Incredible Okçular!

. . It’s A Duck!

The last post (blogging as opposed to bugle calls) had J and me diving out of the house for a breath of fresh air between the downpouring, monsoon-like rains. We decided to wander around to our beautiful Kocadere Valley and check the water flow situation and see what we could see along the way. Flowing water is only visible in the valley after heavy rain as it generally flows underground so it would be a chance to get a few photographic impressions.

Kocadere is, in my opinion, an impressively beautiful place and it’s hard not to feel a sense of deep satisfaction at having been instrumental, along with many others, in helping to preserve its uniqueness whenever I walk there. It is, after all, the home of many rare or beautiful species of flora and fauna.

Iurus dufoureius ssp asiaticus (4)_1

Iurus dufoureius – Europe’s largest scorpion and one of the rarest

Alkanna muhglae

Alkanna muhglae – in all its glory

Lyciasalamandra fazliae

Lyciasalamandra fazliae – Fire Salamander


rushing water and towering cliffs


Whilst we were poking around inside the valley we spotted these beautiful Horseshoe Orchids . .

Horseshoe Ophrys

Ophrys ferrum-equinum – Horseshoe Ophrys

Horseshoe Ophrys

. . amidst masses of Crown Anemones.

crown Anemone

We also gathered an audience who were very curious about what we were up to . .

kocadere sheep
The real highlight of the day happened on the way to the valley when we had to divert off the track and through an olive grove because of flooding. There, under a couple of the trees lay a group of Ophrys (a large family usually referred to as Bee Orchids) of a species that I had not seen before.

Orchids in general and Ophrys in particular can be notoriously difficult to pigeon-hole because of their ‘life-style’ which is best described as promiscuous! Here is a quote from the research unit at Reading University;

‘Orchids can often generate great taxonomic challenges due to interspecific and even intergeneric hybridization. However they are often eye-catching and something people want to be able to identify with confidence. With Ophrys, at least, the more specimens you see the more convinced you become that the plants are not following any rule book when it comes to behaving as species, and genes flow between one species and another to form recognizable hybrids and sometime these give rise to new species.’

In other words, they sleep around a bit and not just with their own! (if I may be permitted such a politically incorrect term) Anyway, when we got home out came my various reference books and for me it has to be Ophrys isrealitica so-called because it was first recorded and tagged in Israel in 1988. I sent photos to various (orchid) groups who did not dissent and also put it up on Facebook for those who are interested because, although not rare for the Eastern Mediterranean or several of the Aegean Islands, it has not been recorded this far west here in Turkey.

There was one person who questioned the ident, but as a non-academic enthusiast without access to sophisticated DNA analysis equipment – if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck – it’s a duck!

Ophrys isrealitica

Ophrys isrealitica

Ophrys isrealitica

And it’s another new species for Okçular – I think that is 39 now!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

ps the stormy weather seems to have done many strange things including messing up my previous WP theme. I’m not that enamoured of this one, but it will have to do until I summon up the will to do something about it.


Puffing Zephyrs With Joseph Pujol

J and I woke up this morning to a truly beautiful day; the sun was shining in a blue and nearly cloudless sky; the birds were twitting; the air felt crisp and clean after the torrential rain and a walk beckoned.

Alkanna mughlae
one of the rarest plants on the planet Alkanna mughlae critically endangered endemic

We set out for a short wander to Kocadere Vadi (Valley), a truly beautiful place that seven years ago we were fighting alongside fellow villagers to preserve from the despoilers who wanted to quarry it out and build a cement factory. Kocadere is home to some critically endangered flora and fauna as well as being visually stunning!

Anyway, all that aside, we were, as I said, ambling along accompanied by the

Le Petomane farter extradinaire
Joseph Pujol 'Le Petomane' the perfect gentleman

twittering of birds, the tinkling of running water and the occasional interjection from various wind instruments. All of which soon had me thinking about a certain Monsieur Joseph Pujol, aka ‘Le Pétomane’, a very famous entertainer of his day. More of him shortly . .

Before that I need to fill in with a few minor bits of information: A number of years ago J and I were stopped short by a very worrying medical report that had our blood pressure and cholesterol going through the roof. We had not been very sensible about what we considered to be good, healthy farm produce. Shock duly applied and noted, we determined that from that moment forward we would eat less dairy and red meat stuff and tuck in with gusto to lots more vegetables. This was sensible and has proved to be a life lengthening policy as our condition is stabilised (pretty much).

Which brings me nicely to the link between walking, vegetables, music and Monsieur Le Pétomane – namely, flatulence!

