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!
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.
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.
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
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!
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
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
Long-eared owl story.
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
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
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
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
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.