The Ornithologist

Milica, Sofia, Mimi, bird in net Milica holding a bird from the net Milica gives Gabriele a bird to hold Gabriele holding a bird from the net Bird caught in invisible net Milica carefully extracts a bird from the net One bird per bag for safe transport Measuring and noting the wingspan Age estimation via feather development Releasing a ringed and catalogued bird
Milica carefully extracts a bird from the net

Crete is home to many types of bird, but also a very important stopover for migrating birds. Here they rest and fatten them­selves up for the long leg over the Libyen Sea to North Africa. Milica was gathering data on the migratory birds – catching them in “invisible” nets to ring and catalogue them and then let them go again. A few times we were able to go with her to the nets, a fascinating and educational experience.

It’s a rewarding work – more in terms of nature than pay – which is sometimes misunderstood. Some locals don’t appreciate it’s significance and can be a little difficult; and some tourists mistake the nets for birds being caught to eat. One evening Milica came back to the tavern dejected and empty-handed – some well-meaning tourists had freed all the birds from her nets!

We like to feel good wherever we stay, so on first arriving in Anopoli we drove slowly through the town, looking at every place offering rooms to rent. Several “felt” good, in particular one right near the end of the long drawn-out town. But we wanted to be certain, so we drove right back through the town to the start again, having agreed to make a decision on the third pass. So again we pootled through town, feeling the “vibes” – but we never had the inclination to stop anywhere else, because that place at the end of town had the best feeling.

So it was late afternoon as we parked on the forecourt and walked up onto the open terrace of the taverna. Two early-middle-aged women were there, plus two girls, one about nine and the other about two. The darker-haired woman jumped up and welcomed us in flawless english, explaining that not she but the other woman was the proprieter, however her english was the better. She introduced herself as Milica, and chatted away in greek to the proprietress Mirela, passing on what we said and getting our questions about the rooms answered. Milica soon disappeared into the kitchen and came back with some fruit for us – our first taste of the informal and friendly atmosphere.

Little did we guess that neither of the women are greek! Milica Ivovic is from Belgrade, Serbia, where she was Curator of Bird Collections at the Natural History Museum (before “escaping” to the USA during the war). You can learn more about her on LinkedIn and Facebook. Mirela comes from Rumania and met Georgios in Mytilene, Lesbos, while they both worked there; after a whirlwind romance she accompanied him back to Anopoli.


The Ornithologist — 1 Comment

  1. It was so exciting to see the birds so close, and even to be able to hold them, and then release them when the ringing and cataloguing was completed!