A&M Report No 12, November 2008
 
3rd.  First report from my Grandson, Alex!  A flock of nine grey herons flying east, and a single one flying south, all seen from his school playground in Georgioupolis this morning. Thanks and well spotted Alex, Roy

Surprised to find now three juvenile white pelicans on the river at Georgioupolis.  It's possible these are the same three that arrived here two weeks ago, when one first settled at Kournas Lake.  A new photo of the 3 attached see below.


Photo above by and A&M

4th.  A trip out with John and Patti Bailey, which included a look at the new dam near Amari Valley.  Still nothing of particular note there, but good to see a kingfisher appears to have taken up residence.  Little grebe only other bird seen.  The water is very cloudy (brown), probably through washing down soil with the water filling the area.  Earlier, we had very clear sightings of male cirl bunting and a male hen harrier (twice).  The latter was in open country between Rethymno and the Kotsifou Gorge (south of Ano Malaki).  We parked up and scampered towards the general area it was hunting in, but alas neither John nor me managed photos.  Our trip returned via Arkadi monastery with hundreds of ravens at the landfill site, but nothing else.  In that general area too, a large flock (c100) corn bunting feeding in an olive grove, with a mixture of sparrows, serins, chaffinches and linnets for company.  A buzzard disturbed them, and hence the photo below - probably all corn buntings.  Plenty of griffons seen today, and many variations in the plumage of common buzzard.


Photo above by and A&M
 
6th. A lunchtime picnic at Aghia reservoir, with the hope of seeing the black stork reported by Colin Turvey yesterday.  Not in view today - we were there for nearly two hours, so seems it may have moved on.  First "proper" sighting for us of water rail, and a photo to record it too.  Other birds seen included grey heron (x4), great white egret, marsh harrier, common snipe, grey wagtail, white wagtail, kingfisher (several), little grebe, pochard,  ferruginous duck, teal, shoveller and garganey.  It goes without saying that there were hundreds of coot and many moorhen.  There was a complete absence of small birds, apart from a robin tick-ticking behind our picnic seat.

7th.  A single common sandpiper is again starting to winter at Kalivaki Beach - photo below.


Photo above by and A&M

8th.  It is some time since we walked to the high viewing area at Petres Gorge, where for the whole of this year there has been an absence of griffons.  We were about to advise you that they have deserted this area, when, after leaving and stopping off at the beach by Petres Bridge, we saw two griffons high above the gorge.  Little else seen, except two ravens.

10th -13th. A trip to the eastern end of the island (Mochlos) with friends Sue and Tony Ward.  Strictly, not a birdwatching trip, but of course we took binoculars and had camera to hand.  Our excursions included a visit to Sitia, where an adult white pelican is still in residence in an area of landlocked water below the fort.  Also there, a single grey heron, likewise cormorant and immature garganey.

Two bird highlights of this short break.   Firstly, an immature golden eagle, at first sighted high up with two adults, separated from them and flew around much lower giving us exceptionally good views.  We had previously only seen golden eagles at high altitude, yet this took place at the lower end of the Ha Gorge near Pachia Amos, probably 100 metres above sea level - photos below.  The next day, after visiting Sitia, we travelled inland to the Mycenea site of Voila, which we had previously visited with Roy and Raye last spring.  Shortly before our arrival there, above a plain of agricultural land, two large pale birds were spotted by "Hawkeye".  We stopped and were given our first ever views of short-toed eagles.  One drifted away, whilst the other, an immature, hovered not far away.  Again two photos below.  I didn't think our views of the golden eagle could be upstaged - but they were, and I even managed a short video of the young short-toed!


