Saturday, April 21, 2018

Wold Fish Migration Day- 21st April 2018_Rafina River Results!

Results of World Fish Migration Day in Greece

April 21st 2018, Rafina, Attika Greece.

Our event was short but powerful. We had more than 35 participants including school kids and seniors and several more curious people dropping by throughout the two hour electrofishing event.

After electrofishing just a 15 m. stretch of the stream, we set up two aquariums to display the catch.
And what an event it was!!!

Within two hours we set up some fantastic looking "wild aquariums" that hosted four fish species: two mugilids (mostly thick-lipped grey mullet), some huge eels and the freshwater blennies. The last fish was a newly discovered native species for Attika, a very important find for the river!!!

We also saw some fantastic birds and unique urban river scenes. This river is a prime opportunity for restoration and conservation education.

Just some pics of the event...

Electrofishing a short stretch of the lower Rafina River (Photo by Antonis Lazaris). 

Wild aquarium set up.

Everybody participating in the photography. 

Thick-Lipped Grey-Mullet, Chelon labrosus. 

We caught five wonderful European eels, Anguilla anguilla, one was about 70 cm long!

This is THE DISCOVERY OF THE DAY. A adult male Freshwater Blenny, Salaria fluviatilis. 

Freshwater Blenny, Salaria fluviatilis in black-and-white. Amazing fish.

Freshwater Blenny, Salaria fluviatilis, female.
This is what the 'wild aquarium' looked like at the end of the catch. The fish where releaseed within an hour (photo by Manos Sperelakis).

Detail of the wild aquarium (Photo by Manos Sperelakis).

Us catching eels with the trusty Smith-Root 24L Backpack Electrofisher (400 V, 50 hz, 1% duty cycle; freshwater conditions). Photo by Manos Sperelakis.
Rafina river.
Rafina river.

Rafina river.

We thank the World Fish Migration Day organization team for the event inspiration and structuring and hope to continue our collaboration, even bigger and better.

I thank my HCMR colleagues who participated: Giannis Kapakos, Giannis Leris, Manos Sperelakis, Haris Vavalidis. The members of the local municipality, especially Municipal Board Member Andreas Vassilopoulos and the local environmental committee fighting to save Rafina River - especially Emmanuela Terzopoulou and Antonis Lazaris.

From L to R: Yours, Giannis Leris, Anonymous Local, Andreas Vassilopoulos, Haris Vavalidis, Giannis Kapakos.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

World Fish Migration Day: Rafina River Attiki Greece, April 21 2018

Word Fish Migration Day: a public event at the Rafina River in Rafina, Attiki, Greece

On 21st of April, a Saturday, friends and I will officially participate in World Fish Migration Day!

A few years back we organized a successful even within the WFMD net work (see ) and it was a success.

Actually the reason I am doing this independently from my day-job at HCMR this year is that this day just happens to coincide with Greeces BIG Bird Race competition* - a tradition that we have built-up in Athens since the early 2000s. So since I happen to be both a birder and a 'fish activist', I want to participate in both these events....(So both will be rather side-projects...sorry...).

My team of birders (yes...) and colleagues from the institute will hold a two hour public event at Rafina Stream river mouth and we will do some fish sampling; we will display our live catch in a small aquarium  (...after this we will move on to continue the bird race ending up at Tritsis Park at 19:00 see asterisk "*" below at end of this post).

Rafina river is an important un-obstructed stream for a few migratory fishes, especially european eels. Its also an important restoration opportunity concerning "Nature Near Urban Areas" that needs special care (...and its threatened). We invite the public to come down to Rafina and see what we do when we scientifically survey for fishes  and to talk about eels and grey mullets and other fascinating migratory fishes.

We aim to:
  • Do scientific sampling using a back-pack electrofisher and a seine net  
  • Display live fishes in a field-set up "wild aquarium"
  • Fishes will be photographed in the aquaria and then released alive back into the river
  • Anyone interested will be informed and allowed to take photographs
  • No fish will be harmed - we do not encourage the keeping wild fishes in captivity.
Electrofishing is a great way to capture fishes without injuring them. The electrofishing generator momentarily stuns fishes which can then be scooped up with a dip-net, measured and released alive back to the river. Live fishes can also be placed for short periods into a field aquarium to be photographed. If the field aquarium is set up to display a natural scene it can be called a "wild aquarium" set up- and this is a kind of art.

 This kind of public awareness event is very easy to demonstrate if you have some basic ichthyological knowledge and an official licence to capture and handle native fishes for research purposes. 

Meeting Place: 
River mouth of the Rafina River 
Site coordinates: 38.018206, 24.011703

(at the footbridge, Karamanlis Park, Attiki):
FREE participation: Just meet us on site.

