Page 1

Photophysis e-magazine about Greek Nature


DALMATIAN PELICAN an emblematic bird for the conservation of Greek Nature CHAMOIS an animal forgotten on its mountains RARE BIRDS AT GREECE MOMENTS OF CRETAN SEA BED DELPHI birdwatching in the archaeological site Hi Key wildlife photographs



ith the “publication” of this issue of the Photophysis magazine begins an attempt to give prominence to Greek Nature and to people that study and photograph her.

At this first amateur publication of a magazine, surely someone may spot mistakes and deficiencies, but we ‘ll try our best, issue by issue, to improve the content with richer articles and moreover the aeshetic part. In this issue you will read about the rare Dalmatian Pelican (page 4) and the unbeknown, in Greece, Chamois (page 18), the antelope of the Greek mountains. If you have records of rare birds at Greece we introduce you the Hellenic Rarities Committee (page 32). The mysterious underwater world always fascinates and so we make a dive at the seabed of Crete (page 42). Greece is dotted with antiquities that constitute ideal wildlife reserves. Such a spot is Delphi, a great place for birdwatching (page 56). Last but not least, this issue ends with a pure photographic subject, about hi key wildlife photography (page 79). We hope that you ‘ll enjoy it and we give you a promice that the following ones will be better. Anastasios Sakoulis



text-photos by Tasos Bounas, Dimitris Vavylis and Babis Tsiianidis page 4

text-photos by Hatitakis Papaioannou page 18

RARE BIRDS AT GREECE text by George Handrinos and Nikos Probonas page32

MOMENTS OF CRETAN SEA BED text-photos by Julius Glampedakis page 42


text-photos by George Alexandris page 56


text-photos by Anastasios Sakoulis and Manos Papadomanolakis page 79



an emblematic bird for the c

text-photos by Tasos Bounas. Dimitris Vavylis


Photographer: Tasos Bounas


conservation of Greek Nature

s and Babis Tsilianidis (


Photographer: Tasos Bounas /White Pelican



aking a hike through the wetlands of Northern Greece is certain to lead you in front of a Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus). You will be able to observe it balancing its large body just a few centimeters over the water surface, like a hydroplane, before ditching, fishing in big groups with Cormorants as partners, or even eating from the hands of the local fishermen. Its “cousin” the White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus) is often around. During reproductive period starting in February – March, it is very easy to tell the two species apart because the White Pelican, has bright pink feathers while the Dalmatian has white feathers and bright orange feathers under its nib.


egarding youngsters and birds during other than the reproductive period, the best differentiating characteristic is the intensely “messy” feathers on Dalmatian’s head in contrast to the round head of the other species. 7

Photographer: Babis Tsilianidis


his species, even though it seems common in Greece, faces a lot of problems. During the decades of 60s and 70s the state outlawed the pelican as a harmful species and, as a result, it was hunted and reached its extinction. Today the species’ European population is restricted to only four colonies, three of which in Greece, so it has been registered in the Red List of the endangered


species as “vulnerable”, a rather pessimistic characterisation. The biggest colony of these four –and actually the biggest in the world with over 1100 pairs! - is located at Lake Small Prespa, where it shares the reproductive area with the White Pelican. 9

Photographer: Dimitris Vavylis


he pairs form in early February and soon they lay up to 4 eggs. After 31 days the youngsters hatch, but they have to wait for 11-12 weeks before they leave the nest. The specific colony has been doing very well for the last years and the population has been increasing. hings have not always been this way and the birds had been facing a lot of problems in the past. The most important threats were the decrease of the wet meadows (foraging areas) due to the expansion of reedbeds, the nuisance by boats passing through the colony, poaching and, finally, the impact of


the birds onto the electricity wires placed along the narrow land strip between Big and Small Prespa.


he population started recovering thanks to the coordinated efforts of the people of the Society for the Protection of Prespa and the implementation of proper management measures. The most efficient of them were the updating of the community and the local people, the decrease of reeds with the use of water buffalos that eat young stubbles, the replacement of electrified wires with insulated ones and the attraction of alternative forms of tourism in the area. 11

