Saturday, April 26, 2014

Buyuk Menderes Delta, Aegean Turkey

Late April 2014

Turkey is a fantasy-destination for us Greek naturalists. Many of our islands are just a few kms away; the thought of exploration across the straits is constant. And we have deep emotional ties with Anatolia; before 1922 many 'Asian' Greeks, the Rumlar (Romioi), lived here. A massive population exchange changed everything. So, "going back" to Anatolia is a pilgrimage. A major nature-oasis is the Delta of the Great Meander. I first visited in August 1989. Then I had stayed with the fishermen on Karina Lagoon...My first wild-travel adventure alone. Now a Greek-Turkish research team explores the Great Meander's waters and its fishes- what a gift for me to be part of this! I hope these snapshots share my excitement and inspire nature wonderlust. I really hope more people will work to protect these waters, within a world-class National Park. 

The Great Meander near Lake Bafa; this part is impounded by a "regulator" - a kind of weir near the Highway towards Bodrum.
Huge Grey-Mullet in the turbid waters at the Highway Bridge, Lower Gr. Meander. 

Prize-of-the-day: Knipwitschia cf caucasica, a dwarf goby, female. I had heard that the species inhabits the Delta, this one was found in the river's main stem below the Bafa weir.
The endemic river fish - Vimba mirabilis - young fish; this one in the lower Meander within the National Park boundary.
Aggressive catch of Spotted Sea Bas and mullet Lower Gr. Meander.

A catch at about 10 kms from the river's mouth. Mostly Grey-mullet and a nice Carp, among others (10 spp).
Majestic Lake Bafa. Formerly the river entered part to the lake and created these wetlands; the background is a sensational rock-scape - perfect for Anatolian Leopards...(now probably extinct).
Dalmatian Pelican that was fishing in the river near our boat. A small colony probably still nests in the Lagoons, but numbers low. 
Formerly, a Greek village, the old Doganbey, on the lower slopes of Samsun Dag (Mt Mykale).
The old Greek village hospital, later school. Now the restored National Park Information Center. Great job Turkey!
The old fishermen interviewed by Kaan Yenice, Biologist. Here we learn about the massive "Granios" fishes that enter the river - some of them over 80 kg in mass!!!
The "Granios" Argyrosomus regius. This small individual is probably from a fish-farm; it was served at the Karina Balik Restaurant.
We work on a boat - the river is deep, turbid; what an adventure. Many many fish caught!
The Great Meander - Buyuk Menderes. Along with the Evros and Axios it is one of the largest rivers entering the Aegean.
The "Kaynak" (a warm spring) near Doganbey Village next to Karina Lagoon (photo by D. Zogaris).
A Syngnanthid pipefish, probably in the genus Nerophis. Common in the vegetation of the lagoon and spring.
Two potential competitors. The American Mosquito Fish and the local Killifish (females) at the Kaynak.
At Karina there are about a couple of dozen palms that look like Phoenix theophrastii. Theophraste's Palms are one of the rarest trees in the Aegean - are they really this species?
Fires have swept through and the southern side of the mountain overlooking Karina Lagoon have been burned but the Palms do fine.
Phoenix theophrastii is an endemic palm of Crete and SW Turkey - look at the short flower stalks and tiny dates on these trees... please can anyone confirm this ID????
The river lower Meander, meanders next to the ruins of Miletos - a great nature spot for fishes and birds!
One of my favorite fishes - "Yilanbalik" - the migratory Eel. Still common in the lower river and lagoons.
The local Killifish, closely related the the widespread Mediterranean Toothcarp, now these Aegean fish are called by some, Aphanius almiriensis; this is beautiful male. 

View westwards towards Samos - barely visible at the tip of Mount Samsun. Karina Lagoon sparkles in peace.


  1. The phoenix palms on the 3 photos are not excactly belongs to the "phoenix theophrastii" but to the local subspecies or in other words, it is the natural hybrid "phoenix golkoy" or "phoenix theophrastii-golkoy" witch comes from an ancient natural hybridization of the "phoenix theophrastii" and the "phoenix dactylifera". Populations of the true "phoenix theophrastii" in Turkey can be seen southern more, at Datca peninsula and Licya.

  2. Thank you very much for you infomed response Mr. Kislouk.