reptiles & amphibians
Ornithology in Greece depended on contributions from foreign naturalists (especially Germans) for over a century and it wasn’t until 1982 that the Hellenic Ornithological Society was established, announcing a growing interest in bird-watching by Greek citizens. In these past twenty years there has been an impressive growth in studies undertaken by Greek ornithologists but the following is still relatively small and visiting birdwatchers still contribute significantly to knowledge of the avifauna. Birdwatching on Thásos does not seem to have figured much in the literature, with Harrison & Pateff (1937) and Schmidt & Schmidt (1986) the only accounts specific to the island that I have come across, apart from my own meagre contribution (Fowles 1985) and a list of birds seen around Skala Potamias (Chilton 1999).
Recent publication of an authoritative systematic account of the birds of Greece (Handrinos & Akriotis 1997) provides the first real opportunity to determine what is known of the birdlife of Thásos. This work contains records and distribution maps for the 442 species recorded from Greece and from this it is possible to identify 200 species that have been reported from Thásos or its adjacent waters. Given the scale of the task facing the authors in collating such a wealth of information it is probable that some species reported from Thásos have been omitted. However, this work provides an excellent starting point to begin compilation of a checklist for the island. Of the 200 species, a high proportion are recorded either on passage or wintering and just 74 species are identified as breeding (including six requiring confirmation).
The Thásos list can be extended to 216 species: Handrinos & Demetropoulos (1983) indicate that Griffon vultures formerly bred on Thásos but this species now appears to be extinct on the island. My own observations add two further species - fan-tailed warbler (frequent in scrubby olive groves around Thassos Town in June 1982) and crag martin over Thassos Town with other hirundines on 11 September 1993. Jiannis Markianos, a resident ornithologist, reports that Whooper swans are occasionally recorded around the island's coast in cold spells and 48 were present off Potos in February 2004. Long-legged buzzard, Levant sparrowhawk, black kite and little ringed plovers have been reportedly independently by several visitors in recent years, whilst Sylvia van Leeuwen and Bart van Tooren added mallard to the island list (in the harbour at Thassos Town) in May 2004. Alan & Rose Saunders recorded two ringed plovers on passage at Skala Maries in September 2004. Hen harriers were reported by Nethercoat (2002) and during a cold spell in February 2008 several were seen on the island by Steve Mills and Hilary Koll. Steve and Hilary also watched (and photographed) a pair of golden eagles being harassed by ravens over Ipsarion in February 2008, saw a group of five black storks flying towards Ipsarion in October 2008, and reported mistle thrushes as common (there are few records of birds on Thásos in winter so there may well be other winter residents to add to the list). Goshawk was reported from separate locations by Richard Swindells and Keith Allen in May 2000. More recently, Jiannis Markianos reports that a newly-created wetland at Potos attracted many waders in April 2020 after a very big storm, including a collared pratincole. These beautiful birds are frequent on the Nestos Delta on the adjacent mainland coast but have not been recorded on Thásos before.
The list of species confirmed as breeding can be increased to 77. Harding (1997) records pallid swifts breeding at Panagia, and I have observed bee-eaters (about 30 pairs) nesting in the banks of the Maries river (present in 1982 and 1997) and a pair of hobbies nested in the pine woods near Makriammos in May 1997. Steve Mills confirms crag martin breeding in caves near Limenaria in 1994. Cameron (1995) and Cameron & Dawson (2004) reported little ringed plovers calling territorially in suitable breeding habitat. House sparrow was oddly (and no doubt erroneously) marked as a 'passage' bird across much of Greece by Handrinos & Akriotis (1997), but this species is clearly a widespread and common resident on Thásos. Yellow-legged gulls and Mediterranean shearwaters are known to breed on Panagia island and a pair of Eleanora's falcons were discovered nesting on the coastal cliffs in the south-east of the island in September 2003 (Jiannis Markianos, pers. comm.). The population of Mediterranean shearwaters has led to Thásos being added as an Important Bird Area (IBA). Eleanora's falcon, little ringed plover, yellow-legged gull, pallid swift and bee-eater were not included as breeding species on Thásos by Handrinos & Akriotis (1997), whilst Mediterranean shearwater and hobby were amongst the species requiring confirmation. Further breeding species no doubt occur and, for instance, it is possible that cormorants are breeding amongst the colony of c.250 shag on Panagia island (J. Markianos pers. comm.). Cameron (1995) reported rock buntings breeding at Skala Potamias, although in atypical habitat so confirmation is desirable.
