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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.

 
 

Birdwing nest-box successes

 

This year we had a fantastic success rate with nest-boxes put up across different regions of Northern Greece, and we have been able to put up many more boxes to help benefit species such as Rollers, Kestrels, Lesser Kestrels, Barn Owls and smaller birds including flycatchers, Great Tits and, of course, sparrows. Six different kinds of boxes have been put up, totalling more than 150 boxes. The huge take-up of Kestrel boxes at the Evros Delta and the number of Rollers breeding there has been particularly encouraging, with 80% of the Kestrel boxes and 50% of the Roller boxes attracting pairs. More boxes are being made, ready for further expansion.

For Rollers:                                   For Kestrels:                                        For Barn Owls:

 

   For Lesser Kestrels:                                      and for smaller birds including flycatchers and tits:

Thanks again to Meriel Wilmot-Wright and to Greenwings Wildlife Tours (www.greenwings.co) and guests from their Kerkini trip who generously supported our nest-box programme. Thanks to members of staff from various National Parks who helped to erect the boxes.

If you would like to donate to allow us to expand this programme, click here:

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 Project news from around the region


WWF Greece has been working with school children this summer. 160 students and 8 teachers of schools in Thrace joined their voice with WWFs to protect the Egyptian Vulture, the smallest and most threatened species in Europe, with only 5 pairs left in Greece while during the last thirty years half of the European population has disappeared.


For the fifth continuous year the WWF Greece - Dadia team collaborated with the two Environmental Centres of Soufli and Maronia and 5 schools. The activities aim to inform and sensitize students and local people about the illegal use of poisoned baits that threaten the rare vultures. The experiences helped students to prepare informative material such as messages, leaflets, questionnaires and placards which have been shared with local people during outdoor activities in central places in their villages. In addition, in April, the students replaced the ruined or lost wooden signboards that they had drawn and placed in 2014 along forest roads in the region. [Photo E. Kret]

 

This summer, representatives from several National Parks in Northern Greece attended the British Birdwatching Fair in Rutland. The Society for the Protection of Prespa (SPP) invited birders to enjoy the uniqueness of Prespa. Many hundreds of visitors dropped by the SPP stand and staff members were on hand to help them find out all about the natural beauty and wildlife of Prespa. A glimpse of its great landscapes, rich biodiversity and cultural heritage was also available to visitors via a short video. In Prespa, birdwatchers can enjoy the world’s largest breeding colony of Dalmatian Pelicans, together with great white pelicans, pygmy cormorants and 7 species of herons that nest nearby, just from one spot!

Meanwhile, the SPP has designed 6 walking trails around the lakes, for birders who want to discover more than 100 different bird species. Visitors are welcomed at the SPP’s offices in the village of Laimos (Mon – Fri from 9:00 to 17:00) for more information or guided tours in the area. Find more about the SPP on their website or on their Facebook page.

 

The Management Body of Nestos Delta lakes Vistonida-Ismarida in collaboration with NGO GreenBalkans and Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation placed 24 artificial nest boxes for Lesser Kestrel (Falcon naumanni) in four different villages in Rodopi, and had their first tenants! Although we did not expect the boxes to be used in the first year, two were occupied in Kalamokastro, one of them in the school and one in the water tower, and a third nest was taken in Mikro Doukato. Three chicks from a box in Kalamokastro fledged. Unfortunately, the two eggs that were laid in the second artificial nest did not hatch.  There is no information about the family that occupied the third box in Mikro Doukato. The most important colonies of the species, in Thrace, are found in Rodopi in Kalamokastro, Agioi Theodoroi, Mikro Doukato and Megalo Doukato, where the artificial nests were placed.

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Birdwing’s first 10 years 

Things change so quickly. When we started Birdwing (2006/7):

  • The original iPhone was only just released
  • Microsoft Vista was the latest operating system
  • Flat-screen LCD TVs began to replace bulky cathode ray TVs
  • Facebook had only just become available around the world
  • Twitter was only a year old
  • Platforms like Snapchat, Instagram were yet to be started
  • Digital cameras, still in their early years, were not yet able to take motion video recordings
  • Youtube was in its infancy
  • Amazon released its original Kindle
  • An ‘app’ or a ‘tablet’ had very different meanings to those they have today

Who could have foreseen how much technology would change the lives of people across the planet in 10 short years? Whilst some changes have provided fantastic opportunities to connect with more people and to raise the profile of important issues, the impact of constant social media and continuous communication takes its toll. Many people are expressing the need to spend more time in nature and away from technology in order to experience greater feelings of well-being.

For the two of us running Birdwing, we could never have imagined how much time would need to be spent in front of a screen. We set up Birdwing to raise money for projects to help birds and to encourage more eco-tourists to spend time in Greece so that local people would see the value of their wildlife and landscape. Nowadays, to continue to raise awareness, it seems necessary to keep an active profile on many different social media platforms, in particular with the aim of reaching younger people. Ironically, the screens keep people away from interacting with the natural environment and from appreciating the wonder of ‘being’ in wild places.

We hope you’ll understand if our postings on social media are occasionally infrequent. There are times when we have other commitments and need to take a break from screen-life. We’d love for Birdwing’s profile to be continually updated but please forgive us if our presence online is not unbroken. We do our best!

Here’s another look at our ‘I care’ video which we created to commemorate 10 years of Birdwing. Even if we’re not very active online there are plenty of our partners who are celebrating and posting about birds and wildlife in Greece. We’re all in this together! 

