A&M Report 32 - August 2010
Please note all photos by and A&M
Hi Everyone,

2nd.  The month starts slowly, as expected, but we have had two separate sightings of woodchat shrike while we have been out and about. Today, a common buzzard was heard over the house.  It was high up, but the photo below shows it with "lunch" in the form of a rat in its talons - yummy!

3rd.  Our neighbours have family staying with them, one of whom enjoys birdwatching.  This evening we were able to watch the "local" woodchat looking for food - this bird was a first for him.

4th.  This morning he came round to tell me there was a barn owl hunting around reeds near a bar they went to last night in Georgioupolis.  Apparently it was not put off by human activity and stayed around for about twenty minutes. - possibly a juvenile.  We are out with friends tonight, but I hope to have a look tomorrow evening.

5th.  Well I drew a blank this evening waiting for the barn owl, but otherwise it was a good day for birds.  After business in Chania we drove to Omalos and then up to the mountain refuge above the Irini Gorge.  Another hot day, the temperature dropped from 34c to 27c by the time we reached the refuge, and picnicking in the shade with some breeze was very pleasant.  Best of all, a great sighting of an adult golden eagle not too high above us - photo below shows this bird has lost a few flight feathers.


Not much else in this area, apart from several jays and ravens. Four griffons eventually presented themselves at some distance, and again we had a single woochat shrike as we returned across the Omalos Plateau.
Last month I said we wouldn't call at Agia in the summer, but this route meant we passed close by.  So we called in, if only to finish our coffee.  The reservoir was as low as we have seen it, but some birds were attracted to it.  One of each - grey heron, squacco heron and little egret.  Curiously, it took longer to find a glossy ibis amongst all the coots.  Some panic amongst the birds on the water, when a female marsh harrier descended, and stood on a dry bank in the middle of the reservoir.  More distant were a group of mallard, about eight, with some wood sandpipers scurrying around close to them.  A couple of photos below showing the glossy and marsh harrier amongst other birds, but they're not exactly close-ups!

While watering the garden this evening, I noticed a grasshopper.  Having accidentally doused it with the hose, I had a closer look.  This was an Egyptian grasshopper nymph, emerging from a moult, so worthy of a photo.

12th.  With little to report over the past week, we chose today for another day long drive, staying air-conditioned!  We initially made for the Topolia Gorge, but turned off prior to it, taking the road southwards towards Milia.  This road skirts the top of the gorge with magnificent views eastwards.  Our coffee stop produced sightings of red-rumped swallow, crag martin and some distant griffons.  The butterfly, below, is one we only seem to see in this part of the island, and we haven't been able to properly identify it.  We saw one with Roy and Raye on Mount Dikteos a few years ago, so maybe Roy can add a name to it?

Continuing on, this circular drive took us to Kandanos and then Temenia, where we found a scenic picnic spot under conifer trees beside a cemetery church. On again towards Aghia Irini and eventually on to the Omalos plateau, where flocks of linnets, goldfinches and woodlarks were seen, along with single viewings of ortolan bunting, corn bunting, woodchat and jay.  The ponds are virtually dry, but the sight of a single sheep drinking alone gave a nice photo opportunity, but then I do like reflections!

Passing Agia on our return, we had a very quick look.  Some work is ongoing at the pump, and the water has been all but drained - it's not a pretty sight - see below.

The single glossy ibis is still present and an increasing number of sandpipers, mainly wood.  The eye-catching birds were the hooded crows.  They were very distant, across the "water", but I thought last week that some of them were different in colour - the pale grey looking distinctly more peachy in colour, making a very attractive contrast.  I've attached a couple of pictures below, not very sharp, but enough to see the difference in colouring between the same species.

