OUT & ABOUT – APRIL 2012

Hi Everyone,

BIRDS

2nd. I took our daughter, Alison, and mutual friend, Jacqui, to Moronis and Agia for some birdwatching, and help with identification. At both sites, Alison disappeared with my old camera and took many photos for her records, while I stayed with Jacqui to discuss our observations.

At Moronis, and at some distance across the river, a group consisting of singles of black-winged stilt, greenshank, ruff, marsh sandpiper and common sandpiper were the only sightings, apart from a little egret and some meadow pipits.

At Agia, the usual ducks including shoveller, tufted duck, wigeon and garganey. A juvenile little crake scurried around, and then a Baillon’s crake similarly nearby. This latter bird was only the second sighting for me. In the reeds we could hear what I think was a moustached warbler, but it never showed, unlike the chiffchaffs – which always do here. Above, a light phase booted eagle showed briefly. Many common buzzards, a distant view of female marsh harrier, and a grey heron in the nearby fields completed the viewings. My photos not brilliant today, but a few for the record.

 

(marsh sandpiper)

 

(booted eagle)

 

(little crake juv)

 

(Baillon’s crake)

 

5th. First woodchat shrikes of the year were seen from the house this morning, and also at Kalivaki, where the flood water has now dried up. However, little egrets are finding food in the few muddy areas still to be found. On one occasion they took off only for one to land on an overhead cable giving me a good photo opportunity.

 

(little egret)

 

6th. A day out with John and Patti Bayley taking in Agia reservoir, Omalos plateau, Xyloskala (Samaria Gorge entrance), and the mountain refuge above Irini Gorge. At Agia a small group of black-winged stilts made for immediate camera clicking time, before the expected sightings of little crake, little egret, squacco heron and the usual variety of ducks. In the reeds a reed bunting showed up unexpectedly – enough for a photo.

 

(black-winged stilt group)

 

(black-winged stilt)

 

(reed bunting)

 
Moving on to Omalos we found no birds of note enroute, and not a lot of variety on the plateau itself. Main sightings here were green sandpiper, woodlark, cirl bunting, woodchat shrike and our first whinchats of the year. A female woodchat was seen hunting insects from a fence, allowing a photo opportunity of what is possibly my first female picture of this species.
 

(woodchat shrike female)

 

8th. We had a late afternoon drive to Anopoli on the south coast (Aradena area) with the intention of just parking up and seeing what showed up. Using the car as a hide considerably increases the chance of seeing birds, and with the temperature dropping to 14c, and windy, it seemed a good idea. In the space of 20 minutes we had seen our first flycatcher (female pied I think), wood warbler and whitethroat of the year. Then only our second sighting of subalpine warbler of this year, giving a distant photo, surrounded by white blossom. Moving on to another spot we had a male sparrowhawk fly across the front of our car – twice! Then, a great sighting of common cuckoo in a lightly wooded area. The first photos were from distance, but the bird flew to a closer perch, and this gave me my best ever shot of this species.

 

(subalpine warbler)

 

(cuckoo a)

 

(cuckoo b)

 

10th. Our first dull and chilly day for a while. Half an hour’s birdwatching from the house between showers revealed a single corn bunting on overhead wires, a single woodchat shrike in the fields opposite, three common buzzards very high up, presumably on migration, and then a mixture of swift, swallow, house martin and alpine swift all passing through. Alison telephoned to say that a black-winged stilt was at the rivermouth in Georgioupoli. We have seen them at the Viewpoint, but not on the river before. Incidentally, the water level at the Viewpoint continues to be very high, and there has been very little to record there recently.

 

11th. We had promised Alex a day out hiring a jeep to enable us to explore the Rodopos peninsular, as we did last year. The trip proved quite productive, though photos were hard to come by, as most of the interesting birds were distant. Of these, there was our first Crete sighting of Montagu’s harrier. I have Colin Turvey to thank for its identification. Having met them on Rodopos, we parted and he photographed the same bird at the same time I did. His better quality image was the way identification was made – so my photo not worth showing here. Earlier, Margaret, Alex and I separated to explore a little area on foot. Alex came back very excited having seen his first lammergeier. He couldn’t wait to get home to look at images of the bird from the internet and my files – to convince himself it was that species he saw. He just wished he managed a photo.

We had other distant sightings too, including male lesser kestrel, female hen harrier, two very high up falcons which we believe were hobby, collared flycatcher and hoopoe. The latter was photographed by Alex, and I promised him we would post his effort here in the report.

 

(hoopoe)

 
For my part, the only worthwhile bird photos to record our trip were griffons. A couple below.
 

(griffon)

(griffon)

 

13th. A family of greenfinches visited the garden today. A photo of the juvenile shows just how “stripey” parts of this species is under wing.

 

(greenfinch juvenile)

 

14th. A local walk gave me the opportunity to photograph a male adult greenfinch.

 

(greenfinch male)

 

15th. Easter Sunday today, and this is the first time this year we have seen griffons flying near the house.

