Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Central Albania in Early Summer 2023

Central Albania 

Early June, 2023

In the last few years I have been fortunate enought to have had several trips to Albania. I just came back from a resarch trip on the Osum and Devoll River σ(Seman Basin) - between Korce, Berat and Fieri during early June 2023. 

Some quick thoughts after hundreds of hours outdoors, assessing river and riparian zones and birding. 

The landscape vegetation is bouncing back after much abandonment during the last 25+ years. Grazing though seems to be totally abandoned in some places, not good...

Small traditional living villages do survive but they are small. 

Big mammals are comming back slowly. 

Raptors are scarce, perhaps poisons are being used. 

River riparian zone alteration and water pollution problems are severe in many places. Some vegetation come-back after abandonment in riparian zones is starting-up - especially during the last 20 years. 

More tourists are visiting Albania, Berat was nearly over-run by tourists during my stay in early June. I'll be back soon and will report on more. 

Photos and drone photos by me and Dimitris Zogaris.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Fifteen Places to Go Birding Before You Die: In Greece...


Fifteen Places to Go Birding Before You Die: In Greece!

This is on a whim, so here goes!!
Greece is conviniently divided into north and south; two countries really, one is Balkan, the other Mediterranean. 

The list: 

North (N)

1. Evros Delta and surroundings. 2. Dadia National Park and along the river and surroundings. 3. Vistonis and surroundings including the Kompsatos Gorge. 4. Central Rhodope Mountains. 5. Kerkini and Belles Mountain forests. 6. Thermaikos Gulf Wetlands. 7. Lake Volvi. 8. Prespa. 9. Northern Pindos. 10. Kalamas Delta and Kalamas valley. 11. Corfu. 12 Amvrakikos. 13. Olympus and surroundings, including Tempe and Pinos Delta area. 14. Lake Karla. 15. Lesvos.

South (S)

1. Southern Amvrakikos, incl. Northern Lefkada. 2. Arakinthos, Lakes, Klisoura Gorge. 3. Messolonghi. 4. Strophilia-Kotychi. 5. Pylos. 6. Spercheios Delta. 7. Oiti. 8. Parnassus. 9. Lakes Yliki-Paralimni. 10. Schinias -Marathon Lake and surroundings. 11. Skyros. 12. Samos. 13. Rethymnon area. 14. Chania area. 15. Antikythira.

The background map is from eBird, 12.03.2023

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Exhibition: A walk-in map of water in the city of Athens (Goethe-Institut Athens)



A walk-in map of the points of water in Athens. 
Goethe-Institut Athens

Duration of exhibition: 6 April 2023

The Goethe-Instituts in the Mediterranean have joined forces to develop a series of digital maps on water as a valuable natural resource in the Mediterranean region.

In this context, artists and creators in collaboration with scientists undertook to design interactive maps through which a polyphonic collection of new perspectives and narratives about our relationship with the element of water emerges.

For the digital map concerning Greece, the local partners of the project - the collaborative-interdisciplinary design team Commonspace and the assistance of Stamatis Zogaris - a focus on the city of Athens. Nikos Providakis and other naturalists also helped with video work. Commonspace is a collaborative - interdisciplinary planning design group that has been operating since 2012. It provides services in the fields of Spatial Strategies, Architecture, Social Research, Urban and Environmental Design and Participatory Planning. It seeks to be a link between citizens, social institutions and public authorities, a hub for the exchange of knowledge, ideas and practices between citizens, experts and decision-makers.

Their research into urban space and the biodiversity of the city's scarce water elements come together at the Goethe-Institut Athen to create an installation that gives the capital's public access to a so far “unseen” map of water.

The exhibit is designed by the Athenian architect Eleni Spyridakis, the interactive map of Athens comes to life in the space of the Goethe-Institut Athen, where it is hosted. Furthermore, a reading corner in the institute is dedicated to the library's titles on water as a natural resource. The website and online maps are designed by nature interpretation expert Aris Vidalis.

Opening hours: Monday - Thursday 09:00 - 22:00, Friday 09:00 - 17:00, Saturday 09:00 - 14:00. Until the 6th of April 2023. Admission: Free


Photos below show the grand opening of the exhibition in the Library of the Goethe Institut in downtown Athens. Photos copyright © of Alexandra Masmanidi except for some I took as well; many thanks! 

While filming little snippets, I started talking to the smartphone camera and including commentary. This was really very easy with next-to-no preparation. I highly recommend it and it can be used to promote our work more (see some sellected film snippets in:

Digital Versions

Monday, February 13, 2023

Winter Walk: National Gardens of Athens


Saturday, 11th of February
Walk in the National Gardens by Goethe-Institut Athen

The National Gardens, formerly the Royal Gardens, is something like Central Park for Athenian naturalists. Its been the go-to place for an easy stroll and a guided introduction to nature in deep urbania. It is also a botanical garden with amazing specimens, particularly the century-plus huge live oaks (Quercus ilex). One of the most important aspects in the National Gardens is the presence of abundant water. Its water features are wonderful - and they have an amazing and very ancient history. 

The water that is still reaching the Gardens is the product of a feat of hydraulic technology from the sixth Century BC. The subterranean aquaduct of Peisistratos used to provide water to Ancient Athens from the foothills of Imittos about seven kms away. It was subterranean - about six meters deep and 60 cm wide. This same water route, using this same ancient aquaduct waters the Gardens today!

There are seven major ponds in the National Gardens, begining with the "flowing pond" that recieves the crystal clear aquaduct waters in the upper part of the Garden, at its topographically highest area, near the Vassilisis Sofias Avenue entrance. Next to this first pond are Roman villa mosaics.... Each of the seven ponds is distinctive. There are Koi Carp and Goldfish, Green Toads and American terrapins. And birds. The nearby 'zoological collection' is rather ridiculous but its the only place to see the wonderful Cretan Wild Goat in the City (Mount Parnitha also has wilder ones...). In winter the atmosphere in the Gardens is unique since the leafless diciduous trees allow for wide-scape views of the mini-landscapes of this wonderful oasis. 

I thank the Goethe Institut who organized this walk and especially, Karen Eichholz and Nikolleta Stathopoulou who also provided me with some of these photos.

The seven ponds of the National Gardens; with my simple names: 1) Vassilisis Sofia's Pond, 2) Nature Pond, 3) Guard's Pond, 4) Wisteria Pergola Pond, 5) Turtle Pond, 6) Central Pond, 7) Oleander Island Pond. If anyone knows the true names of the ponds, or of other ponds in the Garden please write me.