Marine mammals as striped dolphin (stenella coeruleoalba0 and bottlenose dolphin (tursiops truncatus) appear frequently in the waters of Naxos. On the east side of the island survive few individuals of a species threatened with extinction, the Mediterranean monk seal (monachus monachus), and in the Mediterranean sea turtle (caretta caretta) is not a rare sight.
From land mammals, rubbits (lepus europaeus), the rabbits (oryctolagus cuniculous), the hedgehog (erinaceus europaeus) and beech marten (martes foina) are the most prominent and recognizable wild species. Cyclades is known for its abundance of species and subspecies, and Naxos is no exception. Thhe European green toad (bufo viridis) and marsh frog (rana ridibunda), the two amphibians of Naxos, often survive in the same habitat with the river turtle (mauremys caspica), the only land turtle living in almost all natural wetlands of the island. From lizards we can recognize the
Turkish gecko (hemidactylus turcicus), the “cyrtopodion
kotschyi” lizard, the green lizard (lacerta trilineata),
the Aegean lizard (podarcis erhardii) and of
course the famous agama lizard (agama stelio).
The genuses of snakes that exist in Naxos are the adder (vipera ammodytes), the water snake (natrix natrix), the sand boa (eryx jaculus) and typhlopidae (typhlops vermicularis). The most impressine category of animal of Naxos, however, is undoubtedly the birds. From the majestic griffon vulture (gyps fulvus), an age-long symbol of bird-fauna of Naxos, to the humble crested lark (galerida cristata), the environment of Naxos attracted and still attracts hundreds of bird species, many of which are rare or threatened with extinction.
Hemerobius and noctambulant predators, namely carrion buzzard, eagles, hawks, kirkoi, owls and Eurasian eagle owls, aquatic, as herns, divers (grebes of Greece), crackes, geese and ducks, waders as ringed plovers, sandpipers and tringas, seabirds, gulls and terns, partidges, pipits, wagtales, acrocephalus warblers, blackbirds, mavises, finches and ravens are living permanently or visiting the island very often, proving the environmental significance and importance of the local fauna.
BIRDS AND HABITATS OF NAXOS
MAN AND NATURAL ENVIRONMENT
The nature of Naxos
The large – compared to the other islands of Cyclades area and the strong relief are combined with noticeable habitat diversity : sandy and pebbly beaches with dunes, steep rocky coasts, lagoons, marshes, reedbeds, streams and torrent estuaries, small fertile valleys and plains, olive groves and vineyards, oak and juniper stands, scrublands and heaths.
It is with no doubt an almost ideal environment for all the representatives of the Agean archipelago flora and fauna. Numerous plant, bush and tree species, as well as insects, reptiles, amphibians, brds and mammals survive in the island’s valuable habitats.
Natura 2000 network
The environmental value of Naxos, resulting from the mild traditional land use that man has applied and is still applying in a lesser extent, has been internationally recognized and the Greek State has included part of it in the Natura 2000 European network of protected areas. It haw also established 7 Wildlife Refuges (4 in the Municipality of Drymalia and 3 in the Municipality of Naxos)
Starting from the sea and the coastline, then crossing the lowlands and reaching the hills and mountains, the visitor will come upon a variety of habitats, easily found in other islands of the Cyclades :
Opern sea and coastal zone.
Steep rocky coasts, mainly in the eastern part.
Sandy and pebbly beaches and juniper dunes in the southwest.
Seasonal coastal wetlands, such as Alyki, Mikri Vigla, Glyfada, and Agios Prokopios lagoons, Kalantou, Agiassou, and Potamidon marshes and the estuary of Amitis.
Traditional rural landscapes, like the plain of Baouzis, Engaron valley and the mountain terraces.
Seasonal torrents, scattered all over the island, vegetated with Plane trees, Chaste trees and Oleanders.
Olive groves, like the one in Tragaia and the smaller ones in Moutsouna, Mesi and Lyonas.
Oak stands, remnants of former forests. Most of them are found in the eastern slopes of mount Zas.
Broad-leaved stands, with large Kerm Oaks, Holm Oaks and Maples.
