Volunteers and staff members of the Hellenic Ornithological Society were surprised with the record of a new bird species for Greece on Antikythira: the Western Olivaceous Warbler Hippolais opaca. The bird was captured just some weeks after the record of the Pallas’s Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus (also a new species in Greece) at the beginning of April at Kesariani, close to Athens. The new record was the 445th of the official Greek bird species list. This finding is quite remarkable as the Western Olivaceous Warbler is rarely observed outside its breeding grounds in spring (Spain and west North Africa).
The Secretary of the Hellenic Rarities Committee, Nikos Probonas commented: “The confirmation of the record was not a simple task for the Committee as the species is very similar to its close relatives differing only in some morphometrical measurement and by having slighty different tones to its plumage.
The Western Olivaceous Warbler was identified during the bird ringing campaign that takes place every year at the Antikythira Bird Observatory (ABO). The new species was identified by the coordinator of ABO’s Bird Ringing campaign, Christos Barboutis. “Finding a new species for your country is both touching and quite unexpected as birds are by far the most studied animal group” he stated.
Bird ringing, among other things, is a scientific method used to monitor bird migration. It consists in fitting a small metal ring around a birds’ leg. Every ring has a unique code as well as the address of the Ringing Center of the country or the region of initial capture. This unique code allows researchers to find out migration movements and directions as well as the life span of birds.
Ornithological research on Antikythira has been carried out by the Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS) since 1997, with the support of the A.G. Leventis Foundation. The main research objectives of the Antikythira Bird Observatory (ABO) are the study and monitoring of bird migration focusing on the protection and conservation of migratory birds at a national and international level. Another key objective of ABO is the study of the local bird populations, as well as the habitats used by both local and migratory species. Since the establishment of the Observatory, during the migration seasons there has been a constant presence on the island of both researchers and volunteers from a wide variety of countries. ABO is one of the most important centres for bird migration monitoring and research in the eastern Mediterranean.