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Photophysis e-magazine about Greek Nature


GRAMMOS the forgotten mountain LILA SIMITZI portofolio IOANNINA the city of Lesser Kestrels Orchids of Epipactis genus Epipactis purpurata: The 20 years missing orchid of Grammos mountain LAKE ZAZARI a lake with an industrial background PHOTOGRAPHING BIRDS WITH A COMPACT ULTRA-ZOOM CAMERA

vEpipactis purpurata Photo: Zissis Antonopoulos


text by Andrea Bonetti and Anastasios Sakoulis page 4


IOANNINA: the city of Lesser Kestrels text - photos by Tasos Bounas and Dimitris Vavylis page 52

ORCHIDS EPIPACTIS text - photos by Zissis Antonopoulos and Spyros Tsiftsis page 62



text - photos by Michalis Kotsakis page74

text - photos by Nikos Samaritakis page 90


GRAMMOS the forgotten mountain text by Andrea Bonetti and Anastasios Sakoulis photos by Anastasios Sakoulis




earing “Mt. Grammos� brings the Hellenic civil war to mind since this mountain was its main and final battlefield. The mountain is overflowed with history and pain, but this very history around it, as well as the handling of the territory by the Hellenic government (requirement for visit or passage permit and many inspection stations), had isolated it from the rest of the country for a number of decades and led the local population to degradation.


t. Grammos still carries the marks of this history as wounds on it. Mines, fortification, ruins of strategic headquarters and rebels’ hospitals, monuments. Here, napalm bombs were tested for the first time in real battle conditions. But most importantly, this history has put its mark on the people of the mountain and the personal testimonies for both the war and what followed (refugees, immigration) fill up the pages of modern Greek history.


s a result of all these, and since even mentioning the name of the territory was a “sin”, Mt. Grammos and its natural beauty had remained unknown to most of the people for about half a century.

ut this situation started changing towards the end of the 1970’s and mainly within 1990’s. The immigrated inhabitants and their descendants began returning, mainly as summer visitors, and reviving the villages even for only a few days a year. Cultural associations were formed and contributed through their activities to the promotion of the cultural and nature elements of the territory and, consequently, to the promotion of Mt. Grammos as an interesting tourist destination.



he most important step, though, was the recognition of the high biodiversity by the scientific community, result of the physiographic characteristics and geographical place of the mountain as well as of the imposed isolation. By the recordings of the flora and fauna during the last 20 years, the mountain’s value was marked out and it is today included among the most important territories for the preservation of Hellenic nature. pecifically, parts of Grammos are protected as Nature Monuments (Flampouro forest) and as Wild Life Reserves. It is included among the Important Bird Areas, according to the recordings of the Hellenic Ornithological Society and Birdlife International. The mountain has also been announced as Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Area in the frames of Natura 2000, and moreover as Biogenetic Reserve (Council of Europe)


ut, despite all the characterizations and the obligations arising for protection and nature management, many areas of the mountain remain unprotected, and as a result, exceeding pasturing, high hunting pressure and predatory logging exploitation are noted. During the last years, the appearance pace of forestal fires has also risen, the climax of which was the big fire in 2007 which destroyed over 70.000 acres of natural forest during a nightmarish year for whole Hellas. The mountain


ts huge volume, consisting mainly of limestone, serpetine and phlysch rises between Macedonia and Epirus, at the borders with Albania and it is the northerner mountainous volume of Hellenic Pindos as well as the fourth highest mountain of the country. It is formed by two perpendicular ridges that form a “T”. One of them runs across the Hellenic – Albanian borders -with main summits the: Bandaros (2036m.), Boulogianni (2251m.), Sakouli (2412m.), “2520”, MAvri Petra (2461m.), Golio (1934m.) and Kamenik (2043m.)- while the other one separates Ioannina and Kastoria prefectures with direction from “2520” to the east and its main summits are Perifano (2442m.), Kiafa (2393m.), Epano Arrena (2192m.) and Kato Arrena (2075m.)



he huge volume of Grammos is furrowed by three beautiful valleys where the largest number of its picturesque villages is gathered. At the north, you will find the Grammousta valley which is part of Kastoria prefecture and starts at the homonymous amphitheatrical meadow with its many springs. Here springs Aliakmonas, the biggest river of the country. The other two valleys, Aetomilitsa’s and Plikati’s, are part of Ioannina prefecture and drain into Sarantaporos, the largest tributary river of Aoos which actually separates Grammos from Smolikas (2637m.) –the second highest mountain of Hellasat the south and from Voios at the east.


he alpine lake with the highest altitude in the country Gistova- lies under “2520” summit at 2350m. At Kato Arena, at 1800m altitude, two more beautiful lakes named Moutsalia are found surrounded by a beech tree forest while at Chioniades, at the altitude of 1450m., there is a very interesting small lake too. Apart from these lakes, there are many marshes and ponds, scattered in forest clearings and created by springs’ waters.


he main characteristic of the mountain is the extensive Alpine meadows, the largest in the country, covering 29.850 acres, which lie at altitudes between 1400m. up to 2250m. These meadows are a flora paradise hosting over 400 flora species, about 5% of the recorded Hellenic species, in an area which barely is 0,0001% of the country’s surface.


