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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.


 Newsletter 34 - Autumn 2023

This year Greece has sadly been at the front line of climate breakdown. We bring you the tragic news from Evros and Dadia following the largest fire in EU history below. Not only were there devastating fires across the country but in September terrible floods caused immense damage and loss of life in other parts of Greece. Find out more here

In August we were pleased to publish the Third Edition of Birdwatching in Northern Greece, which lots of you have already purchased! Many thanks. We have received lots of positive feedback for which we are very grateful. Read more here or go to to purchase your copy.


Devastation from fires at Dadia and Evros

For those living and working in the region of Dadia and the southern Evros hills, the enormous fire that started on 19th August – the largest in EU history – has been devastating and will have consequences that will last for decades. The fires there raged fiercely for more than two weeks, burning one thousand square kilometres of forest (100 000 hectares), including parts of the inner protected core of Dadia. Much of the forest, home to unique ecosystems and rare and endangered birds and wildlife, which provided livelihoods for many people, has been lost.  At least twenty people lost their lives in the fires. 

One of the success-stories from Dadia has been the increase in the number of Black (Cinereous) Vultures (Aegypius monachus) since the 1980s, when there were  only  about  25  individuals remaining. This is the only natural population in Eastern Europe of this magnificent bird. Since then, and as a result from conservation help from WWF and EU Life projects, numbers have risen to about 120. A crucial element of their breeding success has been the core protected area with large pine trees, which support their huge nests. Sadly, some of these nesting trees were lost in fires. In conversations with staff from the Society for the Protection of Biodiversity in Thrace (SPBT), it was suggested that platforms could be attached to the still standing, although dead, trees to provide temporary nesting sites. This, of course, will only be effective until the trees eventually fall, but, in the short-term, might hopefully provide the birds with an acceptable alternative. NECCA will install these platforms and in the meantime, with the massive drop in potential feeding opportunities, will continue to provide food at artificial feeding station in Dadia.

Much of the concern in the longer term is directed at birds other than vultures whose complete prey base has been destroyed, such as Golden, Lesser Spotted and Short-toed Eagles, for whom tortoises, amphibians and snakes have all but completely disappeared. Fortunately, some patches of forest still remain and will hopefully act as a source for regeneration as vegetation begins to return. It, however, is hard to believe that the numbers of these birds will return to previous levels for decades to come.

Even though the fires are now extinguished, serious dangers for the forest remain. Heavy rain over the winter will cause soils to slump from the hillsides, taking valuable seeds for regeneration with them. A further concern is that, now the forest is less wildlife-rich, pressure to use the land for alternative purposes, such as windfarms, may grow. 

Beyond the forest, the fires spread westwards beyond Alexandroupoli and southwards into the Evros Delta, where trees and buildings toward Drana were burnt, including the iconic Loutros Hill. We were anxious to check the conditions of the Birdwing nestboxes following the fires. Fortunately, offering a tiny glimmer of positive news, all boxes have survived, although scorched in one case, and one box even had a roosting Barn Owl inside as we checked them! 

Government and environmental NGOs including WWF Greece, former Management Body of Dadia Forest National Park- NECCA, the EU, and SPBT are planning programmes to address the most urgent issues caused by the fires. We, at Birdwing, will continue to put up nestboxes – needed now more than ever – and are considering whether additional boxes could help birds this coming season.

EU experts warn of an “increasing trend of large fires” due to the climate breakdown and that is expected to continue and worsen. It should act as a reminder to us all to do what we can to urge our politicians to make decisions for the protection of our planet and to reduce fossil fuel use.


The Third Edition

The 288-page, full colour, third edition of the site guide ‘Birdwatching in Northern Greece’ is now available. Thanks to those of you who voted to choose the cover for it. Although the three choices were all popular, the Bee-eater shot won by a small margin. Here is some of the feedback we’ve recently received…

The third edition includes new sites, updated information and lots more than in the second edition.

To buy your copy go to . Please remember that all proceeds from book sales go towards helping birds in Northern Greece.



Nestbox news

Recent analysis on the take-up of Birdwing nest boxes at the Evros Delta has highlighted their importance for Kestrels, Little Owls, Barn Owls and Rollers, in habitats which have good feeding but few natural nesting opportunities.

The chart below shows the uptake and expansion of the number of nestboxes there from 2015 (second row) to 2023 (bottom row), with each nest box a separate column. White indicates when a box was put up but was not used by birds in the breeding season. Yellow shows when birds were using the boxes for breeding. As you can see, take-up of the boxes by Kestrels, Little Owls, Barn Owls and Rollers in 2023 was exception!

Given that such a high proportion of the boxes were used this spring and, as some existing trees in the Evros Delta were burnt, we decided to put up more, ready for next year.

Boxes were also successful in other areas of Northern Greece, with Birdwing’s Kestrel boxes being particularly successful around Lake Ismarida and the Rhodope Lagoons in Thrace.

This year also saw an increase in the number of Little Owls using boxes and defending them against Rollers.  


