A&M Report No 10, September 2008
 
A month of some expectation, but I had to wait ten days before it became interesting.  Since then I have been able to photograph 7 birds I haven't been able to photograph before.

2nd.  For the first time we took ourselves off to Aghia reservoir for early morning birding.  This was quite an effort for us, so we were somewhat disappointed with the sightings.  The only birds worthy of mention were 5 grey herons, 1 little egret, 1 little bittern (juvenile), and 1 eleonoras falcon.  We walked around the "back" of the reservoir, and came across a pink lily type flower.  We couldn't tell whether someone had deposited the bulbs some time ago, or whether the plant is truly wild.  Only one bulb from a group of 8 had flowered (see photo below). It resembles a Madonna lily, but is pink. Maybe someone can throw some light on it?
Despite the somewhat disappointing birding, it was lovely to be there at that time of day, and I for one will do it again.  (sunrise photo below).


Photo above by and A&M


Photo above by and A&M

3rd.  An afternoon drive to Kala Sikia area mainly on unmade roads.  Many small flocks of goldfinches and linnets, but one flock included about 10 ortolan buntings, which hung around at some distance after the other birds had moved on.

5th. c35 white storks seen over the bay from our house, and, for the first time, 2 eleonoras in the same area over the sea.

6th. An hour after dark we heard bee eaters somewhere above the house.  Not heard them at night before.  The following morning about 60-70 were high above the house, before moving on.

7th. An increasing number of spotted flycatchers and red-backed shrikes in our local area.  Over the bay we are seeing a large flock of small birds skimming the water endlessly.  This has been going on for over a week now, but they are never close enough to the beach to identify.  Our best guess is cory shearwater, mainly from the colour and the size of the flock - often in excess of 500.


Spotted Flycatcher - Photo above by and A&M

10th. A walk up to Kallergi Hut from the Samaria Gorge entrance.  We (Tony Ward and myself) were entertained by bee eaters and choughs enroute, but little else to report.  Once there, none of the birds I had hoped for, but a first sighting of isabelline wheatear made it memorable.  As far as large birds were concerned, just 2 griffons and some ravens.  We were there around lunchtime, and I guess another time of day may have proved more productive?  Enroute to Omalos, and for a change I was not driving, I had a fine view of a red kite flying over the National Highway near Chania hospital.

13th. A return to the southern slopes of Psiloritis in search of nuthatches.  As sure as we were the first time, no luck with any sightings of them this time.  Flies were a real nuisance and we were confined to picnicking in the car.  Two sightings of short-toed treecreepers through binoculars brightened up our lunch.  The majority of birds seen in this area, at 1,400 metres, were chaffinches, wrens, great tits, spotted flycatchers and crag martins.  A single redstart stayed within our picnic area for an hour or so.  At 1,000 metres it was mainly northern wheatears, but fewer than our earlier visit.

Our route to Psiloritis was via the new dam near Amari.  About the same level of water as previous visit, but this time 2 grey herons were seen and an unidentified brown duck, probably tufted or ferruginous, but a long way off.

14th. A pedalo trip with my grandson along the Georgioupolis river.  Didn't take my camera, which was a mistake.  Enroute we disturbed 10 purple herons from an overhanging tree - it would have been a great pic as they were not far away!  Then a kingfisher remained in situ on a branch within 5 metres of us passing by.  Another photo opportunity missed.

17th. A drive taking in Kalikratis and Asfendou.  As we left Georgioupolis a hoopoe flew alongside the car for a moment or two, and as we passed the lake viewpoint at the end of the eucalyptus avenue, a marsh harrier swept past at low level.  Nothing more was seen until we stopped high above Imbros.  A large flock of  c60 ravens erupted over a far ridge, and griffons began appearing - each was looked at just in case it was something more interesting! - but no.  An unlikely sighting of a wren, in relative open countryside, gave me an opportunity for a first photo of this bird.  Further along we had many bee eaters on telegraph wires and then a pipit, with feathers being ruffled by the wind.  We believe this to be a tree pipit, which if correct would be another first for us on Crete.


Photo above by and A&M - Wren and interesting vegetation
 
20th.  Our first really wet and overcast day for 4 months.  A willow warbler appeared in the garden - first this year.  A single eleonora's seen over the bay, and a flock of c50 little egrets circled the bay for a while before moving on.

21st.  A breakfast treat!  Presumably yesterday's weather contributed to the first sighting of a subalpine warbler in our garden.  This was another first on Crete for us and hung around for about half an hour.  Many pics, one attached.  The weather remained mixed, and in the afternoon a spot of birding from our bedroom window revealed a whitethroat, and then an olivaceous warbler.  So, three photos of birds I've previously not photographed, and all in the garden!


Photo above by and A&M

A quick look at the Georgioupolis viewpoint late morning had revealed 3 grey herons, one squacco, 2 common sandpipers and 2 wood sandpipers.

A walk "behind" Vamos before dark turned up two more whitethroats, a willow warbler, a clear view, albeit momentarily, of a cetti's warbler, a couple of spotted flycatchers and a flock of c20 bee eaters, which was a nice finish to the day.

22nd. An afternoon trip, starting with a brief stop at Moronis River nature reserve.  We had to walk as far as the beach before any bird was seen.  Then, following a common sandpiper along the beach, it led me to a redshank and 6 dunlin feeding off the water's edge.  Walking back a willow warbler showed itself, and a kingfisher sped along the river.

Next stop was Aghia reservoir, where we stayed until almost dusk.  We were entertained the whole time by a young whiskered tern (see photo below), which used every part of the lake to feed.  Sand martins, later joined by swallows and a single alpine swift filled the air above the lake.  Scanning the lake, we saw one purple heron, one grey, one little egret, one marsh harrier, several shoveller, little grebes, kingfishers seemed everywhere, and then a juvenile spotted redshank.  The latter was confirmed to me by a Danish birder, with a group.  They were holidaying nearby and visited the lake every day.  Yesterday they had seen pallid swift and ferruginous duck there.


Photo above by and A&M

25th. A flock of c30 white storks flying around the bay - seen from the house.

26th.  A brief stop by the Georgioupolis viewpoint.  A single redshank, 4 little stint, 2 common sandpiper, and a single common snipe.
 
27th. We took some English friends, out here on holiday, to Omalos.  Enroute, a coffee stop at Aghia revealed the whiskered tern still there.  A single eleonoras flew past overhead.  Many kingfishers around, which were "firsts" for our friends.  Up at Omalos at the Samaria entrance where we lunched at the higher taverna - many choughs and crag martins.  Then, Hawkeye did it again!  A lammergeier drifted high away from us, near Gingolis peak.  The shape was diagnostic, and the quick photo taken confirms it despite the distance.

Having introduced our friends to the kingfisher - and a pair of binoculars!, we then introduced them to the hunt for walnuts and chestnuts.  Our route passed many of these trees and our bags were full by the time we returned home.

28th.  It has poured with rain overnight, and we are hoping that something interesting may turn up again.  So far, a bedraggled whinchat is sitting on the telephone line looking a bit sorry for itself, and the garden is full of sparrows and great tits....... and that's all we saw today!

29th.  Took our friends to Souda Bay War Cemetery.  Many yellow wagtails in the undergrowth beyond the cemetery itself. A single whinchat on the lawns and the largest flock of sparrows I've ever seen - probably upwards of 150.

30th.  A final look at the Georgioupolis viewpoint this afternoon.  2 redshank, 3 little-ringed plovers, 1 wood sandpiper, 2 common sandpipers, 1 common snipe, 1 little egret and 1 kingfisher.
 

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