April 2009 PHOTOS TO BE ADDED
Hi All,

1st.  No April Fool, I really got up at 5.30 to go to Agia for some early morning birdwatching! - and see the sunrise.  Unfortunately it was dull and cloudy!  Had great sightings of little crake, one in the dark, and many glimpses of the moustached warbler, and two others which were possibly sedge warbler, but only momentary viewings.  The mute swan has stayed all winter, and over the bridge near the springs two night herons were in the trees overhanging the pond.  Through the binoculars, I think I had my first ever great reed warbler, too far to photograph, but I was able to add to the little crake count - 5 in all.  Birdlife on the water was limited to coots, moorhens, little grebes, y-l gulls, 5 shoveller and a common sandpiper.  Over the water, a mixture of hirundines and one brief sight of the female marsh harrier. Some photos below.


Little Crake in the dark! - photo by and A&M


Little Crake - photo by and A&M


Little Crake - photo by and A&M


The mute Swan - photo by and A&M


The Mute Swan - photo by and A&M


One of the Night Herons - photo by and A&M

2nd.  First viewing this year of woodchat shrike, seen from the house.  Then spent half an hour along the coast while the other half had her hair cut, and had my first sighting of hoopoe this year.  Also 5 cattle egret accompanying sheep.

3rd.  Unexpected trip to Chania Hospital (taking friend), allowed us to continue to Agia for the second time in a week.  Unexpected sighting too - a red-backed shrike, only the second one we have ever seen in Spring!  Also, two very early bee-eaters seen briefly overhead and a single pale morph booted eagle.  Otherwise the birds were the same as reported two days ago, but this time a snake was spotted on the perimeter path (see photos below).  I think the markings confirm it to be a Balkan whipsnake, but the contrast in colours is different to what we've seen before - it  was just under a metre long, so probably sub-adult with colour to develop more this year.  While having coffee in the taverna at Agia, a wren was calling outside - so a quick photo through the glass, as below.  Then, another gull, no, a quick glimpse of osprey overflying the lake in an easterly direction, not stopping.  From the taverna it was impossible to get a photo - we would normally have taken our own coffee and be sitting outside!


Whipsnake - photo by and A&M


Whipsnake - photo by and A&M


The Wren - photo by and A&M

Called in at Moronis reserve on the way home, and saw one each of little egret, common sandpiper, greenshank, black-winged stilt and kingfisher.


Black winged Stilt - photo by and A&M


Black winged Stilt - photo by and A&M

7th.  A single griffon vulture flew high over the house and was eventually mobbed by 5 crows.  All the birds went higher still, until the griffon gave up and returned whence it came.

9th.  After a two day bout of sickness (both of us), we decided on a leisurely trip to Omalos to recuperate!  Not stopping at Agia on the outward journey, we had our first sighting just after Laki - a hoopoe flew in front of the car and then disappeared into an olive grove.  A brief coffee stop presented no birds beyond a couple of common buzzards, but we did stop just before the omalos plateau, opposite the cave.  Plenty of crag martins here, but best of all, two ortolans.  On the plateau itself, a smallish number of tulipa bakeri with plenty of anenomes at this higher altitude.  A first cuckoo heard loud and clear from the side of the plateau, and a woodlark singing its heart out in the same area.  At the pools - very little apart from linnets and northern wheatear.  Then a wader flew past.  Looking at where it had come from revealed a single green sandpiper, so likely the other was one too.  At 13c, on the plateau, lunch was taken inside the car.  Our mobile hide then gave us our first sighting for two years of a collared flycatcher (female).  A little distant, but at least a photo to record.  During lunch, a couple of griffons and jays added to the day's count.


tulipa bakeri - photo by and A&M


Sedge Warbler - photo by and A&M

As the driver on these trips, I am definitely at a disadvantage!  Leaving the plateau by the same route there is a small church on the righthand side.  Something flew across the car, which Margaret followed - it sat briefly on the bell tower of the church - "rockthrush" she called, but alas too late for me.  Not difficult to describe this bird, especially as we see blue rockthrushes almost daily throughout the year, so lucky her!  With Colin and Sue seeing one earlier this year, perhaps there will be more to find?

Our long descent from Omalos presented us with an all too brief view of adult golden eagle, which was coming our way, until intercepted by a small flock of hooded crows, who diverted it with aplomb.  Agia then proved very worthwhile.  Good sightings of moustached and sedge warbler, with my best photo of the latter so far - below.  Our first Crete sighting of pied flycatcher, also attached.  More close-up views of little crake and first sightings this year for us of male whinchat, in brilliant plumage, and a little bittern skulking in distant reeds.  Spoke to someone here, who confirmed three glossy ibis in the far reeds, sometimes feeding by the pump station - presumably how Nikos got such a good photo recently?


Sedge Warbler - photo by and A&M

11th.  A little obsessive maybe, but couldn't resist another early visit to Agia, just in case the glossy was in view - and it was!  Just as I arrived and walked towards the pump station at 7.45 a.m., I could see one glossy on the perimeter path standing alongside the resident geese.  Two quick photos, - it heard my footsteps on the gravel approach path and took flight.  At this point I could see there had been two birds, as they joined up and flew across to the far side.  Not seen again today. Rather silhuetted pictures attached.


Glossy Ibis - photo by and A&M


Glossy Ibis - photo by and A&M

Other birds seen this morning included a clear view of great reed warbler (but no photo opportunity!), white and yellow wagtails, whinchat, squacco heron, female marsh harrier, numerous sedge warblers, cettis warblers, and little crakes, a few sand martins amongst the barn swallows, 8 shoveller, a black-winged stilt, and common sandpiper.  Some photos below, including a rather curiously coloured white wagtail with brownish flight feathers and tail.


