Report 28 April 2010
 
Hi Everyone,

1st.  We had promised our grandson, Alex, that we would return to the Rodopou peninsular again, where he had his first "proper" birdwatching trip with us in April last year.  With Easter early, and Alex on holiday, we went today in the hope of finding early migrants.  It was a productive trip.  Though we didn't see a wryneck, which was top of our wish-list, we did have good sightings of sparrowhawk, collared flycatcher, nightingale, redstart, wood warbler, subalpine warbler, and Ruppell's warbler. The latter was a female, with a couple of photos below.


Ruppell's Warbler, Female - Photo by and A&M


Ruppell's Warbler, Female - Photo by and A&M

Many other birds were seen - all common, so not listed here.  Scattered around some of the more barren pastureland, we found Star of Bethlehem (ornithogalum collinum).  Usually thinly spread, I found one group worth photographing - as below.


Star of Bethlehem (ornithogalum collinum) - Photo by and A&M

Alex thoroughly enjoyed his day, especially when we split up to investigate the surroundings.  He found, and identified, a Greek trap-door spider in a burrow.  Whilst the spider wouldn't emerge completely with us standing nearby, I did manage one photo of it just inside the burrow - look away now if you don't like spiders!


Photo by and A&M

Enroute home we called in at Agia, and met Nikos, the contributer to this website.  The water level is still high, though weeds are gradually covering the surface.  Even birds the size of ruff, are able to walk on the weed, as below.


Photo by and A&M

Other birds of note seen there today included ferruginous duck and tufted duck.

4th.  At home over Easter with more painting etc, we can record scops owl in our garden each evening, usually calling from the telephone wire a few metres away from the living room window.  We occasionally hear it through the day too, but it's then much further away.  Over this Easter weekend we are seeing woodchat shrike and blue rock thrush from the house, and distant views of the white pelican making daily flights over Georgioupolis.  The highlight was seeing a long-legged buzzard, which was immediately ushered away by our local pair of common buzzards, so no possibility of photos.

5th.  A morning drive to Drapanos Head gave us our first sightings of tawny pipit.  Three were seen feeding off the side of the road, one alongside an ortolan bunting.  Photos below.


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M

We were looking for Ruppell's warblers today, and were rewarded with five males and a single female.  Good sightings through binoculars, but too far for photos this time.

6th.  We had enjoyed our trip to Rodopou last week, and realised there was more of this peninsular to explore.  The drive over rough tracks had been uncomfortable, but today we did it again.  No birds were seen in the morning, but from picnic time onwards, we were seeing collared flycatcher, black-eared and northern wheatear, woodchat shrike and redstart wherever we stopped.  A female Ruppell's warbler was seen in the same tree as last week, and later, on a previously undiscovered section of the peninsular, we had good views of wood warbler.  Pictures below of some of these birds.


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M

(041009-12).  The unlikeliest sighting of the day, and a first for us, was of great bittern.  This large, heron sized bird, was noticed skulking in some bushes just off the roadside, but we could only see its bottom half!  I stopped the car and tried to get the other side of the bushes, but unfortunately disturbed the bird.  Margaret, still in the car, had a great sight of the bird emerging and flying off.  I just managed a couple of photos off the bird in flight, disappearing fast - one below.


Photo by and A&M

7th.  A hoopoe flew past the house this morning while we were taking breakfast outside.  I decided on a late afternoon look at the Viewpoint, which hitherto has been very disappointing so far this year with high water levels.  Not today though - two squacco herons flying over the water, a little egret stalking the edges, three night herons on the far side, at distance various sandpipers and stints, but too far away without scope to hand.  I wish I had taken the scope though, (I don't find the one-eyed technique very easy), as I picked out a bittern on a bank of distant reeds.  As a coot moved close by it I took a picture with full digital zoom, which, despite being somewhat fuzzy, confirmed this was a great bittern.  Yesterday we saw our first ever, and now a second in a totally different place!

8th and 10th.  Visits to Agia, Moronis river at Souda and Kalivaki - and the waders are invading!  Some pictures below, including female little crake, ruff, marsh sandpiper, wood sandpiper and little egret.  Also present at Agia were black kite and night heron and greenshank.


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M

11th.  A damp squid of a Sunday gave Margaret a brief sighting of olivaceous warbler from the kitchen window as she prepared breakfast, shortly followed by a male blackcap.  Later in the afternoon, with the weather brighter, but cool and windy, we set off for a drive south for a couple of hours.  Along our lane we disturbed a hoopoe, and it was still there when we returned home.  The drive produced no sightings of small birds - must be the wind again?  We did however see a flock of c40 jackdaws race past us.  A couple of minutes later we spotted them amongst sheep in a farmyard, so a picture below.


