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Evros Delta

On the border with Turkey, the Evros Delta forms a huge area of 188km2 and was declared a Ramsar-protected wetland in 1974. Despite this and a plethora of other paper protection the site faces major issues of freshwater management, overgrazing, overfishing, hunting and drainage.

However the delta still offers good birdwatching opportunities and, being close to one of the great migration flyways, offers the chance of real rarities, such as Greater Sand, White-tailed, Sociable and even Caspian Plovers.

Birding the delta

The north-western section has public access. The south-eastern part is permit only for non-Greeks (see below).

The delta has a rich diversity of habitats including freshwater lakes, brackish and seawater lagoons, rivers, reedy ditches, tamarisk forest, sandy islets, swamps, reedbeds and a small area of riverine forest. More than 300 species have been recorded and it has probably been the prime European site for Slender-billed Curlew, with a flock of 120 (no, it’s not a typo!) on 20 October 1978. Those were the days!

When to visit

The delta can offer great birding at any time of year:

Spring - probably the richest time of the year is from mid-April to mid-May when migration can be fantastic, with large numbers of passage waders and terns in evidence alongside those birds that have returned to breed.  Glossy Ibis, Ruff, Curlew Sandpipers and Spur-wings can be much in evidence. All three marsh terns occur in good numbers, particularly at site 7 in the site guide. Raptors can include Montagu's Harrier, Long-legged Buzzard, Lanner and Eleonora's Falcons. Masked Shrike, Blue Rock Thrush, Ortolan Bunting

and Woodlark occur around site 9 together with Orphean Warblers. Isabelline Wheatears, Greater Short-toed and Calandra Lark plus Tawny Pipit are all easy to find near the Isabelline Flats

Autumn - tends to be a little more hit-and-miss, with water levels the crucial element and the bulk of passage waders have moved through by late September. Pelican numbers peak in autumn, often with several hundred of both species. Broad-billed Sandpipers are frequent visitors, although a flock of 50 in September ’14 was rather special, and Terek Sands are regular, though only in singles. Garganey numbers peak in late August – early September, with 2650 in 2005. Other early autumn highlights include 1468 Glossy Ibis and 43 Ruddy Shelduck in July '10.

Winter - has a special, desolate feel. Thousands of White-fronted Geese move noisily around the delta during the day, arriving at their roosts in late afternoon, usually with perhaps 50 Lessers and occasional Red-breasteds. Hen Harriers quarter the rough grass and Spotted Eagles can be everywhere, together with perhaps a White-tailed or Eastern Imperial. There were 15 species of raptor on the delta in February ’14, including Eastern Imperial, both kites, Long-legged Buzzard and a Lanner.
Over 200 000 birds were counted in January '13, predominantly ducks, with over 100 000 Teal. However geese and duck numbers fluctuate enormously, with particularly low numbers during the mild winter of 2008 - 2009. Numbers of swans are growing – over 5000 of the three species early in 2013. A total of 1980 Ruddy Shelduck was counted in Febuary ’11 and 45 Little Bustards were on the delta in January '13. In addition, around 2 000 Greater Flamingo spend the winter here, alongside plenty of Pygmy Cormorants.

Getting permits

Permits can be obtained free of charge from the Evros Visitors' Centre. Alternatively, we will be happy to arrange this for you, also free of charge. You will need to give four weeks’ notice if possible.

Guided tours and boat trips are also available from the Centre, which is usually open from around 8.30 a.m. during the week. The address is The Evros Delta Visitors' Centre, Traianoupoli, Thrace, Greece, telephone and fax (0030) 25510 61000 and email e.makrigianni@evros-delta.gr Try to visit the Centre to add your support to the work going on.

 

Thanks to the Evros Delta Management Authority for their data.

Evros February/March 2014

The mild weather throughout much of the winter kept bird numbers lower than in recent, colder winters. Many wildfowl and raptors chose to stay further north. That said, over 20 Spotted Eagles were on the delta, with 5 or 6 White-tails and an immature Eastern Imperial. Hen Harrier numbers were lower than normal, in single figures, but Black Kites, presumably in response to the weather conditions, were much more numerous. Bucking the wildfowl trend, over 6000 mixed swans were spread across the delta, including 3300 Bewick's, a record for both the delta and Greece. These were alongside a similar record of 4100 Ruddy Shelduck. The regular flock of Lesser White-fronted Geese reached 57 and were accompanied by 20 Red-breasted.

March brought the first signs of spring, with 18 Short-toed Eagles, 200 Ruff, 430 Spotted Redshank, 135 Greenshank, 100 White Pelicans, 380 Black-tailed Godwit, 80 Garganey and the first Spur-wing Plovers of the year which so far number 13.