Η βιοποικιλότητα


visitor perceives the high biodiversity of the mountain as soon as he makes some journeys, during which all the elements of the area will reveal to him.

he moment he reaches Grammos, no matter from where he reaches it, he will be overwhelmed by its dense forests, which are the second, after the Alpine meadows, more impressive characteristic of the mountain. At lower altitudes, the trees that mainly sprout are dark green oak trees (Quequs sp.), dense hornbeams (Carpinus sp.), ashes (Fraxinus sp), proud beech trees (Fagus sp.) and upright Black Pines (Pinus nigra). Various fruit trees and bushes, like wild plum trees (Prunus sativa), cherry trees (Prunus avia), honeysuckles, elders (Sambucus nigra), blackberry bushes (Rubus sp.), wild roses (Rosa sp.) etc. can be found around the forests giving generously their fruits to many wild animals, like bears (Ursus arctos), for which the mountain is one of the most important areas in Hellas. At higher altitudes (up to 2000m) there are coniferous forests with Black Pines and impressive thunderstruck Bosnian Pines (Pinus leucodermis).


n option for the acquaintance with the mountain’s forests but also for visiting the alpine meadows is the crossing, by car, motorbike or street bicycle, one of the most beautiful forest roads of the Hellenic mountains from Nestorio up to the historical village Grammos. From Nestorio to Livadotopi village, the semi-paved with asphalt road follows the Aliakmonas river the valley of which is quite narrow and steep. Some parts of it are covered with trees while at others the layered schist rocks have no vegetation. The winding river is really beautiful giving the ultimate feeling of wild nature.


beautiful, mixed deciduous forest that starts from Livadotopi has oaks, maples, lindens (Tilia sp.) and hornbeams on the steep sides of the narrow valley. These dense forests are rich in fruit trees, like Prunus divaricata, wild pear trees and apple trees, and constitute a vital shelter for herbivorous and carnivorous animals. Going further up, Black Pines appear too. 12


fter Monopilo (1100m) the valley gets wider and leads to the small village of Trilofo with the picturesque church and the spring that hosts many Common Wall Lizards (Podarcis muralis). Red-rumbed Swallows (Hirundo daurica) nest under the dome at the entrance of the church. You can also find the last police station and telephone at the village. A few windings of the road after the village, we meet the river again and we are able to have a first sight of the highest summit of Grammos in a distance.


t is worth stopping a few kilometers further, at the crossroad with the dirt road that leads to Grammos village. The river flows there about and hides many interesting findings since, as proven, the point is being often used by the big mammals of the forest too. Fresh traces of bears, wolves (Canis lupus), roe-deer (Capreolus capreolus) and wild boars (Sus scrofa) can be frequently seen there, either at muddy spots on the road or along the river bank. Totally, 35 mammal species can be found looking for food in the dense and extensive Grammos’ forests and their clearings, as well as at the meadows. Big trout (Salmo sp.) live in the river, obviously safe from people fishing with fishing rods who have not discovered this spot yet. Cephalanthera rubra, Campanula spathulata, Anthericum liliago and Silene armeria sprout amongst the trees.


small gully, Katafika, is encountered on the way, a few kms. after the crossroad to Grammos village. Little before that, on the road there is a sign placed by ARKTOUROS which gives some information about the mountain and its natural inheritance. The visitors learn about the populations of the endangered all over Hellas Chamois (Rupicarpa rupicarpa) at Grammos, where now live about 45-50 individuals divided into two groups that, as assumed, do not communicate and are threatened by poaching. The first group lives at Arenes and the other one at Plikati.




he subalpine zone of the mountain starts above the gully (from 1400 to 1800m). Grammos village, with its few houses abandoned after the Civil War, at 1380m altitude, can be finally seen in the distance, with “2520” summit rising behind it at the south. Today some of the villages’ houses have been renovated and shepherds and few more visitors live there. A small tavern is open during summer offering simple meals and accommodation.


n order to get to know the famous alpine meadows, one can set out from here taking a bumpy road starting from the village heading south. We follow the road up to its highest point (2000m) and we leave the car there at the saddle. From there, we can continue on foot towards the west, on a parallel to a small ridge path on the slope, to reach Gistova lake and “2520”summit. After half an hour’s walk, we can come to the highest point of the ridge from where we can see the lake.


ellow-Bellied Toads (Bombina variegata) live in the springs of Grammousta’s meadows, where White-throated Dippers (Cinclus cinclus) risk their lives searching for their food. Hundreds of Alpine Newts (Mesotriton alpestris) live in Gistova lake. During bird immigration, one can see uncommon birds, like Eurasian Dotterels (Charadrius morinellus) but commoner too, like Water Pipits (Anthus spinoletta) and White Wagtails (Motacilla alba). Other birds encountered at this altitude are Northern Wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe), Linnets (Carduelis cannabina), Black Redstarts (Phoenicurus ochruros), Skylarks (Alauda arvensis), White-winged Snowfinches (Montifringilla nivalis), Red-billed Choughes (Phyrrocorax phyrrocorax), Yellow-billed Choughes (Phyrrocorax graculus), Ravens (Corvus corax) and Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos). The rarer reptiles on the mountain, Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis) and Adder (Vipera berus), live at the meadows around the lake.



fter the lake, the path continues south to the summit, which can be reached after a 45-minute walk. The route goes parallel to the Hellenic-Albanian borders and it actually crosses them, as it circles around the lowest part of the summit. Quite a few pill-boxes and many rusty remains of the Civil War remind to the visitor the dramatic battles that took place on the mountain.


tanding on the summit, the view is breathtaking. Right in front of us, there is the Aliakmonas valley to the north, the Sarantaporos valley to the south and the whole North Pindos range with Smolikas and Timfi being the highest but also the closest mountains. The sound of cow bells at the meadows is the only sound to be heard, along with the ceaseless wind and the passing-by birds, like Rock Patridges (Alectoris graeca), and Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus).


