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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.

 
 

Korinos success!

You may remember a report in a previous issue of our newsletter (Issue 19) about the very serious threat to Korinos wetland, near Thessaloniki. The site is an SPA NATURA 2000 area (GR1220010) but there were significant plans to build on this unique area.

The Ministry of Environment in Greece, despite the ongoing process by the European Commission, had approved the environmental assessment for a housing development plan for 6500 people inside the protected area!

This development would have obviously adversely and irreversibly affected the wetland, Delta Axiou – Loudia – Aliakmona – Alyki Kitrous as well as the neighbouring coastal sand dunes of the SAC (GR1250004), Alyki Kitrous – Evryteri Periochi.

During the spring in 2015 we encouraged you to donate to a fund to allow NGOs (Non-Government Organisations) and the Management Body of the region to take the case to the council of State of Greece for an annulment of the decision. Birdwing and a range of organisations including HOS, WWF Greece and Mesogios SOS, contributed to this.

We are delighted to announce that on 9th August 2016 a ruling was (somewhat unexpectedly!) made stating that no building should go ahead on this or other protected land in the Axios Delta National Park. It is such fantastic news and may not have happened had people not donated towards the legal challenge. We are thrilled to know that the ‘protection’ the wetland has is being honoured and that the ecosystems will not be irreversibly destroyed.

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I Care Project

Thanks to all of you who agreed to take part in our ‘I care’ project by submitting your photo for our video. We are busy preparing the final version of the video which will be available soon.

 

The intermediate versions of the video were viewed by over 68,000 individuals from all around the world in different places on social media and prompted many to share and to spread the fact that many people care about and work to protect birds in Greece.

 

The final video be able to be used by conservation organisations and NGOs in Greece to promote their work and to gain further support. It has already encouraged many new people to support Birdwing and to see themselves as part of the larger network of those working to protect birds and wildlife in Greece.

If you are interested in buying an ‘I care’ T-shirt with your own image on and at the same time helping birds in Greece please click here.

 

 

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 Stork Festival, Poros

The village of Poros, in Feres, Evros, was officially declared as ”European Stork Village 2016”, in January earlier this year, as an important site for its contribution to the protection and breeding of the species because of its location close to National Park of Evros Delta.

The village was awarded this accolade by euroNATUR during the 1st Stork Festival which was held in Poros on 10th-11th June. A wide range of events for adults and children were held in the Festival, from the early mornings until late at night.

The celebration began in the morning of Friday with tours to the Stork nests, ringing of chicks, creative activities for children, puppet shows, chess lessons, cycling and presentations and was completed on Saturday evening with greetings and speeches  by the officials, the formal announcement of Poros as the ‘European Stork Village 2016’ and the award which was given by  Euronatur’s representative, the award of the first prize of the photo contest and ended with traditional Thracian music and dance.

Local co-operatives, producers and associations participated in the Festival with stands and products, together with HEDNO Alexandroupolis (Hellenic Electricity Distribution Network Operation), the Dadia Forest Management Body and WWF Greece.

The organizers of the Festival in addition to the Evros Delta Management Body were the Municipal Unity of Feres, the Village of Poros, the Folklor and Cultural Society of Poros "Digenis Akritas", the HEDNO Alexandroupolis and the Hellenic Stork Group ‘’Ciconia’’.

Eleni Pistola, Evros Delta Management Body

Find out more about EuroNatur and this prestigious award, including other villages that have won by clicking here.

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Environmental disaster at Lake Karla

We are very saddened to report the deaths of dozens of birds, including endangered species, at Lake Karla in Thessaly, central Greece, which has been suffering from low water levels and a lack of replenishment.

Experts say the cause of the deaths is likely to be toxic bacteria, and the Hellenic Ornithological Society, the Society for the Protection of Prespa and Wildlife Clubs ANIMA and Action for Wildlife have denounced the incident with the urgent letter in Thessaly Region and the Ministry of Environment and Energy urging the authorities to take action.

The lake-reservoir Karla, a wetland of international importance for birds, was drained in 1962 in order to prevent floods and mosquitoes, but it led to serious damage to surrounding ecosystems. In 2010, a project was launched to divert water from the Pineios River to create a new reservoir but this has yet to be completed, keeping water levels dangerously low.

