Out and About - January 2011

All photographs by and A@M

Hi Everyone,

A slightly different format from now with a few headings to record the photos and news for the month, rather than my essays of the past.
The headings will be; "BIRDS", "ANIMALS and INSECTS", "WILD FLOWERS" and "LANDSCAPE".  If there is anything of interest to record outside of these, I'll include a final heading entitled "THIS IS CRETE".

So, here we go...


At the end of the "Birds" section I will list the species we have seen during that month, but will omit the birds we tend see every day from our house, and the immediate locality - those everyday birds are:

little grebe, common buzzard, kestrel, moorhen, coot, common sandpiper, yellow-legged gull, collared dove, crested lark, crag martin, stonechat, blackbird, Sardinian warbler, Cetti's warbler, great tit, blue tit, hooded crow, raven, house sparrow, Spanish sparrow, chaffinch, linnet, goldfinch, greenfinch and serin.  These 25 birds are resident all year.

Just too late to include in my December report was an unexpected sighting of lammergeier near Ano Mallaki.  This huge bird was flying quite low, but between us and the sun, so photos are only in silhouette.  However, they do show why this species is also known as the bearded vulture - you can just make out the beard in these two shots.

This year started with a walk down to Kalivaki Beach, where mute swan, kingfisher, cormorant and black redstart were seen.  On the way home, an opportunity to photograph an adult male black redstart, a little closer than usual.  Having downloaded the picture onto the laptop, I have noticed this bird is ringed, but no chance of reading the marks.

Generally, Kalivaki was fairly "quiet" this month, but it was good to see a juvenile green sandpiper in the flooded area beneath the eucalyptus trees.  It was still around at the end of the month.   Another sighting was a distant view of a single greenshank  standing on the rocky outcrop beyond St Nicolas chapel at the end of the breakwater. This bird was seen twice more at distance from Georgioupoli Viewpoint.  Photo of the former below.

Apart from the common buzzard, raptors are always a highlight on our trips.  Within the first three days of January, we have seen a dark phase booted eagle near the house, two Bonellis' eagles at Aradena, and two distant golden eagles above Imbros on the return from Aradena.  The Bonellis' were a good sighting - we saw the same pair twice during the day.  The second sighting, much more distant, saw them being mobbed by hooded crows.  As the eagles fled they had a display, locking talons.  Margaret had a great view through her binoculars, whilst I struggled to get them in focus with the camera.  The result - a very distant picture of the two Bonellis' just after releasing their talons, with one bird still flying upside down!

Having stated in last month's report about seeing fewer blue rock thrushes - on the above trip we saw six!  Two adult males and four females or immatures.  These wary birds are usually difficult to photograph close up, but photos below of a female that was not too far away, and another of the same bird with a linnet nearby.


A trip to Anogia and the Nida Plateau gave us great views of griffons.  Initially, three were disturbed, having been perched on rocks above the road quite near to us.  Two then settled on rocks some distance away, but just enough for a photo opportunity.  I walked along the road for a closer view, but an oncoming truck made them take off.  It did at least give me a chance to photograph one of the birds from above - a magnificent sight as it glided away.


The trip was otherwise fairly unproductive, until we stopped shortly after taking the Skinakas observatory road.  By a tiny stream we watched finches and linnets, some of them bathing.  One bird bathing was different to the rest.  As it sat shaking off the water, I managed a picture of the bedraggled bird - a water pipit, a species we have only seen a couple of times before.

Sometimes our trips present us with no memorable bird sightings, such as the day we went to Matala.  Two birds though did give me good photographic opportunities - crested lark and a starling.  Starlings are winter visitors for us, so we only see the adults birds in this attractive spotted winter plumage.

We took a friend to Chania airport this month, and called in at Moronis reserve on the way home.  We were unable to identify the terns and gulls ,which remained distant during our brief visit, but could get photos of redshank and greenshank. (012-013).

We went lammergeier hunting one bright Sunday.  Making for the same area where we spotted one on New Year's Eve, we of course saw nothing this time!  We had our picnic with us, and continued on to the road that approaches Schinaria Beach on the south coast.  Two chukars were the only sighting of interest.  Returning through the Kourtaliotis Gorge we stopped off to watch the many griffons gliding in and out of the low cloud.  As we were about to leave, we glimpsed a Bonelli's eagle in the mist with a couple of griffons - just captured on camera.  As the bird soared higher we noticed it was joined by another, presumably its mate.  By now they were too high to photograph, though they were close together.

A rare sighting of pectoral sandpiper was finally obtained after a few visits to Kalivaki.  Thanks to Colin Turvey, and then Nikos, who had advised me about its presence on the flooded meadows.