ou can follow the path to the southeast, over the Perifanos ridge towards the Gesso hill, the guerrillas’ shelter during the Civil War where a monument stands to their honour today. From Gesso, a dirt road leads to villages Aetomilitsa, at east, and Plikati, at west.



he extensive alpine meadows found up here is a rare botanical garden, where many interesting alpine flower species are encountered. On the way to the lake, one can easily recognise the Gentiana verna subsp. pontica, Globularia cordifolia and G. bellidifolia, Astragalus angustifolius, Centaurea deustiformis, the crocus Crocus veluchensis (that sprouts even since May through the melting snow), the wild rose bush Rosa villosa with the big pink flowers, the Achillea abrotanoides, the fragile Aubrieta gracilis with the violet flowers, the Minuartia stellata (that formes pillow-like shrubs), Campanula velebitica (endemic in South Balkans) and many more. Next to the many streamlets and the springs around the Grammousta meadows, carpets of Primula vulgaris, Ranunculus sp. etc. as well as of orchids Dactylorhiza saccifera lay, while the Saxifraga spruneri and S. scardica sprout through the rock cracks.


espite the numerous plant species we have encountered during our journey from Nestorio up to this high point, the flora of Grammos has many secrets hidden in the meadows. Until today, over 500 plant species have been identified, a quite impressive number, while many more still wait to be discovered. rom the identified species, at least 22 are endemic in Hellas, of which we can pick out the 2 στενοτοπικά (inhabiting only in Grammos) ones Thesium vlachorum and Ligusticum rhizomaticus, as well as the Fritillaria epirotica, the Crepis guioliana, Silene pindicola, Sedum tymphaeum and the Solenanthus albanicus. The latter is a very rare flower, limited, small and isolated populations of which reside at only three mountains of Pindos range: Doutsiko, Kakarditsa and Grammos where it was discovered again only recently. All its populations are endangered since they are subject to extensive pasture and are close to extinction.


he mountain is also a vital place for the impressive orchids, this special and popular flora group, with over 20 species in the area, among which the three Pindos endemic Dactylorhiza baumanniana, D. pindica and Ophrys grammica, a species relating to O. mammosa. As for the rest of the species, the Orchis pinetorum, the Neottia nidus-avis and the Dactylorhiza sambucina sprout as soon as May and flourish early, while later, in June, the Epipactis palustris, Listera ovata, Cephalantera rubra, Gymnadenia conopsea and Himantoglossum caprinum make their appearance.




he lilies albanicum and Iris germanica and the tall Campanula trichocalycina with the fine petals prefer the high slopes of the mountain, where, also during May – June, two beautiful crocus sprout too among the snow spots -the pretty yellowish Crocus cvijicii and the lilac C. veluchensis.


dditionally, a unique violet is found here, a natural υβρίδιο of three different species, Viola albanica, V. dukadjinica and V. epirota, that has drawn the attention of botanists.

e have already visited Gistova lake. The “acquaintance” with Lakes Moutsalia (or in other words Arenes Lakes), which are below the Epano Arena summit, is still to be made. You can get there by car either from Nea Kotili or getting the same forest road that leads you to village Grammos. At a point in the forest, close to a spring, there is s crossroad. Turn there following the direction sign to Aetomilitsa. After a few kilometres, the forest road reaches a big plateau with meadows (named Vrissi Triakossara) under the Epano Arena summit.


he beautiful plateau is surrounded by a really old forest with impressive beech trees, where in early summer we ascertain again the flora richness of the mountain as everything is covered by a layer of flowers: yellow violets Viola frondosa and the local hybrid, with yellow, crimson and white colours, Narcissus poeticus, Geranium subcaulescens, Crocus chrysanthus, Scilla bifolia, orchids Dactylorhiza sambucina, Polygala alpestris etc.


and Lizards and Wall Lizards lay in the sun here, and you can also find Yellow-bellied Toads, Greek Frogs (Rana graeca) and Salamanders (Salamandra salamandra) near the springs and the streams, at the edge of the plateau. In the surrounding forest, nest Honey Buzzards (Pernis apivorus), Woodpigeons (Columba palumbus), Woodlarks (Lullula arborea), Cookoos (Cuculus canorus), Robins (Erithacus rubecula), Blackbirds (Turdus merula), Great Tits (Parus


major), Coal Tits (Parus ater), Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs), Tawny Owls (Strix aluco).


he mountain’s avifauna numbers over 143 species, both of woodlands and open areas. Among the birds of prey, the Golden Eagles and Short-toed Eagles (Circaetus gallicus), that hunt at open areas, stand out along with the speedy Peregrines (Falco peregrinus) that hunt other birds taking them by surprise with their sudden and fast attacks from above. An impressive night bird of prey encountered in Grammos, sometimes even in highland villages, is Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo). Of course, Buzzards (Buteo buteo) and Honey Buzzards are common, unlikely to Egyptian Vultures (Neophron percnopterus) and Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus), these 2 vulture species, the populations of which degraded dramatically all over Hellas, mainly due to the illegal use of poisoned baits for the fight against carnivorous mammals.


he ripe forests abound with Black Woodpeckers (Dryocopus martius), Whitebacked Woodpeckers (Dendrocopos leucotos), Grey-headed Woodpeckers (Picus canus) and Middle-spotted Woodpeckers (Dendrocopos medius) as well as Semi-collared Flycatchers (Ficedula semitorquata). In the same forests, the 2 rare for the country species live, the Hazel Grouse (Bonasa bonasia) and the Boreal Owl (Aegolius funereus), species with central European distribution.


ufous-tailed Rock-Thrushes (Montiola saxatilis) and Ring Ouzels (Turdus torquatus) are heard singing at the highest slopes. The birds’ presence is intense over the forest limit too, with the most remarkable species nesting at this habitat to be the Skylarks, the Horned Larks (Eremophila alpestris), the Snowfinches and the Tawny Pipits (Anthus campestris), just like both the Choughes and the Rock Partridges.


he lakes are just 2 kms south of the plateau. The bigger one covers an area of about 2 acres and is surrounded by a beech forest. Starting at the end of September, the forest turns into red and yellow, spectacular in its autumn colours creating a unique atmosphere around the lakes.




he crystal waters of the lakes are full of life hosting hundreds of Alpine Newts and Italian Crested Newts (Triturus carnifex). Common Toads (Bufo bufo) and Green Toads (Bufo viridis) live up there, and Frogs (Pelophylax sp.) too.

n total, the herpetofauna of the mountain is represented by at least 28 species, the populations of which are at a satisfactory number. 10 out of these 28 species refer to amphibious, most of which we have come across during our journeys. The remaining 18 refer to reptile species, with Sand Lizard and Adder being the most interesting because they are very rare in the country. Both live at altitude higher than 1700m. and, while their distribution in Europe is wide, we can find them only on some mountains of Northern Hellas -Rodopi, Grammos, Varnountas and Peristeri.


he road, after the lakes, continues south up to the saddle between the Epano and Kato Arena, which leads to Aetomilitsa to one direction and to Chrissi and Pefkofito to the other. The view from up there is really beautiful. After rain, the road to Aetomilitsa can be quite bumpy and muddy and it is appropriate only for those travelling by a jeep. For those who will decide to cross it with a bike, the journey offers great satisfaction. From the saddle up to 1500m., the tree that dominates is beech, lower and as far as 1100m. the Black Pine prevails while even lower the oak forest starts. The road ends at the main dirt road, which, after 2 kms. reaches Aetomilitsa village, at the altitude of 1430m.



ut the surprises do not end here. The wide variety of habitats in Grammos makes the mountain a paradise for more than 100 butterfly species. These include the Papilio machaon, Iphiclides podalirius, Zerynthia polixena and Z. cerisy, Parnassius apollo and P. mnemosyne, Kanetisa circe, Plebejus pylaon, Maculinea arion, Ultraaricia anteros, Nymphalis polychloros, Boloria graeca and Muschampia tesselum. Many butterflies have a restricted distribution in Europe.Some of them are Papilio alexanor, Anthocharis gruneri, Gonypteryx farinosa, Tarucus balkanicus, Agrodiaetus aroaniensis, Colias aurorina heldreichii, Lycaena ottomana and L. candens, Artogeia krueperi, Pseudochazara graeca and Spialia phlomidis. Finally, two very rare species fly around Grammos: the Pseudochazara mniszeichii, an Asian species that does not live in Europe, except for Grammos, Smolikas and Verno (Vitsi), and the Erebia rhodopensis, a species of Southern Balkans with a very restricted distribution: in all Hellas it is found only at Grammos and Rodopi.


he counting and description of the beauty and the multitude of species within a text is never capable of attributing the real value of a place. Personal experience and contact is needed. Grammos is no longer a taboo and has come out of its isolation. It awaits all prospective visitors, always with respect to its history, people and nature, to admire the scenery and have the experience of being near wild nature, in a way that, unfortunately, one can enjoy in lesser and lesser places in Hellas nowadays. So do not hesitate, get ready for a long and full of experiences journey.




t’s been 8 years since I first flirted with the seducing art of photography, as I was lured by it’s glamorous macro potential, against a backdrop of vegetable kingdom. Despite the fact that my equipment was not the most appropriate, this romantic affair soon evolved to become a serious and substantial relationship that filled up my hard disks with it’s… “fruits” and soon urged me to buy camera and lenses of higher quality. So, for a while I got involved with macro photography, using at the same time a lot of this material in my job (graphic design).


owever, living many days of the year in a country house on a top of a hill, in N. Evia, it was inevitable one day to have a close encounter with one of the hill’s all-year feathery residents, which for my big surprise was not a Sparrow… but the most beautiful and exotic bird I had ever seen so far! Yet, a year later I found out it was just a Great Tit (Parus major), one of the most common species in Greece and Europe.




radually since then, my action field in photography started changing dramatically and therefore in my tours, instead of crawling around I started scanning trees & sky with my eyes. One thing lead to another and a chain of events just begun… I started learning about birds and their world and studied their names and habits, I realized the importance of actions for protection of the birds and their habitats which urged me to participate as volunteer in certain programs of Hellenic Ornithological Society plus I became caretaker of 2 wetlands close to my region, I met other people with whom I share the same passion… and naturally my lenses took a high dose of growth hormone!


n the end, flirting with photography turned out to become a life-time relationship, which brought me closer to nature and enriched my life with subtle qualities. Nowadays, no matter if I stay in house or walk outside… in the city or in the country… the sense is nothing like before. A familiar, soft call or a sweet song… can always reach my ears giving a whole different perspective and understanding of the life that surrounds us. Nature photography (highlighting birds) is now part of who I am, but is also another way that helps me experiencing humanity’s connection with all life in this planet.

Καλαμοποταμίδα (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) Λιμνοθάλασσα Μικρό Λιβάρι, Β. Εύβοια Ένα μικρό άνοιγμα στους καλαμιώνες, στην όχθη του υγροτόπου, στάθηκε ο πιο ισχυρός αντίζηλος της θάλασσας για ένα ολόκληρο καλοκαίρι. Καλαμοποταμίδες, Τσιχλοποταμίδες & Ψευταηδόνια με παρέσερναν με την ξελογιαστική τους συμπεριφορά μακριά από τους φίλους μου για ώρες, αφήνοντάς με λιγότερο μαυρισμένη από κάθε άλλο καλοκαίρι και με extra-bonus… μερικά ενοχλητικά κουνουπο-τσιμπήματα! 33

Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans) & Papilio machaon Agiokampos, N. Evia, Greece One of those unexpected moments that last for seconds‌ but stay in memory for a lifetime! (and if you’re extremely lucky, they also remain in your hard disk!) 34


Little Tern (Sterna albifrons) Wetland “Mikro Livari”, N. Evia, Greece No photo could ever capture this bird’s graceful and elegant presence. The most appropriate description that prevails among my thoughts is “the fairy of the wetlands”…


Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator) Mountain Xiro, N. Evia, Greece Passing by with the car‌ It’s characteristic figure was standing out from a distance, which gave the opportunity for a gradual braking, a discreet approaching and thus some splendid moments of photo shooting


Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) Wetland “Mikro Livari”, N. Evia, Greece No matter for how long I watch these birds, I can’t get enough of them. There’s always a charming movement… a waving of the neck… something unique that can’t let you take the eyes off them

Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis) Wetland “Megalo Livari”, N. Evia, Greece A cute, tiny devil! It’s hard to capture, since it’s motionless and usually hidden inside vegetation. After several attempts, in about 2 year time, this was one of the fist descent portraits it has offered me.

Black-headed Gulls (Larus ridibundus) Wetland “Megalo Livari”, N. Evia, Greece First daylight, winter clouds, still water reflections and grey color tones at their best. An enchanting silence prevails… disturbed every now and then, only by the eerie echo of flapping wings

Collared Pratincole (Glareola pratincola) Wetland “Mikro Livari”, N. Evia, Greece At my first encounter with this elegant creature, a strong spring wind had turned the sea rough and darker… and the Collared Pratincole stood firm and confident against it’s blows, staring at me with a deep and proud look..

Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava) Wetland “Megalo Livari”, N. Evia, Greece Every spring, I wish for an outing that fits in with the Yellow Wagtails’ passing over. There are days when the wetland literally fills up with hundreds of yellow figures that perform low flights in groups, from point to point. Really a magnificent spectacle!

Lila Simitzi is constructing her personal website Till then you may admire here work at facebook and 500px

Crested Lark (Galerida cristata) Istiea Valley, N. Evia, Greece The Lark with the most “ambitious” crest is quite bold and always present. It’s sweet calls echo around, during all seasons 51


the city of Le

text - photos by Tasos Bounas and Di


Φωτογράφος: Τάσος Μπούνας


esser Kestrels

imitris Vavylis (



he Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) is a small migratory species of falcon which breeds from Spain through eastern Europe to China and Mongolia. It winters in sub-Saharan Africa, especially south Africa. Despite this huge range the species is globally threatened because of habitat loss and degradation mainly through agricultural intensification and urbanisation. The species breeds forming colonies in cliffs and tree holes but also in the vicinity of human settlements in roofs of buildings.


Photographer: Tasos Bounas



esser Kestrels are beautiful photographic subjects, offering chances for a variety of shots. Action shots of their playful flights, carrying their prey in the beak, silhouettes in the sunset and also shots in their environment. Especially when their environment is the center of a city, many interesting captures can be made!


Photographer: Tasos Bounas




ut before trying photographing them, the knowledge of the species' behavior is necessary. For example, although Lesser Kestrels are mainly insectivorous they feed on small mammals and lizards in the beginning of the breeding season. As a part of courtship feeding the male offers the prey to the female in order to increase its body mass for the upcoming laying of eggs (1). Also Lesser Kestrels form large flocks and they roost in trees especially before migration.


his picture can be witnessed in Ioannina city from late August until mid-September. Over 3.500 birds are flying above the castle and the lake roosting on the Plane trees around. Ioannina is a stronghold for Lesser Kestrels. Except this big premigrating population, today 50-55 breeding pairs are found mainly in the city's municipal buildings. Of course they are few in contrast to last decades when hundreds of pairs bred in the castle and the nearby buildings.

Photographer: Tasos Bounas 59

Photographer: Dimitris Vavylis



oday numerous actions have taken place in the city. In the spring of 2010 artificial nests were placed in the city, the roosting and feeding grounds are mapped, while 5 geolocators were attached to 5 female birds in order to give information about their migration (2). There are still lots of fields for research and actions to take for the conservation of the locally endangered population of western Greece. Moreover Lesser Kestrel was and still is the symbol of Ioannina city's historical centre!


Orchids of Ep

The summer flowering o

The 20 years missing orch

text - photos by Zissis Anton

Genus Epipactis


t is needless, in the introduction of this presentation to indicate the diversity and richness of the Greek flora. An important part of the botanical wealth of our country are the indigenous (wild) orchids numbering more than 200 taxa (species and subspecies). The abundance is mainly caused by some particular geomorphological features: Greece has complex geographical terrain, extensive coastline, alternating coastal habitats, plains, plateaus, canyons, peaks resulting in huge variety of ecosystems and habitats. Additionally, the position of our country, which lies at the crossroads of three continents, has resulted in the enrichment of flora floristic elements of Asia, Africa and Europe.