In recent weeks a large number of waterfowl have died due to poisoning from cyanotoxins. The species most affected include the Dalmatian Pelican, a globally threatened species, with Greece home to more than 30% of the world population. Since 2016, Lake Karla is the second largest breeding colony of Dalmatian Pelicans in Greece and one of the four wetlands in Europe where both pelican species are nesting (White Pelican and Dalmatian). The first dead birds, 9 Dalmatian Pelicans, were identified in early July, and since then the number of dead birds has exceeded 160 individuals. This number is expected to increase significantly as mortality continues at a steady pace. By 9th August at least 167 birds had been found dead including 47 Dalmatian, 4 White Pelicans, 50 Egrets, 2 Spoonbills, 4 Black-winged Stilts, 10 Cormorants and a range of gulls and ducks. They have also identified waterfowl in half-dead states with strong neurological symptoms, such as unsteady gait and head grip. The Management Body of Karla-Montenegro-Kefalovrysos-Velestinou conducted systematic patrols to find dead birds and rescue those living.

The small amount of water in the reservoir and its poor quality, as well as high temperatures were the lethal cocktail for the birds, creating favourable conditions for an intense "bloom" of the toxic cyanobacteria (species of phytoplankton). The results of the analysis conducted by the University of Thessaly, both of water samples and of tissue from dead Dalmatian Pelicans showed the presence of high concentrations of hepatotoxins and neurotoxins. These toxins are released by cyanobacteria during their breakup or via the food chain or through simple contact.

The situation in the reservoir Karla is particularly critical. We must immediately take the necessary measures to Thessaly Region and the Ministry of Environment to address the phenomenon and to stop the mortality of birds.

The completion of works on the lake is absolutely urgent to place the renewal - water recycling. The low level of the lake, especially during the summer months, is partially responsible for the incident. In the long run, it is for the State to take preventive measures. Such phenomena threaten not only biodiversity but also all users of water in the region, and also physically threatened condemnation of the country at the European level.

For more information:

ANIMA: Maria Ganotis maria.ganoti@gmail.com

Action for Wildlife: Sofia Prousalis sophia.prousali@gmail.com

Hellenic Ornithological Society: Constantina Demir, kntemiri@ornithologiki.gr Roula Trigou, rtrigou@ornithologiki.gr

SPP: Giorgos Catsadorakis doncats@otenet.gr

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 Nest-box nests

Our nest-box programme across Northern Greece continued this spring with new boxes going up at a number of new locations, including the Axios delta and in places around Lake Ismarida. We are pleased also to report that, again about 50% of the boxes at the Evros Delta were used by breeding Rollers and Kestrels around the delta.

During the spring, to learn more about nest-boxes used by Lesser Kestrels we visited Thessaly, the location for the Life Project for Lesser Kestrels and met with Stavros Polymeros, one of the team.

It was fantastic to learn how widely involved the community is with the project, where individuals, families, villages and schools asked to have nest-boxes sited in their buildings. Water-towers hosted multiple nest-boxes, the roof of an old school toilet block had been altered to accommodate nest-boxes and all around the villages in the area hundreds of Lesser Kestrels could be seen.

The project has installed about 700 artificial nest-boxes in more than 20 villages of the Thessalian plain, over 800 Lesser Kestrels have been ringed (most of them as juveniles), 19 satellite tagged to obtain information on their wintering grounds (they travel to Cameroon!) and there is a lot of work still going on from the University of Thessaly on their food habits and food availability.

It is hoped that the small populations of Lesser Kestrels in the villages near Lake Ismarida in Thrace can be helped in similar ways. This spring the number of Lesser Kestrels monitored in these villages is as follows: 

•             Kalamokastro (with 27 pairs),

•             Megalo and Micro Doukato (with 18 and 9 pairs respectively) 

•             Agios Theodoros (with 2 pairs).

We would like to express our thanks to the many kind people who have recently given generous donations to Birdwing for our nest-box programme. These gifts will enable more boxes to be put up ready for next spring.

For more information on the Lesser Kestrel Life Project go to www.lifelesserkestrel.e

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Brilliant Birdfair!

