Hi Everyone,


This winter continues to provide very little birdwatching from the house, particularly in the garden.  Occasional sightings of crag martins seen after bad weather, but these fast moving birds are just about impossible to photograph in flight!


A distant sighting of a raptor had me finding the camera, but the photo wasnít great.  The bird appeared to be an eagle with an extremely pale belly.  I dismissed the photo as poor quality, but later decided to put the image up on Birdforum.com for others to view and comment upon.  It created quite a bit of interest and discussion Ė the consensus of opinion in the end was that the bird appeared to be a short-toed eagle.  It is possible the bird was wintering here, but otherwise would be a very early migrant?


An unusual sighting in the garden today, as a weasel briefly sat on our boundary wall.





Finally getting glimpses of blackcaps in the garden.  They have wintered next door in a thicket, and are now singing loudly on sunny days Ė guess thatís the male



Apart from the usual numbers of coots, moorhen and little grebe resident here, this winter has seen small numbers of wintering shoveller, garganey and ferruginous duck.  Images of the latter Ė both male and female.


(ferruginous duck - male)

(ferruginous duck - female)



The pygmy cormorant continues to winter on the lake this month and was still sighted today.  At least two ferruginous ducks still here too.



Driving past this area, I noticed some activity towards the Kalivaki headland.  Three crows were mobbing a much larger bird.  It turned out to be the same (greater) spotted eagle which is usually sighted nearer to the Kournas Lake area.  The bird remained distant, taking shelter on a small tree, where I managed to record it with a couple of photos.  When it took off it caught me by surprise, and that photo was rather hurried.


(spotted eagle)




Finally something to photograph in this area, but not what I expected.  A female sparrowhawk flew across the front of the car and landed on the far side of an adjacent field.  Photo below, but the wire fencing has spoilt it somewhat!





The water level is very high here and itís impossible to walk the beach.  From the road many cormorant are visible perched on buoys on the far side, and a large flock of yellow-legged gulls are always coming and going.  The black-necked grebes continue to reside in the far reaches of the lake, and the occasional grey heron is seen perched on lakeside rocks.


At the river mouth in Georgioupoli I watched a cormorant fishing.  This is quite a frequent event during the winter, but not often have I seen the bird catch a fish this size!  The fish was bitten in two before being swallowed.






A favourite trip to Aradena in the hope of some good sightings.  We had the sightings, but all too distant for photos.  A single Bonelliís eagle, flocks of red-billed chough to mention, but the only photo was of blue rock thrush, which appears to be a young male. Elsewhere today we encountered a flock of hooded crows.  I took a photo and have published it here if only to show how sunlight can alter the colouring of birds!


(blue rock thrush)


(hooded crows)



We called in at Agia reservoir and spent an hour watching ducks!  Virtually nothing else to see, except two distant marsh harriers Ė a female and a juvenile.  Of the ducks, a small group of pintail was seen, and a single gadwall.  Photos of these below.





On our return we called in at Moronis Reserve, and found three Sandwich terns feeding just off the harbour. A photo of one below.

(Sandwich tern)



We made the detour to Kourtaliotis Gorge after shopping in Rethymno and watched griffons making use of the windy conditions.  One bird was seen in a cave, possibly on its nest.





A day trip to the south coast, aiming for Kokkinos Pirgos, to see what may be present at the lagoon.  We expected the water level to be higher than on previous visits, and we were right.  However, on flooded meadows beside the lagoon, we found a single greater flamingo Ė a species we had seen here before.  Around the edges of the lagoon itself, we found a few water pipits and a single little stint.  The best sighting was on the water Ė a little gull.  This bird spent the entire time we were there, just paddling around, dipping its head in the water for food.  Previous sightings had been few, but always with the bird in flight, so this made a change.




(water pipit)


(little gull)



While the other half was shopping with daughter in Chania, I took myself off to Prassanos Gorge.  We hadnít visited it at this time off year before, so I didnít know what to expect.  The usual numbers of griffons were flying around, mostly distant compared to the summer visits we have made.  Interestingly though, I had sight of a lammergeier, very distant, mixing with a group of griffons.  Even though it was almost a kilometre away, its diagnostic shape, with sleeker wings and long wedge shaped tail, made it stand out from the griffons.  In the same area, I found two Bonelliís eagles interacting with the griffons.  As I left the gorge, I heard crows, and found them mobbing a third Bonelliís eagle Ė this could have been a good photo, but for the fact that I was driving by now!  The only image from the day, worth posting here, was one griffon which flew over me, legs dangling Ė maybe considering me for lunch!






One image from Margaretís camera, well worth posting here, is an early blooming of yellow bee orchid.

(yellow bee orchid)


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