Young Joseph discovered at a very early age that he had the ultimate trick up his grubby trouser leg for impressing other young boys who measure status by how far one can spit or how high up a wall one can pee. When I was 10 years old, the fact that Raymond Castle (may this disclosure get him sacked as captain of his golf club) could pee right over the lavvy wall really impressed me but left me totally pissed off! Joseph Pujol had such control over his abdominal muscles that he could suck up water via his anus and then jet it out over a distance of several metres! After he joined the army he was able to entertain and delight one and all with displays of his prowess, and, no doubt get out of boring ‘fatigues’ as we called unpleasant chores.

About this time he learned that he could also ingest air via the same orifice and expel it under control using his sphincter muscles and produce satisfyingly musical or theatrical effects.

Joseph Pujol Le PetomaneBy 1892 he was the star attraction at the Moulin Rouge performing for such luminaries as the Prince of Wales and Sigmund Freud, who probably based an entire branch of psychiatry about anal retentivity on the show! The highlights of his performances include blowing out a candle from several metres away; sound effects such as thunder and cannon fire; such renditions as ‘O Sole Mio’ and ‘La Marseillaise’ which he played on an ocarina with a rubber tube stuffed up his arse! Ladies and gentlemen, I kid you not – go check out on the internet.

After taking his show on the road he added a sort of ‘Old MacDonald’s Farm’ ditty with appropriate animal sound effects and the pièce de résistance was his stunning farting impression of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906! I bet that brought the house down!

The maestro retired in 1916 and died in 1945. We will not see his like again! Or so I thought. Which brings me very nicely full circle and back to my walk with J this morning. As I am under a ‘serious and imminent threat’ (to quote successive US presidents) of retaliation or even a pre-emptive first strike if I dare to mention J’s name in association with any of this, I will not. Suffice it to say that we both eat an awful lot of vegetables; we are both getting older (and you know what happens to your muscles as you age; ‘Slack Alice’ was not a teenager!) and J is a graduate of the once prestigious London School of Music!!!

hilarious silent film from 1900 like listening to a ventriloquist on the radio!!

just as funny!

Alan Fenn,Okçular Köyü


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Incredible Okçular!

Driving The ‘Evil-Doers’ Out Of Paradise

Alkanna mughlae (not a rose by any other name!)

This is the story of a ‘Wallflower’; a ‘Shrinking Violet’ so retiring in nature as to be overlooked and passed by ever since clever people began giving things names and fitting them into ‘boxes’.

Kocadere Valley - unique!

This is the story of a plant; an insignificant member of the Borage family which has over 2000 species. A plant with relatives that have wonderful names; names like ‘Viper’s Bugloss’, ‘Patterson’s Curse’, ‘Hound’s Tongue’, ‘Fiddleneck’, ‘Geiger Tree’, ‘Lungwort’ and ‘Forget-Me-Not’. Names that conjure up phantasmagorical images and have you wondering how such a monika could come about.

This is the story of a plant that doesn’t have a fancy or poetic name; a plant so secretive that it only came to the attention of science just over 10 years ago, in 1998. A plant so rare that it was known to exist in only two isolated and deliberately unpublicised places on Planet Earth; both of them in Muğla Province, here in Turkey. Isolated, that is, until I ‘discovered’ and photographed it growing in Kocadere Valley, Okçular.

‘Discovered’? Huh! What a joke that is. In order to discover something you have to have some idea that it is there to be discovered; that what you are looking at is new to science or to an area – it certainly has to be new to something! As far as I was concerned it was just one of several hundred different flowering plants I’d photographed around Okçular with my new digital camera toy. The camera was my obsession of the moment, not wading through my shelves of reference books looking for labels. I was collecting pics of flowers like little boys used to collect stamps, some ‘twitchers’ log birds in a book and traffic wardens collect car numbers! It was not a scientific exercise. Anyway, this plant was not that much to look at when lined up along side so many other beauties.

a lot of professors

When outsiders threatened to turn Kocadere Valley into a quarry and cement works; destroying its unrivaled flora and fauna, I sent CDs of every species I had to whoever I thought might be able to help. Within a few days, to my utter amazement, we had professors and students from İstanbul, Bolu and Ankara universities hammering at our door, all demanding to know one thing – ‘Where is this plant?’ ‘Why?’ asked I. ‘Because this is Alkanna mughlae – one of the rarest plants on earth!’ ‘Come with me’ I said, ‘but it can’t be that rare, it’s growing all over the place in Kocadere!’

Alkanna mughlae (critically endangered endemic)

And so it came to pass that a modest beauty queen of exceptional rarity joined forces with a few activists and a lot of very determined villagers and cast down the idol to Mammon and drove his ‘evil-doers’ out of our village and out of the biologically unique paradise that is Kocadere Valley – forever! Kocadere and Princess Alkanna of Muğla are safe and ready to welcome those who cherish modesty, beauty and the treasures that are our birthright.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü