Out & About – February 2012
Please note all photos by and © A&M

Hi Everyone,


January’s poor weather continues into February, but a slight break in the cloud cover gave us the chance for a couple of hours drive to Imbros. As we climbed towards the Askifou Plain we encountered snow, which had been cleared to keep the road accessible. As far as birds were concerned, we had a lovely view of a pair of Bonellis’ eagles near the top end of the Imbros Gorge. These birds suddenly glided across the valley at great speed, coming directly over our car. I thought I had a great photo, but it was blurred! The commonest sighting was robin. These robust little birds were seen along the roadside in many places enroute, as in the photo below.



Still rainy, but a break in the clouds came at the same time as a noisy flock of hooded crows appeared high above the house. As usual, this “mob” had found a bird to bully – this time a dark morph booted eagle.



We had business in Chania today. Alison was with us and asked if we could show her Moronis Reserve, before we returned home. It was a good day to go, as another new Crete bird for us – a curlew. It was wading at distance most of the time, but I managed to capture a couple of shots. We also viewed a couple of reed buntings, but the entertainment came from a pair of egrets disputing the same patch of water – a little and a great white. Some photos follow, including one of both birds wading, showing the marked difference in their respective sizes.


(the egrets)

(the egrets)

(Great Egret)


Business in Rethymno today! I took the camera, as we intended having a walk along the promenade before shopping. At the marina we watched gulls taking unwanted catch from the quayside. Most of them were yellow-legged, but a few Mediterranean too.


(Mediterranean gull)

Lovely weather for a change, but few birds about. At Agia, a male marsh harrier was skirting the lake edges, but was interrupted by a common buzzard. Photo below of the harrier seeing off the buzzard. In the afternoon we were at Falassarna, and glimpsed a moustached warbler in a flooded area behind one of the beaches.

(male marsh harrier and buzzard)

Recent checks at the Viewpoint seem to confirm that both the ruddy shelduck and spoonbill have moved on. May be something to do with the southerly winds, which have been very strong at times.

We had recently heard of four Cranes on Crete, and hoped to see the remaining three after one had apparently been shot.

Set off in the hope of finding them today, and were lucky when Margaret did her “hawkeye” bit, locating them at about 300 metres distance. It was a lucky find, as we had no precise location to go by. We walked a little closer, and I took photos from about 200 metres. Even at this distance the birds took flight from their feeding ground. We watched as they flew around a wide area, before eventually returning to the same field after about ten minutes. We left feeling privileged to see this rarity here. If the birds are left undisturbed, we expect them to migrate north over the coming weeks.





(common cranes)

On our return journey we came across a small group of standing griffon vultures with a carcass nearby. The photos were fairly distant, but one shows three griffons near the carcass, while a raven grabs scraps from it. If for no other reason, this photo clearly shows the huge difference in size between these two species – the raven being at least the size of a common buzzard! (Note the raven is in the bottom right-hand corner of the second photo)


(griffons with raven and carcass)


The past week has been very quiet birdwise. The weather has been mainly wet and windy and most of the birds seem to be “staying indoors”, like us! During recent trips to Chania we have had a quick look at Moronis (in the rain) and noticed that the curlew is still present. Back at home today, I had a first visit to the Viewpoint for a week or so, and found a flock of c.100 house martins feeding over the water, accompanied by a smaller number of crag martins. The house martins are 8-10 days earlier arriving this year, compared to last year.

We took a drive to Kokkinos Pirgos, near Tymbaki, knowing that bird sightings were to be few and far between at this time of year. The “lagoon” where we saw the flamingo last year was a proper lake this time. One green sandpiper picked its way around the edges, and several water pipits and white wagtails did the same. In the bushes around the lake sides there were large numbers of chiffchaff. Many of these latter birds were dissimilar to each other in coloration and may have been different sub-species? At the harbour, a solitary black-headed gull was seen.

Later in the day, as we passed a military camp, we noticed c.80 corn buntings on overhead wires – right by a sign saying “No photographs”! Pity that.


 (water pipit)

A check on activity around Kalivaki revealed five green sandpipers now present. A single little egret and a small flock of meadow pipits is about the sum of it there – quieter than last year, despite plenty of flood water around.

(green sandpiper)

We get used to our local walks, enjoying the birds, and accepting that most will be repetitive sightings. Occasionally we strike lucky, as with today. We were walking the Old Road from Georgioupoli to Kavros, when we spotted a very distant eagle. I took a few shots knowing these would be difficult to identify back home. As we moved on, a man called out “hello” (in English), and we started chatting. It was then that the large eagle suddenly appeared overhead, not too high. This turned out to be a greater spotted eagle – a rarity here. We had heard that one of this species had been radio-tagged in Poland, and known to have been over various parts of the island recently. We guess this was that bird, but I don’t think the tag can be made out on the photos?


(greater spotted eagle)

A look at the Viewpoint today revealed three shoveller and six ferruginous duck. Previouly, I have only seen singles of ferruginous there, so a photo below showing some of this small flock.

(ferruginous duck)

Along the coast, at Petres, a lesser black-backed gull obliged for photos just as the weather cleared. I noticed this Baltic species (larus fuscus) was ringed on both legs - a small silver ring on its right leg, and a long plastic looking red ring on the other. (021-022)

(lesser black-backed gull)

(lesser black-backed gull)

A trip to the south coast, on a wonderfully sunny day, soon turned sour weatherwise as the clouds gathered and changed everything. We checked out the common crane to see if they are still present – and they are. A photo below records our single moment when we saw them flying in the distance, only to land out of sight in an olive grove. We saw many common buzzards today with several hovering against the westerly wind, like the juvenile below.

(common crane)

(common buzzard)

Cold and windy today. As we were in the vicinity of Souda Bay, we had a quick look at Moronis Reserve. The curlew is still present, plus the usual egrets, cormorant, redshank, greenshank, common sandpiper, little-ringed plover, meadow pipit, black-headed gulls and kingfisher. Images of the last two below.

(black-headed gulls)





A few hours of sunshine and “hey presto!” This lovely splash of colour is behind Kalivaki Beach, it’s called silene colorata.

The good weather continued into today and we had a walk in the countryside behind Kavros. Margaret counted sixteen different wild flowers in bloom along the roadside with one of them a “sister” to the above – silene alba.

At Kali Sikia, near Kotsifou Gorge, we found a small number of anemone heldreichii. These were scattered about singly, some white, and others with a pink hue like the one below. No sign of orchids yet this year.



The Turkish fort remains, above Askifou, looks like a desolate spot in this photo.


As we walked around the marina in Rethymno, we had this view towards the White Mountains.

After a particularly wet spell of weather this month, Psiloritis is looking wonderful. This view taken a few metres from our house.

We made the mistake of revisiting the area where we saw the greater spotted eagle yesterday – of course we didn’t see it! However, during our drive round, two views of what the recent weather has done to two popular landmarks here. Firstly, Kournas Lake, where the water level is very high – notice the taverna steps descending into the water. Secondly, the breakwater to St Nicolas chapel is now strewn with driftwood and bamboo, which the recent east wind has thrown up – we haven’t seen it like this before.


Our return northwards through the Kotsifou Gorge gave me the opportunity to record the overhanging rockface at the narrowest point – a heart-stopping moment!

Today is Clean Monday, a bank holiday here, and traditionally a kite-flying day. We usually end up at Kalivaki Beach, where we have had little success with kites over the years! Two images below to show that after some running repairs we had a modicum of success this time.


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