The Islander’s Ecotourism Gift to All of Our Supporters
The Tilos Municipality, the owners of the Sea Star high speed hovercraft-catamaran, the Tilos Hotel Owners Association and the Tilos restaurateurs were overwhelmed by the support that so many of you gave to the island when it was needed last fall to preserve the island’s resident and migratory endangered bird species against hunting that the Secretary General of the Aegean Periphery is still working to legalize. In order to convey their sincere appreciation, the islanders are planning celebratory festivities in April with enticing holiday packages designed especially for all of you who will hopefully be tempted to take a few beautiful spring days in April and spend them here on Tilos. Many members of local hunting organizations, to the islanders’ great disappointment, continue to express the wish that our newly developed island ecotourism fail in its efforts to shift the island economy to conservation uses of the island’s natural resources. Some islanders, whose need to make a living is understandably of paramount concern to them, are a bit anxious about the success of this conversion to ecotourism. The Municipality and the hoteliers, on the other hand, already know that the island’s natural gifts are a continuing delight to their guests who enjoy our rare bird species, Byzantine churches, clear running springs, fragrant island honey, locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables, colourful wild herbs and flowers that scent and adorn our walking paths. The island’s beaches always attract sunbathers, swimmers, scuba divers, fishing enthusiasts, barbeque lovers, volleyball players as well as artists, stargazers and poets.
So, if you would like to slip your feet into those comfortable summer sandals, let your skin breathe in loose-fitting cotton and feel the warm sun melt away your cares, spend a few days with us on Tilos and allow us to serve you for a change. We are planning culinary feasts, special guided walking and bus tours, bird watching, visits to our museum and ancient monastery, olive oil tastings and culinary seminars, beach activities, celebratory music and much more. The island beauty speaks for itself at this time of year with colourful almond and scented citrus tree blossoms, wild red poppies and yellow marguerites, freshly planted agricultural fields against a backdrop of rugged mountains and blue sky, azure blue seas, sunny days and star-filled nights. Holiday packages including hotel accommodations, breakfast and dinner, island tours and festivities as well as modern round-trip transportation on the 90 minute high-speed catamaran “Sea Star” from Rhodes to Tilos (and back) start at only 350 euros depending upon your length of stay and individual vs. group travel. So please come spend a week, or just a few days, with us here on Tilos as we celebrate the island’s launch of a new era of ecotourism together with the beginning of our Life-Nature program designed to protect our endangered bird species. Visit our Life-Nature Visitor Centre opening this spring and we’ll be glad to show you how much there is to enjoy in our little corner of the world.
Birds of a Feather? Not Always
Birds of a Feather? Not Always
As reported to the Hellenic Ornithological Society, which has made great contributions to the avian scientific data compilation efforts of Greece, two rare White-tailed Eagles (Haliaetus albicilla) were viewed resting on an electrical utility pole and an oak tree in Eristos, Tilos, last autumn while two extremely inquisitive blackbirds hovered around and finally sat next to the eagles. To a distant observer, they looked like two unacquainted couples waiting at a bus stop. Completely ignoring the blackbirds as ancient nobility disregarded peasants in the countryside, the eagles serenely observed every detail of their surroundings from the same location for 45 minutes before flying away towards the coastline.
This is a rare international species estimated in 2000 to consist of fewer than 100 breeding pairs. They are a primarily resident adult species (except in the far north); however, the juveniles are more migratory. The eagles breed along sea coasts and by large lakes and rivers. They feed on fish, aquatic birds, carrion and offal. They usually nest in the crown of an old tree in inaccessible areas such as the edge of a cliff. If undisturbed, they will re-use the nest. Their wing span is between 190 and 240 cm and has a beautifully scalloped design. Their bright yellow bill, strong talons, powerful yellow legs, and wedge-shaped white tail stand out brilliantly in the sky as they soar at great heights for a very long time. And may they ever continue to soar …
Windmills in the Sky Can Be Deadly
Windmills in the Sky Can Be Deadly
Did you know that one of the premier U.S. wind turbine power projects located in the Diablo Mountains outside of San Francisco, California, with 4,000 windmills in a 50 square mile area kills an average of 4,500 migratory and resident birds each year? The death toll is estimated to be “tens of thousands” in the last twenty years and includes golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, burrowing owls and other raptors. Two very important reasons for this high death rate are that the low mountains in this region are home to the world’s largest density of nesting golden eagles, and this project area spans an international migratory bird route that is protected by federal law. Unfortunately, this alarming accident rate is not unique to California. Similar accident reports are surfacing in other geographical locations around the world that permit future international projects to benefit from the obstacles encountered and steps already taken by government, private enterprise, university research centers and non-governmental organizations in California and other parts of the world. Each of these locations share common concerns about the financial feasibility of correcting the problem without over-burdening private enterprise and at the same time protecting resident and migratory bird species of special importance.