Floods in Thessaly

Almost at the same time as the smoke was still rising from the fires in northeast Greece unprecedented rain phenomena were causing devastation and loss of life in Thessaly, Central Greece. In early September, Storm Daniel followed by Storm Elias caused major destruction to farmland, infrastructure and residential areas, particularly in the Karditsa, Larissa and Trikala regions, with serious floods in the coastal town of Volos, not far from Lake Karla. Record-breaking rainfall of 750 mm in 24 hours at a station in Zagora was recorded on 5-6 September and its results were described as a ‘biblical catastrophe’ with the death toll rising to 17 and more than 3000 people were evacuated to safer locations. The port city of Volos received 10 times the average rainfall for September during Storm Daniel, followed by 8 times the average during 14 hours of Storm Elias.

Lake Karla, one of the new birdwatching sites included in the third edition, which prior to draining in the 1960s was one of the largest wetlands in the Mediterranean, was once more inundated with water following the storms and subsequent draining of water from west Thessaly. The flooded fields and roads in the region echoed the extent of the former lake.

The long-term environmental costs of these floods, not to mention the impact on residents and their livelihoods, will be measured in the months and years to come.

Fears of health issues due to dead fish and animals, the increase in mosquitos, soil toxicity and other aspects of the catastrophe are outlined in the Guardian newspaper on 29 Sept 2023:

Time will tell as to the long-term impacts for the lake and its birds.

Again our minds turn to what we can do to encourage politicians and governments to address our climate breakdown and make the necessary changes to reduce the likelihood of such tragic climatic events from happening.   


Bird news

The undoubted highlight of recent months has been the adult Sabine’s Gull found at Lake Kerkini on October 2nd, which is the first time the species has been seen in Greece. Normally a bird of Arctic areas of Siberia and North America, this bird favoured the southern shore of the lake and seemed unperturbed by being the focus of many telephoto lenses.

Also at Kerkini at the beginning of October were more than 3000 White Pelicans preparing to leave towards Istanbul and onwards to Africa and the presence of both Lesser Spotted and Greater Spotted Eagles indicated the changing of the seasons which will see many more of the latter arriving.

Another regular point in the Kerkini autumn calendar is the arrival of the highly-endangered Lesser White-fronted Geese from Scandinavia. Some great news to report involves the population that breeds in northern Norway and winters in Greece. Reduced to just 25 birds in 2010 numbers have fluctuated since, rising to 130 in 2016 but falling to 63 last year. However, this year saw a record 83 youngsters fledged making a total of 137 birds counted. By October 4th, 131 of these had arrived at Kerkini.

During the last fifteen years the arrival date of the Lesser White-fronted Geese to Kerkini has been steadily advancing. Prior to 2010 the date of the first birds was usually during the first days of November. In 2010 it was October 22nd, then the 19th, 13th, 7th and, in 2014, October 1st. In 2019 and 2020 they arrived on September 22nd and this year the first birds touched down on September 15th. Two of the birds were carrying satellite tags and showed that the 3500km flight from northern Norway took 78 hours.

Thanks to Kostas Papadopoulos for the Greek data. For more information see

An autumn regular in Evros is Dotterel which, as usual, turned up in mid-September with three in their usual spot south of the airport. Elsewhere on the delta at this time were two Broad-billed Sandpipers, ten Ruddy Shelducks, a single Greater Sand Plover and plenty of Levant Sparrowhawks.


Other news

Life Falkon project

The breeding range of Lesser Kestrels in the central-eastern Mediterranean area is shifting northwards due to climate change. LIFE FALKON is fostering resilience by improving the conservation status of the population at the north-eastern edge of its breeding range in Italy and Greece. The project will provide increased nesting opportunities, including nest boxes and towers, promote favourable rural development and building renovation practices, and establish a network of conservationists focused on populations crucial for the species’ northward breeding expansion. For more information go to:  and to watch a video of their work click here:

Sad news

We recently heard the news that Birdwing supporter Dermot McCabe, Chairman of the Tolka Branch of Birdwatch Ireland, sadly died on Monday 9th October. He loved Greece and its birds and led groups from Ireland on spring birdwatching trips to Northern Greece many times. We had the good fortune to meet Dermot and his groups on several occasions. He used to forward our newsletters to his friends and financially supported Birdwing’s efforts to help birds in Greece. If you knew Dermot, his obituary memorial is online at and you can leave condolences there if you wish.

Hotels and Tour companies

We would like to thank the hotels and tour companies who supported the publication of our site guide by purchasing space to advertise at the back of the book. Their contributions allowed us to cover most of the costs of publication, thereby allowing money raised through selling it to all go towards helping birds in Greece. We would like to include several of their adverts in this issue for your interest.



And finally....Our thanks go to those of you who kindly donated to Birdwing, following our last newsletter in the spring or who have purchased a copy of the third edition. Your support for helping birds in Greece is much appreciated.

Global VIsitors to

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New edition of Birdwatching in Northern Greece - out now!

More than 12 years after the second edition was published we've updated 'Birdwatching in Northern Greece' by Steve Mills.

It is 288-page full colour and its UK RRP is £24.99 and EU RRP is €29.00.


It is 288-page full colour and its RRP is £24.99.

For UK customers (£24.99 plus £1.60 postage) click here:


For EU customers (€29.00 plus €6.00 postage) click here:


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