Where is Symi?
Symi is one of the Dodecanese islands of Greece. Although it’s hot, with temperatures up to 40 degrees Celsius (105 Fahrenheit) in summer, and dry, with desert-like bluffs above the beaches and very little fresh water, it’s described as a romantic natural paradise and regularly visited by “day trip” ferries. A Guardian reporter rates it among the nicest places to stay in the Greek islands. Symi boasts 850 animal species, 109 butterfly species, and 50 different kinds of wild orchids. (Feral dogs and cats hardly count; they’re being rescued and re-tamed. [http://symianimalwelfare.org/stories.html]) The island has green as well as sandy spaces. It gets some rain, and was once known for its hardwood trees, although it no longer has forests.
Top 15 interesting wild animals…
- Geckos. In real life their colors vary, and they don’t speak even imperfect BBC English. Having a Hemidactylus turcicus in the house is supposed to bring good luck. There are two kinds of geckos on Symi, the Turkish Gecko and Kotschy’s Gecko (Mediodactylus kotschyi). [http://symifloraandfauna.jigsy.com/entries/general/turkish-gecko-2]
- Skinks. Chalcides occellatus, with their attractive beige, black, and white patterned coats, show up on so many Symi wildlife blogs that you might suspect the animals enjoy posing for pictures. Trachylephis aurata are less common; their backs are more of a pale copper color than bright gold.
- Toads. Bufo viridis really have green spots and, as documented by Matt Wilson, they really can be found in holes.
- Tortoises. Testudo graeca is the Spur-thighed Tortoise, not the Greek Tortoise, as might be expected. Their elegantly neutral-colored shells show that “tortoise shell” means black and orange spots only in the context of cats.
- Black whip snakes. Everybody seems to find multiple opportunities to snap a shot of Dolichophus jugularis. Matt Wilson found a young excitable whip snake who may have resented being photographed, enough to chomp aggressively on his finger; they’re harmless. [https://mwilsonherps.wordpress.com/trip-reports/symi/]
- Starred agama. This charcoal-gray lizard, Laudakia stellio, has spiky, armor-like scales and an eyebrow line that give him a tough guy look.
- Pipits. The throat of the red-throated pipit, Anthus cervinus, is about as red as the belly of the red-bellied woodpecker.
- Green lizards. Adult male Lacerta trilineata are a real neon green, flecked with dark pine green. Others are greenish. The famous TV “gecko” may get his colors from somebody’s confused memory of pictures of geckos and green lizards…but they’re different kinds of animal. [http://carlcorbidgefieldherping.blogspot.com/2012/04/field-trip-to-greek-island-of-rhodes.html]
- Hooded crows. Far from being “black as a crow” all over, Corvus corone (what the British mean by “hoodies”) are a kind of crows with black heads, black wings, and pale taupe body feathers.
- Kestrels. For Americans the attraction may be seeing how much European kestrels resemble ours. In fact kestrels, like green herons, are almost global. Fauco naumani is different from our Fauco sparverius, but crossbreeding would be possible.
- Bee eaters. The original “golden throats” in the genus Merops show their yellow neck feathers clearly even when you see them from below while they’re perched on telephone lines.
- Blue Rock Thrush. Monticola solitarius is the European counterpart to our bluebirds. Instead of being blue with a red breast, the Blue Rock Thrush is blue all over.
- Feral goats. At a “warnings” web site for Symi, the worst “dangers” discussed are problems with water-flush toilets on an island with limited water supplies…and a traditional contest to put on the noisiest fireworks displays…and goats that roam the beaches and may search visitors’ bags for food. “Once you get used to them, the goats are quite sweet.” [http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Europe/Greece/Prefecture_of_the_Dodecanese_Islands/Symi-417736/Warnings_or_Dangers-Symi-TG-C-1.html]
- Hoopoes. The wildlife blogs mentioned Upupa epops but didn’t show a good clear photo of these unusual birds. Wikipedia has one. Linnaeus thought these crow-sized birds were related to the ibis because of the shapes of their bills. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoopoe]
- Black storks. Most European storks are white; Symi wildlife bloggers mention black ones. Yes, Ciconia nigra is a separate species. Again, Wikipedia has photos. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_stork]
This is not to suggest that animals are the island’s only attraction…
Even flowers and butterflies aren’t Symi’s only attraction. There’s a town with shops, restaurants, places to stay, and a beautiful historic monastery, as well.