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Conservation project

The bearded vulture (lammergeier) conservation project is run by the Hellenic Ornithological Society, BirdLife Greece. Crete has the only breeding population in south-east Europe (6-7 pairs in 2013, with four nests); the species is practically extinct in mainland Greece and elsewhere in the Balkans. Alongside survey, monitoring and raising public awareness, the long-term survival of Europe's rarest vulture is being tackled by site protection, food provision and the encouragement of traditional grazing systems.

"The population of griffons has really gone through the roof. More than 700 individuals and over 230 breeding pairs this year," says Dr Stavros Xirouchakis from the Natural History Museum of Crete / HOS, writing in 2015.

Eva Stefanaki, Head of Finance from the Hellenic Ornithological Society, wrote to say, "On behalf of Hellenic Ornithological Society I would like to thank you for your generous contribution. With your faithful financial contributions over the years, you’ve demonstrated your deep commitment to our work for the protection of wild birds and their habitats in Greece."

Thank you letter from HOS for the donation of €812 in April 2011 here.

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Bearded vulture Gypaetus barbatus records from the Honeyguide group in April 2014: 1 or 2 at Préveli, 26 April; 1 at Samaria Gorge, 27 April.

April 2013: single bearded vultures over Omalos Plateau (an adult, on 20 April) and over Kotsiphou Gorge (distant bird, unknown age, on 22 April).

The Hellenic Ornithological Society, with BirdLife partners in Italy and Spain, is running an ambitious campaign that aims to give a long awaited end to the destructive 'tradition' of illegal spring killing of migratory birds. In Greece this focuses on the Ionian islands, which are the first stop-over sites as birds arrive exhausted from their spring migration journey through Africa and over the Mediterranean sea. There, hundreds of thousands of them are shot. To see the actions HOS plans, visit the project website www.leavingisliving.org

Important Bird AreasHellenic Ornithological Society

There is a network of Important Bird Areas in Greece, details of which are on HOS's website. This link takes you through to the Crete page.

Crete is a big island and many of the IBAs are off-islands, distant peninsulas or mountain ranges, distant from our itinerary. However Kourtaliótiko Gorge, close to Plakias, is listed, where lammergeiers and Bonelli's eagle are seen regularly.


Hellenic Ornithological Society

More information about the work to protect bearded vultures - as they prefer to call them in Greece - here on the website of the Hellenic Ornithological Society and the Natural History Museum of Crete.

Why bearded vulture? Lammergeier translates to 'lamb vulture' which conveys the wrong image and wrongly suggests they may take live prey.

Lammergeier Lammergeier – or bearded vulture

Monitoring Crete’s rare flowers

Apostolis Kaltis, who met the Honeyguide group on Crete in April 2014, is both President of the Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS) and a professional botanist at the University of Athens. After the holiday he sent information about his work on Crete - read that in full here.

Crete has many endemic plants, and for a few of these the Greek government has to monitor these in accordance with European law. Apostolis was in Crete doing the fieldwork for the University‘s Department of Botany.

The species under scrutiny were the annual daisy Anthemis glaberrima, the small annual composite Crepis pusilla, the pink Silene holzmannii and dittany, Origanum dictamnus, known in Greek as diktamos.

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