As you may have guessed we’re still in Greece, headed today for the old harbour in Skiathos where we took a leisurely boat trip to the other main islands of the Northern Sporades - Skopelos and Alonnisos.
The town of Skopelos is very picturesque, previously honoured as a Traditional Settlement of Outstanding Beauty in 1978 by The President of Greece. The building code for new construction and renovation within the village stipulate that no new buildings shall be of more than two stories, there must be a sloped ceramic or stone roof in the traditional style, and doors, windows and balconies be made of wood.
Agriculture is widespread on Alonnisos, predominantly mixed farming and vineyards. The main products are almonds, grapes, figs and olives, with a splash of the local speciality honey. Honey hereabouts is mainly pine honey from conifer trees and flower-honey from the nectar of fruit trees and wild flowers, the product forming a large constituent of the famous Greek sweets such as Bacalava.
Housing traditionally consists of closely constructed houses with stone walls, which, until 1965, were centred around the capital. A small fortress protected against enemies and pirates. The island and the village were heavily damaged in the 1965 earthquake. Many inhabitants returned not to the village of Alonnisos, but to Patitiri.
The old village has been restored in recent years, with rebuilt houses now utilised for tourism. The Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus-Monachus) is common around the island, and in 1992 the Alonnisos Marine Park was created to protect these seals and other animals.
The boat trip proved quite eventful for birds, with sightings of Eleanora’s Falcons alongside the cliffs near the village of Glossa with several Gull-billed Terns close inshore as we approached Skopelos harbour. Gull billed Terns pass through this area about now on their way to winter in the Arabian Gulf. Yellow-legged Gulls hung about the jetty as we docked, no doubt waiting for hand-outs from the tavernas and restaurants dotted along the tiny waterfront.
With an hour or more to kill, we took a coffee and a piece of honey soaked cake before heading for a stroll through the village towards the pines beyond.
We did see a Honey Buzzard gliding over the hills behind the village, and it’s not surprising as there were lots of large flying insects for them to feast on. Honey Buzzards are specialist feeders, living mainly on the larvae and nests of wasps and hornets, although they do take small mammals, reptiles and birds. It is thought that Honey Buzzards have a chemical deterrent in their feathers that protects them from wasp attack.
The Hobby is a common raptor here and like the Eleanora’s Falcon, the smaller Hobby spends lots of time in the sky looking to grab a passing hirundine or a large insect.
As we waited for the boat back to Skiathos I noted a Common Sandpiper along the stretch of pebble beach.
It’s not all milk and honey in Skiathos as there are more common birds too - Yellow Wagtail, Sardinian Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Collared Dove, Hooded Crow, and even our UK garden birds, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and the humble House Sparrow.
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