Saturday, November 29, 2014

Autumn birds of Tourkovounia Athens

An amazing immature Peregrine Falcon flying above the quarry-theater of Attiko Alssos this September.

Athens, November 29th 2014

Athens has several open spaces that are interesting for wildlife and could have been MUCH BETTER if only somebody cared to design wildlife habitat and cared for local biodiversity. It takes restoration and carefull planning to re-create and manage for natural or near-natural vegetation and wildlife habitat.

Anyway, this is another report from my home patch birding park, the Tourkovounia a hill area peaking at about 380 m. above the Athens basin.

Now all I want to stay is that it is important that pics like this are shared and the message spread about wildlife in the city. This major European Capitol city has really NEGLECTED its natural heritage. Please don't misinterpret the map below to feel that Athens has lots of excellent green areas. Unfortunately ridiculous planning and many criminal acts of over-development and economically wasteful planning has destroyed so much in these parks. Most are just plain "ugly" for wildlife- over-build, poorly planted with alien species etc. Little pockets, like exceptions, do still exist. No management for wildlife or for local biodiversity takes place. There are many many opportunities to ameliorate this sad state of affairs for wildlife. And one positive aspect is that the wildlife is resilient and persists, even expands quickly into suitable habitat.

So lets think about giving wildlife, biodiversty, landscape and local culture a chance,...And a change, in Athens.

Ten important open and extensive green spaces in and near central Athens and the nearby Mount Hymmetos; The parks (some of them hill-tops above the vast cityscape) are like islands, some quite isolated from the major natural "continents" such as Mount Hymmetos.
The "Quarry-theater" of Attiko Alssos at Tourkovounia. The cliffs have been regenerating since they were abandoned in the '70s.

Athene noctua, an Athenian Little Owl. What a fantastic bird.

Same shot. Showing the limestone cut out of the Quarry-theater site and the Little Owl. The Scops Owl is more common in the pine and eucalyptus plantations bellow the rocks. 

A locally threatened species. We have located one nest, probably no longer used. This rock nuthatch is now an extreme rarity. At the Quarry-theater I spotted a single individuals on one day in September singing. What a sound to behold!
A common resident. In the past they were not at all common in the center of Athens, now they nest at several locations. 

A patch of nature on the edge of the Tourkovouia hill area (near our home).

Sign saying "Love the Forest". Should say: "Love Natural History". If you cannot understand you cannot really love.
Thankfully the Goddess Athena's tree, the Olive is frequently planted. A good species for migrants such as this Willow Warbler. 
Thankfully but inadvertently, some dead trees (such as this Bean Locust) are often left standing. Good look-out posts for many birds. Good wildife trees for insects.  This is an abundant migrant, the Spotted Flycatcher. 
Spotted Flycatcher. An easy bird to photograph. 
Collard Dove soaking up the early morning sun. So many birds use these dead branches...can anybody see this?
Another rarity spotted this year: Long-tailed tits. 

Best possible photo of a Long-tailed tit on Allepo Pine. 
View from above the theater. 
Peregrine, symbol of hope. 

 -> Tourkovounia is also known as Attiko Alssos (at least a part of it is). Please, as a naturalist, get out, take pics, make a stand for wildlife in the city parks. If we can envision that with some help lots will make a come back....just maybe we will find more energy to work towards this...

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Orientgate_Wetlands & Egyptian Gods in Attika

The beach at Stomi, Schinias. The Kynosoura Peninsula juts out to sea. Wetland habitat up front!

25,26,27 November 2014

During the last three days I have participated in a series of seminars, a field trip and public meeting organized by EKBY (Greek Biotope Wetland Center) and the Region of Attika; a project to protect wetlands and associate this with climate change adaptation in Attika.

I am especially enthused with the dynamic and energetic presence of the Region of Attika (our regional government) and thank the people at EKBY for their well coordinated initiative.

I share some snapshots from the field trip I helped lead yeasterday, on a very drab and cold Autumn afternoon to the wetland sites of Schinias Marathon National Park and Breksiza (where there is a fantastic archaeological site).

Just to let you know, if you are to start at 13:00 from Syntagma Square in central Athens with a big bus (for 50 people) you will not have enough time to enjoy both sites. We did it and it was really OK for us. But not the best trip I have helped guide.

Schinias Beach with the group. What a drab day. I mean really drab and cold. Rare in Attika.
Part of the field trip group. Many of the participants are from the Regional Government of Attika. Also some Romanian participants. Thanks to Miltos Seferlis from EKBY for the nice photo.

We didn't see many birds on this cold wintry situation apart from Coot, a Cormorant, and two Wagtails (these are Grey).
The scene at the Olympic Rowing Lake. Coots.

Wintry coot, part of the group. Coots are nice... and they are vegetarians mostly; they also seem rather socialist too....

This is an AMAZING relief map of Schinias Marathon National Park. The whole trip was worth it because of this! (I was told that Gianna Aggelopoulou had it in her Olympics Committee headquarters...BIG!). 

I enhanced the colours etc on this photo. It looks fake I know. It was very very drab; drab, cold. 
Spotting the Grey Mullets in the small river mouth of Breksiza Spring.
Now this was NOT boring!!! Mrs Pelly Fotiadi, Archaeologist from the Ephorate of Antiquities of East Attika, was there to explain in detail.

Egyptian god at the Breksiza Archaeological Site. Really weird and wonderful. 

The originals are in the Marathon Museum. 
It brings a mystical sense to the place. Surrounded by the wetland oasis. 

Mount Penteli foothills in the background, sanctuary in the foreground.

The Valaneion, the heated baths. 

Notable personalities from the Greek Environmentalism scene walk down the path to Breksiza, Nea Makri Attika.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Exo-Potamic Reservoirs of Cyprus

Small "sickle-shaped" exo-potamian reservoir to the south of Arakambas village; totally dry in summer, no fish, many insects.

November 2014

There are many types of wetlands. One artificial type is what Greek engineers call Εξοποτάμιοι Ταμιευτήρες, reservoirs that are situated just beyond the river channel. On Cyprus there are many.

Vasso and I visited Cyprus for a short investigation with aquatic biologist Iakovos Tzortzis.

In fact, the target was to investigate allegations of the occurrence of...freshwater blennies** in one of these exo-potamic reservoirs that is fed with waters from the Germasogeia River.

We went to three reservoirs, each different, but no blennies.

It was worth the trip.

Arakambas reservoir, place where the 'blennies" are. None? But many small stocked Carp.
Sickle-shaped exo-potamian. Vasso walked around and looked for fish: none here.
Comfort in the eyes of fisher's young and old. A Northern Pike in the third reservoir we visited. But an alien*.

Underwater trophy pike. Silt covered substrate of the 'Pike reservoir': Three fish species here.

Iakovos with younger Pike. Several easily caught.
Biggie Northern Pike. What an incongruous sight in a reservoir so south!
Amazingly rich concentrations of Mosquito Fish in the 'Pike reservoir'.

Carpies stocked in the 'Blenny reservoir"... Loads, all young and healthy-looking.

Roach: In the 'Pike Reservoir". Also a grey heron was fishing here.
Germasogeia River just East of Lemessos. Rain from storm sewer water after an Autumn storm.

The coast just East of the dry river-mouth of the Germasogeia river.

* Footnote: Non-indigenous alien fishes and other aquatic life can be very harmful to local ecosystems, even in artificial waters such as these reservoirs. We must be more aware of this and how to somehow keep track, survey, and even control the spread of non-indigenous species. Especially on an island, alien monitoring, research and control is an important part of biodiversity conservation.

** For information about why we are interested in blennies on Cyprus: