A Flora and Fauna of Symi

A personal guide to the wildlife of Symi and beyond

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This site is dedicated to the wildlife of Symi and in particular anyone who has an interest in birds.

Symi belongs to the Dodecanese group of islands about 25 miles North West of Rhodes and over 250 miles from the Greek port of Piraeus. Symi lies between two peninsulas of  Turkey and at its closest is just six miles from Asia. Symi is mountainous and rocky with its highest peak, Vighla, at 620m.  The coastline is irregular  and measures about 85 km with numerous bays and headlands whilst being surrounded with a score or more islands and rocky islets. The island is mostly infertile and rocky (limestone) supporting a typical Mediterranean garrigue comunity of  dwarf shrubs and many aromatic herbs. There are a few small cultivated areas dotted throughout the island, notably above the harbour, Pedi  and elsewhere. Inland there are areas of coniferous forest consisting of cypresses and pine trees. The once cultivated valley of Pedi still supports a wide and varied range of flora and fauna. 

I hope you find this site interesting and I would encourage visitors to send in any pictures or comments you have that would add to the interest of those looking at the wildlife on Symi. Please go to the contact page for an email address.

Latest Sightings and Reports.

A Last look at Strofylia Forest

September 24, 2017


The Dunes

September 22, 2017

The first plant I notice walking around the dunes is the sea daffodil with its beautiful white trumpet and strange bulbous green seed pods. The edge of the forest is bounded by salt water channels and aleppo pines, with low scrub of mastic and wayfaring bushes. Heather grows in the more dense undergrowth while butterflies and dragonflies dart from bush to bush.




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Kotychi Lagoon and Salt Pan

September 21, 2017

At the southern end of the National park lies the Kotychi Lagoon, a vast permanent salt water area that is important for fish breeding, migrating birds and overwintering waders and waterfowl. There wasn't a great deal there yesterday in evidence but once again I did watch a marsh harrier a distance quartering the reeds. A kilometre or so south lies an old salt pan, now disused but impressive, and once the winter rains have filled it I imagine would collect some interesting species of birds.

Below; the marsh harrier at a distance....

Above; yellow wagtails and below, a common sandpiper.

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Strofylia Wetlands Forest.

September 20, 2017

Or as I like to call it, the forest of biting insects. What started as a gentle amble turned into a forced route march in a vein attempt to out run nasty, blood sucking insects.
The most striking feature here is the umbrella pine, stone pine or Pinus pinea which cover an area between the lagoons and the sea for about 8 kilometres. A cut pine reveals its age; about 120 years old and a small one too. A protected area of international importance in Europe with a typical riparian ecosystem (anything that exists near a river or a water area - I had to look it up!). Apart from the insects there are plenty of spotted flycatchers sitting around spotting flies and catching them. Not enough in my opinion. Another curiosity is the magpie of which there are plenty, not very noteworthy you might think but essential for spreading the seed of the umbrella pine. Now the umbrella pine is replanted by man as the magpies appear not to be doing their job effectively. 
Other notable plants in the forest are the aleppo pine, the resin from which was used to preserve white wine by spreading on the insides of clay amphora and called retsina, and mastica, which makes a gin like spirit. There are large areas of valonia oak forest and a few kermes oak. Lots of jays after the acorns too, but too quick for my camera. 
But the stone pines steal the day for me.








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Prokopos Lagoon.

September 19, 2017

This huge salt water lagoon that stretches almost as far as the eye can see is absolutely teeming with wildlife. More flamingos, coots galore, ducks, little grebes, herons, little egrets, kestrels and a peregrine were just some of the birds seen here today. but the highlight for me was a marsh harrier that lazily quartered a few acres looking for its next meal before setting down in some reeds. The red samphire grows in great profusion carpeting the edges along with sea lavender while the waters brim with frogs, toads, crabs, big and small fish and turtles.

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September 18, 2017

In evenings shepherds move their flocks to graze on the stubble after this years crops have been harvested. The disturbance throws up many insects so it's not uncommon to find huge numbers of hirundines, mostly house martins, flying just a few feet above the animals. The sheepdogs don't work the flocks as they do in the UK but seem to be used as a protection against predators.



Kalogria Lagoon

September 17, 2017

A sunrise visit to the nearby saltwater lagoon at Kalogria was well worth a visit. At first I was stopped by the Park Police and asked if I was fishing or shooting which I found reassuring, but the real prize today was the greater flamingos on the lake shown here and presumably on route to some new winter grounds.

The Western Peloponnese

September 16, 2017

I've travelled overnight on the Bluestar to Piraeus and thence to Patra and another 30 kilometres to the salt lagoons near the old second world war airfield at Araxos on the west coast of Greece. I joked about seeing wild jackals (canis aureus) but here I am listening to their early evening chorus from my balcony. I am just stunned. Here is a you tube video by a third party....

Not just a Roof

September 14, 2017

The obvious purpose of a roof is to keep the rain out, but equally important is to collect any rainy that falls in the winter for use in the dry season (Summer). A third use which I've not seen before is the installation of a threshing circle. The corn (oats, barley or wheat) is shaken and the chaff blows away but the grain is collected in the circle. These are more usually placed on a windy spot on a hill for example.


Under the Cliffs

September 12, 2017

After a gentle climb to a view point overlooking a ravine into the crater the path picks its way beneath an over-hanging cliff where strange features have been worn by the wind  and the rain into the sandstone. We can feel the heat rising from the ravine below and reflected from the rocks above and in places the path has degraded into scree slopes. Blue rock thrushes echo their song off the cliffs and a large gecko sits basking in the sun. Justine can be seen in the bottom left below and our destination is on the peak to the right. (click on pic to expand)

Southern commas, little coppers and graylings feed on the thyme nearby and after winding our way through the alleys of Emborios we arrive in a tiny square next to the taverna where the local residents are preparing a festival for a name day.


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