Thursday, May 30, 2013

River Restoration Planning at Pomos Cyprus

May 30th 2013

These are some shots from the small river mouth of Pomos in northwestern Cyprus (between Pyrgos and Polis) in late January 2013. I'm posting them to recall the riparian and instream conditions for an ecological restoration proposal that we are building with Cypriot colleagues. 

What is unusual here is the freshwater spring at the base to the new building - creating a huge flooded water meadow near the river-mouth. This was full of Bufo viridis (Green Toad) tadpoles in January. The building incidently is a municipal building which houses a "Natural History Museam". Sadly one of the ugliest I have seen on Cyprus (although it is a new exhibit, it is full of stuffed animals and with little imagination and poor signage - actually poor nature interpretation). But the NHM could be made to function better. The location next to the degraded stream and stream-mouth is really a strong-point for cosnervation education.  

So what do the Cypriots what in terms of doing some restoration work on this small stream? 

- A restoration project along the riparian and in-channel (plantings of native spp.).
- Restoration actions that are in line with WFD 2000/60 demands
- Upgrading the ecological potential of the Heavily Modified River site
- Doing something within budget (which in Cyprus now is necessarily low-budget).
- Demostrating a restorative action that could help increase awareness. 

Interesting and challenging stuff. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Athens Insiders Ecotour Walk

May 29th 2013

Ecotourism is something all naturalists should support. I do my part by leading tours and educating tour leaders. These are some snapshots I took while I led this afternoon walk today. Athens has a bad reputation- it is not all concrete and pollution. All you need to do is walk with a naturalist to see another reality... Obviously I cannot show all we saw in 4 hours; and it's ridiculously nice of our clients to allow me to take so many pics while leading. Anyway its for a good cause: So you the reader can glimpse at some of the beauty here... a beautiful historic city center. And there are some wonderful nature sights even at the start of summer. ( don't explore nature only in the Spring...).

So what do you do on a nature walk in Athens?

I know you can spend days and days here especially if you decide to STUDY Athens. And you don't have to be a specialist or a super-interested naturalist to learn loads of wonderful things. Firstly, there's the history of the making-of-this-city and the making of its unique parkscapes. Here comes the name of Dimitris Pikionis. His restoration project around the Acropolis in the '50s was decades ahead of his time. See this on Phillopapou Hill - a true monument to urban park pathway development. Also the planted trees, shrubs - nearly all native....

Secondly the sheer scenic beauty. Views of the Parthenon from Phillopappou Hill: A world heritage landscape at its finest. Then the Hill of the Nymphs, The Pnyx (Classical Athen's center of Democratic assembly), then the "Great Wall of Athens"; the Hill of Ares, the Athenian Agora, the Roman Agora, the Tower of the Winds, Hadrian's Library, Islamic relics...and more views of the Acropolis and Plaka.

Third the wildlife.

Flora: We saw:

-Bear's Breech (Acanthus molis) the plant that inspired the Corinthian Column.
-Rare plants on the limestone outcrops and walls; such as the white-leaved endemic rock composite called Inula methana and the endemic knapweed called Centaurea raphanina mixta; and tiny bell-flowers (Campanula sp.) and Caper (Capparis ovata) in full bloom.
-Many other plants if you are are interested: From wild garlic to blood-red poppies, chamomile meadows, chaste tree and oleander brilliance to perfect thorny thistles and various interesting grasses. The straw-like warm-yellow grasses on limestone are brilliant this season!
 But of course it is past flowering time for many species.

Fauna: We saw:

- Various insects are about: armies of friendly ants, giant hornets, red admiral butterflies, swallow-tailed butterflies, and several other butterflies (yes its peak season for butterflies!). Athens also has many honey bees...
- You hear and see birds (...acually only if your looking carefully). Loads of magpies, collared doves (a close encounter with one inside a church!) and feral rock doves. Special moments with a Sardinian Warbler and then listening to the scratchy notes of Olivaceous Warblers. Flocks of huge Alpine Swifts twirl and trill as they file into a cave below the Parthenon! House sparrows steal crumbs from cafe tables.
-No walk like this is complete without spotting a 'prehistoric' Marginated Tortoise - they are quite common in some parks in Athens (today we found ours in Hadrian's Library).
-And of course the feral animals. Cats, dogs - you can really enjoy watching them for hours on end in Athens (....No other European city offers such intimate encounters with stray animals like this...).

Finally the modern culture:

You learn about Greece from its people. Most of them in this world-renowned attraction are not tourists! You see a lot of young people. Many playing music, selling things, lazying around, smoking things; its their city. You don't see other naturalists with binoculars but there are some cat-lovers here. At some spots there are loads of foreigners too. Ares Hill is a great place to socialize, flirt, look at the sun setting through the Saharan dust. Take close photos of the Acropolis monuments.

Only one thing bothered me today: The grotesque scaffolding on the monuments! They have been working on re-building and re-ordering the rock up on the Acropolis since 1975...when will it stop? The cranes, the small shanty shacks, metallic structures of all kinds...these must someday be totally removed. When??? I humbly ask! It is a almost sacrilege to the landscape worshipper to see this year-after-year. We come here to see the glory that was....Greece! Lets help make it glorious again.

Some kind of wild garlic (Allium) growing in rocky grassland, Hill of the Nymphs.
The rocky ride with Tree Medics and relic phyrgana shrubs and grasses - Philopappou Hill.

Lovely tiny Bell-flower (Campanula sp.). Hill of the Nymphs.

Ok, this is the epitome of summer Attica landscape for me. Near the center of Athens?..YES!

The Hill of Ares is a true honey-pot attracting locals and visitors for the sunset.

Final Field Notes:

This final Google Earth shot shows the route we took (approx 5 km) beginning from the metro station at Parliament to finish at Monastiraki Sqaure metro station. We begun walking at 16:30 (it was very hot, 29 C) and stopped for a coffee midway at Thission. The Saharan dust dampened the sunset (enjoyed from Ares Hill); and we finished at 20:30. It was not a sprint.

For more info on this inquire at:

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sites: Near Drama, Upper Aggitis River

Mid May 2013

Near the City of Drama is a really unique river, the Aggitis. I have been here on three occasions before and sampled fish (electrofishing that is). But every time you step into a river it is always different*. So on our last road trip with Tassos and Elias we visited yet another site; about 10 km from Drama near the village of Symvoli. The river has springs in this reach and it's waters are cool; we caught 5 species of fish. Alburnoides strymonicus, Chondrostoma vardarense, Oxynoemacheilus bureschi, Squalius orpheus, and Barbus strumicae are pictured here. Thanks to Elias Dimitriou for some really nice shots of us fishing. I will add captions to the fish shots in the near future. And I will try to go back to Aggitis, carefully stepping into....a different river next time.

*Actually, Heraclitus said: "No man ever steps into the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man".

...And I could humbly add...every time we take snapshots of a fish we learn about a different fish; its never the same fish....