Photographer: Dimitris Vavylis



ake Kerkini is the second reproductive area for Dalmatian Pelican. The nests the birds used to build on islets overflowed due to the seasonal rise of the lake level (caused by the closing of the floodgates) so all their reproductive efforts were failed. But in 2002 and 2003 elevated platforms were built on the islets so that they are not overflowed. This was an effort of the Kerkini Information Centre, with volunteers of WWF Hellas and the scientific contribution of Tour Du Valat Institution, France. This measure was very successful and since 2003 The Dalmatian Pelican has been nesting in the area every year and its population has been increasing. Last year about 100 pairs nested on the platforms.


he third colony of the species in Greece is at Amvrakikos Gulf and numbers about 50 pairs. So Greece hosts about 1300 pairs of the species in total, which is about Ÿ of the world population. The only other colony in Europe is located at the Danube’s delta and numbers about 450 pairs.


Photographer: Dimitris Vavylis 14


oncluding, it is worth mentioning the relationship that has been developed between the pelicans and the fishermen. Even though fishermen considered pelicans their competitors in the past and they often hunted them, it has been discovered that this kind of bird prefers more abundant fish species, many of which have no commercial value and today fishermen and pelicans live in harmony. In fact, when fishermen clean their fish, pelicans do not hesitate to come close and benefit an easy meal! 15

Photographer: Tasos Bounas


USEFUL LINKS ABOUT THE DALMATIAN PELICAN Society for the Protection of Prespa Information Centre of Kerkini Hellenic Ornithological Society ”The IUCN “Red List” of threatened species


CHAMOIS an animal forgotten in its mounatains text-photos by Haritakis Papaioannou





he chamois is an ungulate and more specifically an even toed (Artiodactyla) ruminant mammal. Taxonomically it belongs to the genus Rupicapra of the Caprinae subfamily and particularly of the Rupicaprini tribe.

here are two chamois species in Europe and Asia Minor. The Pyrenean chamois (Rupicapra pyrenaica), divided into three subspecies, and the Alpine chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra), which is divided into seven subspecies. One of the seven subspecies of the Alpine chamois is the Balkan chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra balcanica), and this is the one found in Greece. Related species are found in Southeast Asia (in and around the Himalayas), Indonesia, the Islands of Japan and North America.. 22


he most characteristic feature of the chamois is the fact that both males and females bear upright horns, with backward-hooked tips. The colour of its body is light brown during the summer months and gets darker, almost black, in the winter. Dark stripes extend from the base of the horns to the muzzle, contrasting with the paler head. The weight of an adult chamois ranges from 25 to 45 kg, with males being significantly heavier.


hamois feed mainly on various herbaceous plants, but during the winter, when food availability is low, they supplement their diet with leaves, twigs, buds, or even lichens.



hey mate during the autumn months (October-November) and after a gestation period of approximately 170 days, a single, as a rule, calf is born around May. Young females remain with their mother’s herd, probably for the entire duration of their lives. They are extremely attached to the place they were born and grown, and therefore they only very rarely stray away from there.


ales on the other hand leave the parent herd when they get two years old and wander until they establish a territory of their own, a feat they can accomplish when they are as young as seven or eight years old. Adult males live isolated, although in some cases young males form small bachelor groups of 2-4 animals. During the mating season they try to acquire dominant status over a group of females.


he females and their calves form small herds that usually in Greece consist of five to fifteen and in rare cases as many as thirty individuals, provided of course that such a number of animals is present in a mountain, which is, sadly, rarely the case for Greece.



he ideal chamois habitat consists of steep forest-covered mountain slopes, ending up in rugged peaks with screes, narrow gullies, snow remnants and several almost horizontal cliff ledges (the so-called zonaria). There, chamois can usually find enough herbaceous vegetation, enough chill in the summer and protection from its predators. Also at the high altitudes of most mountains there are extensive sub-alpine meadows, which the goats visit during the day to graze 26

on the abundant herbaceous vegetation.


n the summer and autumn the chamois occupy the higher parts of their habitat while in the winter and for most of the spring the lowest parts, usually on steep wooded slopes. During the summer they prefer shadier and cooler places, while during the winter the warmer parts, where snow melts sooner. 27


he role of the chamois in the ecosystems of the high mountains of Greece is fundamental. When the species is found in large numbers, which is what would be expected naturally for a primary consumer, it can support populations of predators, like the wolf or even the lynx – if it is still present in Greece. Therefore a healthy population of chamois can contribute indirectly towards reducing livestock losses from wild animals. Another potential natural predator of the chamois is the golden eagle, which may catch calves during the first two months of their life.


