Crocuses and Cattle Egrets

The first snows are now lighting up the top of Ak Dagi every morning – they came all of a sudden. All was bare rock then ten days ago after a night of rain (here) the top 1000m or so of the mountains went pure white!

The rain has brought out the mushrooms, not with the variety one would get in the UK, but with an abundance of Field Mushrooms at least, so every day at the moment two meals are focussed on them! The Strawberry Trees now have ripe fruit. I hadn’t realised that they were edible. If you get them just right – so just going soft and bright red – then they are sweet and delicious. I’ve been experimenting with acorns too. Haven’t managed to make them taste good yet though.

Yesterday we had a big surprise when we found a crocus of a species we’d not seen before just close to the house. After discussing it with Yasemin she’s tracked it down as the newly described Crocus kofudagensis, related to Crocus assumaniae. Known only from the type collection by Ruskans an hours drive from here. Lovely palest pink-lilac tepals and a stigma with bright orange-red lobes. At the same time there’s lots Crocus cancellatus (lydius is it now?) about and some of the completely white form of Crocus mathewi. Up on nearby Assos Mountain the lovely purple centred more typical form of Crocus mathewi put on quite a show a couple of weeks back alongside huge yellow goblets of Sternbergia clusiana and even a little Sternbergia colchiciflora too, a much less photogenic species! The areas around our house now have lots of the little pink stars of Colchicum stevenii and there’s a little of a white Colchicum too which looks like balansae but is flowering two months after the other balansae. The first Friar’s Cowls are out and there’s an abundance of Clematis cirrhosa. Autumn colour is steadily improving – we get the best autumn colour mid-winter here! Cotinus is now bright yellows and reds and the pistachia has mostly turned orange. Down in Kasaba forest there’s Erica manipuliflora in really impressive flower and it looks great growing with Myrica covered in white berries.

The winter birds are now swelling in numbers. The slopes around here are covered in thick maquis and where it is dominated by the strawberry tree there are unbelievable numbers of Blackbirds and in particular Song Thrushes. Walking through there are waves of sound from these birds! Chaffinches have now become abundant and with them smaller numbers of Goldfinches, Serins and the first Siskins. Hen Harriers are noticeable this winter. I’ve been concentrating on seeing what Patara and Andriake wetlands have to offer birdwise. Andriake has been building up duck numbers and Water Rails are really abundant. I saw a Wild Cat hunting them last week. Four Greater Flamingoes have taken up residence there and now five Cattle Egrets too, a relatively scarce species in Turkey. Today I watched one of them catch a praying mantis. Finsch’s Wheatear is the first indication that the mountain birds are coming down – look forward to more of those. At Patara my ‘big’ find was a Steppe Grey Shrike, quite a rare bird here. Trap camera news coming shortly….

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