July 2009
Hi All,

28th June to 1st July.  A shortbreak to Elounda, east end of the island, predominantly to entertain our grandson for a few days, resulted in visits to Spinalonga, Aghios Nikolaos, Creta Aquarium and some time on the beach.  However, when we asked him later what he enjoyed most, we were surprised to hear it was our trips into the mountainous areas, where he saw cirl buntings and jays for the first time.  We hadn't visited the Katharo Plain before, but it was there these birds were seen in some numbers.  A photo of one of the many jays below, and a juvenile sardinian warbler - the red eye ring still to develop.
Other birds seen included all the finches, brilliantly plumaged blue tits, crested larks, wheatears, wood pigeons in pairs, blue rockthrush feeding a youngster, a couple of griffons, common buzzard and pairs of ravens.  Nothing was seen in Elounda itself apart from collared doves, sparrows, crows and y-l gulls.

Jay - photo by and A&M

Juvenile Sardinian Warbler - photo by and A&M

3rd.  A lazy afternoon on our covered terrace and I noticed an ugly bug in a top corner.  About 5cms long, without feelers, this appeared to be a wart-biter - nice name!  Of the bush-cricket family, this one was brown, a colour not occurring in the UK, so photo below - if you can bear to look!

Wart-biter? - photo by and A&M

7th..  An afternoon drive through the Kalikratis Gorge and on eastwards along the south coast revealed nothing of interest.  However, returning through the Kourtaliotis Gorge, we stopped in anticipation of "something", and were rewarded with distant, but clear sightings of three bonelli's eagles high above the gorge.  There is a resident pair here, and we can only guess the 3rd bird was a juvenile.  My distant pics are not worthy of inclusion here, but I did get two birds in one frame.

8th..  Photos of swallows visiting friends' pools seems an obligatory July picture - so one below.

Swallow - photo by and A&M

9th.  It's been extremely warm this week, and so for the 2nd time, we went off for an afternoon drive to stay air-conditioned!  Very similar scenario to the 7th trip, with nothing for most of the drive.  Eventually we stopped half way down the Theriso Gorge, and low and behold a red kite flew across.  My pic is clear, but so small that I'm just keeping it to myself!

13th.  We were watching (and listening) to a juvenile buzzard from our balcony.  It appeared to have a greyish colour beak and longer legs than usual.  We put the scope up for a closer look, and while it was there, I attempted a photo through the scope.  In the end we decided it was a juvenile common buzzard, and I've attached a copy of my shot through the scope - some success.

Juvenile Buzzard - photo by and A&M

19th.  Another drive to stay air-conditioned during a particularly hot period, found us at Agia for a brief visit.  Near the reeds on the left, with the water very low, we spotted a large wader, but not one I could identify from this distance.  I walked along the path to get a closer look and was rather surprised to see it was a lapwing - a winter visitor in small numbers, but this was the height of summer.  It appeared to be solitary.  See photo below.

Lapwing - photo by and A&M
Whilst watching the lapwing, a noisy flock of barn swallows were swirling around, and occasionally landing on a nearby tree - hence more photos of these birds for this month.

Swallows - photo by and A&M

Swallows - photo by and A&M

21st.  With my other half out with a friend for the day, I made a morning trip to Prassanos Gorge to do some griffon watching.  Though not quite as many airborne this time around, there were enough to keep me there for an hour or so.  Other birds seen included a flock of 6 wood pigeons, which are being seen more often now.  One photo of a griffon deep in the gorge below.

Griffon Vulture - photo by and A&M

24th.  A car service in Chania meant that we had a few hours to kill - luckily we have two cars at the moment.  We headed for Kolymbari and turned south towards Spilia, where we again visited the amazing church in the cave of St. John the Hermit.  While parked up and having coffee in the car, we were entertained by serins, sardinian warblers and alpine swifts.  Driving south of Spilia I noticed a hoopoe fly across the road between olive groves.  We assume this is a very early autumn migrant?  We stopped and watched it come back across the road into the olive grove alongside the car.  A quick photo opportunity, as below.  We saw three hoopoes at this spot, the last giving us the rare view of its crest in full show.  Whilst this bird was a bit further away, I have just managed to capture this great sight, also below.

Hoopoe - photo by and A&M

Hoopoe - photo by and A&M

Later, beyond Deliana, we watched a pallid or montagu's harrier hunting over the olive groves and pastureland beside the road.  My photo was somewhat distant, but appears to confirm one or the other showing the "U" shaped white area at the top of the tail. 

25th.  Snapped a young male linnet in very bright sunshine.  Unusually this bird was alone - we normally see linnets in flocks.

Linnet - photo by and A&M

26th.  A particularly warm day saw an influx of red-rumped swallows into our immediate area.  The resident summer population this year, (seen daily from the house) of about 5 birds, was increased 10 fold for a period in the late afternoon.  Among them were many barn swallows, some of which found the temperature just a bit too much it seems - and took to laying on their sides to recuperate! See photo below:

Swallows - photo by and A&M

29th.  Returning from a shopping trip to Rethymno, a juvenile cormorant was spotted on the beach by Petres Bridge.

31st.  In July last year we had seen hoopoes beyond the Aradena Gorge, and decided to see if they were around again, especially after the sightings at Spilia a few days ago.  As usual, if you go in expectation - you see nothing!  How true again.  We did, however, see four woodchat shrikes that appeared to have stayed here for the summer, and a charming little juvenile wheatear, which I was just able to photograph through a fence.  I haven't been able to finally decide which wheatear it is though.  See below:

Juvenile Wheatear - photo by and A&M

This seems to have been a month for seeing juveniles - many others watched, but not photographed, included house sparrow, hooded crow, goldfinch, chaffinch, stonechat and blue rockthrush.


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