Long-eared owl story.
A local friend of ours, Jacqui, visited her friends in Likotonara recently.  Sitting in their garden, she admired a small statue of an owl, and asked where they bought it.  Her friends looked at the "statue", and said this must be a real bird - we weren't aware it was there.  Closer inspection revealed the owl was thin, looked poorly and wasn't able to fly.  Some photos were taken and then a phone call made to a birdwatching friend of theirs.  He arrived and carefully removed the bird, saying that he thought it had been shot, as the wing appeared broken.  He phoned a vet in Souda, who gave him the telephone number of a bird sanctuary on the island of Paros, where the bird could be sent by ferry, free-of-charge.  The bird took some small amounts of food later that day, but sadly the next morning it had died.
This species is a rarity here, and I now wonder if it was one of a breeding pair in the area?  My thanks to Jean Geddes for kind permission to use her two photos, below.

16th.  On exactly the same date as last year, we sight the first flocks of pintail flying low across the bay late afternoon.  We had already decided to walk a stretch of beach this evening, and although we had gone an hour or so without seeing any birds, we were finally rewarded with a flock of c50 flying a few hundred metres off-shore.  My photos are not worth showing here, but they do confirm the identification.  Earlier in the afternoon, the first flock must have exceeded 250 birds.

A report from our daughter, Alison, of a nightjar sitting in our road this evening.  The bird flew up in front of her car as she slowed up, brushing the windscreen .  We still hear them in the distance, but this was the closest we have known one be to our house.

18th.  With coffee being taken on our front balcony, a couple of common buzzards were heard circling above the house.  As I had been watching the woodchat again, the camera was to hand, and so a photo of the handsome juvenile buzzard was taken quickly with a lovely result.  See below.

19th.  A spot of hopeful birdwatching, while Margaret was having her hair cut, rewarded me with several minutes worth of hoopoe watching - just the one bird returning to the same field to feed.  I have never been able to get a picture of a hoopoe in flight, but this time just managed it as it prepared to land, as below.

Also, around the edges of the same field, two juvenile spotted flycatchers were being fed by a parent bird.  These had probably bred here this summer, as the youngsters were still very spotted, and I couldn't imagine them being capable of the return migration.  The juveniles kept returning to the same branches of a nearby tree, which gave me the opportunity to take the photos below.

A walk this evening gave me my first autumn migration sighting of an adult red-backed shrike - one of my favourite birds.  We will see many over the coming weeks, as they are as regular as clockwork here, and easy to spot on low bare branches or fence posts.  On this walk I was able to take photos of banded demoiselle, male and female, as I crossed the ford at the small river behind the Viewpoint. Two photos below.

19th.  While at a bbq next door this evening, a barn owl ghosted past the house disappearing silently into the night.

20th.  This morning, a pair of sardinian warblers briefly took shade under a small potted conifer in our garden - the camera was handy again!

With a stiflingly hot day, we took a late afternoon drive with air-conditioning a real blessing.  Not much to report except our second red-backed shrike, and an adult woodchat with two juveniles.  However, our drive had hardly got underway, when Margaret spotted a small black "cloud" over the bay.  We stopped and identified a distant flock of glossy ibis.  Getting closer was more difficult, but eventually by a beach at Kavros, we were able to get better views, still a bit distant.  Glossy ibis usually make disorderly flocks on migration.  My two photos below firstly show one such, and the second more orderly.
This flock consisted of 56 birds in total, but enroute to "getting closer" we saw a much larger flock - several hundred- but they were moving out to sea and were lost in seconds.

22nd.  Occasional looks through our kitchen window revealed a small flock of grey herons over the bay - 12 in all - continuing a haphazard flight for many hours.  By 3 O'clock, I decided to investigate the coastline more closely, and stopped off at various places.  The grey herons were briefly joined by a flock of 22 glossy ibis, which disappeared as quickly as they had arrived.  Photo below.

A huge flock of probable pintails were flying low, far out in the bay.  They had been there all day, spending much time on the water itself.  As I made brief visits to other favourite sites, the only other birds worthy of mention are hoopoe and red-backed shrike - a single of each.

