Eleochorio

The hill village of Eleochorio perches on the edge of a wooded ravine;
most of the houses are empty, some crumbling away and others just used by visiting families. On the cliffs below at least two pairs of kestrels and a raven nest; the red-rumped swallows fly around the church and houses at the top of the hill. There are buzzards and a distant pair of short-toed eagles but the evening is quiet except for the chittering kestrels. The view of the valley is one of a single olive grove carved into the steep wooded slope. There are other old terraces marked by stone walls that have reverted to maquis and young oak woodland. This is a once populous land that is emptying of people and steadily being reclaimed by nature.

The weather in mid April is unseasonally cool and grey. The honey bees are aggressive and the other insects difficult to find. An Aesculapian snake sits curled in a gap in the brambles in the local olive grove with a sloughed skin nearby. Then it suddenly changes; the last week is glass blue sea and sky; the temperature lifts and the butterflies start to appear. The local olive grove is full of insects as the incessant sun rapidly turns flowers to seed and the green sward starts to yellow.

Glanville fritillaries are suddenly in every sheltered patch; long-tailed blues are rarer and more difficult to locate. Common blue, brown argus, large wall brown and painted lady are abundant along the tracksides. Mallow skipper, large heath and small copper are frequent. The flower heads are full of a dizzying array of feeding beetles and bees. There is a constant loud buzz. Grasshoppers spring away on approach and day flying moths zig zag low over the ground to disappear into the sward. The richness and quantity of invertebrates is a reminder of what the northern European landscape has lost in return for four tons of wheat per hectare.

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