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. 


  1. Hello and thank you for your article!
    Can we see the pelicans and flamingos at the end of April?
    Thank you.

  2. Yes! they will be at Klisova around, take good binoculars with you!

    1. Thank you Stam!
      Plan to visit Greece in late April - early may 2015.
      Can you recommeng good place to stay near lagoon?