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For second year, I have participated to the EMBAL program. This time, I had the fortune to visit east Mediterranean countries. Although I planned to spend extra time on endangered dragonflies… this spring’s schedule was so tight that I had to jump from plane to plane.

My participation to EMBAL in 2022 (Spain, Czec Republic and Rumania) and 2023 (Cyprus, Creta, mainland Greece).

Visiting foreign countries for work is always atractive and exotic. This EMBAL campaigh was no exception with beautiful Mediterranean areas. But sometimes (most?), you are so busy that you don’t have much time for the fun… After all, this is a job and we need to be very focus 😉

Anyway… landing in Heraklion airport from Larnaca (via Athen), crossing twice the whole Creta, sampling the complex plots and reaching Athen again in less than 5 days has been special… and this whole trip undertaken without any reservation only one day before. I felt proud to be able to handle it, and a little stupid to actually go away so quickly.

Anyway, thanks to Eftas for this opportunity. Traveling thousands of kilometers alone is a real eye opener.

LAte april… the fields were allready harvested and dry in Cyprus.

Crops in Cyprus were allready harvested in late april… which surprised me even coming from Andalusia. Vegetation transects were as poor as you can guess… althought the intricated nature of the Cyprus plots did not make easy at all this sampling.

EMBAL plots are dense in Cyprus, so that we can study a full array of crops, typical Mediterranean wheat fields, vineyards and olive groves… and more exotic plantations such as banana (very pleasing fieldwork!) and papaya.

In this trip, I enjoyed especially the Persian turpentine tree (Pistacia atlanticus), a few reallly huge olive trees and the expresive and powerfull call of the astonishing Black Francolin (Francolinus francolinus). Of course, I had small adventures… the worst part was explaning to militaries what I was doing with binoculars and maps next to the airport and visit the following days a plot below a military camp.

Curiously, I went back to Cyprus in June for the International Congress of Odonatology held in Paphos… I had the chance to really discover the western parts of the island. Three endemic bird species, unknown dragonflies from Western Mediterranean, completely original herptofauna. Cyprus is very easy to travel to… I can say it is a perfect destination for a wildife tour with very pleasant food.

Lowlands in Creta were even drier with absolutely brown and faded vegetation… but the most beautifull landscape appeared at the top of the island: Spathi mountain (2148m).

As the road went near the sea, I had two minutes for one typical holliday picture (!)… No time for toe dipping though…  My real Creta highlight was drakondia’ the Dragon arum (Dracunculus vulgaris) in full bloom in this time of the year. WHAT a flower! It is not particularly rare so it cannot be missed in the field. I remembered the first encounter under the shade of an olive tree. Stunning.

I moved as quickly as possible to the Peloponenos … My schedule was so tight that I had to actually run in the field to study the plots and drive long distances. Overall, the trip was nice and instructive… Reaching place names such as Sparta, Teba or Nauplio for the first time is something very special indeed.

The flowering pastures of the Pelopponnese mountains around 1,000 meters are absolutely superb.

Luckily, spring was wet in Greece in 2023 and exploring the countryside was very often pleasant. I was struck with the Mediterranean vegetation… Of course we know that it will have similarities… But actually living the experience is really emotional. Sometimes I felt I could be walking near home especially with the Cistus garrigues. Discovering Eastern Mediterranean vegetation coming from Spain is a blend of exotism and familiarity.

Dry vegetation near-by Athens

Greeks live on dairy… In any supermarket, you can see large yogour containers and a huge variety of cheeses, of course the Feta and many, many, more. Plenty of sheep and goats are grazing in the countryside and maintaining the landscape… This goes with guardian dogs (rarely alone). Working in the field is fantastic… but I was attacked 5 or 6 times by dogs. Not funny. And it tells you a lot about a region where there are no wolves.

I was so obsessed to finish the survey in time that I actually did it one day in advance (!). And I could enjoy at last a very nice walk in Athens.