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.

Round Profitis Ilias

March 24, 2017

Karpathos: part two.

This was the mid way point and the highest place on the walk at about 500 metres. The views were literally breathtaking.

Shortly after this point we stopped for lunch. In the distance was an old farmstead and you can see the threshing circle, long since disused. behind us on the hill the terraces stretched almost to the top.

This pile of limestone rocks is not going anywhere for a while.........

Around the corner over another crescent and we come across these orchids beside the path. Orchis quadripuncta.

The path continues on against the side of the mountain, quite precipitous in places.

Dottted either side the barbary nut (iris)

A well tended olive grove with a stressed eastern strawberry tree by the gate (below).

And shortly after leaving the olive grove the find of the day, Ophrys scolopax subsp. heldereichii.

Next onto some seriously slippery shale again, quite scary considering the drop below us but that didn't prevent me catching these two little beauties in the rocks. Polygala venulosa and Astragalus austroaegaeus.

Finally down the mountain towards home and lots of these Gagae graeca flowers. 




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The Windmills of Olympos

March 23, 2017

Early morning mists roll over the mountains above the village.

Some have been restored and one two still grind wheat for bread flour in the summer.

These windmills are mainly fixed horseshoe shaped in design, relying on the prevailing North West winds.


A River Valley

March 22, 2017

We decided that Monday was going to be a lazy day so we drove for twenty minutes on tarmac south of Olympos and then twenty minutes on a dirt track to a secluded river valley. The day did not disappoint and it was all about the wildlife in the end. We were rewarded with frogs, crabs, orchids and a lot more. I've labelled some pictures so you can see what it is if you're interested but I think the pictures speak for themselves.

The Argoni river and a rare freshwater crab, Potamon fluviatile.

The critically endangered karpathos frog, Pelophylax cerigensis only found here on Karpathos.

A nice hairy plant in the river bed. I've no idea what it is!

Possibly a red veined darter. There were scores of them.

Justine photographing a kotschi's gecko and below. Mediodactylus kotschyi.

Ophrys lutea, a yellow orchid...and below Malcolmia chia.

Another kotschi's gecko.....

What really made my day was this orchid only found on a few islands in the Aegean, Ophrys Aegaea.

Yup, scary rating just 2/10 for today!


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Ancient Vrikounda

March 21, 2017

Ancient Vrikounda sits on a small finger of land jutting out into the sea, overlooking a wild and isolated  bay beneath  its precipitous cliffs and a view of the distant island of Saria. The peninsular is covered with ancient ruins and terraces wherever  you look and in the cliffs there is an ancient church where water drips through the roof into a font. Getting there out of season is no easy task and involves a 2 hour hike down the mountainside from the most northerly community on Karpathos. Avlona is set in a fertile valley and the unused terraces are covered in wild flowers,  the most beautiful of which is the endemic peony of Karpathos. Strange flowers of the birthwort family line the paths on the hillside and another endemic plant, the bellflower hangs from the limestone rocks. Half way down a huge rock has been neatly carved with three steps, a font and three shields and was only discovered a few years ago, according to a knowledgeable visitor we met nearby. Reputably it belongs to an ancient warrior from the pre-christian era many thousands of years ago. Near the bottom of the mountain there is a flurry of activity as local people collect wild greens in sacks and prepare themselves for the return journey. A further 15 minute's walk takes us onto the promontory where huge beautifully dressed stone walls stand in memory of another time and the ground is littered with clay pot shards. The last stop is the church dedicated to St John buried deep in a cliff below the terraces. 

Above the start of walk, below a stone chat.

The village of Avlona and below the endemic Karpathos peony.

The strange birthwort again an endemic to the Aegean and the curious carved stone.

The long haul down the steps and a small church on the way.

Above a rare campanula endemic to karpathos.

The church of St John in the cave.

Looking back, we're headed to the right of the tallest peak!


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Collecting "Horta".

