A&M Report No 15, February 2009 2009
 
Hi all

4th. Our first walk, for this year, along the tracks off the Ombriasgalos road. Anemones are now coming into their own, though most meadows not as profuse as last year at this time.  Giant orchids beginning to appear, and Milky Orchid Orchis Lactea. See photo below:


Photo above by and A&M

5th.  A day trip to Omalos and Aghia.  First stop at Aghia in the morning with lovely blue skies and temp around 16c.  A pair of marsh harriers seen together on the far side, and all the usual ducks, otherwise nothing special to report  - water level very high.  On our return, we just had time to stop off before losing daylight, and were rewarded with a display by countless starlings swirling over the water.  A couple of photos below. But it would need Margaret's video to do them justice. See photos below:


Photo above by and A&M


Photo above by and A&M

Up at Omalos, temps now down to about 11c, we found large flocks of c.80 chough (red-billed).  They were restless and were often seen feeding on the ground.  We picnicked near the pools, and were rewarded with a young peregrine flying over the plateau.  Apart from the choughs and usual finches nothing else was seen.  We hadn't planned it, but we ended up walking up to the Kallergi Hut as, there was a noticeable lack of snow - even when we got there at 1,670 metres!  The smaller flocks of chough nearer to the Hut were more distant, but appeared to be alpine choughs.  I've atttached two photos - a large flock of red-billed on the plateau, and a smaller number in the air near Kallergi, which we think are alpine.


Photo above by and A&M - Chough


Photo above by and A&M - Alpine Chough

7th.  A walk down to Georgioupolis Viewpoint revealed two cormorants, a single wood sandpiper, likewise common snipe and wigeon.  Later, by car to Kournas Lake, where we saw c.50 black-necked grebes (where have the rest gone?), one grey heron, one marsh harrier and about 12 cormorants.  Stopping off at Georgioupolis rivermouth, we saw two more cormorants, one common sandpiper, and our now resident white pelican.

12th.  A drive to the Late Minoan Cemetery, Spili "high meadows", and the Amari Valley.
This day started very sunny, albeit windy, which has been a perennial problem at the cemetery, where we were hoping to photograph some wild flowers.  We were too early for all but the giant orchid (see photo below), but carpets of anemones, snake's head iris and crocii at least made for a pretty and worthwhile walk round.


Photo above by and A&M

By the time we reached the high meadows the weather had taken a turn for the worse - now cold, wet and windy.  The stream was too high to cross, so a look at "the mound" through binoculars revealed narcissus all over the place, but little else.  We knew we were too early for tulip and orchid here, but were just interested to know what was about.  (This spot will be crawling with botanists come April!).

We left the high meadows via the Kissos Gorge, drove south and turned off towards Orne, skirting Mount Kedros until we entered the Amari Valley.  The drive was unremarkable, except for stunning scenery - this is an annual one for us - griffons and ravens kept us company throughout.  We had almost reached home when Margaret thought she spotted a couple of cattle egret in a field we were passing on the National Highway.  We made the diversion, and were pleased to see 10 of these birds accompanying sheep. Two photos below attached:


Photo above by and A&M


Photo above by and A&M

13th.  A quick look to see if the cattle egrets were still there, but alas, no.  However, returning I had my first local sighting of hen harrier (female) behind Kalivaki Beach.

14th.  A wet drive towards Imbros where we expected snow after last night's rain.  There was no snow at Askifou, but having turned off towards Kallikratis, we hit a blizzard and decided to turn back as the snow was settling fast and the road still went higher - by now the temperature was down to 1c, whereas it had been 13c at home.

We had seen many buzzards, and one female hen harrier, en route.  We were almost home when we spotted about 8 cattle egret in a field of sheep - possibly the same ones as two days ago?

17th.  Three redshank at Moronis rivermouth, and two at Georgioupolis Viewpoint.  Great crested grebe no longer at the latter now.

18th.  Cool weather here, but not by UK standards.  The north wind has made it uncomfortable to be outside, but today a short shopping trip to Kavros was extended with a drive to find more cattle egret in that area.  Instead we had a good sighting of two whimbrel flying just inshore between Kavros and Petres.  We noted where they landed on the coast, and attempted to find them.  We did, at distance, but they flew away from us and no photos were possible.  (Apart from the whimbrel at Moronis river mouth, these are the first we have seen - so a pleasing sighting).  Also in the area, one grey heron, one common sandpiper and a sparrowhawk.  We stopped off at Kalivaki Beach on the way home and found 4 cormorants sitting on the rocks off shore with two yellow-legged gulls - the most cormorants we have seen at this point. Photo below:


Photo above by and A&M

19th. A look at the Georgioupolis Viewpoint this afternoon revealed a small flock (c12-15) housemartins busy hunting over the water.  This is easily the earliest date we have seen these, and may be attributed to the mild winter we have had until recently.  Little do they know, the forecast is COLD for the next seven days too - so they may head back south!

21st.  A shopping trip to Chania enabled a diversion (almost customary now!) to the reservoir at Aghia.  Although common in the UK, we had our first Crete sighting of reed bunting - a pair, midway between winter and summer plumage.  Good views through the bins, but too far for a decent photo, although snapped a fuzzy one for my records.  Also there, two tufted duck and the mute swan, which has been out of sight on previous recent visits.  Have attached my favourite photo this month - a ferruginous duck appearing to run on water!  All the usual duck species were present, although we don't seem to identify gadwall, which others have seen.  Large number of chiffchaffs and crag martins around, and a brief stop at Georgioupolis Viewpoint on the way home revealed a similar number of house martins first seen on 19th.


Photo above by and A&M

Back at home, an early sighting of a sawfly (tenthredo scrophulariae), which found its way into our cloakroom! See photo below:


Photo above by and A&M

27th.  A walk around the Dramia area (north coast between Georgioupolis and Episkopi) on what was a brief interlude of acceptable weather, revealed one grey heron and two cattle egret.

Back to diary index