he family of Orchidaceae consists of several genera. In Greece, there are 18 genera with numerous species and subspecies. Among these the most interesting are the Epipactis, Dactylorhiza and Ophrys genera. The species belonging to the above genera they are many in number and seem to be in active phase of evolution and formation of genetic and phenotypic characteristics, resulting in very high diversity and taxonomic difficulties concerning their description and identification.


ipactis genus

orchids of Greek forests

hid of Grammos mountain

nopoulos and Spyros Tsiftsis

Photographer: Zissis Antonopoulos


Photographer: Zissis Antonopoulos



ven the less familiar orchid lovers know that the best habitats for orchids are the sunny and dry brushwood habitats, usually on limestone, mainly in southern Greece and the islands. Most Greek orchids prefer mild winters and cool spring and are adapted to the Mediterranean climate and usually bloom early, from March to May. There is but one genus, genus Epipactis, which species prefer shade and moist forests and flower in the middle of summer, usually in July. For a long time there were reports about 15 species and subspecies of Epipactis in Greece. Recently, thanks to discoveries of mid and north-European floristic elements within Greek borders, this figure rose to 22. Distributed mainly in central and northern Greece, in shady forests of beech and rarest pine and oak. In the Peloponnese 3 species are documented (E. halacsyi, E. helleborine, and E. microphylla), but there are also unpublished data available for E. greuteri, subclausa and exilis. Only in the large islands, which can sustain suitable habitats, can someone meet Epipactis, particularly in Euboea, Crete, Lesvos, Chios, Samos and Kos. As expected, most species of the genus found in the dense, humid and mountainous forests of northern Greece, at altitudes above 800 meters, where the conditions are suitable.


he genus is Eurasian, monophyletic with only one species in America and one in Africa. After the last glacial period, during the last 10,000 years, the genus spread in the middle and northern Europe and adapted to shady broadleaf forests that dominated the continent. The recent spread explains the morphological complexity of species many of which are in an active evolutionary process, presenting varieties and different forms of flowers or the stem and leaves, leading to difficulties in classification. Additionally, given that most researchers of the last century had turned their interest to Mediterranean areas, Epipactis taxa, only in recent years have been studied systematically. The number of newly described species increased and today the Epipactis genus in Europe hold about 60 different taxa.



n Greece, the study, nomenclature and classification of native orchids for many years was a privilege of foreign researchers (Nelson 1976, GĂślz & Reinchard 1981, KĂźnkele & Paysan 1981, Willing & Willing 1987, Willing & Willing 1991, Delforge 1995, Biel et al. 1998, Kretzschmar et al. 2002). Few were the Greek scientists seriously involved with this matter in the last three decades (Kalopissi 1988) and most were usually reporting only few information of the orchid species, derived from general floristic and phytosociological studies (Zanganiaris, 1940, Volos 1976, Athanasiadis & Eleftheriadou 1989 , Eleftheriadou 1992, Karagiannakidou 1995, Arabatzis 2001, Tsiripidis 2001, Theodoropoulos & Eleftheriadou 2003). Few of them had turned their attention to the mountains of central Greece and the border so the genus Epipactis was for many years poorly studied.


he mountains of northern Greece have been studied systematically in the last 4 years, under two scopes: the preparation of a PhD in Botany, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, and the systematic recording and mapping of all the orchids of Greece from the authors, a project that began years ago and continues until today. This systematic study led to the discovery of 6 mid-European taxa and one eastern Mediterranean, within Greek borders, significantly increasing the number of Greek species of Epipactis. In Orvilos mountain E. atrorubens ssp.spiridonovii, previously considered endemic in Bulgaria (Tsiftsis 2007) and E. distans (Tsiftsis, Antonopoulos, Kreutz 2010, unpublished data), were discovered. E. pontica in Rhodope and bordering Lekani mountains (Tsiftsis 2007), the oriental E. persica in Lesbos (Tsiftsis 2010), E. helleborine ssp. moratoria in several mountains of Macedonia, (Antonopoulos, Tsiftsis 2011), E. leptochila ssp. neglecta in Falakron and Grammos (unpublished data) and E.purpurata on Grammos (unpublished data).


s many of these data have not yet been formally published and on the occasion of familiarisation with this interesting genus, Epipactis purpurata will be presented in more detail in the following chapters


Photographer: Zissis Antonopoulos


E. purpurata – General Information


. purpurata shows broad distribution mainly in the temperate central and western Europe. The distribution extends south to the main Italian peninsula, east to the Crimea and western Pyrenees, while in the Balkans mainly confined to the north (Romania, Hungary and few places in Croatia, Serbia and Bulgaria).


erennial, with a height of 20-50 (-70) cm. The plants have a characteristic tendency to form bouquets consisting of many stems, usually 3-8. The stem is thick green or violet, often colored, covered with short hairs. The inflorescence is dense with many flowers (25-50) and often one-sided. The bracts are acuminate, the lower up to 2 times larger than the flowers. The ovary is green violet with small hairs. The sepals and petals are greenish inside and sometimes violet outside . The hypochile is wide, with a whitish color and its junction with the


epichil is wide enough. The epichil is heart-shaped, curved downward with two quite pronounced bosses at the base which have shallower, parallel grooves.


. purpurata prefers shade with moderate moisture on fresh, high-calcium soils. Usually grows in the shade of broadleaf forests in beech and oak trees and even more rarely in coniferous forests. In Europe can be found growing from low altitudes up to 1500m. It is an allogamic orchid that attracts insect pollinators mainly various wasp species. In some plants, especially those that grow in very shady places, the roots contain symbiotic fungi (mycorrhizal fungi) and very occasionally have no chlorophyll and have completely rose coloration in the leaves and stem (var. rosea)

Photographer: Zissis Antonopoulos


Photographer: Spyros Tsiftsis


lowering period in central Europe is mid July till mid of September, usually a bit later than the syntopic E. helleborine.

