Sunday, June 5, 2016

The beasts from my garden

Guess what - I'm going to complain about the weather again. This year we didn't have icy rain or flooding or any other big catastrophes, but it's been very strange. Even now in June we still have April weather. But it sure beats April, when we still had winter and 20 cm of snow. But it is getting warmer and lots of flowers are blooming around our house and veggies are growing in my garden, we are already eating lots of our own grown lettuce and asparagus, and also strawberries. Other things like beans, tomatoes, paprika and cucumbers still need some time and warmth and are not even blooming yet.

Because of cold and rainy weather my garden is a bit more overgrown than usual, weed was quite happy with the weather. And obviously are many small creatures very happy with all the weed. Almost every evening a hedgehog comes to our terrace to check if there's any leftover cat food. In the stinging nettles I saw a decent size Grass snake (Belouška or Natrix natrix) the other day and I also saw a Slow worm (Slepec or Anguis fragilis) several times, but they always disappear before I manage to get my camera. 

But there are some small animals that I managed to get on my camera. This one is a crab spider named Flower spider (Cvetni pajek or Misumena vatia). This one is a she, I guess it is the same one on all the photos, and it has the ability to adjust it's colour to the colour of the flower where she lives and hunts, it just takes a couple of days. It doesn't make a web, but it actively hunts insects.

This one is a Rose chafer (Zlata minica or Cetonia aurata), photographed in elderflower. 

I think this is also the same kind of guy as the one above, although it looks so different. But if you look closely, it has the same legs and the shape of the back is also the same, especially the small triangle. Maybe he will get the pretty golden-green colour with time. Update: this is Apple blossom chafer (Kosmata minica or Tropinota hirta).

And this is one of the prettiest beasts of them all - a Damselfly named Blue ringtail (kačji pastir po imenu Travniški škratec (in ne škrlatec) ali Coenagrion puella).

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Zabnica news and Heron update

We had a couple of warmer weeks here lately and the best thing is, everything is getting green and blooming. One of the native flowers of the area is the Chess flower (Fritillaria meleagris), or Močvirski tulipan in Slovene. It grows on wet meadows and hates fertilisers and being mown too often. And that's also why it is getting more and more rare, so finding a spot where it is in abundance is so nice.

These three are from my garden, I bought them a couple of years ago and they are still alive.

We've driven to Krk to check on Heron every once in a while. One time I found these pretty guys attached to the side of the pier. They are nudibranchs named Antiopella (Janolus cristatus), or Mehurčasta škrgarja in Slovene. They should normally live in deeper water, but these two were just below the surface. I took the photos from the outside, water was way too cold to go in.

We were in Klimno again yesterday, it was time to do spring cleaning of Heron - Tomaž took her to Crikvenica, where she was today lifted out of the water, will get a new antifouling and even be polished, and her Yanmar engine needs a bit more serious maintenance. There is also some work to be done in front head (ie toilette), and afterwards Tomaž wants to install Wallas heating unit. Lots of work...

This is Tomaž sailing Heron to mainland.

I drove back home yesterday in the afternoon, and just had to stop in the wood near Klimno to take a few photos of these lovely Spring sowbreads (Cyclamen repandum), or Primorske ciklame on Slovene.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Servicing Heron's life raft

This spring we need to renew the boat registration for Heron. Heron flies Slovenian flag and here the pleasure boat registration has to be renewed every 5 years. But before that, boat must be inspected and before that life raft and fire extinguishers must be serviced, and any expired flares replaced with new ones. It is not only time consuming, but also costly.

Getting the life raft off the boat and bringing it to the servicing shop was already a project. We waited for a weekend with reasonably nice weather, drove to Krk and got the almost 70kg heavy life raft into the dinghy, then onto the pier and then brought it to our car. It was just the two of us and I don't think we would have managed it in wet weather.

Then on another day (with reasonably nice wether) we drove it to Koper to have it serviced.

Here it is already sitting on a nice rug in servicing shop.

It was then opened...

... taken out of the plastic "shell"...

... unpacked and inflated.

The water supply...

... and the dry food was removed, both was already expired.

The raft was inflated with the air pistol similar like it is used for car tires. They didn't use the life raft's gas tank for it, or they would have to replace that too and it would cost another 100 something eur. But like the fire extinguishers the gas tank is checked for its weight and pressure too.

The plastic hose with the bag at it's end is used to capture the rain from the "roof", the quantity of water supply in life raft is not very big, just 1,5 litre per person.

There's a lot of other stuff in the raft, like the torch, batteries, flares,...

... paddles, first aid kit, survival instructions, kit for mending the raft,...

... and fishing kit. It is all checked and everything that is expired, is replaced before raft is packed back in its shell again..

This was the first time that we saw how our life raft really looks like, so we took a good look. Especially the captain. And we were both happy with it's quality.

After life raft is inflated they leave it for couple of hours to check if it is leaking. That meant that we had to leave it in the shop and would not get it back that day.

We decided to make a good use of the rest of the nice day. Our first stop was the marsh near Koper, there's a lot of birds there. We saw and heard plenty of them, but none came close enough to make a decent photo.