Photo by and A&M

Only one other sighting today, but well worth it - lammergeier - twice!  An adult which was quite high near mountain ridges to the south.  Just managed photos on each occasion, about 20 minutes apart, the second below for the record.


Photo by and A&M

13th.  A pre-planned trip out to Rodopou with John and Patti Bayley gave us the usual diversion to Agia first - plus coffee!  Birds seen were the same as above on 8th - 10th, except today a male little crake was in view, and a squacco was in the reeds just off the tow path.  A better view of a single greenshank at the weir, so picture below.


Photo by and A&M

We walked around the "back" of the reservoir, and had good views of marsh harrier and a very pale common buzzard with a big wedge of tail feathers missing.  Also here we found (I think) serapias lingua - tongue orchid, as in picture below.


Photo by and A&M

And so to Rodopou after lunch at Tavronitis.  The weather was very pleasant, with high cloud and temperature around 16c.  Once we had left the tarmac road behind, we had our first sightings - a small number of griffons, and then two hobbies.  Very little else was seen until we reached our hitherto picnic spot from previous trips.  It wasn't long before we had collared flycatcher and redstarts to watch, along with yellow wagtails, northern and black-eared wheatears.  Above we had distant views of two golden eagles, a closer view of marsh harrier, and then, as we left, a nightingale was seen in thickets - never once allowing John or me that elusive photographic opportunity.   We made our way to the church of Aghias Ioannis on the west coast of the peninsular.  This is where we had seen wood warblers last time, and they were still there.  An unusual pose of one below.


Photo by and A&M

Also here we saw a single hoopoe, woodchat shrike and serin.  As we drove back onto tarmac we had our first spotted flycatcher of the year, a possibly exhausted bird, giving great photo opportunities - for John at least, as it was off his side of the car!
 
17th.  A family day out for a change with our daughter Alison, and her sons, Alex and newborn Mihalis (9 weeks).  Her husband, Kostas, had other business to attend to, so Alison asked if we could visit Elafonisi, as she hadn't been.  Yesterday and today have seen summer arrive in earnest, so shorts and tee-shirts were the order of the day.  Our coffee stop was at Topolia Gorge, where we had great views of long-legged buzzards (I think, but not certain!) soaring high over the ridges to the west - one came a little lower, so photo below.


Photo by and A&M

Also seen were common buzzards, griffons, ravens, crag martins, blue rock thrush and a very distant peregrine perched high on a rock to the east.

At Elafonisi I was hoping this southwest corner of the island might produce something different, and it did.  Our first curlew sandpiper was seen on a stretch of beach on Elafonisi island - a distant photo for my records.  We had parked up just short of the beach under some tamarisk trees, where we picnicked.  Later in the afternoon, as we were preparing to leave, Margaret noticed a small brown bird with a red tail in a thicket close to the car.  Expecting this to be a female redstart, we started looking, and soon identified it as a nightingale - pink legs etc.  Getting a photo was the next priority for me, and eventually some pictures were obtained.  There are two below.


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M

We had a drinks stop at a taverna enroute home - still quite near Elafonisi.  Sitting on the balcony overlooking olive groves, I saw a golden oriole fluttering behind one of the trees.  There was only one bird, but it was restless, and kept giving us good, but fairly distant views - so one picture below.


Photo by and A&M

All in all, a good day out with some nice birds too.  Alex was pleased to see more "new" birds, but complained bitterly about not seeing lammergeier, which was always a possibility in the area we travelled through - his day will come!

20th.  With family arriving in a couple of weeks, we decided to look at Prassanos Gorge after some shopping in Rethymno.  We would like to show this area to our visitors, but today drew blanks for close-ups of griffons - the thermals must have been "wrong" for them to use the hillside below us to gain height.  Hopefully later next month will be more productive.  So, rather than a photo of one of our biggest birds, there's one of our smallest - the sardinian warbler, which perched close to our car at the Prassanos viewpoint.


Photo by and A&M

The rest of the day was spent meandering further inland.  We found the road from Patsos to Spili is now fully tarmacced, and along this road we stopped for sustenance.  Across the road a lot of noise was coming from a very small pond - frogs or toads?  We moved slowly towards the pond and counted a minimum of eight marsh frogs.  I think that's what they are, though these were much smaller than the "big boys" at Agia reservoir.  One photo below.


Photo by and A&M

Travelling on to the Spili high meadows we found some orchids and tulips in bloom, the latter now going over.  In this area, crested lark, woodlark, corn  and ortolan buntings, stonechat and our first whinchats of the year.  A female pied flycatcher resisted posing for a photo.  As we emerged from the Kissos Gorge, many meadows were full of field gladioli.  A close-up of this attractive flower below.


