Saturday, March 28, 2015

Nature Park Proposal: Phaliriko Delta Athens

This could by a European capital city's nature foreshore. A lively riviera next to a beautiful open space nature park.

March 28th 2015 Phaliron Bay- Moschato Coast

I think capital cities really need open green space for nature. Not only for nature - for the city's sake; for the people, the culture; quality of life and green infrastructure. In Athens I feel we have failed. And I feel part of the reason is not only the bad decisions, poor planning and an unforgivable mess created by governing politicians; the heart of society is responsible too.

And we - the naturalists let them do this. We should know better. We have a passion for nature, for living natural beauty. We know how to identify a good site. Indicators abound: the birds, the plant communities, insects, the natural elements all bursting with colour. The landscape - a connectedness among land-sea-sky. We have this at Phaliriko Delta.

Phaliriko Delta was a place that my naturalist colleagues and I knew well in the '80s - we made a strong plea for its conservation because it was one of the most imporatant biodiversity sites in Athens - we tried to publicized it well back then. The Hellenic Ornithological Society really did a lot. We did a big report on it - two editions of it. But when the 2004 Olympics were announced in 1997 the idea of a nature park seemed preposterous...LETS MAKE THIS AREA INTO A MEGA PROJECT the politicians thought. And they tried. They built sports facilities, dredged and straightened the river-mouths, engineered the coast, expanded marinas, laid concrete everywhere. But they did not finish up. (Not enough time...).

OK, so now we have a derelict landscape. Wet with strong spring rains and full of migrating birds! What is left is a small patch of land between the two legendary river mouths - the Kifissos and Ilissos. Let's call it the "Moschato Coast" (it belongs to the Municipality of Moschato). A mere 800 m stretch of coast and in-filled upland only 300 meters wide! Now in full flower with chrysanthemum and mustard fields, tiny pools, flowering tamarisks, thorny acacias. People don't know this place exists. 5 Million people live just up the street in the huge conurbation of the Athens basin. What a disasterous failure - not to make this into a nature park!

What my crazy naturalist friends and I propose:

a) Implement a low-cost:high-value Plan B for the site's creation into a unique nature park. Restoration and eco-development: create the "Phaliriko Delta Nature Park" at Moschato Coast. The main goal and over-riding premise would be to manage the landscape as and open-air landscaped nature park for people and biodiveristy.

b) Plan-in habitat enhancement that promotes natural looking habitat features that are open - similar to the agro-pastoral coastal zones of Aegean Greece. Think of the beautiful fields and grazed meadows behind beaches on Lesvos, Paros, Legrena and Sounion.  Instead of typical city-park tree plantation thickets, keep the land open. Let the scrubby fields, wild meadows grow! Engineer simple shallow pools and ponds for the birds to come; they need shelter and peace. Make a hill with natural-looking open vegetation and only a few scattered trees. "Plant-in" rocks instead of trees. The blue-rock thrush - petrokotsifas - will come here to sing in winter...

c) Include some off-limits sections so that birds will keep gathering and nesting on the site - larks, swallows, martins, little plovers. Make trails, look-outs and interpretive exhibits that help people appreciate the landscape. People will feel safer here than if the place is planted-up as an artificial thicket. The sea-breeze will come in and fill the Attika basin unimpeded: Sea and city will finally unite.

This derelict land - this "bazotopos" - is still very valuable: potentially the jewel in the crown of Athenian parks.

Can we help promote the nature park idea?
Can some members of local society work with government to achieve this?
Is this a high priority for a city suffering from an unprecedented economic depression?


Photos of my visit today (10 years after my last visit...). I spent just less than an hour watching birds and photographing - I saw 26 species! Also I met - out of pure spontaneity - four other Athenian birders on the spot: Margarita, Vasso, Vassilis and Pavlos. They care, they know.

Instead of all the kitsch over-developments planned here....we could create green infrastructure and open space for people and biodiversity...

On a Saturday afternoon and nearly no one knows about this place; Imagine it a Nature Park!!!

Migratory birds come and go all through March, April and May: these are Black-necked Stilts in flight today.

The sea is eutrophic. Rich in small fishes. This is a Red-breasted Merganser - a fish-eating duck!

Red-breasted Merganser - a very rare bird for Attika! There were many sea-birds out today.
Dad fishing, kids playing; loads of concrete everywhere. We Greeks have an obsession with concrete!


Poseidon's fall. This is our ship! Athena and Poseidon at war:Poseidon will win. We need to believe in the idea to unite the coast with the city. This Park could help!

Never on Sunday: Piraeus just behind the Kifissos River. The idea of a nature park will help Pireaus: Unemployment, poverty and crime have increased greately. No more sports facilities needed.

This is the river mouth of one of Antiquities' most renowned river gods - the Kifissos!