Golden Eagle - Photo above by and A&M


Golden Eagle - Photo above by and A&M


Golden Eagle - Photo above by and A&M


Ha Gorge - Photo above by and A&M


Short-toed Eagle - Photo above by and A&M


Short-toed Eagle - Photo above by and A&M
 
Other birds seen on this trip included a bonelli's eagle hunting low and fast over a flock of sheep in an upland area, south of the Ha Gorge, pale morph booted eagle at Faneromenis Monastery near Sitia, three pairs of griffons, all well east of Aghios Nikolaos, and a sparrowhawk at Knossos in hot pursuit of sparrows.

21st.  A return to the area we visited on the 4th of this month with Patti and John Bailey, in search of the male hen harrier, and hopefully a photo this time.  A coffee stop enroute provided no birds whatsoever, but five minutes further on, a flurry of activity with meadow pipits (photo below) goldfinches and linnets dispersing quickly, as a sparrowhawk swooped right in front of us in pursuit of an early lunch.  He missed out this time.  Watching the sparrowhawk fly off and make height quickly, we saw two more birds. We were surprised to identify an eleonoras falcon - a late date for these, and this one was accompanying a griffon.


Photo above by and A&M

Picnic site chosen was where we hoped to catch sight of the hen harrier.  During the following hour, we saw it twice at close quarters.  It was a blur at such speed -  and so were my photos!  We included a short stroll in the area, and as we returned to the car having seen two more griffons, the icing on our cake - a lammergeier (sub adult).  We were astonished to see it here - midway between the White Mountains and Psiloritis range, in what is mostly an upland agricultural and wine growing area. (see photo below). It flew directly eastwards, circled once at distance from us, and then continued eastwards until it disappeared from our view, possibly making for the Kourtaliotis Gorge?  We put our bins and camera back in the car just as a small flock of "pigeons" flew past and appeared to settle in an upland field nearby.  I hadn't managed a photo of these birds, which are not particularly common here on Crete.  With camera in hand I walked along the road for a better view up the field, only to find the erect crest of a lapwing showing up on the horizon.  The photos are not brilliant, but it seems only a few of these birds are seen on Crete, and so for the record two photos below - the small flock numbered five, and moved off very quickly when they heard me - and yes, they weren't pigeons!  A large flock of (c50) crag martins finished our day, several of them mocking a buzzard, which was obviously too close to their clearly visible nesting site.  All in all, a good trip - I'll get that hen harrier picture one day!


Lammergeier - Photo above by and A&M


Photo above by and A&M


Photo above by and A&M

25th.  With a need to visit Chania today, we took the opportunity to call in at Aghia as well. The water level is the highest we have seen, and covered in coots, moorhen, yellow-legged gulls, little grebes, with a smattering of pochard, garganey and ferruginous duck.  A small flock of mallard seen flying on the far side.  No sign of egrets, and just one grey heron flew in while we were there.  We took sandwiches, and in glorious sunshine (about 22c) we sat and watched three marsh harriers hunting the reeds around the lake.  Other birds seen included kingfisher, sparrowhawk and common buzzard.

As the weather was so good (best day for some time), we also called in at the Moronis River reserve.  First thing to say is that it has been tidied up and looked all the better for it.  A walk along the beach turned up kingfisher, common sandpiper, four little egrets, a single great white (very much in the distance), a single cormorant, and a single redshank (see photo below).  Behind the beach, several chiffchaffs in the trees.  We don't know exactly where the two white pelicans "hang out" here, and didn't see them anyway.  We still have all three in Georgioupolis, and I can't resist another photo see below.


The Redshank - Photo above by and A&M


Photo above by and A&M

27th.  Five common snipe at Georgioupolis viewpoint, plus three garganey.  A male mallard at small river near Peristakos beach (Georgioupolis).  Two common sandpipers now at Kalivaki beach, and one at the town beach walking along the promenade.  A single kingfisher at each of the aforementioned places.  Also at Kalivaki beach/headland, single blue rock thrush, grey wagtails, serins and linnets

A pair of light morph booted eagles over the house late morning.

28th - 30th.  We are olive picking from our garden trees, so the bins and camera have been put away!
 

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