Agios Efstratios: the island with hidden natural beauty
Agios Efstratios is a triangular island in the heart of the northern Aegean. It is located to the southwest of Lemnos (to which it is connected via sailing routes), and has just one settlement, in addition to beautiful geological formations, sea caves, small beaches, and an impressive oak forest. It is an island with a history that begins in the Prehistoric era (likely from the Early Bronze Age, 2800-1900 BC) and continues into more recent times, during which it served as a place of exile for dissidents from 1928 up until 1963. Dimitris Glinos, Kostas Varnalis, Yiannis Ritsos, and Manos Katrakis are among the notable personalities that were displaced to this island.
On this island one may come across many species of wild fauna. Regarding mammals, there exists a population of Mediterranean seals (Monachus monachus), while on land it is common to encounter hedgehogs (Erinaceus concolor) wandering in the open air, and wild hares (Oryctolagus cuniculus), which previously caused damage to the primary sector of the island, but whose population is currently at an acceptable level.
In terms of invertebrates, the species of bush-cricket Rhacocleis agiostratica has been recorded and is registered as endemic to the island, among many others that are present there.
As far as amphibians and reptiles are concerned, one may encounter the European green toad (Bufotes viridis), the Caspian whip snake (Dolichophis caspius), the glass lizard (Pseudopus apodus) and Kotschy’s gecko (Mediodactylus kotschyi). All reptile species found on Agios Efstratios are entirely harmless to humans.
The island serves as a stop for many migratory species of bird, as it is situated along one of the main routes of the spring and autumn migration. At least 35 migratory bird species have been observed in this region, including: Eleonora’s falcon (Falco eleonorae), the European or common shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis), the hooded crow (Corvus cornix), the rock dove or common pigeon (Columba livia), the chukar partridge (Alectoris chukar), the white wagtail (Motacilla alba), the common blackbird (Turdus merula), the common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), the barn owl (Tyto alba), the common moorhen (Gallinula chloropus), the graylag goose (Anser anser), the mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), the flamingo, the great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), the hoopoe (Upupa epops), the European bee-eater (Merops apiaster), the common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), the whinchat (Saxicola rubetra), the Eurasian coot (Fulica atra), the grey heron (Ardea cinerea), and others.
The Oak Forest
With the highest peak, “Simadi”, reaching just 298m above sea level, the island is largely characterized by phryganic vegetation which covers the majority of its land surface. Nevertheless, the island’s landscape lends itself to walking trails. If one were to traverse the island, starting in the west (where the settlement is located) and reaching the opposite coast (on the east), they would pass through thyme, Sarcopoterium spinosum, freely roaming goats on arid land, and abandoned threshing floors and agricultural terracing, eventually stumbling upon an oak forest (Quercus ithaburensis subsp. macrolepis) which is truly worth a visit.
Video: The forest
A remarkable feature of this forest is its homogeneity and dense arrangement, which is not surprising considering the island’s small human population. It begins at the top of the hills, covering a significant part of the western side of the island, reaching right down to the sea. Here, there are signposted paths for an easy descent among the oak trees, leading to small beautiful beaches.
Other species which one may encounter are: [trees] white willow, black poplar, common fig, [grasses] false dittany or Greek horehound, asphodelus, arum, fescue, oat, ballota, St. John’s wort, pot marigold or calendula, caper, crithmum, spurges, giant fennel, fennel, dead-nettles, and others.
Finally, during flowering season, one can find species of orchid on the island, such as: Anacamptis pyramidalis, Himantoglossum caprinum, Limodorum abortivum, Ophrys oestrifera, and Anacamptis morio.
Translation: Alexia Karageorgis
Original article by Foto Konsola: Άγιος Ευστράτιος: το νησί με την κρυμμένη φυσική ομορφιά
Photo: Foto Konsola