Hills and mountains with cliffs and steep slopes. The most impressive massifs are found in Zas, Fanari, Mavrovouni, Anathematistra, Korakia, Kalogeros and Ai-Lia.
The most striking group in Naxos is with no doubt birds. Fro the majestic Griffon Vulture or “Skania”, an-age old symbol of Naxos avifauna, to the humble Crested Lark or “Skordalo”, the nature of Naxos has attracted and still attracts hundreds of species, many of which are rare and threatened with extinction. Diurnal and nocturnal birds of prey (vultures, eagles, hawks, harriers, falcons and owls), grebes, herons, rails, geese and ducks, waders like plovers, stints and sandpipers, seabirds, gulls and terns, partidges, pipits and wagtails, swallows, wheatears, warblers, thrushes, finches, corvids and buntings, are residents or regular visitors to the island, indicating the significance of its natural environment.
Numbers themselves demonstrate the importance of Naxos for avifauna :277 species from 52 families, from which 68 nesting regularly or occasionally. Among them many rare or uncommon species, like the Red- breasted Goose, white-tailed Duck, Richard’s Pipit, Semi-collared Flycatcher and Citrine Wagtail.
Human presence and impat
Naxos, the largest island of the Cyclades, has been inhabited by man since many thousands of years. Nature has offered him a lot, and he on his side, marked it deeply. Nowadays it is very hard to locate most of man’s early traces, however it is easy to notice on Naxos his latest creations : ancient temples and a sanctuaries, Byzantine churches, monasteries and castles, chapels, bridges, wells and windmills. All these, along with the villages, settlements and Chora comprise the man-made view of modern Naxos. And in their surroundings more creations, roads and paths, olive groves, vineyards and orchards, cultivated and uncultivated fields, greenhouses, stock farms and tourist installations, make up most of human presence. Therefore, human works have shaped Naxos’ features, affecting its landscapes and ecosystems.
Problems and Treats
Unfortunately the harmonic coexistence of man and Nature has been seriously disrupted in the last few decades. Man is not managing resources wisely anymore, thus degrading valuable habitats and reducing biodiversity, Wetland shrinking and degradation by land filling., waste disposal and illegal building, fires and overgrazing, poaching, illegal fishing, the use of poisoned baits and the excessive – in many cases – disturbance caused by man in sensitive areas are some of the major problems that birds, and most other living organisms, face in construction of wind farms in inappropriate locations.
HOS in Naxos
The Hellenic Ornithological Society ( HOS ) is a non governmental conservation organization focusing on the study and protection of wild birds and their habitats, as integral elements of Greek Nature.
Since 1982 we strive to safeguard a sustainable environment where birds and people may live in harmony. We study and protect wild birds, work towards the conservation of Important Bird Areas in Greece, raise public awareness, enhance environmental education, as well as advocate and intervene in environmental policy.
HOS’s presence in Naxos is particularly active, already from the starting years. As years passed a local group was formed, implementing several volunteer actions and participating in research programs. Noteworthy is the international conference for insular avifauna that was held in 1998 in Apeiranthos, with the participation of Greek and foregn ornithologists, locals and authorities and the four-year LIFE Project for the conservation of the most important bird species for Greece, the Eleonora’s Falcon, that nests in large numbers in the nearby islets.
Today, a LIFE Project for seabirds that nest in large colonies in the nearby islent (Audouin’s Gull, Shag, Cory’s and Yelkouan Shearwater) is implemented in the area.
The most important sites
It is very easy to watch the birds in their natural environment in Naxos. Certain biotopes – due to their features – attract more species. Let’s meet them:
Kalantou Marsh. The southernmost wetland of the island and the first site to feed and rest for many migrants that come from Africa. Herons, waders and passerines are using this marsh to rest an in the sea area, passing Yelkouan and Cory’s Shearwater flocks are observed regularly. A very familiar sight is the Shags in rocks, spreading their wings to dry.
Agiassou Marsh. A small seasonal marsh with reedbeds, a valuable stopover site for migrants. In the adjacent beach Little Ringed Plovers are nesting, while Cirl Buntings and Cretzchmar’s Bunting nest in the surroundings.
Potamides Marsh. Another small marsh, ideal for crakes, herons and waders. In the sea area, Audouin’s Gulls are looking for surface fish.
