- Fauna habitats
- The Mammals of Ochi
- Rich bird life
- Reptiles and Amphibians
- Fish and sea life
Wetlands, rocky ground, forests and other wildlife habitats
A habitat is the natural environment of an animal or plant. Every habitat type has specific conditions and a relative homogeneity, such as, for example, a forest, a rocky shore or a swamp. A habitat can consist of several kinds of biotopes (insofar as these are delineated by discrete types of vegetation). In contrast, the habitat of micro-organisms is microscopic and can comprise only one species of plant.
For many insects a rotten tree trunk is their exclusive habitat. Most fauna species use more than one habitat. Some habitats can contain species that live mainly or exclusively there, because they have specific needs for feeding or reproduction. The very important habitats of the Ochi region are rocky areas, deciduous, evergreen and sclerophyllous evergreen forests, as well as wetlands.
Many specialised species that cannot be found in other habitats dwell in wetlands such as swamps, wet fields, puddles or ravines. For all their small size, the Karystos lowlands are very important because they are the exclusive habitat for many species that cannot be found elsewhere in southern part of the Karystia district.
Approximately 50 bird species (waterfowl, waders and other wetland species) have been observed just in the lowland wetlands. Also, Ochi ravines and springs constitute a true source of life for many small creatures, such as water insects, molluscs, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.
The habitat type that is formed by rocky ground includes cliffs, rocky outcrops, caves, bays, gorges. These inaccessible areas are the exclusive breeding site of several species. In total, 27 bird species make their nests on rocky formations and 11 of these species are endangered or protected. Within this category are birds of prey, rock partridges, the blue rock thrush, crag martins and other birds that live in open rocky fields. Bats and many invertebrates find shelter inside the caves and the rocky crannies.
Deciduous, evergreen and sclerophyllous forests
Hundreds of different insect species and invertebrates which are food for many kinds of animals live on deciduous trees. An ancient oak tree can be home to 200 different species of invertebrates. The remains of the forests are home to many birds of prey and forest animals. Such woods in steep and inaccessible slopes are rare on islands.
Areas that are barren to the human eye are anything but barren for nature
The open treeless areas of Ochi have a rich variety of interesting reptiles and birds. Twenty four species of reptiles live in coppices and on rocky formations: 2 species of tortoises, 10 species of lizards and 10 species of snakes. Eighteen of the 20 species of birds of prey that have been spotted in this area hunt in such open, non-forested habitats. Some very rare birds of prey such as vultures, golden eagles, long-legged buzzards, peregrine falcons and Bonelli’s eagles hunt in open areas. It is interesting that age-old human impact on the environment (fire and grazing) has helped create the varied thicketed landscapes on Ochi. Despite one’s first impression that it is barren and infertile, this truly pastoral landscape plays a major role in protecting the local wildlife.
Over 90% of Greek fauna are invertebrates. There has as yet been no systematic research into the micro-fauna in the region of Ochi and it still contains surprises. Did you know that a kind of limpet lives in the rivers of the Ochi region?
That there are species of insects in the forests that are common in the forests of Central Europe? That thousands of small cockroaches live in the moist earth of the holm oak forest on the northern slopes of Ochi? That one of the largest insects in Europe lives in the Aghia Triada valley?
That rare African butterflies live in the lowlands of Karystos? That “Rhodes butterflies” abound in Demosari?
The Mammals of Ochi
There are very few large mammals in the area today Some common species abound such as foxes, ferrets, weasels, hedgehogs and many species of rodents. A large nocturnal rodent that is very common in the forests of the area is a species of dormouse (Glis glis). This squirrel-like species is mainly nocturnal: in the daytime it sleeps, while at night it can scamper about anywhere, even the most slippery surface. One can frequently hear them at Kastanolongo. There is only a small number of hares due to illegal hunting. The inhabitants of Cavo d’Oro still remember the days when there were so many hares that their crops were threatened. Today it is rather rare to spot these swift animals because there are roads everywhere. The Mediterranean seal, an internationally threatened species, lives on the shores of the Cavo d’Oro and possibly on Petalioi. According to a local fisherman, in the middle of the last century there were so many seals that local fishermen used to kill the babies that they found on inaccessible beaches and caves for their skins which they used to make their traditional footwear, the tsarouchi. There are still two areas called Phokies (Seals), one near Kallianos beach and another at Actaio (Skuasi). Let’s hope that the place name will not in the future be the only evidence of the existence of this mammal.
Despite the fact that Ochi is an island mountain, it has over 211 different bird species. The area is of great interest to ornithology for the following reasons:
Southern Karystia is placed strategically in Evia’s southernmost point, and thus constitutes a replenishing stopover for many bird species that have to follow the flyway over the sea. It is indicative that 80% of the bird species that can be found in the area of Ochi are migratory. The cape and the shores of Kafirea, the top of Ochi and particularly the lowlands of Karystos are watch points from where one can watch the migration of many birds as birds of prey, waterfowls, waders and passerines.
A communications channel
Due to its geographical position, the area functions as a communications channel between the birds of Sterea Ellada and the islands. The mass of Ochi is a natural breeding ground for some species that can then disperse south to the Cycladic islands. Such species are forest passerines, some rare birds of prey and species that have a very small nesting population in southern Greece.