Whilst there, I had another sighting of water pipit, with a slightly better photo than the bedraggled one earlier this month.

Not much booted eagle activity this month - a dark phase on 1st, and then a light phase opposite the house near the end of the month.  As usual it was being mobbed by hooded crows.

Last trip of the month was an afternoon look at Moronis on what was a very dull and drizzly day.  Worth the visit though, as one lapwing present and good display from a single Sandwich tern.  Also a small number of black-headed gulls around.  All the usual "Moronis" birds were present too.

Other birds photographed this month, and shown below, include the local pelican and swan in "siesta mode", white wagtail, grey wagtail, serin, a pair of ferruginous ducks on the lake there, and later in the month two female garganey in the same spot.  In the garden, a clearer view of female blackcap.

pelican and swan in "siesta mode"

ferruginous ducks

grey wagtail


white wagtail

female blackcap

female garganey


Apart from the "everyday" birds, those sighted this month are;

black-necked grebe, great crested grebe, white pelican, cormorant, grey heron, little egret, great egret, mute swan, garganey, pochard, ferruginous duck, griffon, golden eagle, booted eagle, bonelli's eagle, marsh harrier, sparrowhawk, chukar, little-ringed plover, lapwing, green sandpiper, redshank, greenskank, common snipe, black-headed gull, sandwich tern, rock dove, barn owl, kingfisher, woodlark,
water pipit, meadow pipit, white wagtail, grey wagtail, robin, black redstart, blue rock thrush, song thrush, blackcap, chiffchaff, jackdaw, starling, cirl bunting, corn bunting and the vagrant pectoral sandpiper


I just missed including the following photos in last month's report.  Our daughter, Alison, phoned us while we were out to dinner with friends one evening after Christmas.  She said she had snakes hatching in her garden and wondered if they were venomous!  Her husband, Kosta, thought, like most Greeks, that they were.  We convinced her otherwise (back-fanged etc), and she took some photos.  There were two snakes, about 15 - 18 inches long, exceedingly thin, with no properly formed head, but very lively, and they were heading for the warmth of her apartment!  My guess is that they were balkan whipsnakes.  They managed to trap them and move them to another location.  Whether they will survive is anyones' guess - it does seem an odd time to hatch.  I'm sorry I missed them.


A photo below of a speckled wood butterfly, which I think is the southern race variety.  With our generally mild winters we tend to see butterflies every month of the year - this one on New Year's Day.

A few days later, and a painted lady butterfly was seen taking the sun - very little sun seen during early January.  This migrant butterfly would normally be in North Africa for the winter, but I guess we are near enough for it to be here instead.


By Christmas we usually start seeing crown anenomes in one or two sheltered spots.  By mid January, we have views like the one below, taken at Anopolis, where the predominant anenome colour is mauve.  There are also close-ups of the pink, and less common red, variety found in the same area.



Mid-month gave us our first views of lupins showing up in olive groves near Kefalas.
Our trip to Matala and the surrounding area, mid-month, revealed ever increasing numbers of crown anenomes shooting up in olive groves and roadside verges. Photos on this trip included a single crocus laevigatus, and the mauve flowers of the mandrake plant (mandragora autumnalis).

Algerian iris (iris inguicularis) and a common daisy with a distinctly pink hue, were also photographed this month.  The irises were few and far between on south facing slopes near the south coast.  Amongst them, just one barbary nut, but not photographed as it was surrounded by spiky stalks of something else, and i couldn't get close enough.

We don't see too many toadstools here, and the solitary one we found this month is unidentified.

Our Aradena trip gave us views southward across the Libyan Sea.  The island of Gavdos, seen in the photo below, is Europe's most southerly point with only fifty or so permanent residents, swelling to 3,500 in summer.

We couldn't resist another drive to the Aradena area on a beautiful clear and sunny day.  We were hoping for more sightings of the Bonellis' eagles we saw earlier in the month, but no luck this time.  The weather, on the other hand, gave us lovely views enroute.  Below, Aradena church with a dusting of snow on the high peaks, and a view eastwards to Chora Sfakia and beyond.


When the weather is clear and sunny, we have lovely views inland from the Kalivaki Beach area - two below.

The Matala day trip was our first to this resort.  It was out of season, but I can't see us bothering to go there again!  The islet of Paximadhia was worthy of a photo, and the Roman tombs just off the beach were worthy of a short exploration.  A short way along the coast was the site chosen for our picnic - with wonderful views northward across the Messara Gulf.

That's the end of our "Out and About" for January 2011.
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