Threatened beauty

“What about nature in Cyprus?” you might ask. “Where are the birds, the mammals?”
Let’s start with the most famous eye-catchers: the flamingos. South of Larnaca, in the salt lakes. Larges groups and easy to see.

Apart from the flamingos, the first few days I hardly saw any birds. Very disappointing. A few common stonechats (Saxicola rubicola) – don’t need to go to Cyprus to see them. This one showed up shortly after sunrise, in the early orange light.

I soon found out why I saw so few birds. They are afraid! It is quite dangerous to be beautiful. In Cyprus, people shoot. Right after my beach house, there was a small nature reserve with a salt marsh. Information panels proudly stated how special the vegetation was. There were huge signs: Nature conservation area. No Hunting! And right after these signs, you find the empty shells. One at least at every 20 meter. No wonder I didn’t see any birds. And the ones I did see – quite special, endemic species – kept well hidden and so far away, that it was pointless to try and take pictures. I do Like Cyprus, but the hunting and shooting – even in nature reserves! – is awful.

Lots of lizards though. For instance this rock agame near Aphrodite’s bath. Previously this reptile was considered a subspecies of Laudakia stellio, but DNA research showed that Cyprus truly has its own endemic species: Laudakia cypriaca.

And another lizard, Schreiber’s fringe-fingered lizard (Acanthodactylus schreiberi). Quite a lot of them – even saw one on the beach.

Lots of dragonflies as well here. For instance the globe skimmer (Pantala flavescens) – a species found all over the world, able to migrate many thousands of miles during the year.

So what about the mammals in Cyprus? Of course they are present, but very, very well hidden. In between the shells, the silent witnesses of hunting in nature conservation areas, I also found fresh footprints of roe deer. The kind of deer that I can see almost daily where I live, where hunting is largely banned, but that are invisible ghosts here.

With these final remarks, I close off with some shaky air during another stunning sunrise.

Aphrodite’s bath

According to the legends, there is a pond near Polis in the north of Cyprus where the goddess of love and fertility and beauty used to take her bath when she was tired after a long walk in the mountains. This is the place where she met Adonis, and both of them bathed together. Not really a waterfall, just a cave where small streams of water are dripping from the rocks in a tiny pond. Not allowed to go into the water nowadays. But we have touched the water and felt it flowing through our fingers.

The nicest way to enter Aphrodite’s bath is through the botanical garden of Polis. Lush vegetation, lots of birds singing… no wonder the goddess loved to walk here. But then, right across the street there was a good restaurant – cleverly named ‘Aphrodite’s bath’ – with a breathtaking view over coast. An excellent moussaka and this great view – is there anything more one could wish for?

Did I mention that we had the most beautiful sunrises? Every morning I woke up at six and took my coffee to the beach. Taking  a swim in the orange water, and watching the first runners passing by.

How to improvise in the dark

So I was in the UK this weekend, visiting my daughter. Thought it would be a good idea to enjoy the seaside and try to capture the Durdle Door rock formation with a milky way background. The weather forecast wasn´t great, but we went anyway.

At the beach I saw I had made a terrible mistake. I had taken a lightweight travel tripod from home, but at the last moment I had changed the head (the thingy that connects your tripod to the camera). I tried to assemble it, but it didn’t fit. Tripod and head were from different systems. You know that feeling when all the blood in your body seems to flush down through your toes into the sand?

There I was, thousands of kilometres flying and many hours driving from home, after sunset on a deserted beach. With just this one night, this one opportunity here. I owe my brave daughter a huge thanks that she insisted we stayed – even when it got dark and cold. And I improvised. Tried the limits of the equipment I had. For instance that 15 mm wide angle lens: Would it be possible to take pictures with a shutter speed of a whole second right out of the hand? I have shaky hands, and this lens did not have any shake reduction at all. But the wide angle saved me. You may be the judge; I think it’s good enough to present here.

The milky way was also shot out of the hand, lying down on the beach with the camera resting on the bag for support, With a full 5 seconds exposure. The result was far better than I expected.

Of course, I would have wanted pictures of the rock formation with a shutter speed of 30 seconds or more, to see details. And I would have loved to take the milky way with 20 or 30 seconds, to get more clear and profound details. And I would have wanted to use the auto – noise reduction of the camera. But it is what it is, and I am really happy with this no-tripod experiments.

The good news is: I have an incentive to once again visit this beautiful part of Dorset, with fairy tale like villages such as Lulworth and Corfe Castle village and Man O’War beach. And next time, with a complete and functional tripod.

Artisanal beadwork

Joke van Biesen creates art from beads, meticulously and patiently, often following her own designs. The Dutch word is ‘sieraden’, which translates into jewelry with a high-end connotation of valuable metals and crystals, or adornments with a low-end connotation of decorations. Art, let’s keep it at that.

Beadwork it’s called. I had never heard of beadwork but found out that there is a worldwide community, with art fairs that attracts visitors from many different countries. My first thought was that I would never have the patience to sit day by day stringing all these tiny beads on thin threads. And then I thought: actually there isn’t much difference with what I do: imagining an idea, focusing while working and most of all sitting many hours behind a computer screen for post-processing.

I like taking pictures of her art, this time with daughter Nora modelling (who also posed at Het meisje met het sieraad). And I’m really happy when I see the results, and how the pictures are used to share her work with that worldwide audience.

