have seen since being here. Pretty impressive.

Big bright spider among the olives. Photo: Steve Jones

VG, 28 10 2016. That's a beauty! The biggest spider I've seen in my field was possibly a type of Black Widow, very bright, with orange stripes, perhaps about the size of a 5 kuna piece. It stayed peacefully in its web between two olive trees for quite some time, fortunately out of reach of the dogs, and then went on its way. Wondrous.

SJ, 1 11 2016. Black Redstart day. I saw the one last week in Prapatna, but all too quickly, which always makes one doubt. However I have seen a few more in and around  Dol in the last few days, including a couple in the garden. There were several in one of the fields nearby, possibly up to a dozen, so clearly they have come in from somewhere. I wonder whether they over-winter or move on.

I also saw a Wren in the garden during the week, the first one of the year for me here.

SJ, 6 11 2016. Went out briefly this morning and amongst other species was delighted with about 150 – Goldfinch/Gardelin.

Goldfinches. Photo: Steve Jones

Also - and a great record - one solitary Swift. Several other flocks about, I am thinking they are mainly Chaffinches but they're a bit too far away to identify clearly.

VG, 5.11.2016 Wonderful chaffinches: let's hope not too many of these beautiful birds fall into the hands of the (now illegal) trappers..

SJ, 8 11 2016. I have started collating all the birds seen this year in a table with English/Latin/Croatian names - but not dialect. I think I am at around 60 species now.

VG, Thanks Steve, we'll look forward to seeing the full list!

© Steve Jones, with Vivian Grisogono 2016

For more of Steve's beautiful nature pictures, see his personal pages: Bird Pictures on Hvar 2017, and Butterflies of Hvar

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