n some large mountain ranges of Europe with numerous populations of chamois, the animals that die during the winter because of the adverse conditions provide griffon and bearded vultures, as well as golden eagles with much needed food. The above raptor species are nearing extinction in Greece due to lack of food as well as due to illegal poisoned baits, placed in order to exterminate wild carnivores


he total number of chamois in Greece does not seem to exceed 700 animals. There are about 20 small populations in the most rugged and inaccessible mountains of the mainland: in Mount Olympus, the Rhodope Mountains (Fraktos Virgin Forest), Northern Pindos (Grammos, Smolikas, Timfi, Vasilitsa etc), in Central Pindus, several Mountains of Central Greece (Giona, Vardousia, Oite etc) as well as in some mountains that lie along the borders with the neighbouring Balkan countries (Nemertsika, Jena-Pinovo).


he hunting of chamois in Greece was banned in 1969. Chamois though, are protected only on paper. Ever since the ban on chamois hunting, more than four decades ago, there has been no systematic patrolling by properly trained and equipped game wardens, and so the poaching of the species carries on at an alarming pace. Lately the most "hardcore" poachers are equipped with smuggled assault rifles from neighbouring Albania. Some poachers believe it’s their traditional right to hunt two or three times a year, while others hunt systematically and in a "professional manner". It is said that the meat of illegally killed animals is sold in such a high price, that a single hunt can cover their cost of living for a whole month 29


he Forest Service is the agency responsible for enforcing laws against poaching, but unfortunately it is utterly incapable to cope with this task. For this reason, it is essential that the state provide the necessary funds for the Forest Service to be adequately staffed and equipped. Obviously there should be a sufficient number of game wardens throughout the country, as well as permanent and well trained armed guards for the protected areas (National Parks, Wildlife Refuges, etc.).



ther enforcement agencies that exist and operate in Greece and especially the game warden forces of the hunting federations and clubs can be better organised in order to become more effective.

n the positive side, local communities have started to become aware of the need for chamois protection. Indeed there have been recent incidents where people who love the mountain, such as climbers and hunters, have called the game warden force to report chamois poaching; in some cases this was successful. Ultimately though, in the few cases that reached the court, the poachers in question were “awarded� with laughable sentences


t seems that the scattered and small populations of chamois follow their separate destinies. Some are stable or even show a slight increase, whereas others seem to slowly disappear from the map. Hopefully with the help of all of us and especially the "nonexistent" state, the chamois will continue to grace the mountains of Greece, contributing in its own way towards the ecological balance of our rare and sensitive mountain ecosystems.

Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos) Photographer: Îœanos Papadomanolakis

RARE BIRDS AT GREECE text by George Handrinos and Nikos Probonas


he ornithological wealth of Greece has been known to everyone dealing or observing Greek nature’s facts for decades. This could not be different as our country is located at the edge of a continent, it neighbours with another two and it is surrounded by sea, while it –still- conserves a wide variety of habitats. Consequently, it would be impossible for Greece not to be able to “preserve” a great number of bird species. 33

Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis) Photographer: Α. Sakoulis



ll the bird species hosted in Greece are over 440, 443 to be exact. Many people have at times heard of our country’s world importance for the Dalmatian Pelican, the Lesser Kestrel, the Audouin’s Gull, the Slender-billed Curlew and the Eleonora’s Falcon, but it is probably unlikely that anyone knows about the Greater Sand Plover, the Paddyfield Warbler or the Amur Falcon. Some may wonder, is it necessary? No, in most cases it isn’t, but there are some birds which visit us rarely and we should identify and record them if we want to have an accurate and complete view of their distribution in our world.


o a man or a group of men with the required knowledge and experience is needed to help us make sure that the albatross we recently saw resting at the near by beach is indeed an albatross and not a common Yellow-legged Gull, one of the thousands living along our coastline. Or to identify with certainty for us a small bird we photographed during an excursion and we couldn’t verify its species no matter how deep we searched into our sources. And after all that, to publish our recording so that more people learn that a Yellow-browed Warbler wondered from the far Siberian taiga till it reached us and our camera and even further…


he first of the editors of this text had undertaken this “duty”, meaning the collection, evaluation and publishing of all the observations of rare birds within the Greek territory, for almost two decades.