I think I should mention that today had been very windy, a north wind blowing strongly towards the local beaches.  So while I was watching for the birds, I couldn't help watching the sea too.  St. Nicolas Chapel, Georgioupolis, sits at the end of a breakwater, and is a popular walk picking your way over the rocks and boulders that have been placed somewhat haphazardly.  One has to be careful!  Today was not a good day to walk the breakwater, but some people did successfully, although the sea did its best to make it an adventure!  Two photos below showing the chapel, and some people up for the challenge.

23rd.  Today we had a look at the Moronis Nature Reserve - the first ever visit in August for us.  Apart from a single kingfisher, first impressions were that there was nothing around, not even a coot!  Having scanned the river and harbour, we walked round to the beach.  Eventual sightings here of four common sandpiper, plus a dunlin amongst them, still in full summer plumage.  The bird appears to be of the alpina variation with a large fully black belly, and with a long slightly curved bill.  My photos were disappointing from distance on the beach, but I just caught the dunlin flying off with the sandpipers, and so have  included the photo below.

Turning back to the river we spotted a distant tern in the harbour.  At the river itself, Margaret was quick to spot a glossy ibis disappearing upstream.  We decided the harbour would be worth a visit after all.  The tern was a juvenile whiskered tern, and while we watched, its parent arrived, still moulting into winter plumage.  It eventually sat next to its offspring, so two pictures below.

While at this spot the glossy ibis reappeared and settled at a safe distance.  Then, a purple heron flew round from the beach area, and quickly disappeared into tall reeds at the rivermouth.  It's a while since we last saw a purple heron, and, with the other sightings, we left having had good results after all!

26th.  This week we chose to drive to the south coast making for Aghia Galini and surrounding areas.  We never seem to see much down there, and today was no different.  The wide river that runs into the sea just east of Aghia Galini was bone dry, and the inland lagoon at Kokkino Pirgos near Timbaki was also dry - I suppose we were not surprised, but had never ventured there in August before.  A single squacco heron was glimpsed by Margaret as we skirted a little harbour, and that was it!
We had planned to return northwards via the Amari Valley taking the road on the eastern side through Fourfouras.  Our picnic was taken "in the hills" and the only memorable sightings were red-backed shrikes - about 6 in all, some being speckly sub-adults.  By now I was commenting on this being the first trip where I had not taken a single photograph.  As a last resort I took one of our picnicking area!  However, at our last port of call, near the reservoir at Arkadi Monastery, I was able to redeem myself.  First a decent pic of a raven overhead.  Next some sea squill (urginea maritima) in sunlight.  Then one of three Eleanora's falcons, and finally another opportunity to photograph the beautiful male violet dropwing dragonfly.  So all's well!

28th.  Large numbers of probable pintail flying low around the bay.  With distant, but good views from our house, I estimate in excess of 1,000 birds made up of three flocks, occasionally joining up.

31st.  Was it, or wasn't it?  A brief sighting from the house of two birds high up - one a buzzard - the other a good deal larger with long tail, slightly wedge-shaped.  The buzzard was pestering the other bird and they quickly headed back into the mountains.  So, was it my first lammergeier sighting from the house!
A small cranefly had spent the night on a window pane and looked attractive enough for a picture.

This afternoon, another flock of glossy ibis over the bay - this time about 20 - 25 birds.  As it was the last day of the month, I decided to check out the small beach with a shingle spit (beyond Kavros), where I had some great sightings last year.  Having parked the car, I could see a few squacco herons perched on tall reeds - maybe a dozen or so.  My walk to the beach meant passing closer to the herons and they were eventually disturbed.  To my amazement they totalled in excess of 200 hundred birds.  Three photos below, one having 180 birds in it!

With no other birds around the beach area, I returned via Kalivaki beach in hope of repeating last year's sighting of lesser grey shrike.  This was my third look in five days, but only red-backed shrikes in evidence.  As I walked back to the car, I saw a flock of birds flying low across the bay.  It was the squaccos making for a quiet roosting area further along the coast, so I had been lucky to see them a few minutes earlier.

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