Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Looking for love

As I stand in the olive grove in the dark I can hear the quiet jingle of Bonnie's tag on her collar as she wanders round sniffing those interesting things that dogs always find. I can also hear a mysterious single "booop" or possibly it's a "pheew", which gets repeated from somewhere else in the distance.

If you stand quietly in the dark you can hear that sound again and again. When I first heard it - about this time last year - I was convinced it was some sort of frog or possibly something to do with a car alarm. In fact, it is the call of the Scops owl as males start to seek a mate. Their name has nothing to do with Skopelos and in fact there are variations of the tiny little owls, which are about 8in (20cm) long, found around the world.

Try as I might, I've never been able to spot one of these owls here among the olive trees even though old trees with hollows provide ideal spots for the owls. However, I have seen a Scops owl here on Skopelos. It was in the town (some people call it a village) and was sheltering from the rain next to a chimney. It looked cute, a bit bedraggled and ever so slightly disgruntled.
A young Eurasian Scops owl, which is the sort we get on Skopelos.
It is that time of year when all of nature seems to have realised it's time to get busy producing the next generation. During the day the trees are full of great tits calling to each other. Some might say their song is a trifle repetitive, not to say overly insistent, but whatever, it seems to do the trick. High above the valley, buzzards wheel around, and if they are getting up to any courtship it is being done in-between interruptions from hooded crows which mob the much larger buzzards.

Meanwhile on the ground bees are rushing from flower to flower, crickets leap wildly as you walk through the grass and ants have resumed their seemingly non-stop march both up and down the outside of our house. And perhaps best of all the wild flowers are putting on a spectacular show that holidaymakers on this island hardly ever get to see. By the time the holiday season gets in full swing the anemones, celandines, chamomile, oxalis, poppies, geraniums, marigolds, chrysanthemums and asphodels are all long gone, beaten down by the intense heat of the long Greek summer. But for now, it's springtime and everything in the olive grove is lovely.
What summer's visitors miss out on.

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