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Welcome to BirdWING

BirdWING (Birdwatching in Northern Greece) has been set up to raise awareness of birds in Greece and to raise money for the conservation and restoration of bird habitat in the region. Birdwing has supporters from all over the world.

 
 

New documentary

Feathering Heights

We were fortunate to be invited to take part in a new documentary called ‘Feathering Heights’ which is being premiered in March at the Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival, exploring the relationship that people from many walks of life have with Lesser White-fronted Geese in Northern Greece.

The film also includes interviews with many friends of Birdwing, including Kostas Papadopoulos from Kerkini National Park, Nikos Gallios from the Limneo Hotel, Eleni Makrigianni and other staff from the Evros Delta Management Body.

The 42 minute documentary entitled ‘Feathering Heights’ by Daphne Toli is being premiered at the Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival.

It is the middle of winter along the northern Greek border. In the Evros Delta, thousands of water birds have taken over every last inch of the wetland. Among them are the only 30 remaining pairs of the European population of Lesser White-fronted Geese, claiming their own little patch along with hunters, birdwatchers and poachers. Filmed largely in wetland locations in Northern Greece, including the Evros Delta and Lake Kerkini, the documentary includes interviews with a diverse range of people including birdwatchers, conservationists, hunters, poachers and wardens.

With a focus on Lesser White-fronted Geese, the film invites us to follow their journey of coexistence between man and birds starting in the Arctic Circle and extending all the way to the Mediterranean Sea, in the wetlands of the Evros Delta and Lake Kerkini in Northern Greece.

For more information on the film, commissioned by the Hellenic Ornithological Society, and its viewings go to the following links ornithologiki.gr and tdf.filmfestival.gr or contact Roula Trigou at rtrigou@ornithologiki.gr for more information.

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Greece - the other migrant crisis

We all love the time we spend in Greece, whether we’re there for the wildlife, the weather, the history or just sunbathing on the beach.  But behind many beaches, just a few yards inland, there’s often a very different activity going on. The silent slaughter of songbirds. Thousands of mist-nets and limesticks bring a slow death to Robins, Blackcaps, thrushes, Cuckoos – anything that passes - often lured by tapes of birdsong, suggesting a safe haven. Despite being banned, illegal bird killing is taking place at quite extraordinary and unsustainable levels. While many turn a blind eye, an estimated 25 million birds are being illegally massacred annually around the Mediterranean.

Sadly, it is estimated that over 1 million birds are killed in Greece every year.

To add to this, tens of thousands of birds – Goldfinches especially – are caught and sold in markets to become cagebirds. Athens, for example, has many such markets.

And now, as Spring arrives, those migrants that have survived the journey to Africa and are now coming back to Europe to breed are next in line. These are the survivors, essential to maintaining the population, but throughout the Ionian islands – Corfu, Zakynthos etc. the first sounds of spring aren’t just uplifting they are a call to put on the camouflage and get outside with a gun. Spring hunting, because of its damaging effect on future bird numbers, has been banned since 1979. So what happens? It may be illegal but there’s virtually no enforcement. Hundreds of hunters in army uniforms, putting a resounding two fingers up at the law, are out shooting at anything within range. Just look at what the wildlife hospitals receive – harriers, eagles, herons, you name it. And it’s all defended in the name of tradition - ‘We’ve always done this’, ‘It’s part of our heritage’ etc., etc. Well, tradition is a thin justification. It’s the last resort for those who know something is wrong but can’t find any other way of defending it. Burning witches and sleeping in caves were traditional but we don’t do them now. So, this has to stop. In the long term, education has a large role to play but birds are being killed now, today, as you read this. In the here and now pressure has to be brought to bear on the authorities to enforce the law.

So please listen to this excellent podcast soundcloud.com/talkingnaturally

Read this report from Birdlife www.birdlife.org/illegal-killing

And then please support the Champions of the Flyway campaign so that something can be done about this terrible tragedy.See more details below about the campaign.

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Champions of the Flyway

We're delighted that Greek birds will be the beneficiaries of this year's Birdlife campaign, Champions of the Flyway. The Birdlife project targets the illegal killing of migratory birds travelling between Europe and Africa. Each year one country is the focus. This year the focus is Greece!

It is our chance to help lessen the impact of the killing fields of Greece on our migrant birds. We, at Birdwing, are supporting this campaign by sponsoring the team from our friends at the Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS) called ‘Pterodromoi’ and ask that you, if you are able, support it too. Teams compete in a race in Israel on 29th March to see the most species while raising funds for this important conservation work. 

As sponsors of the team we wish them well and hope that you are able to help them raise their target amount. Please donate to this appeal, and in particular to the Pterodromoi team by clicking here: Birdlife Greece Racers

For more details about the Birdlife campaign and the other teams taking part click here.

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European Stork village

There is fantastic news to report that this year the village of Poros, near the Evros Delta, has been designated the European Stork Village of the year 2016!

