In the middle of the grey urban landscape, next to apartment buildings, electricity pillars and highways, lies one of the last wildlife reserves of Athens. The Environmental Awareness Park “Antonis Tritsis”, as it is called, is located in the centre of the valley of Kifissos river in a place known in older times by the names Queen’s Tower and Eptalofos, in the municipality of Ilion. It borders to the east with the municipality of Agioi Anargyroi and to the north with the municipality of Kamatero. The Park covers an area of 300 acres, making it the largest urban park in Greece. Essentially it is the remnant of the big pine forest that started from Tatoi and the foots of Parnitha mountain and reached up to Tourkovounia hills close to the center of Athens. During the Turkish occupation it changed form a forest to a fiefdom. The Park is a thumbnail of an agriculture-forest mediterranean habitat with six small ponds and an artificial channel that connects them, thus adding the important for wildlife element of water. The artificial lakes along with the riparian vegetation, the conifers and the crops create an ideal resting and wintering habitat that attracts dozens of species of birds. In the past, the Park has experienced management problems, with the greatest of them being the water supply to the lakes. The pressures to the important wildlife of the area (stagnant and eutrophic waters, disturbance from concerts, reed cutting, etc.) is continuous. However, the “Antonis Tritsis” Park remains today, apart from a significant pocket of wildlife, the most important Center of Environmental Education of a city which is known for the destruction and urbanization of its wildlife habitats.
Multiple plantings have been occur here and nowadays the Park hosts many different plants that include both indigenous and foreign species. Above the lakes rises a small hill with aleppo pines. The crops consist of 28 acres of pistachio trees, 15 acres of olive trees, almond trees and fig trees. Among the foreign species most common are eucalyptuses, russian olives, acacias, magnolias, mimosas, trees of heaven and firethorns. The native species include mediterranean cypresses, stone pines, oriental planes, common aspens, evergreen oaks, valonia oaks, pubescent oaks, willows, field elms, carob trees, Judas trees, common ashes, turpentine trees, almond-leaved pears, tamarisks, common myrtles, nerium shrubs, lentiscs, chastetrees, rushes, bulrushes, arundos (Arundo donax) and common reeds (Phragmites australis). The most important plants of the Park are Colchicum atticum, Centaurea attica subsp. attica, Scorzonera sublanata, Iris pseudacorus, Crocus cancellatus subsp. mazziaricus and Ornithogalum arabicum. Common species here are Acanthus mollis, Allium roseum, Prospero autumnale, Sternbergia lutea subsp. lutea, Adonis flammea subsp. flammea, Gagea graeca, Gagea peduncularis, Petrorhagia dubia, Crepis neglecta subsp. graeca, Echinops graecus, Nigella arvensis subsp. aristata, Astragalus spruneri, Cyclamen graecum subsp. graecum, Ballota acetabulosa, Hypericum triquetrifolium, Muscari commutatum, Silene colorata, Romulea linaresii, Delphinium peregrinum, Fumaria capreolata, Echium plantagineum, Globularia alypum, Ajuga chamaepitys subsp. chia, Tragopogon porrifolius subsp. eriospermus, Cynoglossum creticum, Hypocoum imberbe and orchids Orchis italica, Himantoglossum robertianum, Neotinea lactea, Ophrys aesculapii, Ophrys ferrum-equinum, Ophrys mammosa, Ophrys tenthredinifera, Ophrys phryganae and Ophrys attica.
So far, about 200 species of birds have been observed here. A quite easy bird to observe, compared to other areas, is the kingfisher. In cold winters many ducks arrive here, such as mallards, shovelers, teals, garganeys, widgeons and common pochards. Most common predators are buzzards, sparrowhawks, kestrels and peregrines, while the nocturnal predators here are little owls and scops owls. All kinds of herons living in Greece have been observed here and white storks are often visit the Park during migratory periods. Waders and water birds are represented by glossy ibises, cormorants, little grebes, great crested grebes, water rails, little crakes, coots, moorhens, black-winged stilts, dunlins, sandpipers, wood sandpipers, little ringed plovers, ruffs, greenshanks, redshanks and snipes. The lakes gather a lot of black-headed gulls and other similar species, such as slender-billed gulls, mediterranean gulls, little gulls, common gulls and yellow-legged gulls. Other birds of the Park are quails, turtle doves, nightjars, swifts, pallid swifts, hoopoes, crested larks, skylarks, swallows, house martins, tawny pipits, meadow pipits, water pipits, wrens, dunnocks, robins, nightingales, black redstarts, stonechats, song thrushes, blackcaps, sardinian warblers, subalpine warblers, whitethroats, Cetti’s warblers, fantail warblers, sedge warblers, marsh warblers, goldcrests, willow warblers, spotted flycatchers, collared flycatchers, long-tailed tits, blue tits, penduline tits, starlings, golden orioles, linnets, goldfinches, greenfinches, serins, reed buntings, cirl buntings and corn buntings. Ring-necked parakeets and alexandrine parakeets form colonies, while five more species of parrots have been observed here as the Park is the most preferred place in Athens for pet owners to release their birds.
There are two amphibians recorded: green toads and marsh frogs. The reptiles of the Park include marginated tortoises, mediterranean house geckos, balkan green lizards, snake-eyed skinks, ocellated skinks, four-lined snakes, grass snakes and the invasive pond slider turtle (Trachemys scripta). The area is considered one of the best spots for bats in Αthens. In the most hidden spots live eastern hedgehogs and other small mammals. Finally, three species of freshwater fish live in the lakes: carps, goldfishes and eastern mosquitofish.