Well, I have some time before breakfast on my third day in North Cyprus to update my beloved blog. No pictures though, haven’t been able to upload any yet.
Yesterday I had a mini-adventure. I had planned to go to Bellapais Abbey to search for the three species of lizards I had seen there in October: common, or starred, agama (Laudakia stellio); Schreiber’s fringe-toed lizard (Acanthodactylus schreibersi); and the endemic Troodos lizard (Phoenicolacerta troodica). The abbey is some five miles from where I am staying in the coastal town of Kyrenia (Turkish name: Girne). It dates to the 13th century, and is still relatively complete, with many of the rooms still almost intact.
I began to search for the lizards, and maybe even snakes, as soon as I got there, but was beginning to become disillusioned; what had happened in the intervening six months since my last visit to the abbey to make the lizards disappear? After about half an hour of vigorous observations, I finally managed to see and photograph a single female Troodos lizard basking in the sun on a low wall. No males, no agamas, no snakes either. Since it is breeding season, I expected to see many times more than in October, with the male Troodos lizards displaying and defending their territories against other males… they turn bright blue-green at this time of year. No males sighted at Bellapais this time. Something I realized whilst there was that the weather was significantly windy and not very hot. Perhaps the reptiles were put off basking for fear of falling off their sunloungers and being eaten by the feral cats and dogs that roam the place looking for morsels of food.
In slight disillusion, I decided to try and find a lake I had heard about and had seen on Google Earth. The lake is located north of the village (town?) of Gönyeli. After asking locals where the “reservoir” is (this is what I was led to believe it was known as), we ended up at a large water barrel, not what I had in mind. At least it was high up; the vantage point gave me a clear view of the azure-blue lake not far in the distance. The road is dirt track and unpaved; my dad is driving a car without 4-wheel drive, and is getting stuck in pot-holes every couple of seconds. Needless to say, with perseverance we managed to get near enough to the edge of the lake to park the car and walk down the steep slope towards the lake margin.
The margins of the lake are what I would call polluted. Bottles, cans, and all other sorts of man-made debris litter the side, and the outer metre or so of the lake was covered in gloopy, thick algae, a sign of increased nutrients in the water from excessive nitrate input. I was on the lookout for marsh frogs (Pelophylax ridibundus) and stripe-necked terrapins (Mauremys rivulata), but found none. The lake is large (I will get an area estimate next time I check Google Earth) with a deep area in the centre which must persevere throughout severe drought periods in the Cypriot summer.
I did see plenty of swallows (Hirundo rustica) around the lake, and in the village at Bellapais. Other small birds were visible, but were probably house sparrows (Passer domesticus). I think coots (Fulica atra) were present in the deeper reaches of the pond. I decided to navigate my way around about a quarter of the perimeter the pond to appreciate the stunning vista and look for wildlife. Large red dragonflies hovered about the place, but none stayed still enough in the wind to allow me to take a photograph. I pushed through tall reeds and managed to avoid putting my foot in the algal goo. After a short walk to a nice spit where I could take photos, I returned to the car, seeing several more Troodos lizards and possibly some fringe-toed lizards, but they were so fast I don’t think I photographed any.
Today I’m hoping to visit the northwestern part of the island, to an isolated village with reservoir, and to the cape at the tip, known variously as Cape Kormakitis in Greek, or Korusan in Turkish. I will report on that shortly, hopefully, so stay tuned!