The White Wagtail - photo by and A&M


Sand Martins - photo by and A&M


Goslings - photo by and A&M

As a footnote, all of the easily accessible viewings of little crake have been of immatures.  One or two adults have been seen, but at far greater distance.

13th to 16th.  A planned three day break to the eastern end of the island gave us the opportunity to explore areas we know little about.  The birding highlight was our first sighting of wood warbler, opposite the Kapsa Monastery on the south coast. Other memorable sightings included our first black-eared wheatear and purple heron this year, a nice male pied flycatcher, a large eagle over Bramiana reservoir - several sightings of this very ragged looking bird being mobbed by seagulls, and at one point, by a much smaller booted eagle. The silhuetted photos didn't confirm identification.  Photo attached is of an amusing view of a woodlark, with its crown caught in the wind on a mountain pass.


The Woodlark - photo by and A&M

Wild flowers were catching our attention, as some species hadn't been seen by us on the western half of the island.  Arum italicum, coronilla cretica, early purple orchid, and woodcock orchid are among the photos below, but there is one attached that we are yet to identify - any help? - the tiny blue and white flowers were found high above the south side of the Lasithi Plateau at about 1,200 metres.  Tulipa bakeri was an unexpected sighting, so too the blue salsify, which we normally see in pink form.  Other, hitherto unseen flowers were photographed, but it will be weeks before we get them identified!


Salsify - photo by and A&M


Arum italicum - photo by and A&M


coronilla cretica - photo by and A&M


early purple orchid - photo by and A&M


Woodcock orchid - photo by and A&M


Provence Orchid - photo by and A&M


Unidentified! - photo by and A&M

20th.  A morning run to Drapanos Head in search of ruppell's warbler, which we had seen at distance there over the past two Aprils.  In luck today too, but better still, my first photos - both attached.  A visit to the village this afternoon gave me the chance to check out the Viewpoint - one common snipe, one common sandpiper, one little-ringed plover and three wood sandpipers.  At Kalivaki, another wood sandpiper giving me an excellent photo opportunity - see below.


Ruppell's Warbler - photo by and A&M


Ruppell's Warbler - photo by and A&M


Wood Sandpiper - photo by and A&M


Wood Sandpiper - photo by and A&M

22nd.  We have grandson on holiday with us for a week, while his Mum attends a wedding on the mainland.  Alex (11 years) has shown some interest in birdwatching, so we took him off to Rodopos (north coast peninsular), to give him the chance to spot the birds first.  Well, we have him to thank for black-throated wheatear, woodchat, pied flycatcher, blue rock thrush, and then a cattle egret at Aghia on our return.  Didn't he do well!  Margaret did well too - we pulled up for our picnic near some pools we had spotted earlier along the track on Rodopos, and just as we stopped we had an exquisite view of a wryneck just 3 metres from the car at eye level.  The view lasted about 3 seconds, so no photo, but great memories.  At this spot we also had fleeting view of a hobby, a female collared flycatcher, turtle dove, and a wood warbler, which I was able to photo for my records. The bird count on Rodopos also included blackbird, all three finches, linnets, woodlark, crested lark, raven, common buzzard, and, surprisingly lots of house sparrows.
With the weather cool and very windy, it wasn't good for flower photography, so just one picture below of poppies among the vines enroute - very picturesque.
A few minutes at Agia on our return journey, gave us two bee eaters, spotted flycatcher, cattle egret, little egret, black-winged stilt, three squacco herons, little crake, and, unusually, three marsh harriers. Picture below of cattle egret with black-winged stilt close by.


Poppies - photo by and A&M


Cattle Egret and Black-winged Stilt - photo by and A&M


24th.  Awoke to the distinctive call of bee-eaters, some quite close to the house.  During the morning two flocks of c30 seen passing through our area.

25th.  More bee-eaters in smaller numbers, passing high above the house today.

27th.  Another hospital visit gave us the opportunity to visit Agia.  We didn't stay long as the weather was cloudy and fairly cold (15c with a cold wind!), but a spotted flycatcher obliged with a pose for photos and the female marsh harrier swept across the lake with one quick photo managed.  Little crake still seen, but the sedge warblers (and the single moustached) have possibly moved on.  Otherwise, the black-winged stilt is still there, a few squacco's and little egret, and a single redshank.  Back at home, a different pose, from a flower crab spider making its way towards one of our flower beds - so another photo (wish I could get this close to the birdlife!)


Spotted Flycatcher - photo by and A&M


Spotted Flycatcher - photo by and A&M


Marsh Harrier - photo by and A&M


Flower Crab Spider - photo by and A&M

28th.  Had a quick look at the Viewpoint after dropping off grandson at school this morning.  As luck would have it, a glossy ibis was standing out on some rocks with three little egrets.  A fair way off, but this is the first time I've seen this bird in Georgioupolis.
 
29th.  An uneventful drive to Omalos finished with a quick stop at Agia on our return, and rewarded us with our first ever sighting of Baillon's crake, and a splendid photo opportunity, as you can see below.  Also below photo of an adult squacco in the reeds.


Baillon's crake - photo by and A&M


Baillon's crake - photo by and A&M


Baillon's crake - photo by and A&M


Squacco Heron - photo by and A&M

April has easily proved the most productive month for birdwatching, especially at Agia, with virtually all of this month's pictures coming from there.  Of course, we don't usually visit it six times in one month!  One obvious omission from this month is the red-footed falcon.  These usually pass through by the end of April - maybe May this year?.
 

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