March 20, 2017

Gathering horta (χόρτα) from ancient Vrikounda (Βρυκούνδα) is a complicated business. It takes an hour and a half to walk there and a lot longer to walk back up the hill to Avlona (Αυλόνα) in Northern Karpathos. Radiki and Kardamo are on the menu today, that's dandelion and garden cress.


The Saddle of Konstantinos

March 19, 2017

We started the day at a Kafeneion in Diafani. Two greek coffees served by a woman in local traditional costume who happily informed us that we were the first tourists to visit this year. In the bay there was a raft of yelkoun shearwaters and a common sandpiper on the beach. An auspicious start. The coastal track led us through olive groves painted with wild flowers of every colour and form. A corn bunting sat on a bush over a patch of wild garlic. A hoopoe showed itself in the bushes. The wind howled around us but in the shallow dry river beds everything was quiet and warm. A short cut across the cliff top that I rated at 2 out 10 for scariness but only just in a couple of places. Swallows flew in off the sea and a lesser kestrel sped across the sky in the wind. We stopped at an old shepherds hut for lunch before setting up the hill to the Saddle of Konstantinos. Through an olive grove, on up through the garrigue on to a ridge, past some pine trees and across a hillside all seemed easy going. But at the last the "Saddle" was a pyramidal pile of loose shale high up exposed to a buffeting force 5 wind (stick your head out of the car window at 40 mph). Being a wimp after yesterday, Justine volunteered to have a look - on all fours I might add - and returned after a few agonising moments with "I'm not doing this". 10 out of 10 on scariness scale. Well we returned post haste and indulged ourselves at the Kafeneion in Diafani thinking how lucky we were and what a splendid day out.





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Round Profitis Ilias

March 18, 2017

Karpathos. Part one.

An eight kilometre amble around the 600 meter mountain of Profitis Ilias turned into one of the scariest walks I've ever done and alternately one with breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. It took us four hours to traverse ancient stone paths that occasionaly had been eroded by scree slopes and others where the only view from the edge of the path was the sea 500 metres below us and the view up was a zigzag staircase climbing a rock face. At more than one point I was on my knees, thank God nobody saw me, while Justine just strolled it! The highlights were the views, a pair of nesting ravens, wild peonies, barbary nuts, orchids  and many many others, just some of which I've shown here and others I have yet to identify.

The path starts at the last house from Olympos and was probably the scariest section.

The next two photos show the precariousness of the path; little more than a channel dug out of a scree slope. I found the best way of coping was to look only at the path under my feet.

At other times the track was gentle and forgiving making way for once cultivated terraces and we could enjoy the stunning scenery.

At this place by the last photo the land was more generous and I nearly missed some beautiful and rare peonies endemic to Karpathos, Paeonia carpatha. On the cliff tops a pair of ravens had set up a nest.

Some cretan arums, an old stone plaque of St Stavros and the path continues......

More tomorrow.


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Diafani, Διαφάνι

March 17, 2017

Day 2, Karpathos. We walked up a hill a lot, we walked down hill a lot, we missed a path back to Olympos, we spotted orchids and other wonderful plants and walked down a gorge and arrived at the fishing village of Diafani. We had a beer in a taverna. And caught the school bus back to Olympos (Olibos). We met many cousins of our host. We watched Olimpiakos play at the local taverna. (not good).

Looking back at the village of Olympos.

Some flowers on the way.....

Above is the beautiful orchid Ophrys adriana. Below a very rare canterbury bell that is endemic to Karpathos, Campanula carpatha.

Fumana arabica....

Looking over some terraces.......

Looking forward to the road less travelled.......

A really good walk.



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Olympos, Karpathos

March 16, 2017

The view from our balcony; let's see what the day brings.

A View Over Pedi towards Turkey

March 15, 2017

After the warm fronts have crossed this part of the Aegean over the last week and left lots of precipitation the air temperature has dropped to 10 degrees celsius. The air is dry and cool and very, very clear. The warm fronts did bring a few swallows, the first I have seen this year.

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