The aim of the award ‘European Stork Village’, which has been running since 1994, is to internationally promote the localities as an exceptional natural and cultural heritage and to highlight the community’s efforts to conserve the White Stork in the surroundings of the village and to strengthen positive approaches to its protection. Poros submitted proposals to EuroNatur which included a commitment to host an annual Stork Festival to take place each spring. This is the first year that a location in Greece has won this award and we hope it will lead to a greater awareness of the importance of bird and wildlife conservation.

This year’s Stork Festival will be on June 10th and 11th. A representative from EuroNatur will officially award the title.

Thanks to Eva Stets and Eleni Makrigianni for their efforts to submit this proposal to secure the award. Find out more about EuroNatur and this prestigious award, including other villages that have won by clicking here.

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Action for Wildlife NGO

Action for Wildlife NGO is dedicated to the conservation of wildlife and is the primary first aid centre for wildlife treatment in all of North Greece. We receive over 1300 animals yearly, mostly birds that are injured (hunters, electric cables, natural causes), malnourished or nestlings.

Our team consists, entirely of volunteers that are trained in our centre in order to rehabilitate as many wild animals in nature. Through this effort, we aim to promote public awareness about biodiversity loss.

Since we are not sponsored by any authority, we rely solely on the motivation of our volunteers, member donations and offers in medicines, foods and other materials.It is extremely challenging to meet the needs of such a centre with such few financial resources and inexistent permanent staff, and even more, since the financial situation in Greece averts many people of donating to our cause.

Anyone can join Action for Wildlife’s rehabilitation centre and effort to continue providing help to wild animals by subscribing our cause!

Take a look at www.drasi-agriazoi.gr or www.facebook.com/drasiagriazoi/

Find out how you can help and save a hawk, owl, eagle or a mammal TODAY!

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Bird news

As October advanced towards November the number of birds at Lake Kerkini was a joy to behold. Several thousand White Pelicans assembled around the river mouth getting ready for their departure, over 1500 Flamingos lined the water's edge, Great White, Little and Cattle Egrets were all present with over 100 Spoonbill. The best news concerned the Lesser White-fronted Geese. The largest number since 1992 - 107 - arrived on the 2nd October suggesting a fantastically successful breeding season – see below.

There were 1200 Greater White-fronted Goose on the lake by February along with 116 Lessers, 54 Greylags and, unusually, 3 Red-breasted Geese. During this month some 590 Dalmatian Pelicans were counted together with 4 Whites. Also of note were 1800 Flamingos, 25 Common Cranes, 72 Bewick’s Swans, 17 Whoopers, 8 Ruddy Shelducks, 38 Goldeneye, 7 Smew, 15 Spotted Eagles, 4 Golden and 3 White-taileds.

Whilst the Evros Delta seemed not to be to the liking of the Lesser White-fronted Geese this winter the same cannot be said of Bewick’s Swans whose numbers went through the roof – see the next page for more details.

Cold weather and snow cover characteristically saw wildfowl numbers increase dramatically during January.  Counts included 26 783 Teal, 11 698 Wigeon, 58 729 Mallard and 3090 Ruddy Shelduck. Over 4100 Greater White-fronts were present with, briefly, a peak of 85 Lessers on the 29th, along with 207 Dalmatians, 83 Pygmy Cormorants and 2327 Flamingos.

Whenever wildfowl numbers build the raptors are never far behind, with 31 Spotted Eagles, 6 White-tails and 176 Marsh Harriers. Fifteen Little Bustards completed this impressive line-up.  On 3rd March some 1700 Ruddy Shelducks were a welcome sight as were the first birds of spring – Black-tailed Godwits, Hoopoes and Squacco Herons.

Bewick's Swan record broken again at Evros!

Ten years ago the maximum numbers of Bewick’s Swans wintering on the Evros Delta were in the low hundreds but the last few years have seen a steep rise, and this is accelerating. February 2014 saw a new record for Greece with 3300, February 2015 saw 3691 and in January 2016 over 5300 were on the delta. Incredibly February saw the record broken again, with an amazing count of 8400! This upward trend coincides with a decreasing trend for wintering numbers in northern Europe.

See odnature.naturalsciences.be for some fascinating insights into what seems to be happening with this species.

‘Great’ Lesser White-fronted Geese news!

The best news of the winter period concerned the Lesser White-fronted Geese. Greece plays host to the whole of the European breeding group during the winter months. Over the last decade this struggling population has consisted of around 50 birds, sometimes fewer, with only 25 arriving in 2009 for example.

This year the largest number since 1992 - 107 - arrived on the 2nd October suggesting a fantastically successful breeding season in the high Arctic, where a very good vole year has been beneficial. It’s not that the goslings eat voles, of course, but high numbers of voles means fewer goslings are lost to predators such as the Arctic Fox.  A further 5 birds joined this Kerkini flock and 112 were at the lake until late January when they began to depart for the Evros Delta. However this visit to Evros was short-lived and within days birds were returning to the lake, with 88 back by February 4th, presumably having found conditions less to their liking. By the 15th numbers had risen to 114 and, with 30 remaining at Evros, this suggests the Greek wintering population was 144 which is an astounding increase. Numbers at Kerkini peaked at 118 on the 19th as more birds arrived from Evros.

