Early April on the Mani

There are days of blue sky and cool winds and others where the land is drenched by great thunderstorms or smothered by blankets of grey cloud that creep over the mountains to slowly suffocate the coast. The sea is often blue glass and sunsets a simple wash of orange; under grey skies there is often an afternoon silvery seascape; when the sinking sun breaks through the rain clouds then the sunsets are briefly dramatic. There is rarely a day when the scenery of cliffs and coastline or hill top villages and terraced olive groves against a backdrop of imposing bare hills and distant mountains is not effortlessly spectacular.

As Spring runs on, the olive groves and hillsides are changing; long grass and tall herbs are emerging. The Jerusalem sage and pink sage is out everywhere now and roadsides are perfect herbaceous borders. The trees are coming into leaf and the mid hills are coming alive with plants that have in many cases gone over at the coast.

The plants include Campanula ramossissima in a field of bewildering variety; here there are two species of Orobanche and Ophrys mammosa. Ophrys lutea is appearing in the olive groves and waysides in the mid hills having gone over on the coast at least two week ago. In the olive groves, Orchis italica is taking over from the dying giant orchids Barlia robertiana; where terraces are cleared, Ophrys, pink butterfly Orchis papilionacea and four-spotted orchids Orchis quadripunctata, along with numerous vetches are widespread.

The butterflies are widespread species such as brown argus, common blue, small heath and small copper but the earliest was green underside blue. Day flying moths are common in old pastures but usually a fleeting blur in the kicked grass.

In the mid hills are remnant raised paths called Kalderimi that run from village to village through the macchie, such as the one that runs up the hill between Kotroni and Pigi; these are beautifully constructed of stone blocks and were used when mules and donkeys were the principal means of transporting goods. Some are remarkably intact but others are gently disappearing into the wilderness. The paths are literally limestone pavements full of plants and ferns.

There are only a few sightings of snakes but glass lizards are now emerging, sitting and waiting on stone walls for a hapless lizard or probably anything edible to pass by. More migrant birds are appearing, redstarts, pied flycatchers and wheatears; hoopoes turn up in ones and two and nightingales are starting to sing from the dense scrub. The sea remains empty of seabirds except for a handful of herring gulls that patrol the coast; these never stray over the fishing villages to harry the occupants of the increasing number of seaside cafes and restaurants.

2 Replies to “Early April on the Mani”

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