Glyfada Lagoon. Brackish wetland, next to the famous juniper forest. Ideal biotope for wader watching, like the rare Great Sand Plover and the more common Marsh Sandipiper.
Mikri Vigla Lagoon. Seasonal wetland surrounded by extensive dunes. Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers are nesting there.
Agios Prokopios Lagoons. Brackish lagoons nest to the well known beach. Perhaps the most suitable area to get a close look of waders like the Turnstone and the Ringed Plover.
Alyki Lagoon. The largest wetland of the Cyclades and the richest in species, all year round. Ferruginous Ducks, Flamingoes and Swans are regular visitors, as well as many other species of ducks, herons, birds of prey, waders, gulls and terns. Black-winged Stilt and Stone Curlew are regular breeders.
Mouth of Ammitis stream. This is where the torrent of Skoulikaria Spring flows into sea. At its banks the largest reedbed of Naxos is deployed, refuge for Little Bitterns, Spotted Crakes and Moorhens.
Potamos Gully. Dense vegetation and flowing water create safe refuges for many species, like the Wren, the Blackbird, warblers and flycatchers.
Mount Kalogeros. A low altitude mountain, with many vantage points for watching migrant birds of prey, coming to or leaving the island. Blue Rock Thrush is a regular breeder while the Raven is occasional.
Mount Koronos. A mount covered with heaths, attracts insect and seed eater species like the Black-eared Wheatear and the Woodlark. Free ranging stock raising favours scavengers like the Griffon Vulture and the Hooded Crow.
Mount Zas. The highest mountain of the Cyclades, covered with small tracts of oak woodland and tall maquis. In its remote cliffs birds of prey like the Griffon Vulture, Bonelli’s Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard and Lanner Falcon nest.
Olive grove of Tragaia. Its thousands of olive trees “embrace” Central Naxos villages and contribute to the survival of many species, like thrushes, warblers and finches. The most dense population of the Scops Owl is found there while there are also occasional sightings of the Olive-tree Warbler.
Mount Ai-Lias. A typical Mediterranean mountain covered with maquis, and cliffs. Chukar partridges, Long-Eared Owls and Bightjars nest in the slopes, while cliffs are used by the Peregrine Falcon.
Baouzi Plain. A rural area with cultivations, hedges and small stands of trees. Ideal habitat for the Little Owl, Crested Lark, Woodchat Shrike, swallows and warblers.
Bird-watching is a popular hobby for millions of people worldwide that is also practiced in Naxos by Greek and foreign visitors. It is a form of ecotourism and can be combined with other forms of alternative tourism, such as hiking and wildlife photography.
Access to almost all biotopes is very easy and the only supplies needed are a map, a pair of binoculars and a bird guide. Provided, of course, that you have patience and fondness to discover and get to know the magic of the feather world of birds that live in or visit the island of Naxos.
Naxos has rich aquatic resources and peculiar terrain. Because of this, type genus of plants that are transferred by the winds, can find frienkly initial growth conditions. Thus, Naxos is full of botanical families (labiatae, compositae, liliacae, euphorbiaceae asteraceae etc.) with resistance to dry and hot weather conditions. Also, conquerors and travelers had transferred plants and seeds to Naxos, that they loved or they considered important, from where they came from. We can see varieties of vegetables, vines and fruit-bearing of rare value. The traditional farmer of Naxos kept well protected the interesting genetic material, as waiting for someone to protect it from potential generate erosion.
Counting 4 km long you may enjoy the idyllic scenery which is composed by sugar white sand. The big sand hills and the dark green waters offer unforgettable moments of relaxation and calmness.Beach parties are still organized in Plaka beach taking you back to the 80's when Plaka used to be a hippies haven.
Agios Prokopios Beach Naxos
The beach is marvellous, as well as the water; the sunset very impressive. With the unique red coloured lakes located nearby the golden sand, tends to be the most popular beach on Naxos Island.
Agia Anna Beach Naxos
The picturesque small harbour of Agia Anna isits central point that accommodates fishing and tourist boats. In the peaceful bay of Ag. Nikolaos and next to the forest of cedars, The endlessness of the sandy beach is interrupted by the shark like rocky shapes.