A Flora and Fauna of Symi

A personal guide to the wildlife of Symi and beyond

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Nanou gorge


To walk the Nanou gorge you need a car or a bus to take you to the start near Panagia Strateri. It's about two and a half kilometres from top to bottom and about a 1500 feet descent. I think it is one of the most spectacular walks on Symi. Mostly covered in calabrian pines the path winds its way down the gorge until you arrive at boulder landscape near the beach. Near the top there are some of the best examples of calabrian pines to be found anywhere on Symi. Quite stunted but with huge girths they could be at least 200 years old.



 Amongst these pines there was a large flock of foraging birds. Chiffchaffs, coaltits, a spotted flycatcher and possibly olivaceous warblers were flitting from branch to branch and tree to tree. Mostly migrating birds although some chiffchaffs will over winter here on Symi. Nearby a couple of blackbirds were making alarm calls.

Further down the path under the cliffs cypress trees cling to the rocks in just an unbelievable way. How they ever germinated in the cracks of the limestone I do not know. Considering that there is no rain for five months of the year just adds to the mystery.

The highlight of the day for me was glimpsing a Eurasion wryneck (Jynx torquilla). It sat on the path briefly before flying up to a branch long enough to have a good look at it but it flew off across the gorge as I got my camera out! Here described by the Helm Identification Guide;

"This small, aberrant woodpecker is a most curious bird, looking and behaving much more like a smallish passerine than a woodpecker. Resembles a large warbler, a small shrike, or even a small, slender thrush with beautifully vermiculated, cryptic plumage (in a poor view looks rather uniform greyish-brown, however). Has relatively small head and small bill, and relatively long, rather soft tail. The short legs are the only woodpecker-like feature.

Unmistakable at close range, when its almost nightjar-like plumage pattern and colour can be seen well, but at a distance tends to be identified more by elimination than by anything else. Rather lacking in obvious plumage features from any distance, but from above and behind dark brown bands bordering crown, extending from centre of nape to mantle and along edge of scapulars stand out in good light. Does not clamber up tree trunks (although occasionally clings to trunk), and drums only softly by tapping on branch. Shy, unobtrusive and rather sluggish, often staying hidden in trees or bushes, but sometimes feeds on ground, hopping about with tail slightly raised. Often sits quietly for long periods on branch or overgrown wall. When pressed, defends itself by fanning tail, erecting crown feathers into short crest, extending neck and twisting and turning head from side to side (hence its vernacular name). Flight is low and somewhat undulating with fairly long glides on partly-closed wings, usually over comparatively short distances between trees or bushes."

This bird winters south of the Sahara although a few will spend the winter in Southern Greece, Cyprus and Crete.

Harris, Alan; Madge, Steve; Beaman, Mark; Hayman, Peter; Burn, Hilary; Zetterstrom, Dan; Tucker, Laurel; Elliott, Martin (2010-09-30). The Handbook of Bird Identification: For Europe and the Western Palearctic (Helm Identification Guides) (Kindle Locations 13849-13850). A&C Black Non-Trade. Kindle Edition.



On the more gentle slopes the open woodland reminded me of Dorset heathlands, particularly those on the Arne.

Here three or four groups of chukars (partridges) have found sanctuary for the time being in the gorge. Yesterday was the first day of the shooting season. I am glad to say a strong wind over the island probably put paid to any serious hunting for the time being.



 High on a cypress tree behind Nanou beach a solitary blue rock thrush was singing his heart out. Elsewhere crag martins were flying low over the sea.


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