Not even when we were hidden behind a wall...

Our next stop was at the salt plants at Strunjan. It consists of several channels...

... and a lot of basins where the sea water is left to evaporate and the salt is then collected. Here it is all still done by hand, the old way.

In winter the salt production is not possible due to low temperatures and not enough sun, and seagulls and other birds have the basins all to themselves.

We also found this pretty jellyfish.

On early afternoon some very dark and mean clouds started to appear to the East. Later as we drove home, we saw fresh snow near Postojna (some 30km inland), that probably came from these clouds.

But looking towards West it could have been a summer day.

Our next stop was Izola. We had a very delicious pizza there, and even ate it on the terrace of the restaurant. It wasnt very warm, maybe around 12 deg C, but there was snow forecast for next couple of days, so we wanted to make the most of the sun and the weather and also the nice area.

After the lunch we made a stroll around the marina and the piers. Here are the cormorants, drying their plumage, sitting on a half sunken dinghy.

One of Izola's piers, in the back below the clouds there is already Italian coast.

We picked the life raft a week later and then drove it from Koper directly to Heron. Again it was just the two of us lifting the heavy thing from the car to dinghy and onto the boat again.

And in the meantime we also serviced fire extinguishers and replaced expired flares and successfully completed the boat inspection.

Monday, January 25, 2016

About sharks

The other day I saw a tv documentary about the sharks in Palau. As everywhere else in the world sharks are being ruthlessly finned there - "shark-finning" is the process of catching sharks, cutting off their fins and throwing the rest of the fish, still alive, back into the ocean to die. Sharks drown because they cannot swim without fins. Sharks in Palau are not fished by the locals, but by foreign ships and the fins end up mostly in China, Taipei and Honk Kong. Not only is Palau robbed of it's sharks, the profits also end up elsewhere. Locals have traditionally great respect for sharks and are aware of how important sharks are for tourism. They founded Palau Shark Sanctuary and I really hope they will succeed in protecting their sharks.

It reminded me of a adventure we had with sharks in Mauritius. In 2003 we were there on holiday and booked several scuba-diving trips with the local diving shop. Diving was really good, mostly thanks to Feroz, the dive master, that took us to great diving sites and was able to show us even the smallest beauties.

This is me...

.... and this is Feroz's hand with nudibranch on it. Sorry for the quality of photos, but these were the early days of our under-water photography.

One day Feroz suggested we should visit the site called "Shark pit". The site is at the small island several miles from Mauritius, only accessible in good weather. It took an hour to get there with fast motorboat and we planned to make two dives. First was the "Shark Pit". The site looks like a big sunken bowl, around 14m deep in the middle, with the "rims" also couple of meters under water. Waves break over these rims and the water is full of small air bubbles. It is assumed that this is the reason why sharks gather in this bowl in such a numbers, they slowly circle the bowl and enjoy oxygenated sea. It was not easy to get over the rim of the bowl through the breaking waves. Once inside, we positioned ourselves at the bottom near a big rock. And then the show begun. There were at least 15 grey reef sharks, circling the bowl, and all the time keeping their eyes on us. If we would try to get closer to them, they would swim away. So we just sat there, very still and calm, for almost an hour.

This is taken without the zoom.

This also, my eyes were really that wide.

Here you can see the bubbles in the water.

My favourite shark was the one with the broken back fin, looked a bit like a killer whale.

Other fish felt overlooked and often forced themselves in front of the camera.

Feroz and myself on the boat after the first dive.

The second dive on the other side of the island, here we are posing between the gorgonian corals.

And this is captain riding a bike, on a dive a couple of days later.

All the dives we did in Mauritius were really good, but most impressive for me was the dive at Shark pit. We were diving with sharks before, but never were we so close for such a long time. It is to day one of my best dives.

Couple of months later, as we were already at home, I saw a French documentary about Shark pit on tv. There were several divers and biologists there, diving, setting up under water cameras, and trying to understand why the sharks like that place so much. They couldn't really find the answer. And about two years later I saw again a documentary on tv (I admit, I am a tv junkie), again about sharks around Mauritius. As it turned out, after Shark pit was on tv, fishing boats came and caught and finned all the sharks and the Shark pit was empty. Biologists were able to find another place where sharks gathered near Mauritius, but didn't want to disclose the location - to prevent what happened to Shark pit from happening again. I was so sad, it seems to me such a waste to kill such a powerful and elegant animal just to take the fins.

I know sharks are not officially declared endangered like whales or sea turtles - which I would of course never eat. But I think they should be. Don't think that would impress Chinese, nor stop them, but would maybe stop the selling of Shark fin soup in the rest of the world. And in a long run, with more awareness, who knows... In the meantime, I believe that every one of us can contribute - or not - to the survival of sharks, however small the contribution. So the next time you are in Chinese restaurant, please choose some other delicious soup, not the Shark fin one.

P.S. It looks like the sharks are back at Shark pit, found couple of videos from last couple of years on Youtube, but with less sharks than we saw.