Saturday, May 10, 2014

Evros Delta: An ecotouristic glance!

A Dalmatian Pelican sails into the wind over Drana Lagoon in the Greek part of the Evros Delta; the hills in the distance are in Turkey.
May 8th 2014

My friends Maria-Daphne and Theodora and I visited the Evros Delta after our ferry boat trip from Samothraki...just before my flight back to Athens from nearby Alexandroupolis. It was a windy, hazy day, not for photography. The western Greek side of the Delta is only 20 minutes from Alexandroupolis Airport; it beckons to anyone who wants to see this legendary wetland National Park. Since the girls were rather new to birding, I thought I'd show-off one of my most beloved places to them.

First we stopped at the Evros Delta Visitor Centre where we met Eleni Makrigianni who has been working on conservation here for many years. We enjoyed the facility – admired my friend Vassilis Hatzirvassanis’ art and interpretation work. In fact, this Centre was the first one we worked on together back in 1999 (a project prepared by OM EPE and OIKOS Ltd for the Ministry of Environment).

And then we headed off for an hour’s drive in the Delta (yes right before my flight...). You can't possibly “see” the Delta in one hour. It is one of our largest wetlands and right on the edgy frontier with Turkey. But I wanted to take the girls down to the Drana Lagoon and I promised flamingos….

Anyway, we found some birds, not many in the fierce wind. I tallied about 37 species. And we got lost. Not using the GPS we wondered into some narrow tracks and had to drive back backwards - a long ways backwards - and carefully, not to fall into the deep drainage ditches!

We really enjoyed this rapid glance.
We even saw a fleeting red fox and had close looks at a Greek Tortoise. Beautiful flocks of wild Mute Swans, Shelducks, Pygmy Cormorants and waders. Brilliant Bee-eaters, Red-backed Shrikes and Black-headed Buntings and a magnificent Black Stork. And the prairie-like plains of the Delta – splashes of yellow mustard, bright purple milk thistles, herb-rich wet meadows.

So, even without flamingos it was well worth it…and I did catch my flight back to Athens!

Three suggestions for enjoying the Delta:

1) Please employ one of the really good local ecoguides or take a guided mini-bus tour (ask the Visitor Centre at Loutra Traianoupolis!).
2) Definitely try the boat rides.
3) Give it time and time it accordingly - Winter, Mid Spring, Autumn is best.

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