As always, it was an honour to talk to visitors to the British Birdfair about what a great place Greece is to visit for bird- and nature-watching. Representatives from a number of the national parks of Northern Greece attended.

Thousands of interested people visit the fair each year to meet people from all around the world. We were delighted to meet up with Greenwing’s Wildlife Holidays there too who presented Birdwing with a cheque for over £1000! During May we worked with Greenwings, guiding a group of visitors around Lake Kerkini to raise money for Birdwing. Greenwings has a strong conservation policy to support work like ours and we are very grateful to them for this.

It was also good to see Roula Trigou from the  Hellenic Ornithological Society (Birdlife Greece) at the Birdfair. The HOS is busy planning how best to use the money raised by the Champions of the Flyway Bird-race this year to combat illegal trapping and hunting of migrating birds in Greece.

Other visitors and exhibitors included Nikos Gallios from the Hotel Limneo and guides George Spiridakis and Lavrentis Sidiropoulos, who many of you may know.  

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Bird news roundup

In late July a first for Greece appeared in a small lake in Thrace – a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (Calidris acuminate)! Found by Greek birdwatchers, this bird caused a great stir! The bird was found in Porto Lagos, by Dimitris Kokkinidis and Fanis Theofanopoulos on 31 July 2016 in the afternoon. Τhe next morning it was not there. Τhe bird sleeps and feeds together with Curlew Sandpiper and Dunlins. Αlso in Porto Lagos in August had many Marsh Sandpipers,Spotted Redshank, Curlew Sandpipers, Dunlins, Broad billed sandpipers and 3 Red-necked phalarope.

Photo by Dimitris Kokkinidis

Click here for further details and photos about this bird!

Lake Kerkini was its glorious self during the spring and summer with the added bonus of not only a record 250 Dalmatian Pelican chicks but, for the first time, five White Pelican chicks fledged alongside them on the newly constructed islands. Congratulations to the Management Body for all their hard work to make this happen. At Lake Karla 16 Whites fledged amongst the Dalmatians. A flock of 30 Red-throated Pipits, grounded by fog, was a delight here in early April.

During the spring several Rufous Bush Chats were located along the coast west of Alexandroupoli. These birds are very thinly distributed in North Greece and so are always special to see. 

One of the jewels this year was Lake Koronia which was back to what it should be, a rich, vibrant, brimming wetland offering nesting opportunities for thousands of water birds. Having seen years of poor water quality and sometimes no water at all, it was wonderful to see this lake in such rude health. Efforts by the Management Body, using EU Life funds, have helped the situation but the effects of two wet winters cannot be ignored. We hope the quality of the lake continues to be as good as this. The region also held breeding Long-legged Buzzards and several Great Spotted Cuckoos were seen during spring. 

As water levels fell in Kalohori the conditions for waders improved and over a thousand birds were on the lagoon at times during May, including Terek, Broad-billed and Marsh Sandpipers amongst hundreds of Little Stint, Dunlin, Wood Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank and Ruff. The area held eight species of tern including Caspian, Gull-billed and the three marsh terns. Other notable birds present were Flamingo, Spur-winged Plovers, Turnstones, Avocets, Stone Curlews, Glossy Ibis and Black-necked Grebes. 

With a bit of searching, good mountain birds such as Alpine Accentor, Alpine Chough, Rock Thrush, Water Pipit and Horned Lark could be found on several high peaks, including Falakro and Paggeo. 

Wader counts for May on the Evros Delta included 1320 Curlew Sandpiper, 107 Little Stint, 165 Spotted Redshank, 41 Turnstone and 45 Spur-winged Plover. Terns include 528 Black, 75 White-winged Black and 415 Sandwich. Other totals included 240 White Pelican, 71 Pygmy Cormorant and 58 Glossy Ibis. Return migration was well underway in July with 470 Glossy Ibis, 350 Black-winged Stilt, 430 Wood Sandpiper, 1300 Spotted Redshank, 360 Greenshank, 140 Marsh Sandpiper, 710 Black-tailed Godwit, 95 Little Ringed Plover, 310 White Pelican and 200 Spoonbill.

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