E. purpurata in Greece


eferences about E. purpurata in Greece are few, old, unproven and potentially false recognitions on E. subclausa or E.halascyi, taxa distributed to Pindos and Peloponnese, which resemble E. purpurata particularly in growing phases before flowering, because of their violet stem coloration. So while Baumann et al. (2006) include Greece in their guide, Delforge (2006) did not include Greece in the list of countries where the species is distributed.


n 1992, almost 20 years ago, Dr. Horst Kretzschmar, during a trip in northern Pindos, discovered a population of 200 plants in an isolated location of mountain Grammos, near the Greek-Albanian border. The plants were identified by him as E. purpurata but he never published his discovery. In late July of 2010, very close to the location indicated by Kretzschmar, about 50 plants were found again, mostly in buds, confirming the existence and stability of this unique colony during the period of the last 20 years.


wo more trips were done in order to study and record Grammos orchids on August 1, 2010 and July 31, 2011. During the two visits of 2010, it has been found that more plants are growing in a northern exposure slope at 1,300 meters with a mixed forest of black pine (Pinus nigra) and beech (Fagus sylvatica). Surprisingly, many plants were found on the pine subfloor, between ferns and serpentine substrate, differing from the normal habitat of E. purpurata in Central Europe (beech). On these trips, 90% of plants were in buds, giving the clue that the flowering season of Greek E.purpurata is during the first fortnight of August. During the last visit of 2011, five more location were found with an altitude variation between 1200-1460, two of them in a mixed forest of Pinus nigra, Abies x borisii-regis (yvridogenis fir) and Fagus sylvatica and three in shady forests of 71

beech (Fagus sylvatica). At least 4 hybrids E. helleborine x E. purpurata were also found. The further discovery of 5 more location in the wider region shows that the presence of E. purpurata is well established, at least on this Grammos mountainous corner, which lies some kilometers north-east from the mountain top.


rammos plants form clusters with 2 to 5, rarely up to 8 shoots, observation consistent with other parts of Europe. E. helleborine, E. exilis, E. microphylla, Dactylorhiza saccifera and Epipogium aphyllum, are some of the orchids that found growing together with E. purpurata on Grammos.

he discovery of a mid-European forestal orchid at the Greek mountain borders shows the enormous diversity of Greek nature and emphasizes its value. It is striking that E. purpurata, until recently, was recorded at a single location in central Serbia and one in western Bulgaria, both places located over 300 km away from the unique location of Grammos. It also shows how little importance we afford to the treasures that our country which has still many mountains at the northern borders which have not yet been adequately studied. For example, there is no systematic record of orchids in Grammos, although it seems that the mountain is very rich in members of this family. It is almost certain that in future, some more new "northern" species will be discovered within borders. The lack of systematic study, the existence of many suitable habitats in the northern mountains make such a search even more exciting. We have just to keep these mountains untouched by fires, unsustainable building activities, road openings and other similar harmful effects on orchids.

For more informaon on Greece’s Orchids click here to visit Zissis Antonopoulos website “ORCHIDS OF GREECE�


Photographer: Zissis Antonopoulos

BIBLIOGRAPHY ANTONOPOULOS, Z., BERGFELD, D., TSIFTSIS, S. (2011) Epipactis helleborine subsp. moratoria Riech. & Zirnsack, a new subspecies for the flora of Greece. J. Eur. Orch. 43 (1): 85 – 98. BAUMANN, H., KÜNKELE, S. & R. LORENZ (2006): Die Orchideen Europas mit angrenzenden Gebieten. Ulmer Verlag, Stuttgart. DELFORGE, P. (2006): Orchids of Europe, north Africa and the Middle East, 3rd edn. A and C Black Publishers Ltd, London. DJORDJEVIC, V., TOMOVIC, G., LAKUSIC, D (2010). Epipactis purpurata sm. Orchidaceae) – a new species in the flora of Serbia. Arch. Biol. Sci., Belgrade, 62 (4), 1175-1179 EFIMOV, P. (2008) Notes on Epipactis condensata, E. rechingeri and E. purpurata (Orchidaceae) in the Caucasus and Crimea. Willdenowia, 38, 71-80 PETROVA, A.S., VENKOVA, D.Y. (2008) Epipactis exilis and E. greuteri (Orchidaceae) in the Bulgarian flora. Phytol. Balcan, 14 (1), 69-73 TSIFTSIS, S., KARAGIANNAKIDOU, V. & I. TSIRIPIDIS (2007): The orchid flora of East Macedonia (NE Greece). J. Eur. Orch. 39(3/4): 489-526. TSIFTSIS, S. (2009): The orchids (Orchidaceae) of E. Macedonia: distribution,ecology and high conservation value areas. PhD Thesis, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (in Greek with English summary). TSIFTSIS, S. (2010) Epipactis persica subsp. persica (Orchidaceae), a new taxon for the flora of Greece. J. Eur. Orch. 42 (3/4) :477 – 486 VAKHRAMEEVA, M.G., TATARENKO, I.V., VARLYGINA, T.I., TOROSYAN, G.K. & M.N. ZAGULSKII (2008): Orchids of Russia and adjacent countries (within the borders of the former USSR). A.R.G. Gantner Verlag, Ruggell / Liechtenstein.


LAKE ZAZARI a lake with an industrial background text- photos by Michalis Kotsakis


ake Zazari is located in NW Greece, near one of the most industrial areas of the country, Ptolemaida. The proximity with that area does not affect the rich biodiversity of the lake & its surroundings.