To the west side of Moschato Coast (above the Kifissos River) is a hill made of infill - now the top is fenced off - but round the hill are these very "birdy" semi-natural habitats: leafless acacias, pooling rain-waters, fields of mustard, and rock-piles. Nature has colonized. Nature is regenerating. Give nature a chance. Keep this kind of lanscape in this new Park. 

Wonderful tropical migrant birds were all around the little hill. This is a ferocious mini-predator, the Woodchat Shrike.

Common and melancholy resident: Crested Lark. These birds nest and feed in open landcapes - if you plant trees they cannot survive.

Northern Wheater in typical migratory habitat -derelict works done during the 2004 Olympics projects are a good subsitute as a "rocky" habitat. These are also open-country birds. 

Many Pipits and wagtails come in spring - Meadow Pipits love the rain-water pools.

Meadow Pipit taking a bath - a break during its spring Migration. 

 Pile of rocks and a Magpie!
Pile of rocks and a Wheatear!


Moschato Coast - pooling rain-water full of algae and some water weeds!!! Amazing how nature is rejuvenating. 

Moschato Coast upland. Looking towards the new Cultural Center constructions and older Olympic Games facilities along the Ilissos River. Imagine this a Nature Park. Its not hard - just imagine....

The Ilissos River mouth looking southwards towards Paleo Phaliro. The big warship at center is the legendary Averoff - a ship that landed on many of Greece's Aegean Islands in 1912 - making them Greek forever...

Wild tamarisk next to the Ilissos River mouth. This species - looks like Tamarix gallica it is- is a wild tree found in many wetlands along the Western Aegean coast. It makes the most beautiful pick flowers. 

The Ilissos River mouth. Next to the Athens 2004 Olympic Games facilities. This was a small river mouth when I was a kid, now its engineered like a modern European canal! (Thank you Europe!).

Moschato Coast - pooling water everywhere. Makes birds happy! 

Moschato Coast - unbuilt land!! And full of flowers - rocket, chrysanthemusms, mallow, nettles, marigolds and more!

Northern Wheatear

Larks! Skylarks seem to overwinter here - excellent to see and hear.

Larks need open spaces, bare ground, low-grasses. They are good indicators of naturalness of parkspace in cities.

Greater Short-toed Lark in foreground.

A migrating Meadow Pipit - allowed super-close photography. 

Migrating Yellow Wagtail (Black-headed race) straight from Africa - on migration.

Yellow wagtail (Black-headed race).

Woodchat Shrike
The site today: A short stretch of infilled coast between the Kifissos River mouth and the Ilissos River mouth is what remains - a mere 800 m across and nearly 300 m wide..... Two artificial islets exist in Phaleron Bay which is a very eutrophic water body and full of grey mullet and other fishes. The feeling is very much as being in an enclosed lagoon like coast. Note that the Moschato coast is the only substantial unbuilt area in the picture!!!! 

2 comments:

  1. Σταμάτη φίλε μου τι κάνεις;
    Ειλικρινά δεν περίμενα να βρεθούμε, έστω και μ' αυτό τον τρόπο.
    Πολύ ωραίο το blog σου με υπέροχες φωτογραφίες και σημαντικές πληροφορίες. Μακάρι, σου εύχομαι ολόψυχα να συνεισφέρεις στη σωτηρία και αναβάθμιση του Δέλτα και γιατί όχι, στη δημιουργία φυσικού πάρκου. Εγώ προσωπικά δεν μπόρεσα να υλοποιήσω το όνειρό μου, παρ' όλο το τρέξιμο που είχα κάνει εκείνη την περίοδο (φυλλάδια, συνεντεύξεις κ.α.), δυστυχώς δεν είχα καμιά σημαντική στήριξη. Το site μου το δημιούργησα για να βρω κανένα φίλο από τα παλιά, αλλά και να παροτρύνω νέα παιδιά να ασχοληθούν με δραστηριότητες που προσφέρει η φύση και όχι για αποκομιδή εντυπώσεων. Επειδή μέχρι σήμερα έχουν δει πολλά τα μάτια μου (κυρίως από την αδιαφορία παραγόντων και φορέων σε πολλές περιπτώσεις), ασκώ το χόμπυ μου μόνος. Ασχολούμαι κυρίως τώρα με έντομα (πεταλούδες, ακρίδες κ.α.) και δευτερευόντως με πτηνά.
    Το σημαντικό για μένα είναι η επαφή με το περιβάλλον, όσο είναι αυτό ακόμα εφικτό. Σου δίνεται η δυνατότητα να γυμνάζεσαι όταν περπατάς για ώρα μέσα σε δύσβατα μέρη ή όταν ανεβαίνεις σε κάποιο ύψωμα, να πυροβολείς με τη φωτογραφική σου μηχανή ή να αποθανατίζεις σκηνές άγριας ομορφιάς. Πιστεύω είναι πολύ ωραίο το συναίσθημα να γυρνάς στο σπίτι σου κουρασμένος, αλλά ευχαριστημένος έχοντας στο ενεργητικό σου οφέλη που σου πρόσφερε απλόχερα η φύση.

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