By 2010, 20% of California’s energy will be required by law to originate from renewable sources. In anticipation of this, California began renewable energy construction projects decades ago. Construction projects and business operations require county permits, and these renewable energy project permits are now beginning to expire throughout the state. In exchange for renewing these permits, California’s municipalities, supported by environmental organizations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Dept. and university research centres, are requiring the energy companies to comply with existing federal laws regulating the protection of migratory and endangered bird species by replacing or modifying the existing construction of the wind turbines that are causing the deaths. The federal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Dept. has the authority to prosecute any person or entity that is responsible for killing protected birds. And in northern California, they are beginning to file lawsuits. The municipal pressure concerning the conditional renewal or denial of business permits in concert with federal prosecutions initiated in California have provided the necessary incentive for private companies to make the necessary changes.
The state’s feasibility study recommended the following options: 1) replace the old equipment with fewer, larger capacity turbines; 2) build the existing turbines higher than the birds’ flight paths; or 3) relocate the offending turbines. Negotiations are in progress concerning (a) limiting the duration of a permit to a few years with renewal subject to continuing compliance with federal laws, (b) equipment replacement as opposed to relocation and (c) establishing future project criteria requiring bird protection. The US government has passed legislation giving tax relief and other financial incentives to companies to comply with current laws in order to mitigate the private enterprises’ concerns that the requested changes are too costly and to make the necessary changes financially feasible (i.e. profitable) for the energy companies.
This is a case demonstrating that government can work in concert with private enterprise, jobs are being created, taxes are still being levied on equipment manufacturing/sales and (clean) energy distribution, and globally important bird species will benefit. It is also worth noting by those governmental agencies contemplating wind energy projects to avoid the same pitfalls and profit from the valuable ideas.
Nothing Stays the Same … That’s Good!
Nothing Stays the Same … That’s Good!
Many of you have relied upon the very reputable publication entitled “The Complete Guide to the Birds of Europe” by Killian Mullarney, Lars Svensson, Dan Zetterstrom and Peter Grant that includes colour-coded maps identifying known resident and migratory bird habitats. One can, therefore, easily see where a species may be found in different seasons of the year. A founding member of the Association invited my attention to the introduction of the book that recites the unfortunate fact that “when the maps for this book were prepared, modern mapping of the bird fauna had not been published for such important areas as Spain, Greece, Turkey, Jordan, Algeria, Morocco” and for most former Soviet Union states. (This book was published in the UK by Harper Collins in 2000.) Spain and Greece as part of the European Union had been requested by the EU for many years to provide such data and to identify its areas of special importance with EU funds available for such data compilation. Delays in providing this information have resulted in international publications such as this.
We are now, however, pleased to report that Greece is more actively compiling such scientific information as a result of actions that include, but are not limited to, the Life Nature programs funded by the EU, the Hellenic Ministry of Agriculture and corresponding local municipalities in important aviary habitats such as the Evros Delta and the island of Tilos in Greece. Tilos is a living example of how Greece is rapidly responding to the global demand for environmental conservation and ecotourism. The Tilos Life Nature program with the support of the Tilos Municipality is beginning to carefully document its wild avifauna and habitats and develop special facilities for responsible viewing and comfortable enjoyment of this wildlife. The Tilos Hotel Association has embraced this development by tailoring its hostelry services and accommodations for ecotourists as well as professional organizations that also require the use of its modern conference centre scheduled to open this year in 2005.
We welcome news of any activities that contribute to our global knowledge, enjoyment and protection of our world’s natural heritage and we will be pleased to share this news with all of our readers.