Photo by and A&M

21st.  First whinchats of the year yesterday, and today our first of these birds we've ever seen in our garden, later followed by our first spring sighting of a whitethroat.  I noticed a small nest in the olive tree closest to our house, and saw a greenfinch there recently.  Today I was just able to see the adult feeding young in the nest.  Too much foliage for a picture from our balcony, but lovely to watch.

22nd. Having dropped grandson off at school, I had a look at the Viewpoint again.  Recently there I have seen male little bitterns (2), night herons (3), squacco heron, grey heron, little egret, water rail, greenshank and common and wood sandpipers.  This morning just the latter.  Before returning home I made the diversion to Kalivaki beach and the rivermouth.  This time something caught my eye, or should I say my ear.  I could hear seagulls the other side of the river over Georgioupolis town beach, and as I looked two were mobbing another.  Closer inspection with the binoculars, and this was my first positive sighting of osprey.  The gulls took no time at all in shepherding the osprey away across the bay westwards.  I barely had time for a photo - and it was right against the sun!  I'll include it here, but you may have trouble discerning the bird as it is practically a silhouette.


Photo by and A&M

23rd.  A day at home gave us our first sightings this year of bee-eaters over the house - about 20 in all, moving west.  Also seen today, marsh harrier, light phase booted eagle and then a hoopoe flying lazily through the garden.

25th.  I took myself off to Agia for an early morning viewing, arriving about 6.45.  It was a grey morning and quite chilly, but in the end very worthwhile.  Highlights were having good sightings of reed warbler and great reed warbler, each in two different locations, listening to golden orioles, though not seeing a single one!  A flock of 13 night herons, a close up of squacco heron, a single Temminck's stint near the springs, and seeing whiskered tern.  The resident coots and geese are attending to family duties at this time too.  Some photos below.


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M

26th.  We had decided on one trip this week, before family arrive next week.  Omalos was where we ended up - and what a mistake!  The forecast hadn't been particularly good anyway, but at Omalos we could only see about 20 metres in front of us, such was the density of the swirling mist.  At one point we came across a group of trucks, and a lorry across the road, emptying sheep onto pastureland.  We commented on being pleased we weren't showing visitors this area for the first time!  See pic below.


Photo by and A&M

We saw no birds, other than jays that flew across the car, and cirl bunting and woodlark that stayed on the roadside as we passed.  If there was a highlight today, it was having lunch in a taverna with warming log fire in the corner - we were glad not to have taken a picnic with us this time!

We descended nervously from the plateau, with the mist only clearing once we reached Lakki.  A stop at Agia again proved fruitful - April and September compete for the best months here.  Great views of little crake, male little bittern, night heron, juvenile ruff, and the whiskered tern, which was eventually joined by a white-winged black tern.  Also seen were both male and female blackcaps.  More pictures below.


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M

29th.  With breakfast inside on yet another very cool morning, I noticed movement at the back of the garden.  Grabbing the binoculars, I was surprised to see a great reed warbler - a similar sighting to one seen here this time last year.  A couple of quick photos from indoors, then an even quicker run upstairs to take a photo from the bedroom balcony.  That last photo is below.


Photo by and A&M

Late afternoon, I had a look at the Viewpoint and saw water rail, common and wood sandpipers, two little ringed plovers, two purple herons, sedge warbler - and then surprised to find two white-winged black terns.

30th.  This month finished with yet another visit to Agia, but this time I took my grandson, Alex.  He was pleased to add the two terns to his list.  As we started walking towards the weir, I spotted a distant glossy ibis, as I was focussing on a marsh harrier.  The glossy came over the lake and descended towards the weir.  We guessed it must have settled there and walked on, only to find it in deep shade on the lowest level of the weir - but a good view all the same.  It flew off away from the lake, but after we had visited the springs we found it had returned.  This time we clambered down the embankment to get a little closer.  It was still in dark shade, but the pictures were a little better, and two are below.


Photo by and A&M


Photo by and A&M

Back at the lake Alex watched in horror as a yellow-legged gull descended to pluck a chick from the water, and fly off.  It caused a commotion with some other gulls and I took a distant picture as they started squabbling.  Alex accepted that this is nature at work, but we then got a shock.  We had met Nikos earlier, and he had seen the same incident, but with a clearer view he confirmed the "chick" was actually a little bittern - much bigger than the gosling.  I had noticed one standing on weed in open water a few minutes before - poor thing!   I have attached the photo - the gull on the left has the "catch" - I wasn't sure whether to include it, but as I said, it is nature at work.


Photo by and A&M
 

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