Out and About July 2011

All photographs by and © A@M
  

Hi Everyone,

BIRDS
In our experience, July is the least interesting month for birdwatching, being midway between spring and autumn migration. A photo below of two glossy ibis seeing out the summer at the Viewpoint in Georgioupoli – this would be a first since we have lived here.



At the Antonis Gorge I had another lucky moment with a jackdaw at its nest.


Unusual for this time of year, we took a drive to Omalos and the mountain refuge above Irini Gorge. The latter proved unproductive apart from a couple of short-toed treecreepers which were heard, glimpsed, but no photo possibilities. At Omalos, however, we had three good sightings near the pools. First, a tawny pipit. We “agonised” while watching this bird, as its beak seemed longer and stronger looking than usual – could it be a long-billed pipit? It would have been highly unlikely, and later at home we could confirm the tawny. A nice pose from a juvenile whinchat was next, and then we noticed the red-billed choughs - about 30 or 40 of them on the ground. This species is often seen here, but not in high summer where they tend to be much higher in the mountains. There were young birds mixing with the adults providing some nice photo opportunities.


Of course we couldn’t return home without looking at Agia enroute. A little grebe was in attendance at its nest, with one egg exposed. A small flock of wood sandpipers did a low level circuit of the lake, before settling on the far side. Two photos below.

Well the glossies are not visible anymore as at 9th, and I can’t yet determine if they have moved on. Will keep looking.

I had a week in the UK to visit my Mum, and finished with two days in Bournemouth with friends. This gave me the opportunity to visit Hengistbury Head at Christchurch harbour – one place I miss since leaving the UK. So, two photos below from my walk around the head.


Male Reed Bunting


Male Kestrel

At my brother’s house, another photo of parent feeding a youngster – this time house sparrows.


Following the week away in the UK, the birding remains quiet here on Crete. Around the house we have daily sightings of house and tree sparrow, Sardinian warbler, stonechat, serin, all the finches, turtle doves, blackbird, common buzzard and kestrel. Morning song is occasionally heard from a male blackcap nearby. By evening the skies are full of swallows, red-rumped swallows, house martins and swifts. We occasionally sight a barn owl at home and sometimes around the village – a photo of this species is top of my wish-list. We have just started hearing nightjars from across the valley. The water level remains high at the Viewpoint, so nothing showing there at present, apart from singles of little-ringed plover and little egret.


Today, 26th, we heard some distressing news. The Georgioupoli pelican was attacked by youths last weekend, resulting in a broken beak and broken leg. The bird has been sent to the sanctuary on the island of Paros, and will undoubtedly not be seen here again. I won’t elaborate on our feelings, particularly as we understand no action is being taken against the youths, who were locals, and apparently under the influence of alcohol. (Have since heard that the bird is being attended to in Athens).


We noticed increased numbers of house martins today, 27th. Near our daughter’s apartment I photographed 50 of them along telegraph wires, and then some around the houses and pool where Roy and Raye holidayed in 2008. There were smaller numbers of barn and red-rumped swallows here too.


My first “new bird” for some time. We have probably seen Spanish sparrows before, without actually separating them from house sparrow. Recently, I’ve decided to look closer, and near the Viewpoint I found some in light woodland. Getting a worthwhile picture wasn’t so easy, so it will have to wait for another time.


Almost month-end, yet still July, when we see our first large flock of migrating somethings. Between 800 and 1,000 counted in the photo, but only an educated guess that these birds are pintails. Their formation very similar to previous years – if so, they are three weeks earlier than last year.


At the Viewpoint, still trying for better photos of the Spanish sparrow – instead good sightings of three Eleonoras’ falcons – too close and too fast to get the camera on them.


The last day of July and we take a circular drive to stay air-conditioned on another hot afternoon. The route, one of our favourites, takes us through Asi Gonia, climbing the torturous hairpins and on towards Kalikratis, Asfendou and Imbros. We started out at 5pm hoping for some early evening sightings – and we got lucky. An ortolan was mixing with a small flock of linnets and goldfinches. Wheatears were everywhere – northern and black-eared, the majority seemingly young birds. At the highest point enroute, we always stop to take in the view. Margaret was quick to see a large bird gliding along a high ridge. It then perched and remained there for the duration of our stop. We hadn’t seen it in flight long enough to identify, except very pale belly. Perched it looked a bit like an osprey, but was very distant. My camera picked the bird out and at home we could eventually confirm this was a Bonelli’s eagle – always a good bird to see. Photos below of the ortolan, juvenile wheatear, and the distant Bonelli’s.



As at the end of the month I confirm the glossies had departed the Viewpoint about 3 weeks ago. There are reports that the single mute swan has returned for the third year running. If I see it, I will check for the ring to confirm the same bird.


ANIMALS


During our short visit to Agia, dragonflies were everywhere, but the most accommodating was the violet dropwing male.


Whilst gardening at home I noticed five different butterflies, including the scarce swallowtail. Although this butterfly is scarce in the UK, it is supposedly common here. In our experience, the common swallowtail is seen much more – so for us the scarce is scarce here too! They are not normally as obliging as this for photos.


The cicada (cicada orni) is a regular visitor here from mid June to the end of August. If you are sitting in close proximity to a male, when it starts trying to attract a female, you can’t hear yourself speak! When hundreds of them start up, it’s best to go indoors! Still, the best thing about them is that they are completely harmless, and can be picked up or photographed at close quarters. See below.


Turning over some soil in the garden, I came across this large grub. Can’t imagine what it may have turned into if alive – it was 7 cms long!


After dark, while sitting on our upstairs balcony, a tree frog appeared. It seems to use our watering can as a “second home”, climbing up the wall from the garden below.


WILD FLOWERS


Nothing worth photographing this month, as the countryside begins to look dry and parched. Many hillsides have a beautiful lilac hue from the common thyme growing there, and steep gullies have oleander flowering along their water courses – otherwise there are increasing shades of light brown wherever you look.


LANDSCAPES


With the Greek economy in a poor state there is much cultivation of private olive groves and gardens to produce vegetables, allowing some self-sufficiency. It came as a surprise though, when our own garden was ploughed recently, by our daughter’s husband and his friend. This part of our garden was “going to waste” – not now though – we have tomatoes, courgettes, peppers, aubergine, cucumber, melon and corn! – in small numbers, but it all helps.


A day’s drive to Elos and beyond on a hot day provided very limited birding opportunities. Our drinks stop at Meltemi Taverna did give us panoramic views of the west coast – one towards Elafonisi, and the other of a zig-zag descent to the coast.

 

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