Friday, September 14, 2012

Try fishwatching...

Trout found on the lower slopes of Mount Iti near Lamia - a "'rarity"' since no one really new trout inhabited the Sperchios river basin! It looks a lot like a Salmo fariodes (West Balkan Trout) so it could be an introduced species or something totally new. However the spot where we found it -near a trout farm on the Gorgopotamos has an active trout farm (Photo by Nikos Petrou).
Sept 14th 2012

Here in Athens in the last few weeks we have been overwhelmed by some pretty amazing rare bird finds. The act of locating, correctly identifying, and "managing" the find of a vagrant bird is always a highlite in natural history. It also gets publicity- inspires social hype and pride. Athens has about 30 or so avid birders, I mean real hard-core birders, including a few twitchers among them. They are constantly out there hunting to find a rare bird. They have found some good stuff this summer: Buff-Breasted Sandpiper at the Airport, Dotteral nearby, and now a Pectoral Sandpiper at Alyki Loutsa Lagoon (again near the Airport).

This reminds me of fishing. I mean even when we are out sampling a river stretch using electricity - we look-out for rarities. Unexpected finds. It brings some hype to the science. Finding an unknown trout in a river - which was thought never had trout - this really bring out a "Wow" in our small isolated community of fish-fanatics. But is it possible to twitch like a birder while fish-watching?

Sure! Fishwatching is exactly like birding. And finding rarities is really totally open to a lot of relativity. What is a rarity? It can be many things: A new species for science, a new locality record, a new alien or non-indigenous species record; a new "lifer" record (a new species for your personal list) or just a really good view of an uncommon fish!

I make new records like this all the time. My largest fish in a particular area, my largest school of a species of fish, largest school of large fish. I have site lists, and I do a lot of this fishwatching stuff especially in the summer  - in the sea. Also really weird unsolved sightings also involve "rarities".

The pic I am featuring today is taken by my friend Nikos Petrou at the Gorgopotamos river in the summer of 2011 (Gorgopotamos is a tiny ice-cold tributary of the Sperchios near Lamia - somewhere way north of Athens). Nikos then published the photo in his really great book "Greece: Country of Diversity". In the caption it reads something like this: "Unknown trout species found by Stamatis Zogaris and the author at Gorgopotamos". I feel totally famous and honoured to have the pic published! The problem is... I still don't know what trout species it is - and nobody really cares to actually try to identify it. Our group of fish "experts" even published a note about new sightings in Greece and just called it an "unidentified trout species". So don't expect flocks of fishwatchers traveling to the Gorgopotamos to see and photograph the trout. But please, someone has to give it a name......

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