Armenian Gull (Larus armenicus) Photographer: Α. Sakoulis



uring the last years, though, some new “needs” appeared and it became necessary to create a committee dealing exclusively with the appearances of rare birds within Greece. Which were these “needs”? The small but steady increase of the number of bird observers, the expansion of internet use and the “ease” (if it can be called this) in getting good pictures thanks to the access to latest technology cameras by more people due to lower prices. As a consequence, the volume of information needing evaluation had been increasing day by the day and it was impossible for one person to satisfy it no matter how many hours he worked on a voluntary basis. 37


here are now more than enough amateur photographers who inform the committee with a simple e-mail about some rare bird they encountered and were lucky enough to capture or bird observers who could not photograph it but send its description or sketch. Even people who know little about birdlife contact the committee for advice, instructions and, of course, evaluation of their observations. All this information concerning the committee can be found in its website.


he Hellenic Rarities Committee was established in December of 2004 by the Hellenic Ornithological Society and the Hellenic Bird Ringing Center, but since then it operates independentlyς. uring the first 5 years of its operation, the committee received 901 evaluation forms. 794 of them were approved, 107 were not approved and 21 new species for the Greek territory came up, as we mentioned. 2007 was the year with the most received forms (235).

Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola) Photographer: Α. Sakoulis


Bartamia longicauda. The Upland Sandpiper is an north american species recorded once at Greece -the photo’s specimen- on 23-11-2004, at Agia Lake, Crete. This specific record triggered the establishment of the Hellenic Rarities Committee Photographer: Α. Sakoulis


he committee took part in two international conferences regarding Zoogeography and Ecology and established Lesvos Bird Records Committee, which is actually a sub-committee dealing with the avifauna of Lesvos.

o, if you have any observations of rare species (recent or even older), do not hesitate to inform the committee. It would be a shame for you not to be certain of your record or for your observation not to be known by others. or further information concerning the committee and its work, for its annual reports, articles, the Ornithological Observation Record Form, as well as for admiring photos of rare, to Greece, species, you can always visit the committee’s website.

Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos) Photographer: Manos Papadomanolakis 40


MOMENTS OF CRETAN SEABED text- photos by Julius Glampedakis



uring the night the Sand smelt (Atherina spp) takes an almost fluorescent, bluish colour. They sleep in loose schools, hovering in mid water. 43


he portrait of the Painted comber (Serranus scriba). It lives on rocky bottoms and defends its territory and check out any intruder.



udibranches (Flabbelina affinis) on the right are the marine equivalent of snails, but, unlike their land relatives, have vivid coloration and eccentric ÂŤaccessoriesÂť. This way they attract attention and warn predators that are poisonous and better left undisturbed. The toxic substances come from their food and pass through their digestive system without being broken down or making any harm, only to end up in special appendages, contributing to the animal's defence.



he smooth and soft surface of sponges, in this case a Black sponge (Sarcotragus muscarum), is always welcome, mainly to fish that ambush for prey, like this small rock fish (Scorpaena notata). Without artificial light its bright red colour is a dull brown, perfect for hiding.



nthias anthias



he Yellow cup coral (Leptosammia pruvoti) usually hangs from the ceiling of caves, sometimes in enough numbers to cover many square meters of surface. Its distinct colour easily identifies it.




oo many times, we try to categorise what we see underwater according to what we've experienced on land. Few would argue that the subject of this photo looks like a tree, a bonsai as its actual height is about thirty centimetres. In reality it's a Sea fir (Endendrium spp.), an animal that consists of a colony of different groups of cells. Each one of them is specialized on a certain function, for example catching food, reproduction, defence.



birdwatching in the archaeological site text-photos by George Alexandris



pollo’s Temple


he Rock Nuthatch (Sitta neumayer) is a typical species of the archaeological sites and the rocky hillsides with cliffs.


ost of the people will not combine a visit to an archaeological site with birdwatching. Or even more with bird photography. Of course, most of the sites’ visitors hold a camera to take pictures of the antiquities, but not of the birds. But think how nice it could be to combine both, watching and photographing the antiquities and the birds at the same time!


