August 2009
 
Hi all,

4th.  Having mentioned an influx of red-rumped swallows on a particularly warm day last month, I thought the same thing was happening today.  They were swarming around the empty house that has the r-r swallow nest in it, and I decided there were some photo opportunities.  To my surprise this time they were mostly housemartins - their white rump, at a distance, may have confused me last month?  Many of them were resting up on a ledge above a window, so a quick pic was easy enough - see below.

Over the hillside a few housemartins were chasing our local common buzzard - not such an easy pic, but attached anyway.



17th.  A very quiet month so far, but this time last year we found a flock of little egrets on the beach east of Kavros, and decided to see if there was anything there today.  A purple heron was seen perched on a small tree off the beach.  Trying to get closer, we disturbed a second, before they both took off over the sea.  On the beach, by a rivermouth, we found nine black-winged stilts (first winter birds) - see below:

 

As they flew over the sea a couple of times we counted eleven in all, so more pics taken - and another below.

Driving back we saw a juvenile common buzzard on an electricity pole - nicely catching the late evening sun, as below:



18th.  I decided to have an early morning look at the same beach as yesterday.  Arrived at 7 a.m. and saw nothing.  Just as I left, a flock of 22 little egrets flew along the coast, so all was not lost.  Having cut short this visit, I stopped off at the Viewpoint - first time for some while.
Good to see return of kingfishers (3).  At distance, two green sandpipers, three garganey, two little-ringed plovers, and an olivaceous warbler.  My attention was drawn to a bird I couldn't identify.  It was bathing vigorously and the photos were blurred, but I'm fairly sure this was a cream-coloured courser! - a rare and unlikely bird to find here.  The first photo shows a distinctly cream/beige coloured bird , very white underneath.  The second shows it just starting to take off (cat appeared nearby) and the dark underwing shows clearly, and a dark end to the other wing (upper).  It didn't return after flying off away from where I was standing. I can't attach the poor quality photos here, but must get someone else to look at them some time, as understand one of these birds was photographed in Chania recently.

At the river in Georgoiupolis, our resident white pelican was seen eying a fisherman sorting out his catch.  The bird decided it was breakfast time, and was politely asking for food. Photo below:



19th.  A day out to Mt Psiloritis with grandson today.  Our "mission" was to look for short-toed treecreepers, and more hopefully for me, to try and photograph one!  Well it was a successful trip with our first photos of this bird, not close-up but a record of sorts.  (see attached).  The second photo shows just how cryptic the colouring of these birds are, and just how difficult they are to see in the first place.  At about 1,200 metres up in a lightly wooded area we estimate we saw about 6, but there must be many more.  To my surprise (we had separated for a while), our grandson Alex, also managed a photo with my old camera.
We never found birds resembling the rock nuthatch like last year - but you never know, another time maybe?  Other birds seen were jay, wood pigeon, griffon, raven, kestrel, common buzzard, spotted flycatcher, single redstart, single hoopoe, linnet, blackbird, northern wheatears and many chaffinches goldfinches and blue tits.



At home this evening, our first red-backed shrike of the Autumn migration.
 
24th.  A short evening drive took us along the "Old Road" towards Dramia. Three yellow wagtails flew into a field alongside the road.  We stopped to look further and must have counted in excess of 50.  Most were immature and were presumably migrating enmass and looking for a roosting area.  Not much else on this drive, but did spot two eleanora's falcons near Asi Gonia - a bit disconcerting to hear gunshots at the same time we were watching.

25th.  Back to the beach east of Kavros.  This time a grey heron was disturbed - see below: 

On the beach two common sandpipers, amongst an unlikely assortment of sparrows, crows and feral pigeons!  Just behind the beach a photo opportunity for one of my favourite birds - the red-backed shrike.


We then saw 12 purple herons circling haphazardly over the sea, before moving out of sight.  Later, driving home, Margaret spotted a small dark cloud over the bay.  We stopped and could just make out a very large flock (2 -300 +) medium sized birds - probably little egrets or squaccos, but couldn't tell, especially as they never came any closer.  We kept looking while driving home, but will have to wait for another time - from now to mid-September is our best time for large flocks over the bay.

27th.  Today we introduced Colin and Sue Turvey to the Prassanos Gorge viewing spot.  It was a slow start, with the wind different to previous visits, but eventually some griffons came along and made the trip worthwhile.  Can't resist a couple of photos below:



This evening I had a walk around the Kalivaki beach area, originally trying to identify a flock of light brown birds flying low over the sea - no chance, they were too far out!  Behind the beach a red-backed shrike was quietly waiting for supper to fly past, and another in the distance on a telegraph wire.  The distant bird seemed slightly different and needed further investigation.  I couldn't get close, but to my delight this was my first Crete sighting of a lesser grey shrike - a bird I had only seen previously on Lesvos.  My very distant photo was a bit fuzzy, but a record.

28th.  I just had to return to Kalivaki again, in case the shrike was still there!  This time there were two!  A little nearer than before, but they were frustratingly staying in a piece of fenced-off farmland, but at least the pictures were some improvement, as below:



29th.  Lesser grey still at Kalivaki, but couldn't find the second one today.

30th.  A lovely hour spent early evening on our balcony watching spotted flycatchers at work, and a whole "family" of red-backed shrikes - 2 adults and 2 juveniles - the adults trying to spoil the spotted flycatchers antics by interfering in their aerial sortees.  Momentarily, an olivaceous warbler sat by watching the scene, but quickly disappeared into thick bushes nearby.  Also watched a small flock of red-rumped swallows searching for food over the house, a pair of turtle doves sped by, and our resident common buzzard is still trying to encourage its offspring to find somewhere else to hunt!

31st.  As I promised grandson another early trip to Agia before he started school again, we went today.  Arriving just after sunrise we were greeted by a bitch and her three pups!  Lots of barking from these "strays" meant any chance of waders along the water's edge had probably disappeared - and so it was.  Not much to mention really - grey heron, wood sandpiper, kingfisher, and then two sedge warblers, which I managed to photograph (these were a first for Alex).  We returned home earlier than expected, had a quick look at the Viewpoint - nothing there except three garganey with all the coots and little grebes.  Then a quick look at Kalivaki for the lesser grey shrike - not there.  I had another look late in the day (same time as previous visits), but it appears to have moved on.

I did get a last photo for the month though.  Back at home a chance look out of the kitchen window gave me a glimpse of movement in some shrubs.  A juvenile red-backed shrike had visited the garden, and after many attempts through the glass, I finally managed a picture that wasn't too blurred!  See below.

Alan
 

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