A&M Report 31 - July 2010
Please note all photos by and A&M
Hi Everyone,

1st.  This should be the "quietest" month for birdwatching here, while we anticipate the earliest return migrants in mid-August.  So, I ask, what were seven bee-eaters doing flying above the house while we were having coffee on our terrace? - going, coming back, or staying!  Earlier, while watering a friend's house in Kefalas, I watched a flock of ten ravens swirling high above, before separating and heading westwards.

4th.  A hot and windy afternoon, so a couple of hours drive to stay air-conditioned!  We made for the Kourtaliotis Gorge in search of Bonelli's eagle again, and parked up in our usual place by the picnic tables.  With steep sides to the gorge, watching birds here can be uncomfortable - crick in the neck etc - and to begin with we saw griffons swirling around, some at great height, so a crick in the neck was definitely on its way.
After about 40 minutes we had a pair of Bonelli's in view, quite high up, but worth the watch.  My hopes they would descend for better photos did not materialize.  We made a circuit of the drive and returned via Kali Sikia, near where we had our last lammergeier sighting.  Mid afternoon is not the best time for birdwatching and the most interesting birds in this area were buntings - corn, cirl and ortolan.

6th.  A morning trip to Chania Airport to drop off a friend gave us the opportunity to take coffee at Agia.  Like last summer, this will be our only summer trip to the reservoir, as it isn't too interesting this time of year.  However, we were surprised to see a yellow wagtail here, since these birds normally migrate to the mainland.  It was a little distant, but a couple of pics below for the record.

There seems to be an increasing number of species that appear to be staying on as summer visitors.  During the latter half of June, and up to now, we have sighted hoopoe, red-footed falcon, woodchat shrike, turtle dove, bee-eater, blackcap, and now yellow wagtail, all "out of season" for Crete - long may it continue, or is this another indication of global-warming?

10th.  A short drive to Vamos to drop off a birthday card for a friend.  Margaret asked if I was taking binoculars and camera, but I said no.  She had her binoculars in the car anyway.  Just as I was closing the front door, I was reminded that we tend to see something worthwhile when I don't have the camera with me!  So I took it!  Well they are not exactly uncommon here in summer, but it was lovely to see red-rumped swallows on telegraph wires.  Three pictures below of juveniles seen at Vamos.  They were being fed by their parents - but not while we were close by.  Thank you darling!

11th.  A Sunday afternoon drive to Theriso Gorge, which is one of the prettiest roads at this time of year with trees in full leaf and much roadside oleander.  Following an ice-cream stop at Theriso itself, we made our way back via Drakona - another very scenic road.  Along here we saw cirl buntings and a single spotted flycatcher - the latter not normally a summer visitor, but another to our list of spring migrants staying on.  Further along we found a different kind of roadside guard - a cow!  Guard dogs along the road are common, the odd tied-up donkey is usually seen too, but never a cow, as these are fairly unusual sights even in the "right" place.   Obviously it wasn't a guard, but its position was right for one!  Picture below.

The last pictures are of turtle doves combing the road - three together, so possibly a family?  Unfortunately these photos had to be taken through the windscreen.

13th.  An evening walk after temperatures dipped to 28c!  Not really expecting to see anything, but a surprise sighting of a single starling - at distance on farmland near to home.  An unfortunate sighting of an oiled green sandpiper juvenile as we crossed the ford near to Georgioupolis Viewpoint.  We had earlier seen an adult on the dried out "stinky pond" enroute.  At the Viewpoint, one grey heron, one little egret, some very distant sandpipers, and then a woodchat shrike on trees overhanging the water from the roadside.  Plenty of dragonflies on this walk, like the one below, which thanks to Roy, is identified as a violet dropwing.

Earlier today I watched a pair of wood pigeons descend into olive groves not far from the house.  These are the first we have seen from home.  We are now hearing nightjars churring at dusk each evening, if we sit outside - they're a long way off, but clearly heard.

14th.  I went back to find the dragonflies and was pleased to find a male and two females this time.  A picture of the female below.

Further on, where I had seen the green sandpiper by the ford, I found several pond skaters on the still water.  I photographed one just as it moved, as below.

Returning home by the same route, this time I found the male and female dragonflies on adjacent posts.  It wasn't possible to get them in the same photo, but one of each below, hopefully shown together here.  Roy?

17th.   Driving across the bridge in Georgioupolis today, I noticed a mute swan on the river.  Late this afternoon I went down to find it, and confirmed it was the same bird that was with us all last winter through to May - the bird has the same ring.  It will no doubt "befriend" the pelican again, but for today it was happily standing amongst the resident geese on the riverbank.

18th.  This has been a particularly good year for agave americana to flower - commonly known as "century plant".  We have several impressive specimens we can see from the house, like the one below.  All are 20 to 30 feet tall.

19th.  Power cuts today, while the electricity grid is upgraded, so we had a morning drive into the hills around Asfendou and Kallikratis.  Juveniles - linnets, goldfinches, stonechats and black-eared wheatears were the main sightings, until a distant view of black kite beyond the Kallikratis plain.  Not much else, except the usual sightings near the steep cliffs above Miriokefala of rock dove, raven, kestrel, buzzard, crag martin, barn swallow and red-rumped swallow.  Back at home a juvenile buzzard whines most afternoons, while its parents attempt to get it off its perch to persuade it to find its own food - and probably its own territory!

21st.  Hot temperatures have brought an influx of flying ants, and the hirundines are having a field day (or evening!).  Amongst them are many alpine swifts.  Because they are always on the wing, swifts are particularly difficult to photograph, especially with the shutter time delay with a digital camera.  I have had many photos of blue sky and nothing else!  See below.

23rd.  A common bird, the common buzzard, but the juvenile below made a good photo opportunity, while we were out for an afternoon drive.

31st.  A quiet birding month finishes with an evening walk to Kalivaki beach.  Just two minutes from home Margaret noticed a small bird fly onto a wire - a spotted flycatcher.  Another of this species which has presumably found Crete a place to stay for the summer?  The same applies to the woodchat shrike, which can be found most evenings while panning with the binoculars from our balcony.

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