Woodchat Shrike

THE CONES of this cypress have 12 scales. On this fallen fragment the dark green scaly leaflets have dried to ochre brown. In colour, shape and texture these plates, and the tiny scales that cover the leaf stems when seen through a hand lens, remind me of the armour of an armadillo.

10.34 a.m.; the Woodchat Shrike is a summer visitor to Corfu. At 18 cm, it’s almost Song Thrush size.

This bird (right) looked very much like a buzzard but birds of prey are so difficult to identify, especially when circling against a bright sky. We saw two later and heard a buzzard-like peevish ‘mewing’ call.

As I drew this flower at the car parking area at our apartments I didn’t realise that it was a buttercup; the petals are more pointed than those of our British buttercups but I should have guessed as its mace-like seed-heads remind me of the largest of our native buttercups, Kingcups.

The nearest that I can find in the book is Jersey Buttercup, Ranunculus paludosus, which fits in almost every detail, except that I wouldn’t have described it as a ‘hairy perennial’.

I tried pencil when I started drawing the buttercup but soon resorted to the precision of a 01 sized nibbed Pilot Drawing Pen. I didn’t bring my favourite ArtPen with me because, as a fountain pen, it has a tendency to go blotty after being taken on a plane because of the pressure difference. A selection of Pilot Drawing Pens will be fine for the all too short time that we’re here.

11.40 a.m.; Soft quizzical two note call of a Jay. If flies down to a shady spot then up to the branch of an olive. It eats whatever it picked up – an olive or a snail? – then wipes its bill on the branch.

Temp. 29°C, 50% cumulus

Despite the name, Woolly Trefoil, Trifolium tomentosum, is hairless but as the flowerhead grows it becomes more rounded and woolly. These plants at the car parking area were up to 20 cm (8 inches) tall with flowerheads spreading to 1 cm. It is the dominant plant on areas where limestone chippings have been spread.

I draw these spiral seed-pods alongside my sketch of trefoil flowers later, thinking that they belong to it, but they’re actually those of the appropriately named Large Disk Medick, Medicago orbicularis. It grows alongside the trefoil by a path through the olives.

12.50 p.m.; A small, hovering bee-fly, 8 mm long with a straight tongue almost as long again, like a tiny flying kiwi, visits red and white clovers.

1.40 p.m., Benitses Taverna; A large black bumble-bee with blue on it’s rear end has a different, more direct flight to our bumbling varieties. It’s a Carpenter Bee, perhaps Xylocopa violacea.

The Canary Island Date Palm, Phoenix canariensis, introduced and planted widely around the Mediterranean, has inedible fruits.

I’m trying to get in holiday mood, so I feel that I should be trying media that I wouldn’t normally use for my regular work so I did try starting to draw the palm with an Artline ErgoLine Calligraphy Pen with a 2 millimetre nib, a pen that my illustrator friend John Welding is experimenting with at the moment. He gave me this one to try out but the unfamiliar feel made it seem a bit awkward for me, so again, as with the pencil, I went back to my everyday media.

Some day I will experiment! But I’m only here for a week and there is so much to draw so I need to get on with it in reassuringly familiar pen and watercolour wash. At least I drew the palm in pencil rather than ink!

Not so easy to identify when you see it in the water when its legs are hidden, this gull closely resembles our Herring Gull but, as we would have seen immediately if it had been standing on the rocks by the harbour, it’s actually a Yellow-legged Gull, a familiar species in the Mediterranean.

The Beech Marten, Martes foina, was, as many of them unfortunately are, a roadside casualty. It was about the size of a slim, small cat.

This Whinchat was perching on a wire by the substantial ruins of the Roman baths on the slope behind the sea-front properties at Benitses.

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