image A place, a thousand rocks

The Evros Delta

The significance of the Evros Delta to many rare birds is the reason for which I visit this place at least once a month over the past two years.

Text Ioakim Vasileiadis Photography Thekla Malamou

The significance of the Evros Delta to many rare birds is the reason why I visit this place at least once a month over the past two years. In the course of the year one can meet thousands of birds to which this area is an important stopover to their migration journey. People who go there know exactly the reason why they visit the Evros Delta. Hunters, fishermen, birdwatchers and guards of the area. Thousands of geese gather there during the winter months. Among them are also the lesser white-fronted geese, an endangered species.
Birdwatching is a revelatory experience. You learn how to focus on things you would otherwise never attach importance to. Birds are everywhere. Why hadn’t I noticed them before? You find that your vision and hearing are stimulated. Being alone in the Evros Delta makes you feel small and appreciate solitude. Solitude? How can one be alone with so many birds around?

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    The absolute exposure of your body in the summer sun and the winter frost make this experience even more intense. It makes you reflect on the extreme weather conditions to which birds are exposed throughout their life. There is nowhere to hide in the Evros Delta. Sunrise and sunset are mystical in this place. These are the best hours of the day to cherish this place. All the birds are on the alert and their voices are even more vivid.
    Once you find yourself in the sunrise of the Evros Delta, you can cherish the day with eyes closed. You welcome the light among countless bird voices and the chanting of the Imam coming from the neighboring town of Enez. This is the moment when frontiers are shattered. Frontiers between day and night, East and West.

    During the winter, the sound of swans returning to their nestling positions for the sunset is astonishing. Like the view of a couple of sea-eagles flying over the field of Dimitriadis area, spreading panic to thousands of scared ducks beneath them.
    Our journey to the National Park of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace is another story. The geomorphological variety of the area is of great interest. One can find lakes, lagoons, bogs, salt marshes, Nestos River, the Nestos Delta and riverfront forests. The aim of our visit to these places, the search for protected insect species.

    In Lake Vistonida, during the winter, the largest number of black-necked grebes of Southern Europe is gathered, while white-headed ducks excite the curiosity of birdwatchers. In the riverfront forests of Nestos, one might spot wild pheasants or jackals. In the bogs formed in the southern part of the lake, we spotted the Amax imperator dragonfly. As much as we searched the dead wood of oak trees though, we didn’t manage to spot the saproxylic beetle Cerambyx cerdo.

    In the vast area of the Park, one can pass through many small though lively villages, whose residents are always surprised with the newcomers crossing their village. They observe us thirstily. They know we are passerby. Here, the subject of observation is us.
    The transition to Rodopi Mountain Range National Park, along with the change in temperature, was liberating. We searched for the butterflies Euphydras aurinia and Parnassius Apollo, peaking around us for the fear of bears.

    The alternation from the wide habitats of lakes and fields is significant, with a considerable variance: shade! The forest here is magnificent. This is the only area in Greece where one can see spruces and birch trees. Oak trees, beeches and scots pines flood our range of vision. Looking patiently amongst the trees, a keen birdwatcher can spot rare birds, such as hazel grouses, nutcruckers and capercaillies. The peace of this forest is precious.

    To a birdwatcher, the thrill that comes with the identification of a new species is significant. The places we visited offer several such possibilities. But the thrill is still as great with the experience of revealing to a co-traveller the fascinating world of birds, while knowing, by his zealous reaction, that another individual is introduced to something which remains a secret among few people.