Birds of prey
Twenty (20) species of diurnal and five (5) species of nocturnal birds of prey have been recorded in the area. Some of them have permanent populations in the area. Bonelli’s eagles, short-toed eagles, falcons, peregrine falcons and many horn owls reproduce there. Bonelli’s eagles, long-legged buzzards, marsh harriers and black kites stop in the area during migration
Many nesting species
Sixty nine (69) nesting bird species, a large number for an island, have been recorded in the area. In addition, the area has populations of protected species whose numbers have been greatly reduced in Europe. Protected species that live in noteworthy numbers on Ochi are shags, nightjars, rock partridges, wood larks, tawny pipits, Rufous-tailed scrub robin, fan-tailed warblers, the black-headed bunting and Protzschmar’s bunting.
A haven for endangered species
The populations of many bird species have been reduced. Birds of prey particularly are disappearing at a frightening rate. Waterfowls and waders have ever smaller wetlands in which to hunt for food. Ochi is a haven because it is a habitat for populations whose numbers have fallen in the Aegean. If the natural environment is preserved, some species that have been lost or reduced will be able to return. Vultures and Bonelli’s eagles that used to nest in southern Evia might come back to the area if they and their habitats, are protected.
Reptiles and Amphibians
There are 6 species of amphibians in the area and 27 reptiles
Amphibians need puddles, ponds and other natural sites where water is collected so that they can reproduce and raise their young. The Bombina variegata, or yellow-bellied toad, can be found at an elevation of 400m in wet areas.
The salamander, a mountainous forest species, uses mountain gorges to reproduce, while toads (both the common brown and the green toad) can even reproduce in areas that are only temporarily wet.
Frogs eat insects and in seaside wetlands their populations are enormous. The service they offer humanity by eating flies and mosquitoes is incalculable. What is particularly interesting is the presence of tortoises in the area. The Testudo marginata or marginated tortoise, can be seen all over the area, even at very high altitudes.
The Mediterranean tortoise, the Testudo hermanni, can be found in many areas, even in the lowlands. The most common turtle of the area in the gorges is the Mauremys caspica or Caspian turtle.
Ten (10) species of lizards have been recorded. The most common are Erhard’s wall lizard (Podarcis erhardii), the snake-eyed skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii), whose eyes never close and the magnificent Lacerta trilineata or Balkan green lizard. The Mediterranean house gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus) can be found in almost all manmade structures. The eastern green lizard (Lacerta viridis), a very impressive emerald green lizard with a royal blue neck, is more common at higher altitudes than the Balkan green lizard. The agile common wall lizard (Podarcis muralis) abounds in the mountainous regions. The large European legless lizard (Ophisaurus apodus, or Scheltopusik) is quite common and can even be found in inhabited areas.
A large variety of snakes
Among the twelve species of snakes in the region, only the long-nosed viper (Vipera ammodytes) is dangerous and venomous.
The Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus), which is common all over Ochi, is not dangerous because its venom-bearing fangs are located at the back of its mouth so that even if it does bite, the quantities of poison deposited are such that the symptoms that ensue are either very slight or even non-existent. The grass snake (Natrix natrix) is one of the most common in the region and can be found in ravines. The Balkan whip snake (Coluber caspius) can be found in areas where there is maquis vegetation, in cultivated fields or in grazing lands. Dahl’s whip snake (Coluber najadum) can be found over the entire area. The European rat snake (Elaphe situla), which folk tradition considers lucky, and the eastern four-lined rat snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata) are strictly protected under Community Directive 92/43. Snakes are indicators of an area’s biodiversity and health. They are food for other animals, such as birds of prey. Most feed on rodents, insects or other reptiles and thus help limit the numbers of those species that harm agriculture.
Fish and sea life
The waters that surround the region of Ochi each have a distinctive character. The southern Evoikos Gulf oceanographically is a different sea from the turbulent waters of the Cavo d’Oro and the open Aegean.
The southern Evoikos Gulf
The water of the southern Evoikos Gulf is shallow. It rarely exceeds 50 metres depth near the shore. The gulf has many windless coves and islets and its currents are local so they are not strong. This protected sea has accessible fishing beds, such as reefs, sea weed beds and many marine habitats. Sponges and many crustaceans and shell fish live in these areas. Clams are plentiful in the shallow coves, such as in the shallow Livadakios Bay. The southern Evoikos is fished intensively and as a result the fish are small.
The waters of the Cavo d’Oro
The Cavo d’Oro has all the characteristics of an ocean. There are no protected bays and the water is very deep. The northern shores have a depth that exceeds 300 metres, just one and a half kilometre from the shore. The water is usually turbulent and has huge waves.
It is considered one of the most significant fishing beds in the Aegean, but there are so many strong currents, storms and winds that fishing boats have a difficult time approaching this area. The waters of the Cavo d’Oro have biological richness, because of the “Lemnos current”, as fishermen call it, that comes down from the Dardanelles and brings nutritional substances to the surface that feed many fish, cetaceans and sea birds. Furthermore, the region is a migration corridor for many species of fish such as tuna, other large fish and sea mammals. In calm weather during May and June, one can see small herds of dolphins.
The common eel (Anguilla anguilla) is the most prevalent species in the local ravines (Rema Lalas, Platanistou, Demosaris, Regia and others). A species of a very small goby (Knipowitschia caucasia) can only be found in the Karystos lowlands. Mullets (Mugilidae) that come from the sea abound in Regia, as does the western mosquito fish (Gambusia affinis), which was introduced to the area by man. It is due to this fish that malaria has been effectively dealt with.