Birdwatching at Almyros Nature Reserve




Almyros Marsh, the Bird's Paradise in a Small Wild Oasis

 We've been seduced by a warm day and went aimlessly on a car ride outside the city of Heraklion. About 6 km. to the west, at the end of the Amoudara resort city, we stop to explore a marshy area with abundant vegetation, part of the Almyros river great wetland. In front of the Blue Lagoon Hotel, a small billboard informs us that we’re at the entrance of the nature reserve, where fishing is prohibited.


 

 As soon as we get out of the car, a horde of half-wild Mallard ducks gathers on the water channel next to the parking lot, to welcome us. "Girls, come quickly, we have guests!". On the fence, an old Muscovy duck male is warming up in the sun, discreetly watching the action scene and letting us taking close up shots.  Peacefully, we play with the cameras to catch their bright and multicolored feather while enjoying the spontaneous funny parade.


 

 From the parking, we notice the observation tower and the wooden bridge, from which the nature reserve begins. Spread over half a square km., the marshland does not seem to be fitted out or easily accessible for spontaneous visitors. Narrow paths are sneaking beyond the walls of reeds, good only for those properly equipped and ready to venture deep farther, away from the noise of the road.


 


 Excited by the small oasis of wildness, we remain silent, to observe the clear, vibrant, and colorful water pool and to listen to the symphony of nature, in the afternoon sun.



 The waterfowls are floating relaxed in small groups, leaving little waves behind them. Barely visible among stones and plants, protected by their perfect camouflage equipment, big fish are swimming lazily, along with their smaller and more agile fellows. In the shade of the willows, two white silhouettes are moving synchronously and flapping their wings, as in a mating ritual. Somewhere, above, a hawk is hovering in large circles, waiting for the right time to attack. For us, as nature lovers, to be random witnesses of a unique scene from the book of life is a wonderful feeling.


 


 Almyros wetland has a great ecological value due to its biodiversity. Apart from the underwater plants, there are lots of wild bamboos, tamarisks, rushes, and the endemic Crete palms (Phoenix Theofrasti or Cretan date palm). Officially, there are 5 different species of fish and eels, 3 species of amphibians and 6 species of reptiles, large populations of turtles and, no less than 177 species of birds.


 


 Visited by tourists from all over the world for sunny vacations, Crete is also an off-season destination, for those who want to catch nature at its best. With its rich and diverse flora and fauna, and with its countless wild landscapes, still unaltered by the human factor, actually, the whole island is considered a natural reserve.


 


 To those passionate about bird watching trips, the island offers a special experience, being the habitat of over 412 species of birds - most of them migratory. This is why birding is one of the most popular activities in nature, mainly in spring (mid-March to mid-May) and fall (September and October).


 


 If you somehow get in the Amoudara area, and especially if you are with children, you might consider a stop for an hour at the Almyros reserve. Eventually, be equipped with a binocular and a camera, to fully enjoy the pure wildlife and admire the mallards, eagles, falcons, owls, red-billed choughs, egrets, and many other rare or protected species, you may never see again…



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