Sunday, February 24, 2013

Campaign: Rafina River after the flood!

February 24th 2013

A really big flood took place on the 22nd of February here in Attika. The Rafina River spewed amazing quantities of debris and sediment into the Southern Evvoikos Gulf and a couple of days later its river mouth has totally changed. Its like a true oceanic estuary! A great sediment plume has made the surrounding bay shallow and the river mouth and channel are scoured down and open to the sea. Gravel and mud lines the beach at the river mouth. Wagtails and gulls are really happy. 

The Rafina River is one of our top priorities in conserving sites for both biodiversity and public awareness hear in the greater Athens region. Located immediately south of one of Attika's largest harbours it is easy to visit and a great place for a very short stroll and a look at a river mouth in Attika - a very rare thing! 

Sadly the decision-makers managing places like this have very little understanding of the potential here. The conservation - natural history bonanza. This place could become a wonderful foreshore parklet which focuses on the riches and wonders an urban river mouth. In the past, perhaps triggered by great floods like the current one, the river was channelled, straightened and embankments with huge boulders now line its banks. Could we imagine something slightly different and safer for the river flood-pulse, the wildlife and the people. People need nature in the city. Lets bring it back!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Re-discovering Zakynthos' Dwarf Goby at Lake Keri!

February 17th 2013

Zakynthos is an Ionian Island with a Marine National Park. A unique wetland, Lake Keri, with an area of about 28 ha exists on the Park's coastline near the village of Keri. Sadly the wetland has been trashed by former schemes to drain it and holiday homes line the riparian zone of the former lagoon system. However, one of the many reasons to save the wetland was an unsubstantiated record of an unusual inland waters fish population - a species of dwarf goby. No samples were available from former researches to find the species (and the former collected specimens were never identified or analyzed to reveal the taxonomic status to species level...). So to solve the mystery we needed specimens. My partner and I took the opportunity to investigate the wetland and do some fishing! We caught a total of three Dwarf Gobies - a species in the genus Knipowitschia. These gobies are tiny fish - the largest male we caught is nearly 4 cm!!! The other male is smaller; the female specimen even smaller. The canals are spring-fed and at one point have a lot of freshwater aquatic life; in other parts of the system they are brackish and have very little apparent life. We  spotted Grey-mullets (two species) and the Critically Endangered Eel in the drainage canals around the wetland as well. The area is certainly worthy of conservation meausures - but without knowledge of the biocommunities and their ecology how are we to know what to do next? 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Winter waters of Cyprus

                                           Local endemic Cyprus Jay subspeceis at Platania, Kakopetria on the Troodos.

Cyprus in Winter

An early February road-trip through Cyprus with my friends Aris and Jacob and still several more natrualists joining us in the field...great time! Here I share just a few snapshots from our field work - still exploring rivers and dreaming up restoration plans. This year it rained in early winter and than again in late winter - so there was plenty of water everywhere. Cyprus is warmer than Attika in winter and generally flowers bloom at least a one or more weeks ahead of things around Athens. Its a great getaway, the winter greens, and wet conditions bring everything to life.

I want to thank the Forests Department for hospitality and genuine friendship in support of a common conservation cause. 

The Kouris in full winter flow beneath the Kouris Dam in a beautiful landscape. This is an area where we want to do some rather big restoration work - what an opportunity!
Tiny black tadpoles of the Green Frog at the Xeros (Livadi) river mouth pools inside the village of Pomou in Tyliria. Surprising to see tadpoles so early!
Mallards on the Germasogeia Reservoir near Lemessos. Generally the reservoirs of Polemidia, Germasogeia,  and pools downstream of Kouris Dam had a lot of waterfowl. 
Kestrel, called "'Kitsis" in Cypriot. At the Kouris Delta near Episkopi, Lemessos.  This is the commonest of the raptors in Cyprus, but we also spotted Marsh Harriers and Long-legged Buzzards.
Great Egret - rather scarce winter visitor, known as "Hanoumissa" in Cypriot - on the Germasogeia Reservoir near Lemessos.
Lemon-Green Tree Frog at the Garyllis river just north of Lemesos. At this time this species is really visible and you can hear their mallard-like calls at certain localities.

Spur-winged Lapwings at Oroklini Lake, a fantastic lagoon just 10 Kms east of Larnaka. Birdlife Cyprus is doing really fantastic work to restore and promote the wetland.

Little Eagret feeding on a Crayfish inside Leucosia's Pediaios River  Greenway.  The river had very little water but in the lower part - water is artificially provided to the river - and it is alive....
Christodoulos Makris -expert naturalist guru of Cyprus- joined us at Akrotiri to help photograph this  fantastic male Mediterranean Toothcarp - Aphanius cf fasciatus - we are researching the genetics... (Photo and processing by Chr. Markis).

 Mediterranean Toothcarp at Akrotiri  Salt Lake (ex situ shot in our portable aquarium - thanks to Savas Michaelidis who helped us catch this little-known fish). 
The tiny Xeros of Agia Marina at Agia Marina Village in the north  coast, near Pomou.   Iakovos thinks about refrence conditions - what it was like before the dam???
Aris and Jacob photographing, identifying, perhaps even tasteing mushrooms....The trees  - this is  on the stream below Lefkara. Note the willows along the stream - rather scarce in Cyprus.

Please go and find Ch. Makris' fantastic book "Butterflies of Cyprus"(2002) before yuo visit Cyprus!  Even in  February at least 5 species were flying!

This is a unique structure built by our brothers on the other side of the Green Line in a reservoir near Lefka. My new telephoto lens is working wonders...

Margarita from the WDD with Iakovos mesmerised by the beauties of the Garyllis Valley.  Please lets clean-up this stream!

Athena, Iakovos, Margarita - their so lucky to be living in Cyprus!!! Garyllis Valley downstream of Agia Irini near Lemessos. 
The Xeros "of Lefka" flowing into the braided channels in the Green Line. Note how the water totally vanishes a few kms downstream.
One of the most beautiful rivers valleys on the island, the Xeros (Lefka) - near-wilderness and most beautiful in mid-winter!!!