Stuff

Amazing, Really!

The world, it seems, is going to hell in a basket! The trashing of the means of survival is a uniquely human trait – apart from lemmings we appear to be the only species that thinks there is a better world on Mars or in the afterlife!

Actually, that is not strictly true (or even true at all), there is no real evidence that lemmings are as stupid as humans! And despite our moronic, blinkered belief that we were granted this world and all that is in it to trash as we please by some imagined Abrahamic deity a  few thousand years ago, by and large, and unlike lemmings, we have failed to grow up into adults.

Meanwhile, Mother Earth-Toprakana-Gaia – struggles on and still manages to amaze us if we bother to notice. Yesterday she provided just such a display of the ‘Amazing! Just amazing, really!’ J and I were walking along the amazingly white beach of our amazingly (nearly) unique magnesium lake. It is my habit to dawdle and poke about in the undergrowth in the hopes of finding creatures and/or flowers that pique my interest.

this is the beach habitat/environment

There, in bunches of sedge scattered between fifty and two hundred metres from the water, were thousands, possibly millions of dragonflies bursting out from their larval stage into the full glory of adulthood. Truly ugly ducklings (for some) into beautiful, graceful swans!

Here is one of the ‘swans’ that has taken a fancy to J followed by images of the amazing transformational process. The species is Orthetrum cancellatum – Black-tailed Skimmer. They are common all over Europe and much of the UK which takes nothing from the spectacle of this mass emerging.

the process begins

everywhere, in countless numbers

meet the fragile, beautiful débutante

and a reminder of just how amazingly beautiful this creature is

Anyway, back to my opening gambit – I’ve discovered how, when the time comes, that I can actually go to hell in a basket – amazing really!

Alan, still being amazed after seventy two years!

Incredible Okçular!

. . of Nymphs and Vagrants and Emperors

6th of June 1944 – D Day! D as in don’t be daft enough to call it ‘I’ for Invasion Day!

6th of June 2011 – D Day! D as in Drain Day! and ‘they’ meant drain Black Lake, a very important, biologically sensitive seasonal wet area just below my house.

Black Lake Okcular
Beautiful Black Lake

Black Lake is home to a number of rare species of flora and fauna and if drained this tiny refuge would be another nail in the coffin of Turkey’s fast dwindling bio-diversity. I wrote for the print media and blogged about the threat that coincided with a visit by two of Europe’s leading dragonfly experts; Christophe Brochard and Ewoud van der Ploeg.

It was to no avail, a few weeks ago, before the rains set in, the job was done. But, done in such a way as to have J and I speculating on how on earth they expected it to work. (Don’t worry, I’m not going into detailed explanations.) Then the rains came and to everyone’s surprise, except smug old us, it didn’t! Well, that’s not strictly true, part of the job worked brilliantly from the perspective of lovers of wetlands, because a new ditch brought even more water to the lake even more quickly!

Time will tell. I just hope the area will stay under water long enough for the landowners to forget how they’ve done the job, the pipes to get blocked and the sumps to fill with mud!

Anyway, back to our two dragonfly experts. Christophe and Ewoud are two of the most enthusiastic people I’ve ever met; they love what they do and they quickly infect anyone around them with the same enthusiasm. It was my pleasure to spend three days with them and facilitate their field work.

In particular they were looking for evidence of breeding by Anax ephippiger the Vagrant Emperor, a magnificent, rare and strongly migratory species of dragonfly. Black Lake exceeded their wildest dreams, not only did they record and photograph the adult, collect more than 70 exuviae (shed skins of the nymphs), but they also recovered living nymphs which had them jumping up and down with excitement!

Back in their hotel room they had set up an aquarium where Christophe, who is a photographer of distinction, could take pictures in a controlled setting. It was here that our rare Vagrant Emperor nymphs were brought and here that the first ever photos of the species ‘hatching’ into the beautiful adult were taken. It was also where the ‘skins’ were dried and made ready for transporting back to Holland (and, as I learned yesterday, all over the world for use by other researchers).

God knows what the cleaning lady thought!

Last year, by way of thank you for the help I was able to give them, the guys sent me what they described as a ‘special’ gift – except it didn’t arrive! Fortunately, three months later it turned up back with them in Holland, so they had another go. A couple of days ago it arrived, it had only taken six weeks this time! At least the PTT delivered it to my house, which is a first, and I only had to pay 5TL for the customs duty, which was not!

When it was handed over I was glad I hadn’t had to collect it because it weighed in at a whopping 4.2kgs! What was it? A book! The title? ‘Die Orchideen der Türkei’, this is the definitive reference to the orchids of Turkey and no, I don’t speak German! Doesn’t matter; the pictures are fabulous and everyone reads Latin, don’t they?

Seriously, this is a book to die for and Christophe and Ewoud knew of my love for these amazing plants. (This is becoming a post of ‘superlatives’.) Sending it cost a small fortune at €27.60; in fact two small fortunes!

With the book were two of Christophe’s superb photos and showing you these is really what this post is about. Although he uses top of the range Canon equipment, stuff that would have J cast me into the wilderness if I so much as look at it, it takes more than good gear to take good pictures. This guy describes himself as an amateur . . you tell me.

These photos cannot do justice to the originals which each had a file size in excess of 1 gigabyte. None the less, beautiful, or what?

Anax ephippiger Vagrant Emperor nymph
Vagrant Emperor nymph
Anax ephippiger Vagrant Emperor male
Vagrant Emperor male

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü