Thursday, March 28, 2013

Environmental Education HCMR-style

28th March 2013

11th Grade (2nd Class Lyceum) kids came over from Rafina with their High School Biology Teacher Mr. Antonis Lazaris for some Environmental Education here at HCMR today. We talked about their river, the Rafina River- in class; and later went for a nature walk at HCMR headquarter's "backyard". The "HCMR Peninsula" is in full bloom and the sea-scape of the Saronic Gulf was idyllic! The veriety of native wildflowers on the dry rocky meadows amazing - many of the species are range-restricted and some are endemic to Southern Greece.  I took snap-shots while "teaching" and these are given below in chronological order. I am sure you'll agree we Athenians live in...Paradise!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Carp from Lake Karla

If they can't live in it somethings deadly wrong!

We often need to prove that fishes are indicators....They are capable of sending us precise and accurate signals of the "ecological" quality of inland waters. And there is value in pursuing this. But as everything in nature - weird and wonderful noise abounds. And people need to use both common sense and a greater sense of natural history in interpretations. Just looking a the waters through fish eye's may really be enough to tell us if the conditions are natural.
Keep looking.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Survey: Messolonghi Lagoon Wetlands National Park

March 19th and 20th 2013

Spent a couple of days surveying fish round the Acheloos River Delta near Messolonghi. I was assisted by student volunteers from the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources Management (Univ. Western Greece) were I have the privilage to actually teach natural history... The Campus is at Agrinio -very close to amazing wetlands.... This is a fantastic time to be here; the lagoons are warming up, migrant bird numbers are high and rising, lots of fishes are moving about mosquitoes! (not yet...). We were searching for gobies, toothcarp and other scaly denizens of the lagoons, ditches and creeks - and we found lots. 

But one thing stands out here: A feeling of the vast riches and resilience of wildlife in the Delta. Pelicans have made a comeback, waders and waterfowl are everywhere....This area is a National Park and it should be. It hosts Western Greece's largest river delta system, the country's largest lagoon, our most extensive salt marsh expanses, and a juxtaposition of dry mountains, offshore island archipelagos, historic cities, classical ruins and modern agro-pastoral culture. Just focusing on the birding here is an indicator: fantastic experiences! And the fishes are a real "wealth" the locals do somehow appreciate (mainly in culinary ways...).

I include some snapshots - and may post more later. Thanks to the local fishermen of Kleisova Lagoon (they catch the Grass Gobies by hand!!!) and to my MSc students Areti Spiliopoulou and Anna Kontopanou.

Please support the work of local management body of the National Park - contact:

A fishermen's catch of Grass Gobies (Zosterisessor ophiocephalus) at Klisova Lagoon near Messolonghi.

The locals wade in the warmish shallows to Gobies by hand: They find their holes in the thick bottom vegetation.
Kleisova Lagoon; this southern part is a salina - saltier than the northern part with shallow muddy flats. 
Huge flocks of waders - many Avocet and Slender-billed Gulls - and the odd Caspian Tern as well.

Flamingos at Tholi Lagoon in the Delta: We encountered lots at Mesolonghi, Aitoliko area, Tholi, Gourounopoules, Kleisova. Some were really very pink - check first photo!
Dalmatian Pelican.  A conservation success story for Messolonghi - the species is now breeding here again. 
Dalmatian Pelicans flying off to find good fishing grounds - we saw them at nearby Lysimachia Lake also.

Turnstones were about turning stones on the embankments of Kleisova.
Tholi Lagoon south of the Acheloos river-mouth - VAST!
Trailing our fry-net at Tourlida near Messolonghi. The water was quite clear and shallow - this is the southern part which is a salina.

The southern part of Kleisova Lagoon - here we caught a few toothcarp. The Delta has no less than nine lagoons like this!!!
Northern side of Kleisova Lagoon with a fisherman from the local fishermen's cooperative.
Dwarf Gobies like the ones we caught in Zakynthos earlier this year - they are really common at Gouronopoules.
Gourounopoules, former river-mouth of the Acheloos - lots of toothcarp here.
It was surprisingly warm on the 20th of March - the mud teaming with life.
I love these tube-nosed Syngnathids - we caught at least three species.
Another beautiful Synganthid - especially in the densely carpeted bottom of northern Kleisova they were abundant.
Toothcarps! This is a large female Aphanius fasciatus. The colour patters are quite varied.
A Dwarf Goby in the genus Knipowitschia. Beautiful pigmentation  - I think this is a female.