Reports, chiefly unpublished, by British birdwatchers holidaying on Thásos potentially add to the list of species recorded on the island (Cameron 1995, Chilton 1999, Cunningham 2000, Harding 1997, Saunders & Saunders 2004). Together they report a further seven species not mapped by Handrinos & Akriotis (1997) as occurring on Thásos - great white egret (C2000), goshawk (C2000), booted eagle (C1999), treecreeper (S&S2004), great spotted woodpecker (C2000, H1997, N2002), booted warbler (C2000) and scarlet rosefinch (C2000). Most Greek records of great spotted woodpecker are assumed to be mis-identifications of Syrian woodpecker, whilst booted warblers have been recorded only twice before in Greece and there are only five Greek records of scarlet rosefinch. The status of treecreeper in Greece is uncertain due to confusion with short-toed treecreeper and Handrinos & Akriotis (1997) recommend that "records of treecreepers from the lowlands should be supported by sufficient details in order to be acceptable". Finally, there is an interesting report by members of the Hellenic Ornithological Society of 2-4 possible Bonnelli's eagles having been seen in the island's southern mountains in September 2003. If this proves correct then they will almost certainly be resident as Bonnelli's eagle is a sedentary species.
Thásos is not regarded as a particularly important island for birdwatching, primarily because of its lack of substantial wetland habitats. Nonetheless its limited fauna offers plenty of enjoyment for ornithologists and undoubtedly there is much still to be discovered. This is dramatically highlighted by the recent discovery of wallcreeper breeding on Ypsario (Hölzinger 1989) - also reported as occurring during the winter on the walls of the Byzantine settlement at Kastro. Other specialities include occasional Eleonora’s falcons on passage and resident populations of Cretzschmar’s bunting. Birdwatchers visiting Thásos have the added delight of day visits to the mainland to explore the western fringes of the Nestos Delta (Grimmett & Jones 1989) or the coastal lagoons immediately to the west of Keramoti.
Cameron, C. 1995. The Isle of Thassos and the Keramoti area, north eastern Greece: trip report for the period 23/05/95 - 06/06/95. Unpublished report.
Cameron, C, & Dawson, J. 2004. Birding in Thassos and north-eastern Greece, May 2004. Unpublished report.
Chilton, L. 1999. Plant list for Thasos. Marengo Publications.
Cunningham, P. 2000. Thassos 6-9-00 to 20-9-00. Unpublished report. [http://www.birdtours.co.uk/tripreports/Greece/thassos/thassos.htm]
Fowles, A.P. 1985. Nest sites of house martins. British Birds, 78: 241.
Grimmett, R.F.A. & Jones, T.A. 1989. Important bird areas in Europe. ICBP technical Publication No. 9. Cambridge.
Handrinos, G. & Akriotis, T. 1997. The birds of Greece. Christopher Helm Ltd., London
Handrinos, G. & Demetropoulos, A. 1983. Birds of prey of Greece. Efstathiadis Group, Athens.
Harding, B. 1997. Thassos 19th August - 2nd September 1997. Unpublished report.
Harrison, J.M. & Pateff, P. 1937. An ornithological survey of Thrace, the islands of Samothraki, Thasos and Thasopulo in the North Aegean, and observations in the Struma Valley and the Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria. Ibis, 14 (1): 582-625.
Hölzinger , J. 1989. Verbreitung des Mauerläufers (Trichodroma muraria, Linnaeus, 1766) auf dem Peloponnes. Äkol. Vögel., 11: 257-263.
Nethercoat, M. 2002. Thassos 22nd September to 5th October 2002. Unpublished report.
Saunders, A. & Saunders, R. 2004. Thassos Greece 5th- 19th September 2004. Unpublished report. [http://www.birdtours.co.uk/tripreports/greece/thassos2/thass-sept-04.htm]
Schmidt, E. & Schmidt, A. 1986. [Additions to the ornithofauna of Thasos and Kefalinia Islands (Greece)]. Aquila A Madartani Intezet Evkonyve, 92 (1985): 298-299.