Immature Sedge warbler


he lake looks like a miniature of Lake Kerkini. There is a dirt road around, from which you can have very close views of reedbirds & herons. Actually, the observation distances are sometimes extremely close. I visited the lake the worst season of the year (early August), and yet the reedbirds were unexpectedly tame, unlike what you find in other wetlands. One explanation could be the abundance of inquisitive juveniles. Cetti’s warbler (Cettia cetti), Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus), Sedge warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus) & Reed warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) were common.


nstead of hiding among the reeds, sometimes they were keen to pose for me.

Great Reed warbler 77


urple Heron (Ardea purpurea)


erons like Purple (Ardea purpurea), Grey (Ardea cinerea) or Night (Nycticorax nycticorax) & Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) were frequent observations. Also, shallows were flying continuously above & below me and touching the lake water. I had never come across such an impressive population of Sand Martins (Riparia riparia).




t the south shore of the lake there is a small village (Limnohori). From that site I had nice views of Common Terns (Sterna hirundo) . One Black Tern (Chlidonias niger) was also hanging around.




till, the most impressive biotope this time of the year is the -mainly oakforests around the lake, where diverse passerines species, woodpeckers like Green (Picus viridis) and Middle Spotted (Dendrocopos medius) can be observed.



aptors can also be found there, with most distinctive one being the Levant Sparrowhawk (Accipiter brevipes). It is a common view as several pairs breed there. Other interesting raptor observations were a distant Lesser Spotted Eagle (Aquilla pomarina) & two Honey Buzzards (Pernis apivorus). 85


was waiting patiently in the car for more than 45 minutes, at the same spot near a cluster of oak trees. Gradually the birds started approaching closer and closer. The highlight was two Golden Orioles suddenly landing on the nearest oak tree and for the first time in my life I managed to take some decent photos of this very shy species, easily heard but extremely difficult to see close up.



t the same spot, I managed to take a decent photo of a Common Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus) when darkness fell, with the help of the car lights and the side mirror as a tripod. It was petrified in the middle of the dirt road while ambushing for insects.




lthough birds are my focus, I am not indifferent to other wildlife encounters. All observations or photos of Mammals are valuable as most of them are secretive or/and nocturnal. This least weasel (Mustela nivalis) gave me just a glance.



abilities and

text- photos by N



d inabilities

Nikos Samaritakis



etting started with photography is – for most people – triggered when from the admiration towards the world’s beauty comes the need to record, depict and store that beauty itself. I found beauty in the richness of the natural world, in the biodiversity of living things and mainly in birds. I soon faced the question of the type of camera I should buy – like all who wished to do photography did before me. Having initially decided to get involved with nature photography, I soon went for a cheap compact ultra-zoom camera. This way I chose to test both me and my new camera’s skills at the same time.








Action shots

Multiple Functions (macro, scenery etc)

Poor-lit conditions

Evolution (more megapixels and zoom)

Depth of field


he initial enthusiasm for the first shots taken was followed by a feeling of incompleteness as I inevitably made the comparison with professional photography. Still, I decided to give the compact camera some more time and not rush towards the option of an expensive DSLR, at the same time counterbalancing the poor equipment in hand with the effort to make the most out of the other factors that co assist in the making of a good picture..




atience, persistence, some reading, regular nature walks, experimenting with the camera functions and “practicing” on the commoner birds like gulls and pigeons soon brought remarkable results. ll pictures in this article were taken with a 300 € compact ultrazoom 26Χ. Editing was more or less limited to small adjustments at contrast, coloration, lighting and cropping. Photographs with back-lighting or poorly-lit ones were edited in such way in order to get the bird in focus by at the same time sacrificing the sky, while in other cases the opposite was done (“sunset” effect). Photographing whiteplumaged birds, lighted by mid-day sun, was made possible by switching focusing mode.



ost photos of birds in flight were taken in AUTO FOCUS mode with the method of ‘panning’ and almost all in maximum zoom level (resulting to less cropping needed but also a ‘battle’ trying to keep the bird within frame). On the contrary SPOT-FOCUS function was used for perched, grounded or hidden in foliage birds in order to gain optimum control over focusing target. (Note: I personally prefer aiming through the LCD screen thus not limiting my peripheral vision and therefore not missing any ‘action’ close-by).


ven though I am overall satisfied (and in some cases perhaps even amazed) with the current results, there have been several times in which I wished the camera in my hand was a DSLR. For example, I can only imagine how the pictures of the peregrine falcon (falco peregrinus) in this article would turn out if the compact camera in my hand had the capabilities of a DSLR.


o conclude, the dilemma between compact and DSLR reminds me the “bike or motorbike” one. You will probably reach your destination whichever you take, but it is you that has to choose between going fast or going cheap…

n any case I think it is widely acceptable that compact ultra-zoom cameras are a beginner’s choice (unless someone is oblivious to the cost included in a different option or is simply a lover of perfection) and represent a good test that will determine whether the leap towards a DSLR camera is worth making. I myself will wait for the chance my hobby repays its’ costs before I spend a few thousand Euros for professional equipment.



he aim of this article is to lure more newcomers to nature photography by displaying that the aesthetic result of an image is not necessarily equivalent to a high-cost investment in professional photo- equipment‌but perhaps is also written for those who despite possessing optimum equipment are nonetheless disappointed with the coming results‌




Photophysis 2011/2 ΕΝ  

2nd issue of the magazine "Photophysis" dealing with Greek Nature and nature photography at Greece

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