This event is supported by the World Migratory Fish Day 

Rafina is a port town just 25 Kms East of Athens. For more information on the Rafina river and campaigns to protect it see:
 This is the Rafina river near its river mouth next to Karamanlis Park. The foot-bridge next to Evvoikou street and spanning to Karamanlis Park is where we will meet. This is the stretch of the stream we plan to sample. The urban and peri-urban Rafina river is the site of a controversial river management project (flood measures etc). For more information and the credit of this drone photo see:

Setting up a simple "Wild Aquarium" during electrofishing is an easy way to show people fishes and to take great pics. In this case we were on expedition during an HCMR project and didn't take much care in the set-up.

All ichthyologists should take more pics of fishes. Here your's truly trying his best. 

Kids love wild aquariums.  This is from our first World Migration Day celebration at Vravrona in 2014. See:

The European eel is a globally threatened fish - listed as Critical by IUCN - it is a species we will try to capture and survey for during our work at Rafina. We should also capture grey mullet species also. All to be displayed for a short time in captivity within the "wild aquarium" set up. This eel is also from our first World Migration Day celebration at Vravrona in 2014. See:

* For more information on the Bird Race - within the 2nd Annual Greek Bird Race please contact the Hellenic Ornithological Society or see:\ BIRD RACE 2018

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Birding Puerto Vallarta

Birding in Mexico: Puerto Vallarta and around
October 2015

Birding is a kind of recreation that is spreading as a pastime, and I am happy about this. I have been an avid birder since I was 12 years old so, I've seen changes in America and Europe. One thing that does not change is the pull of exotic locations. And because field guides and the Internet now provide easy ways to identify and record birds (see ebird), birding in the tropics has never been better. 

This quick show records our wanderings around Puerto Vallarta at the time of Hurricane Patricia in October 2015 (11 day visit). We stayed mostly at Playa Las Gemelas ('bout 8 Km south of PV) and also spent two nights at San Blas. Much of the trip was spend applying a new assessment method for landscape (LAP protocol) - but we do not show this here. We concentrate on places and the birds...

Highly recommended. 


Near Playa Las Gemelas, we stayed at the Best Western (50 euros per night equivalent; amazing locale).


Yelapa (easy boat ride to the south).
Yelapa river.

Tiny tourist hamlet on boat trip to Yelapa.

Boat launch for trip to Yelapa.

Felt safe in Mexico.

On a random look-out to do the LAP on the road to Guadalajara (near San Sebastian). The taxi driver who guided us was from Chicago.
San Sebastian had a quasi-Mediterranean montane climate that even had guava trees in full fruit - we ate lots. Felt very comfortable here.

Bus travel is the best way to move around and very cheap.
We travelled on many public buses; only one had recent bullet-holes. We also hitch-hiked once and we took many taxis (it was off-season so bartering gave us an edge).
San Sabastian, fashionable place to visit. And the pine cloud forests around it are exotic-looking. Amazing.
In a squatters hamlet near San Blas. Vasso is assessing the landscapes, the Taxi driver is guiding us. 
The buses are old but are suited for tourism use (and with anglicized titles). This one stopped for us towards from the Jardin Botanico to El Tuito; on the way back to Vallarta we hitched on to a very fast modern bus (nightmare speed...).
Jardin Botanico.

El Tuito village, well worth the trip (buy local bus).
Best view. Near Tepic far from San Blas. Waiting for the Macaws. Unforgettable.

Vasso walks the rain forest trail in Jardin Botanico in slippers - then a fire ant bit her...

Chencho with his lovely Indian eyes is the best guide in the boat trip of the La Tovara mangroves, he showed us many birds, including a fantastic squirrel cuckoo. The day after Hurricane Patricia we where the only clients left in San Blas.
Vasso with the Huichol natives who are famous for their art and religion. They come down to San Blas to sell small things.


Yellow-crowned night-heron at the Rio Cuale inside Puerto Vallarta.
Great and Snowy egrets with a wood stork at the Gulf Course near the Airport of Puerto Vallarta.

Tri-colored Heron, Yelapa.

Black vultures, Yelapa.

Heerman's Gull, Mismaloya.

Black tern, Mismaloya.
Yellow-winged cacique, Playa Las Gemelas.

Limpkin, San Blas.

Northern Potoo, San Blas.

Grey Hawk, San Blas.

Masked Tityra at El Tuito.

San Blas Jay, Playa Las Gemelas.

"Garza canella" the boat-billed heron at San Blas.

Neotropic cormorant at the Rio Cuale inside Puerto Vallarta.

Cinammon hummingbird, Playa Las Gemelas.

Rufous-bellied chachalaca in the upper suburbs of Puerto Vallarta. Its common! 

I must say that all these photos were snap-shots from two very cheap cameras; birds were very tame in Mexico. For information on the bird photos in this post check e-bird account at: zogaris