A&M Report No 14, January 2009
"Our" pelican is still with us.

2nd.  Our first trip of the New Year - today being the only good weather forecast for the next week!  Aradena was our target, although once in the area, we concentrated on the mountainsides and coastline.  The only worthwhile pics were of crag martin and common buzzard seen over the coast at Livaniana.  Visually, however, some of the best griffon sightings we have had for many a month were near this isolated village.

Also seen on this trip were c35 chough, presumably red-billed, but very high up. A quick glimpse of hen harrier, good views of sparrowhawk and kestrel, and lots of ravens around.  Closer to the ground were sizeable flocks of chaffinches, greenfinches, goldfinches and linnets, plus a small flock of crested larks.  More blue rock thrushes today, than ever seen before in one day.  Just as we were climbing the serpentine road back up to Imbros late afternnoon, our best sighting of the day - two bonellis' eagles swirling high above the gorge.  They looked magnificent with the late afternoon sun still on them, but too distant for worthwhile photos.

4th.  The weather was mixed, but we took a picnic lunch out and headed for the Potamoi Dam.  What a surprise - the three weeks since we were last there has seen an amazing 3 - 4 metres rise in water level.  To give some idea I have attached a photo of the little church soon to be submerged in the expanding lake.  We were able to find disused roads leading down to the water's edge, and were pleased to see a pair of shoveller, three little stints, a common sandpiper, a possible wood sandpiper (only a glimpse), along with several coots.  As the water level rises it will spread out towards the Antonis Gorge producing a large secondary stretch of water.  A new road is being constructed in the direction of this gorge with spectacular views, suggesting the Cretan government may have some grandiose ideas on the future for this area - perhaps a National Park - but who knows?

Photo above by and A&M

A report from Grandson Alex of dark morph booted eagle at Filaki helping itself to a "large piece of meat" on the ground.  Wish I had been there for a photo!

6th.  A wet and miserable day weatherwise, so again we decided to find better conditions elsewhere.  After a 230 km drive, with wipers on virtually the whole time, our only sighting worthy of mention was of two golden eagles at Topolia Gorge.  These were excellent sightings with the rockface as backdrop to the viewing.  Both appeared to be at sub-adult stage, and both flew away from us, so the idea of photos was quickly dismissed.

9th.  A call from our daughter, Alison, of more booted eagle activity outside her apartment, resulted in my getting the following pic.  I had seen it land on the balcony, and it just allowed me time to drive the one minute from our house to get a closer shot.  Then it was off again!

Photo above by and A&M - The Booted Eagle

22nd.  Now back from my UK trip, we again headed for the Potamoi Dam, only to find the church has now totally disappeared under the water.  A warm, but very windy day, resulted in few sightings, although a pair of garganey were seen twice, at the dam and at the reservoir behind Arkadi monastery.  Plenty of griffons and common buzzard, but the small birds were not liking the windy weather. A picture attached of some bermuda buttercups' swansong - a final resistance to the rising water levels at the dam.

Photo above by and A&M - Church just showing

Photo above by and A&M

24th.  A visit to Aghia found the reservoir at the highest level we've seen, with water gushing through the weir on the far right-hand side.  Best sightings were a single cattle egret, and small flocks of teal making short flights across the lake.  Pics of both attached.  Also seen were shoveller, garganey, wigeon, tufted duck, pochard, ferruginous duck, mallard, coot, moorhen, a single adult mute swan, little grebe, kingfisher, white wagtail, female marsh harrier, a pair of booted eagles, and many chiffchaff.  Then, just as we were leaving, and while I was having one last scan across the water, a hobby came into view and flew high across the lake heading for the wooded hills to the north of the reservoir.  This was the first proper sighting of this bird on Crete for me - I managed a quick photo, but it's too distant to attach here.

Photo above by and A&M - The Cattle Egret

Photo above by and A&M - Teal

26th.  With my car being serviced in Rethymno, we took Margaret's car too, and then headed eastwards for Gerapotamus river mouth for a look around.  For such a beautiful sunny day, we were surprised to find the sea quite rough, with it breaking dramatically against the rocks - see pic attached.  Birds were scarce at this well known site - a single little egret, three common buzzards, and then five hooded crows mobbing a female marsh harrier.  Only coots, goldfinches, stonechats, cetti's warbler and a robin were seen at ground level around the reed beds.  While we were having a coffee back at the car, an interesting little beetle landed on the door window.  Haven't been able to identify it, so have attached my pic, as someone may know what it is?  It is tiny, maybe 4-5 mm long, and seems similar species to schizotus pectinicornus. (Have since looked at your insect section, Roy, and believe this is same as your )

Photo above by and A&M

Photo above by and A&M - unidentified RoyB005?

During a walk around the river and quayside at Georgioupolis in the afternoon, a cormorant arrived (see pic) and had a very productive time catching fish.  Meanwhile, the white pelican is being fed by local fishermen, and rarely takes flight.  Its plumage is becoming whiter, and the bird looks both healthy and attractive now.

Photo above by and A&M - The Cormorant

28th.  A little house-cleaning for friends (by the other half) enabled me to have a quick look at the meadows below Kefalas (Ombrosgialos road).  At last, anenomes are showing, but not as profuse as at this time last year.  Most are the more common purple/mauve colour, so a photo of the pretty pink one is attached.

Photo above by and A&M - Anemone

29th.  A drive to the high Nida Plateau. just below the SE side of Psiloritis.  We hoped for glorious snowscapes (and birds), but were somewhat disappointed.  The snow has been melting since New Year, and although on the highest peaks, is nothing like the usual covering for late January.  More disappointing was to see the entire area completely devoid of birds - we had reasonably expected to see choughs, alpine choughs, alpine accentors and raptors; but not a sausage!  We turned back and picnicked in the car a little lower down (4c), and were "thrilled" to see four wood pigeons! - these are few and far between in our Crete travels, but would not oblige for a photo call.  The weather turned wet and the skies darkened with thunder and lightning, so at least we had a dramatic drive home.

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