Psaralyki, is located only 50m from the sea.
Mallards and coots nest in the reeds at the pond.
Like a “salt-pan” in the end of a warm summer.
A flock of small waders flying close to the water surface at Psaralyki.
Redshank (Tringa totanus) is a medium-sized wader with red feet.
Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) is a long-distance migrant.
Sometimes a flamingo (Phoenicopterus) finds its way to the banks of the Psaralyki.
Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) is a beautiful, large wader with a shiny plumage. At a long distance, the bird looks almost black.
Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) has very long and pink-red legs.
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) is the only heron with yellow toes.
Migratory birds in Psaralyki
Text | Photos: Bjarne Emil Time*
A short rest in a long journey…
Country borders do not stop birds. They fly easily over when they search for the best living conditions for themselves and their young. Some birds stop for a while on Antiparos, to eat and get enough energy for a further journey, either north or south.
Even in ancient times, people knew about migratory birds. The wise man Aristotle noted that cranes traveled from areas north of the Black Sea to the Nile Valley. New studies state that cranes from the north of Scandinavia also go there during the winter season. On their way they pass Greece.
Somehow, about 20 percent of the birds in the world are long-distance migrants. In Europe, some species make long distances, across the Mediterranean to South Africa. For others, the ocean is a natural barrier. Their wintering grounds are normally the Mediterranean countries.
The birds use different migration routes. The journey of each species is to some extent learned, but most genetically controlled, inherited through generations.
An important migration route to North Africa runs across the Balkan Peninsula. Birds that follow this route have an advantage, a shorter passage over the open sea.
Antiparos is rarely invaded by migratory birds because the most used flyways are a little west and east of the island. But every spring and fall, single birds, or small flocks, stop here for a while.
Shorebirds or waders are easy to spot and can be observed on several sandy beaches on the east coast of the island. Birdwatchers especially recommend a beach near the village of Antiparos, called Psaralyki.
In fact, Psaralyki is three beaches that are partly connected, and named from 1 to 3. At 1 and 2 there are two shallow, brackish water ponds as large as a football field, and located only 50 m from the sea.
In summer, it happens that the water in one of the ponds evaporates completely, and only a white layer of salt remains on the bottom, which has probably given the name to the pond. “Alyki” means salt pan, and “psari” means fish in Greek.
Birdwatching is exciting. When the migration takes place, one never knows which bird may appear at Psaralyki.
The best time is early in the morning. Use bright clothes and wear a hat/cap. Bring binoculars and a field guide. And for your own safety: mosquito oil!
Be patient. Soon birds will come to find food. When you see these small, feathered creatures, from 100 to 500 grams, you may be filled with admiration, because you know they are on a long journey, many thousands of kilometers.
You see small birds with long beaks and long legs wading in the water to find food, or local mallards swimming with their young. In that moment, you realize that it is important to protect the ponds for the future.
The RAMSAR Convention was signed in 1971. It is an international agreement to protect important wetland areas for migratory birds. Unfortunately, Antiparos is not defined as a RAMSAR area, or is not sited on the IBA (International Bird Area) list.
On their way, migratory birds face many threats, most of them due to human activities. Climate change may also affect the birds. And who knows? Maybe important flyways will take new directions in the future, across Antiparos…
Some waders you can spot at Psaralyki:
Bar-tailed godwit (Limosa lapponica)
Black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa)
Black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus)
Common sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus)
Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria)
Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)
Knot (Calidris canutus)
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius)
Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis)
Redshank (Tringa totanus)
(Common) Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)
Ruff (Calidris pugnax)
Sanderling (Calidris alba)
Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)
Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)
Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)
* Bjarne Emil Time has been a biology lecturer for 35 years in high school in Norway.
He spends a lot of time in nature photography and owns a summer place on Antiparos and visits this beautiful island as often as he can.