These birds will soon set off northwards, typically first of all to Hortobagy in Hungary and then onwards and upwards to the Arctic, where we wish them another successful breeding season.

Follow their progress at www.piskulka.net

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Other news

Birdwatching in Northern Greece – 3rd edition! Can you help? 

We are beginning to turn our attention towards revising the site guide ‘Birdwatching in Northern Greece’ and producing a new edition. Sales of the second edition have been so successful that we’re already beginning to plan for the publication of a third edition.

It is hoped that this will include new and interesting sites in Greece, including Messolonghi, Lake Karla and further locations in Northern Greece. 

If you have bird-lists or details of places you have visited in the region we’d love to hear from you and will be happy to acknowledge you in the new guide. Also, in order to include more information on accommodation and restaurants we’d be grateful for any comments on places you’d recommend.

Any further suggestions on features in the guide that you would find useful would also be gratefully received. Email us at info@birdwing.eu

 

Trip-reports 

It’s coming round to the time of year when we receive lots of emails from people asking questions to help them plan their forthcoming trips to Northern Greece. Visitors in previous years have sent us useful trip reports which are available on our website.

New ones from last year include an epic from Birdwing supporter Gary Jones who spent several months travelling through Greece in a campervan. An excellent read of an interesting – if not always perfect – trip! Find it and others at the following link: www.birdwing.eu/resources.


GPS coordinates

Thanks to the kind efforts of Birdwing supporter Roland Gifford who visiting Northern Greece last year, a file of GPS coordinates is available to anyone who has purchased the second edition of the site guide - Birdwatching in Northern Greece. This might be of interest to anyone visiting with a Satellite Navigation system. If you wish to hear more information about this, contact us at info@birdwing.eu

Many thanks to Roland Gifford for his help in making this possible.

 

Samos Symposium

The Public Historical Library of Samos, the Goulandris Natural History Museum, the Natural History Museum of the Aegean – Palaeontological Museum of Mitilini, Samos and the Museum of Palaeontology and Geology of the University of Athens are organizing a series of events in order to present the natural environment of Samos – the flora, fauna, geology and palaeontological treasures of the island.

The purpose of this event is to raise the awareness of the public about environmental issues. We hope to encourage everyone to accept, love and protect the natural environment of Samos through presentations and field work led by scientists. Young people and children will have the opportunity to take part in educational activities at the Natural History Museum and the Historical Library of Samos.

As part of the event there will be a presentation of the book “The Nature of Samos – Guide for the Observation of Birds and Other Animals” (Ropi Publications, in Greek) by Roger Butts and Maria Dimaki.

The lectures will take place on Friday, April 22nd and Saturday, April 23rd at Samos City Hall and they will be in Greek.

The educational activities for students will take place on Thursday, April 21st.

Info: Maria Dimaki    tel. 210 8015870  ext. 525      Email mdim@gnhm.gr

Manolis Pyrgiotis tel. 22730-27216  Email librasam@otenet.gr


Birdwing Nest-box Programme update

This spring, boxes have been put up at the Axios-Aliakmon-Loudias region of Northern Greece and are soon to be erected in the Porto Lagos-Nestos National Park too.

Further boxes have been made for siting this spring and construction is soon to be underway at Koronia-Volvi.

If you didn’t see our video of the successful boxes last year at the Evros Delta, click here.

 

Kerkini news

Work has been undertaken at Lake Kerkini this winter with completion of the construction of the large island for pelicans and smaller islands for other birds. Reeds have been placed on the pelican islands for them to use as nesting material together with some planting of reeds in some of the new fenced-off areas.

Many fences have been built around the area to protect the native vegetation from cattle and buffalo and other livestock.

Work is also underway to create the new tern raft. You may remember that after many years of successful breeding the old Birdwing raft began to rot and become entangled with vegetation.

Chicken wire is being put around the new raft as before (for predators and to prevent chicks falling down) and it is hoped that in April water levels will be appropriate so that it can be moved into position near Mandraki harbour, the location of the previous Birdwing raft.

Also in other news from Kerkini the management body, in collaboration with Giorgos  Catsadorakis and Olga Alexandrou from the Society for the Protection of Prespa (SPP),) fitted satellite transmitters onto 7 Dalmatian Pelicans. It is hoped that the information this provides will be valuable in learning more about the behaviours of these magnificent birds throughout the year.

      

Evros Delta conference

Although some months ago now, we wanted to express our thanks to the Evros Delta Management Body for putting on such an excellent conference in October, where we were invited to give the closing talk.

In a bilingual event that attracted people from all over Europe, experts presented data and research on the state of birds at the delta. Speakers included Giorgos Catsadorakis, Nikos Probonas (from the HOS), Ad Wittgen, Eva Stets and many others reporting on numbers of birds at the Delta both past and present.  

Congratulations and thanks for such a successful event.

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