Little owls, butterflies and ancient monuments

I have found a good spot: a small taverna beside the boatyard, away from the town and near to the old castle walls. Soulful Greek music is playing in the background and there are some sunbeds on which to lounge. A white pathway of sunlight stretches across the water from the tiny wave-breaks on the shore to the distant grey-blue mountains; gradually narrowing as the sun gets lower. I’ll sit here a while and recollect this glorious day.

It begins with a 12km walk around the coastline to the famous Greek temple of Hera. Only one column remains out of the once 155, but the setting and the discoveries made there give the place a timeless and eerie quality. It makes our own life span seem nothing over the course of the millennia that these stones have stood. My footsteps adding to all those who have walked the ancient pavements before me.  The Heraion temple was the largest Greek temple ever to be built and is one of the most important sanctuaries of ancient Greece.

The walk there and amongst the historic stonework rewards me with some wonderful wildlife moments: three little owls, ten species of butterfly, a snake, a praying mantis, two terrapins, a marsh harrier, an egret, noisy, peeping pipits, black redstarts, wagtails, great tits, jays and warblers too difficult to identify.

Out of this bounty, my favourite are the little owls with their fierce squinty eyes that stare at you; all seeing and all knowing, and their silly, white fluffy legs. Their heads can turn 270 degrees, they sometimes run on the ground trying to catch their prey and they roost in all sorts of holes and crevices even rabbit burrows. I hardly ever see them at home. In fact I have only seen four in the UK over the last ten years, but during this last week in Greece I have seen five of them. Each one a joy.  It would have been worth the effort if the owls were all I saw.

The day’s activity finishes with an adventurous snorkel around the base of the ruined castle and a lounge in the warm sunshine relishing the salty feel of the ocean on my skin. Finally a small glass of local wine whilst I watch the sun go down and the moon rise; a perfect Sunday late afternoon/early evening.