19th. During a trip out with Swedish friends, Eva and Bengt, we visited Prassanos Gorge to take in the views, and Antonis Gorge for a walk into the gorge. Birds were few and far between at Prassanos, the air not quite warm enough to create the ideal thermals for close views. At Antonis we watched many crag martins and jackdaws, busy looking for nesting sites. A photo of the latter species, and also a woodlark seen during our drive home. (018-019)   

 

(jackdaws)

 

(woodlark)

 

20th. It may not have been the best decision we’ve made, but today we took our own car to the Rodopos peninsular and covered a few kilometres of uneven track. Our trip with Alex was good, but we felt that 10 days later may provide more sightings. It was a very windy day and this probably reduced the sightings, in fact the only raptors were common buzzard, kestrel and sparrowhawk. However, during the afternoon we saw several species that we had “hoped” for. Best of all were two sightings of wryneck, a single bee-eater, spotted, pied and collared flycatchers, female redstart, Spanish sparrow, tawny pipit, and our first Crete sighting, though distant, of tree pipit. Wheatears and whinchats were everywhere. A few photos to record our day are below.

 

(male pied flycatcher)

 

(female pied flycatcher)

 

(Spanish sparrow)

 

(Spanish sparrow)

 

(whitethroat)

 

(spotted flycatcher)

 

(tree pipit)

 

(wrymeck)

 

   

(bee-eater)

 

22nd. I spent a couple of hours at Agia this morning. Sundays are “Greek” day at the reservoir’s tavernas and so by eleven a.m. I had left – too noisy! Since our last visit here on 6th, a single glossy ibis has been feeding off the perimeter path, one of the black-winged stilts, a juvenile, is present and not concerned by human presence. The Baillon’s crake has stayed for over a month so far, as have the little crakes. In the reeds many sedge warblers are calling, and today I had sight of great reed warbler for the first time since 2010. Other species seen included little bittern, squacco heron, night heron, grey heron, purple heron, little egret, common sandpiper, wood sandpiper, mallard and reed warbler. Unfortunately I missed the osprey which fellow contributor to this site, Nikos, saw later in the day. Some images from my visit below. (029-033)    (b-w stilt)

 

 

(great reed warbler)

 

(wood sandpiper)

 

(glossy ibis)

 

(b-w stilt)

 

(b-w stilt)

 

27th. A day out with our daughter, Alison and her little one, Mihalis. We spent most of the day at Omalos driving slowly around the plateau, and stopping for Mihalis to run around a bit. It wasn’t a very productive day birdwise, especially for photos. Some species Alison had not identified before, so her photos of woodlark and wheatears were good for her. Our best sighting was a juvenile red-footed falcon. Our attempt to get close enough for pictures was thwarted by a passing truck!

28th. We are now seeing and hearing bee-eaters, turtle doves and red-rumped swallows on a regular basis from the house. An evening walk provided me with images of spotted flycatcher and a pair of waders on a very muddy pond – wood sandpiper and greenshank.

 

(spotted flycatcher)

 

(the waders)

 

29th. We are now preparing to leave for our UK trip on 1st May, but took time out today for an early evening drive to Kallikratis. In early September, this is one of the best areas we know for watching bee-eaters and thought we would try the same in spring. Initially the trip was unproductive with only the chats and a single whitethroat to be seen. We made one last stop before leaving the plateau – a leafy corner with some broad-leaved trees – and thought we heard the distinctive call of bee-eaters. Sure enough we came across about ten of them, though at some distance. But in the space of ten minutes here, we saw three golden orioles, two redstart, a collared flycatcher, a willow warbler and a turtle dove. Just one image managed – a distant female golden oriole.

 

(golden oriole)

 

ANIMALS

A lonely goat was seen far away on a ridge at Rodopos, its outline stark against the sky.

 

 
We still find the occasional donkey as we drive round the island. This one looks “well used”, but is enjoying some free time – or it’s retired?
 

 

WILDFLOWERS

6th. During our drive to Omalos with John and Patti, two plant species gave us good photos to include here. The first is romulea bulbocodium. The second is endemic to Crete. John had remembered where he had seen them previously – they were there again – but none of us know of any other places to see this beautiful little flower called chionodoxa cretica.

 

 

 

27th. During our day out with daughter to Omalos, we found large areas of tulipa cretica.

 

 

LANDSCAPES

3rd. An afternoon drive with English friends Jan and Kerry Dickson to look at the mountainous area beyond Anogia. From our house, Psiloritis has much snow on its west facing slopes. From Anogia, Psiloritis is approached from the eastern side with the tarmacced road soon going through the 1,200 metre level. Had we been able to continue to the end the height would be 1,500 metres, but the snow conspired to prevent this, and so the drive was aborted! We have never experienced snow like this in Crete – it reminded us of a holiday to Norway nearly 30 years ago. A couple of photos below of the “open tunnel” we drove through and scenes at the point where the road “stopped”. Apologies to Kerry – he was driving!

 

 

 

 

11th. During our trip to Rodopos, we had this view of the White Mountains beyond the coast at Tavronitis. The mountains look suspended in the haze.

 

 

22nd. As I returned from Agia, I made a diversion to Aptera and obtained this view of Souda Bay and the harbour. In the distance is the Rodopos peninsular that we visited recently.

 

 

 
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