My trip to Rhodes allowed me to explore some of the islands biodiversity. On a small road down from the monastery of Thari we stopped by a stream. My botanist friend Nick always recommends a good look around water. The pictures above are of some of the creatures found around the valley near Thari. The first thing that attracted my eye were these deep burgundy leaf shapes sticking up in a shady area. As we went to look crickets were jumping out from under our feet. There seemed to be thousands of them. Not for the faint hearted. I later found the name of this species and it is a Greek and Rhodian plant. It was so large that I had immediately thought invasive. Never jump to assumptions. In the stream there was a freshwater crab, some frogs and hovering above beautiful blue dragonflies. Large lizards are found on the island, one above seen near the monastery and the others at the Acropolis and Monolithos love the ancient sites and rocks. Look carefully for them as they seem to love the tourist sites. The lizard and the lily are linked to dragons. Dragon Lily. But also Voodoo lily! And the dragon lizard. If you look more carefully at the first photo below you can see more detail and the blue. A really charming and obliging Aegean blue kind of creature. They seem to pose!
We did not see the famous Rhodian fallow deer. It seems they are now more scarce since there were devasting fires destroying large tracts of forest. The symbol of the deer can be seen in many places but certainly at the entrance to the old port. We didn’t see any two headed eagles either. However, there were mosaics and many carvings in the churches. It was hard to trace back the symbolism for the use of the eagles and it became quite academic.
We also saw many cats. I thought of the blog of photographyofnia as she takes many wonderful photos of cats in Istanbul and comments on how they are loved and respected there. There were plenty of Rhodes cats too and am sure there is an island colour that seems to predominate. The cats we saw in a street in Lindos, a very medieval town with an Acropolis, knew which door to wait outside for food. Unfortunately, not all cats were as lucky and there was a sanctuary for abandoned cats in Kalithea. Having had one cat for 17 years, our own Tigger, every cat should be a loved cat and sterilised. Cats and in particular semi feral cats can have a devastating effect on wildlife.
Many of of the wild flowers were similar to the Mediterranean ones we find in Spain. There was the dragon lily, Dracunculus Vulgaris and Capparis Spinoza, the Caper bush which are endemic to the region. It was quite dry and Madeleine thought there were less flowers than usual for Spring. Certainly the wild carrot, daucos carrota was fully out. This doesn’t usually come out at Navasola until the dry season of July and August. These ones were flowering near some ancient archeological remains, not far from the Acropolis. Bougainvillea and hibiscus and many other flowers adorned Greek gardens, balconies and the narrow streets of the old town.
Wildlife in Rhodes did not have the status that we saw in the Azores. At Petaloudes, the butterfly valley, but where tiger moths begin to fly in their 100s around the end of June there was a nature interpretation centre. There was no person there to discuss and inform as in the Azores and the exhibits needed some updating and modernising. There was also a sense of sadness in looking at the ageing stuffed specimens but there were some resigned comments on the notices too about the difficulties of conservation.
Although there is a severe financial crisis in Greece, Rhodes benefits from a strong tourist industry. I wonder how as tourists we can engage and support the protection of flora, fauna and their habitats in the places we visit.
1. We could always express concern and a desire to know about the biodiversity in a place. The Azores did have lots of leaflets and a display of their plant life at the airport.
2. Raise issues of conservation areas and how these are protected.
3. Try and use responsible tour operators who respect the environment.
4. Write and comment on how much you enjoyed the natural world on your visit. This can be to tourist offices but also flight and tour operators. Encourage and support conservation. Or if need be express concerns.
Greece is a signatory to the habitats directive of the EU.
Some information about the Natural History of Rhodes from Wikipedia.
Rhodes is in the Eastern Mediterranean conifer-sclerophyllous-broadleaf forests Ecoregion.
The flowering plant species of Rhodes number 1,243.
Dracunculus vulgaris, the dragon lily or voodoo lily
Capparris Spinoza. Capparis spinosa, the caper bush, also called Flinders rose, is a perennial plant that bears rounded, fleshy leaves and large white to pinkish-white flowers.
257 bird species are recorded from Rhodes, many are passage migrants. 80 are breeding species. We saw red rumped swallows at a reservoir and many swifts around the New Marina and hooded crows
There are 33 species of mammal including the Rhodes Fallow deer, Cervidae Dama dama; E
Rhodes has 4 species of amphibia: tree frog Bufo viridis, Hyla arborea, Rana cerigensis and Mertensiella luschani. Not sure which kind of frogs I photographed.
2,652 insect species/subspecies are recorded from Rhodes. Commonly seen insects in Rhodes are the sail swallowtail, the scarlet dragonfly, Cleopatra butterfly, European praying mantis, cicada, glow-worm, hummingbird hawk-moth, firebug, field cricket, European tree cricket, European hornet, cuckoo wasp, carpenter bee and the rose chafer.
178 land and freshwater mollusca species/subspecies are recorded from Rhodes.
The freshwater crab Potamon potamios is found on Rhodes. It is common at Petaloudes.
There are 24 species of reptile certainly found on Rhodes. The species I photographed is referred to as the Rhodes Dragon. It is also known locally as “Kourkoutavlos”. Or the Agama lizard, Stellagama stellio.
Rodini park is a rather neglected old Italian park which has seen grander days. Local people still seem to wander in but it’s neglect means that there are quite a few native and non native species thriving. In the right season it can have tiger moths. We also saw
Terrapins or turtles, goldfish, carp, egret, peacock,
White butterflies( April)
And heard many birds singing!
At Petaloudes the famous place for the tiger moths, but is called butterfly valley and is a private park, we saw the museum of natural history and some brimstones on the bougainvillea outside.