f you don’t believe this, have a look at the following photos and see how many different beautiful bird species can be observed in March, in one of the most famous archaeological sites, Delphi. And this can be done despite the big number of tourists that visit the site every day. The diversity and abundance of the birds in the site, makes it a great destination for birdwatching.


eautiful birds in a beautiful landscape, under the sunny Greek sky, is the best thing that somebody can ask for!



haffinch (Fringilla coelebs) is a common bird, and males have beautiful (sometimes intense) colours


he Blue Rock-Thrush (Monticola solitarius) prefers also rocky sites and that is why it is often found in most archaeological sites. In this photo we see a male with is characteristic blue plumage



heTreasury of the Athenians




his Rock Nuthatch built its nest on the wall of the treasury of the Athenians




uppell's warbler (Sylvia ruepelli) distribution in Europe is confined at Cyprus and southern Greece. At the background a Rock Nuthatch


lack Redstarts (Phoenicurus ochruros), are found all over Greece but they seem to prefer rocky sites. Here you see a male



he female Blue Rock Thrush doesn’t have the blue plumage. Here you see it in its characteristick upright position



he Tholos o


of Athena Pronaia 75


male Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) with its black crown that gives this species its name


Red-footes Falcon (Falco vespertinus) Photographerς: Anastasios Sakoulis

NIKON D300 Sigma 300mm f/2.8 + Sigma TC 2X, !/500, f 6.3 iso 400

Hi Key Wildlife Photographs text-photos by Manos Papadomanolakis & Anastasios Sakoulis


was always fascinated by high-key images. There is something attractive, atmospheric in them. So by intentionally overexposing a photograph, you can create a unique and very appealing image. The beauty of Hi-Key is that you can experiment under, usually, difficult lighting and many times you are rewarded with a different, aesthetic image, that eventually is what we seek in nature photography. 79

CANON EOS 40D CANON EF 500mm f/4L IS USM,1/1600 f 6.3 iso 200 Photographer: Manos Papadomanolakis


igh key photography can be achieved by adjusting your camera settings or by post-processing, though high-key is actually best obtained in-camera, since the results are more convincing and tones more natural.

he best time of the day for wildlife photography is mainly about an hour after sunrise, but also throughout the day, when your subject is backlit. Everything you need to know about High-key photography is actually in the name that means that the image’s key tone is high. Key tones are usually the mid-tones, so by placing them high on the exposure scale, we are making them brighter.


n order to have a good result you need to balance –what a challenge!-, the bright mid-tones and the areas with the dark tones, which are dragged up the brightness scale and so during the process they become much brighter. The key to high-key photography is actually in the control of these dark tones. o master high-key photography you need to take care with exposure for best results. Experimentation is necessary to achieve results that fit your taste. Because plenty of light is entering directly your lens, your camera will stop down the exposure and so you’ll need to over-expose by at least one stop, more like two and even three stops. As told exposure control is the key, so take many shoots of your subject, starting with; +1, +2 and +3 stops and good luck!


ollowing, Manos Papadomanolakis will share with us his experience on this type of photography.



hese specific photographs of the Great Egret (Casmerodius albus) were taken at Moronis estuary (Souda, Crete), in early daylight, around 8:00. I avoid the first day light that has an orange tint. The llatter is ideal for silhouettes, but not for hi key shots.

oreover, it is not a good idea to try this technique far after 8:00, because the light becomes quite harsh. The sunt is exactly behind the bird. The key here is actually overexposure, achieved either by adjusting your camera settings or by post-processing (in these shots the overexposure is +3 stops). Finally, 2 parameters are important in these images. The low angle and the clean backdrop (here the backdrop is the sea surface ...a typical clean background).


CANON EOS 40D CANON EF 500mm f/4L IS USM,1/1600 f 6.3 iso 200 Photographer: Manos Papadomanolakis


Aristeidou 10-12, Athens Telephone numbers: 210 3225809, 210 3244530 email:

Timetable Monday & Wednesday 9:00 -16:00 Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 9:00 -20:30 Saturday 9:00 -15:00

Photophysis 2011/1 EN  

1st issue of the magazine "Photophysis" dealing with Greek Nature and nature photography at Greece