June 2009
 
Hi all,

1st.  At a neighbour's bbq recently, we were speaking to a friend who is a holiday rep out here.  She was telling us about some of her clients who see large birds circling around their villa every day.  When she explained where the villas were, we realised she was speaking about the Prassanos Gorge east of Rethymno.  We hadn't met anyone who had got close to this gorge - but now we know a way! 

It would be difficult to imagine a better place to view griffon vultures.  Looking across to the gorge, the more gentle slopes immediately below us were a natural way for the birds to gain height with the updraft.  As a result, our views of the birds were from above, below, and at eye-level, and coming towards us from all directions.  It was difficult to leave, and to stop taking photos!  This will undoubtedly become a regular trip.

4th.  Gazing down from our upstairs terrace, a few sightings of an olivaceous warbler, nervously flitting between trees in the olive grove opposite.  Only my second sighting of this bird, both from the house, though a birdwatching friend has heard them locally on a previous visit to us.  Our evening meal was taken upstairs too, and we were briefly "visited" by 4 bee-eaters, moving through at only about 20 metres above the house.

5th.  Our grandson has a day off school, which is closed in connection with the European elections.  What better excuse, but to take him to the Prassanos Gorge!  He wasn't disappointed - we chose the same time of day to arrive there; about 11 a.m., and spent an hour being entertained by these majestic giants of the air.

Whilst there, we also saw red-rumped swallows and two peregrines (thanks for sorting out the id Roy).  They were noisy and didn't quite look large enough to me, but in the end their bulky chest gave them away. See photos below: griffons,  peregrines, plus a view of the gorge.


Griffon Vulture - photo by and A&M


Griffon Vulture - photo by and A&M


Griffon Vulture - photo by and A&M


Griffon Vulture - photo by and A&M


Griffon Vultures - photo by and A&M


Peregrine Falcon (Adult) - photo by and A&M


Peregrine Falcon (Juvenile) - photo by and A&M


Peregrine Falcon (Juvenile) - photo by and A&M


Prassanos Gorge - photo by and A&M

Later we had a look at the Potamoi Dam, and took photos, see below, from the remains of what looks like an old fort, situated on a hill above the dam.  The water level has almost reached the point where it can be released under control, and channelled to Rethymno.  No birdwatching here today.


Potamoi Dam - photo by and A&M


Potamoi Dam - photo by and A&M

After lunch we headed back towards the coast, and had an exceptional view of a black-eared wheatear (black throated), which obliged long enough for photos below
I've not had many birds pose like this!


Black-eared wheatear (black throated) - photo by and A&M
 


Black-eared wheatear (black throated) - photo by and A&M
 


Black-eared wheatear (black throated) - photo by and A&M

7th.  A call from our daughter alerted us to a swan just off Kalivaki beach.  Went to have a look, as the only mute swan we had seen on Crete was at Agia in winter.  Today's sighting was also a mute swan, as can be seen in the photo below.


Mute Swan off Kalivaki beach - photo by and A&M

8th.  I wasn't really expecting much to write about this month, but offshore at Georgioupolis today were 5 cormorants with an accompanying great crested grebe.  A passing fishing boat disturbed them and they flew around the bay out of sight, but I did manage a distant pic.  At the river our white pelican looked very much at home - two photos including one which I would have captioned "Ministry of Funny Walks"!  Back home this afternoon, only our second sighting of two local common buzzards sitting together on a tree opposite the house - see below.


The White Pelican - photo by and A&M


"Ministry of Funny Walks" - photo by and A&M


Two Buzzards - photo by and A&M

10th.  A passing look at the Viewpoint today revealed the black-winged stilt still there, and the mute swan is still off Kalivaki beach.  From home we are watching a small number (4) of red-rumped swallows daily.  They are building a nest in a half finished house up the road from us.  I pitched up and waited for ages for a picture of them at the nest, but they came in, flew around and departed.  I will have another sneak at the nest in a week or so, as these are apparently unusual in design.  I guess the birds will stay for the summer and maybe a brood will materialize in time.  For now, some in-flight photos below.


Red-rumped Swallow - photo by and A&M


Red-rumped Swallow - photo by and A&M


Red-rumped Swallow - photo by and A&M

14th.  While preparing for a bbq this afternoon, found this little chap on a flower pot - a common tree frog I think.  We hear them all year round, but rarely see them.


Tree frog - photo by and A&M

16th.  From our balcony, we watched two woodchat shrikes hassling a common buzzard, which may have been too close to their nest.  They followed it around pestering at every opportunity - very entertaining.  This is the 3rd time in five years that we have had woodchats staying local to us through the summer.

17th.  Had a look at the red-rumped's nest, and it appears to be finished, so have attached a picture. Four birds have taken about 10 days to make this little work of art - it's about 15-18 inches across, so quite big.  I just wonder whether the entrance tunnel is finished, or whether it may become longer?


Red-rumped Swallow nest - photo by and A&M

22nd. Have heard the occasional warbling of bee-eaters passing through this month, mainly at high level.  This afternoon 4 passed over not so high, and I wonder whether they are continuing northwards to the mainland, or "happy" to stay here on Crete, given this late date?

23rd.  An arranged pick-up at Heraklion Airport gave us the opportunity for a short detour to Prassanos again.  Great sightings again - hasn't failed us yet.
 
This month has been dominated by sightings of griffons and red-rumped swallows - the former at the "new" viewpoint at Prassanos Gorge, and the latter locally, and at Prassanos.  I think we have seen more r-r swallows this year than all previous years put together.  So, to finish this month, I've attached a few more pics of both these birds.


Griffon Vulture - photo by and A&M


Griffon Vulture - photo by and A&M


Red-rumped Swallow - photo by and A&M
 

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