 

Thanks for your support!

Hilary and Steve

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Reducing Plastics and other actions

Birdwing strongly supports action to reduce plastic and, as part of this, Birdwing supporter Alexander Wirth has paid for canvas bags to be produced and has been giving them out in Northern Greece to encourage local people to consider their use of single-use plastic bags. Here Alex is photographed with Nikos Gallios of the Limneo Hotel at Lake Kerkini, whom many of you will know.

We are very grateful to Alex and to his father Josef who do a great deal to help raise awareness of this and other environmental issues in the region.

They have also paid for the printing of the German Site Guide to Kerkini, which they translated for us into German, The German edition includes a QR code that allows people to download GPS data for the sites and it is hoped that this will also form part of the third edition of ‘Birdwatching in Northern Greece’ (in English).     

Alex is also involved in promoting Northern Greece to eco-tourists from in Germany and has given presentations about the region to conferences and in magazines.

 

For more information on the German guide to Lake Kerkini, click here.

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Other news

Last chance to enter our competition!

The closing date for entries is October 20th 2017.

Watch this video! How many of the birds in this video have a colour (including black & white) in their common English or common Greek name?

Send a list of the birds to quiz@birdwing.eu for a chance to win a prize!

Click here for more details.

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Birdwing is collaborating with the Evros Delta Management Body to build and position a tern raft for Common Terns, ready for next year’s breeding season.

Other tern rafts are located at the saltworks at Porto Lagos; in the Gallikos estuary in the Axios area; and previously at Mandraki, Lake Kerkini. All rafts are requiring some repairs this winter and, in the case of Kerkini’s where the wood from the raft was stolen, total rebuilding is necessary!

Click the image to see a video of the tern raft at Porto Lagos.

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The money raised by Birdwing for anti-poison dogs continues to be used to fund patrols over this breeding season for Egyptian Vultures in Northern Greece. Dimitris Vavylis and his dog Kuki made regular patrols and fortunately it was a good season with no Egyptian Vultures being affected by the few poisoning incidents that occurred.

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Thank you to all who took part in our survey about the second edition of the site guide ‘Birdwatching in Northern Greece’. We found the comments and suggestions very useful and were very encouraged to hear that most of you found the guide extremely useful and, gave it an overall rating of 4.64 out of 5! Many thanks for your help! 

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Finally thanks to everyone who supports our work and sends us messages of encouragement. We particularly would like to thank the family of Ian Kinley, a well-known British birder, who sadly died in 2015. Ian, known to many as Sam, was from Cumbria and visited Northern Greece several times, giving help in the writing of the second edition of our site guide. He supported Birdwing from its beginning and his family kindly followed his wishes to leave a substantial gift to Birdwing following his death, for which we are very grateful. 

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Bird news round-up

The exceptionally dry year of 2016 continued into 2017 with unfortunate consequences for several wetlands. Most of the coastal seasonal marshes failed to fill during the spring resulting in severely restricted habitat for both passage and breeding water birds. Much of the normally gloriously wet Anthia marshes at the Evros Delta, for example, had no water at all. This has continued to impact the area for the rest of the year, resulting in limited fresh water for return passage in late summer and autumn. At Evros 10 Broad-billed Sandpipers, 2 Red-necked Phalaropes and 6 Red Knot were present in September and two Golden Eagles, each carrying a tortoise, were seen dropping their unfortunate victims onto rocks below. 

September at Kerkini saw many raptors in the area including Lesser Spotted, Booted, Golden, Short-toed and White-tailed Eagles and up to 15 Marsh Harriers. Also, at least 3000 Greater Flamingos, 2500 White and 450 Dalmatian Pelicans, 200-250 Glossy Ibis, 400 Spoonbills, 350 Black-tailed Godwits, 60 Greylag Geese, at least 11 Cattle Egrets, were seen with several Black Storks and a few lingering Whites. The arrival of autumn was further evidenced by increasing numbers of all the usual duck species.

At Kerkini in September attention turns to the impending arrival of the Lesser White-fronted Geese. The whole of the European population of these birds arrives at Kerkini during September and October and observers wait to see how successful the year’s breeding season has been. Reports from their breeding grounds in Norway in June suggested it could be a particularly poor season with consistently cold temperatures and deep snow cover to an extent not seen for almost 100 years. The first birds arrived at the lake on September 24th with a small group of 6, building to 38 by the month’s end and 43 birds on October 7th. These birds were all adults, unfortunately suggesting a very poor breeding season this year. The latest information we have is of 89 birds on October 12th.

One hundred and twenty active stork nests, with 304 chicks, were recorded this year by the Axios Delta Management Body in the villages near the Axios Delta National Park.

More than 2,000 breeding Black-headed and Slender-billed Gulls and 1,300 Common, Sandwich and Gull-billed Terns were counted in 2017 by the staff of the Axios Delta Management Agency. The sand beaches at the estuaries of the protected area rivers are particularly important for nesting, and they host the unique colony of the Slender-billed and the largest colony of Black-headed Gulls in Greece. In addition, for the third year running, the breeding of Caspian Terns was confirmed, with the presence of two pairs with chicks. Although often seen on migration the islands of Axios are the only area in Greece where Caspians have been found to breed.

 

Thanks to Roy Clarke and the Management Bodies of Evros, Kerkini and Axios for their data.

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