This is third post in a series about birding Greece. The first one was “when”, the second “where” and this, the final one is all about “why birding Greece”. Sounds easy? Well… it is easy for me. Why? Because it is there. Because it exists. Cos I love Greece! And that is the problem: while these answers all make perfect sense to me, they do not reveal a single reason why should you consider making Greece a birding destination. In order to collect more “why” arguments, I asked members of Facebook groups that are focuses on birding Greece why do they do it?
Steve Dudley is a famous name in ecotourism circles – a bird guide, an author and the man who has pinned the island of Lesvos onto the birdwatching map of the World. This is what he had to say: “Greece, and in particular Lesvos, offers some of the best birding in Europe. Lesvos too has everything you need for a great birding holiday – it’s a small island, easy to get around, has good resources e.g. my book and website, this FB group, etc. and the people are friendly and the food is fantastic. I don’t care about the price – it is THE premier birding location in Europe for me. Wider than Lesvos, Greece also offers other spectacular birding locations such as Kerkini, Dadia and the Evros Delta – they can all be combined in an easy enough week or two week birding trip which I’ve done many times myself, as well as providing some excellent winter birding too for long weekends (a long winter weekend at Kerkini is very easy from UK and is just brilliant). You can get to Athens from pretty much anywhere and from Athens you can access anywhere else in Greece easily enough by plane, ferry or car. What’s not to love! “
I cannot agree more – Greece sure has it all. Birds (I wonder which one will become the official species #450); beautiful scenery, excellent cuisine, great weather, friendly people and loads of ancient piles of rocks – not exactly my cup of tea… or mug of beer, but many visitors simply cannot resist ruins of temples and palaces. I believe many would put history at the first place, people second and birds third, but however you put it, Greece has it all. Plus the costs – it is possible to find very reasonably priced accommodation near birding hotspots.
Alexander Wirth also made a good point: “I also love Greece, but I think there are some objective reasons to go birding in Greece. Especially in northern Greece you have many different habitats and thus different species on a very narrow and distinct area…something like 40 kilometers from sea-level to 2000m hills. Geographically, Greece holds some important migration routes and wintering areas. It lies on the border to Turkey, which gives you the opportunity to find some rare birds for Europe which come over from Asia (e.g. on Lesvos). And finally, most interesting places can be easily accessed by a normal car. And since there are not that many opportunities available to get guided trips (at least in my opinion), there are very good books available to explore Greek ornithofauna on its own.”
Yes, a normal car is one more thing – even gravel roads are mostly well maintained and perfectly passable, not just by “normal cars” but also by your own normal car (as opposed to rental). The lack of guided trips (they are available at a few places only) is a good thing to notice and an opportunity for local naturalists to develop their area into the next Kerkini or Lesvos! Before that, you can download a free smartphone app guide where to watch birds in Greece (enquire at their e-mail email@example.com), or read it as a pdf here.
Andy Weir adds more reasons: “Cost, accessibility from the UK and the distinct Eastern Palearctic feel of the avifauna are more reasons……for Lesvos specifically. And then there’s the people, food, scenery, etc.” Lyn Hunt loves Lesvos, too, “full of birders, naturalists and walkers, all lovely helpful people and the locals have always got a smile”. And I can say the same for the Kerkini.
One of the best painters of birds and nature, Paschalis Dougalis says: “It`s the combination of landscape, species and humans, I guess, Dragan…I know that`s not an objective opinion because I`m Greek, but I`m not the only one who believes this..” Well, I am not Greek and I agree, so it is fairly objective, I guess.
Nina Janelm points out “lots of birds and they are lot more confiding than the ones back home in Sweden! Also the nature, it’s just so beautiful, and everyone we’ve met has been so nice. Oh, and the food… can’t forget the food!” Grethe Haugøy adds: “The number of bird species and the total number of birds” and Sue Boyd agrees: “Plenty of birds, plenty of space, plenty of sunshine”.
Sandra Taylor explains her reasons: “Birding in that glorious scenery and sunshine; the food; and the old man in the bakery up the steps,” Elisabeth Ortner adds “Cafe frappe with milk and sugar,” and I have to add early morning Greek coffee & τσίπουρο (tsipouro) to that picture.
Tommy Pedersen concludes: “People. Birds. Food. Greece has it all,” while Ivaylo Zafirov needs no further reason: “Same as yours – I love Greece”. And Wendy Rogers explains it further: “’I love Greece’ is a perfect reason!”
Find some more reasons in my blogs on birding Greece.
Article and pictures by Dragan Simic