Voices From the Field (2021-06-15)

Sights & Sounds, Fauna & Flora

Gygaia Projects

Living on the slopes of the Kaymakçı ridge brings new sights and sounds of the local fauna and flora each day. The morning birds help us rise early before sunrise for fieldwork. Typically, these may include a chorus of Common (or Eurasian) Blackbirds (Turdus merula), House Sparrows (Passer domesticus), and a variety of other birds we haven’t yet identified.A chorus of morning birds. Once the sun’s risen, the woodpeckers often come knocking.

This year’s most distinctive identification so far was the rarely glimpsed but loudly heard Eurasian Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus), whose Latin name meaning something like “Goat Sucker” hints at the nature of ancient legends about its nocturnal activities.The Nightjar flies, feeds on insects, and sings by night, with an eerie effect.

Among other nightlife heard in our environs are herds of sheep and goat, whose ruminant activities keep groundcover well shorn, resulting in the pastoral landscapes so distinctive to this region.Sheep and their bells, kept in line by a canine shepherd. Goat bells. Can you tell the difference from the sheep bells?

After breakfast (and required quantities of coffee or tea!), a walk to the excavation area reveals some of the perennial and seasonal vegetation. A by-no-means scientific nor exhaustive exploration shows that most trees on the Kaymakçı ridge belong to one of three or four primary species: evergreen (Kermes or Holm?) oak (Quercus sp., coccifera or İlex?) and deciduous (Valonia) oak (Quercus ithaburensis subsp. macrolepsis), as well as wild pear (Pyrus sp., communis or amygdaliformis?) and wild almond (Amygdalus sp., likely orientalis).

Kermes or Holm (?) oak

Increasingly common to see in the local pear trees are parasitic blooms of common mistletoe (Viscum album), which appear to sap too many nutrients from some samples, ultimately killing them.

Wild pear tree with mistletoe bloom at upper left

Rarer but still common on the ridge is also Christ’s Thorn (Paliurus spina-christi), and the higher one goes up the ridge to the northwest, the more one encounters pine (Pinus sp.).

Christ’s Thorn

After the annual blooming, dying, and drying cycle of the ubiquitous asphodel (Asphodelus aestivus; Turkish or Summer Asphodel; see our post from 2 April 2021), typical groundcover between the trees on the Kaymakçı ridge includes a variety of grasses and anything the sheep and goats leave behind. This includes a pretty, yellow-flowered weed that is just coming into bloom now.

Mullein (Verbascum sp.?)

Distinctively less welcoming is a variety of beautiful but spiny, spiky, and thorny plants that encourage the wearing of pants, thick socks, and strong-sided shoes!

(Scotch cotton?) thistle (Onopordum sp.)

For the ancient fauna and flora of Kaymakçı and environs, see our recent posts about articles on agricultural and agropastoral systems in the area or our publication page.

How did this happen?

Look forward to more posts from Gygaia Projects soon!