An "unscheduled-arrival" was reported a few days ago in the Athens International Airport "Eleftherios Venizelos" (AIA). Members of the Wildlife Control Team (Environmental Department) of the airport - who are also members of the Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS) - observed a Buff-breasted Sandpiper Tryngites subruficollis, a relatively small wader which breeds in North America. In Europe the species appears occasionally as a regular vagrant, particularly during the autumn migration period, but for Greece the specific observation constitutes the first official record!
This news sounded an alarm to Greek birdwatchers and wildlife photographers. AIA kindly provided an authorisation entry to several members of HOS giving them the opportunity to enjoy the sight of the Buff-breasted Sandpiper at the airport site.
"As part of my daily routine bird activity inspection, I noticed a bird that seemed somehow different from the usual birds mainly because of its behavior. It was a wader which calmly fed in a grassy area. I observed the bird with my binoculars and started to realise that it was a Buff-breasted Sandpiper! The first photos were sent to the experienced ornithologists of HOS who immediately confirmed the rare observation. A routine shift turned into an unforgettable experience!" said Yiannis Vlatsiotis, the wildlife specialist who first saw the bird.
This is not the first time that a rare bird is recorded at the airport, also making the Buff-breasted Sandpiper the 188th bird species recorded around the airport.
The Secretary of the Hellenic Rarities Committee (HRC), Nikos Probonas said: "Although the Buff-breasted Sandpiper is a typical North American bird, during the last years the observations in Europe have increased and the HRC appreciate that it was a matter of time for it to be recorded in Greece”.
The first recording of Buff-breasted Sandpiper in Greece comes to confirm a clear upward trend of rarities’ records in recent years. This is largely attributed to the corresponding increase of people who enjoy and interpret the natural environment through birdwatching. Similarly, it must be noted that a significant number of important observations come from foreign observers, as Greece is an ideal destination for birdwatching tourism worldwide.