Scorching heat

Another heatwave this year. You would think we would get accustomed to them, but no. The land dries out. Great times however to enjoy a beach sunset.

I did a little streetphotography – the beach variety. Two passers-by were willing to pose against the setting sun.

Tropical paradise in the Atlantic climate.

It’s worth to wait until after sunset for the ‘blue hour’. So beautiful!


Oh yes, my phone complained as well that it was really hot this weekend!

And there’s nature back home

A little more nature here, but now from Netherlands. These pictures are taken during a work-visit to a nature reserve in the dunes. First the the tree frog – boomkikker above. Genetic research proved that this population originated somewhere in the Mediterranean. Probably deliberately released, which could lead to a loss of genetic diversity.

Azure bluet – azuurwaterjuffer. Common in this part of Europe.

Lots of marsh helleborine – moeraswespenorchis here. Quite rare in the Netherlands, but if the water quality is okay it can pop up with a lot of enthusiasm.

Grasshopper – but what species? I’m afraid I don’t know, so feel free to leave your guess.

Another grasshopper, the great green bush-cricket – grote groene sabelsprinkhaan.

Parnassia, one of my favorites. Used to be quite rare, but thanks to the efforts of nature conservation organizations they have returned. Every day, one stamen rises until all five of them are standing up.

Last one: the common midwife toad. Also alien to this area, so probably also deliberately released. This was a young one. It still has it’s tadpole tail.

Still too much…

Previous post I said: Thousands of pictures. Too much nature. I´ll keep it brief this time.

First of all, that blue dragonfly above. I’m not sure of the species, it might indeed just be ´Blue dragonfly´. Feel free to mention the name if you know it. Same for the yellow one below. If you know the species, let me know! Both of them were resting in a small nature reserve between Savannah and Beaufort.

What´s next? An encounter with a snake near Chattahoochee river. Common garter, friendly and not poisonous. So no worries.

Sand martin. Whole families were learning their offspring to fly and hunt for insects above the river.

Another bird, a killdeer (why that name?). Common kind of plover. Picture taken while canoeing – it’s really great to jump in a canoe on a sunny day!

This one was taken in the city of Atlanta, Memorial Park, a few months ago. Some kind of mushroom – tried to capture the lightness and luminousity of it.

Last one to close this series: the bamboo forest at the banks of the river.

Too much nature!

Every time in the USA I am overwhelmed by the abundance of nature. There is so much to see! I come home with thousands of pictures. Let me show a few of them here.

I woke up with birds singing, and they kept on singing all day long. You don’t need to go out to do birding, you can just sit on your veranda and they come to you. The intense red of the Northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) – just can’t stop taking pictures! I have them hunting for insects in the grass, singing and hiding in the bushes, but this one I like most: sunbathing in the scorching sun.

Then the eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis). Such beautiful colours! Funny, the nuthatch in the Netherlands has almost the same colours, but is a little paler.

“Look at those cute squirrels!”
I was immediately corrected. “They are not cute. They are rats with a tail. They climb through the rain gutter, come into the house. They gnaw and make a huge mess!”
“They won’t be that bad will they?” I thought. But indeed. They’re everywhere. Really everywhere, in huge numbers, in and around the houses.
In Europe, the grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is considered an invasive alien species. They eradicated the indigenous red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) in most of the United Kingdom, as they are bigger, stronger and resistant to squirrel diseases they carry.

“What about those chipmunks? Those ‘ground squirrels’, as we call them?”
“Less bad than the grey squirrels. But I still don’t need them in the garden. They dig holes everywhere.”
I have to t confess: last week in my garden back home I saw mouse holes. Shrews probably, there are a lot of them here. And my first thought was: How do I get those bloody mice out of my garden?
Anyhow, the Eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) is not considered an invasive species in Europe. But it’s nephew, the Siberian chipmunk (Tamias sibiricus) is.

Another unwelcome animal. That is: In Europe again. Many red eared sliders (Trachemys scripta) have been imported as pets. So cute, these tiny baby-sliders with their flip-flop-feet! But baby sliders grow big, too big for small aquariums, and the entire house starts to smell. Eventually all these imported pet sliders are dumped in nature. No one wants to kill his pet, and the animal shelters are full. The pet industry doesn’t care – when a European ban on import and trade was imminent, thousands of extra baby sliders were rapidly imported and ‘put in storage’. To be able to continue selling them for some time after the ban. Anyhow, the one on the picture is enjoying his natural habitat. In the USA.

– To be continued –

Chasing waterfalls

‘Don’t go chasing waterfalls,’ TLC sings. The expression puzzles me, for I can’t combine the beautiful image of waterfalls with bad or self-destructive behaviour, what the song is about. I love waterfalls. Probably because I live in the Netherlands, a country devoid of any. So when I’m abroad, I don’t miss a chance to visit one. If you would come to my house, you’d find one printed as wallpaper. I sleep under my own waterfall, every night. ‘Don’t go jumping waterfalls,’ Paul McCartney sings. Now that I do understand. Jumping them would be very unwise indeed.

Here’s a few waterfalls from the last USA trips. Amicalola, Cloudland canyon and Big canoe. The names alone are enough to make me dream away into different worlds.