A&M’s LOCAL BIRDING DIARY - JUNE 2012

In order to reflect more accurately on what is happening in the birding world throughout our local area, the next twelve months of reports will concentrate on just that - mostly.  We will divide the areas as follows;

FROM OUR HOUSE

We are situated about 1 km west of Georgioupoli on rising ground, some 35 metres above sea level.  Our garden has a mixture of shrubs and trees, many of these are olive trees. To the east we have extensive views towards Georgioupoli, the bay, and beyond towards Mt Psiloritis.  To the north there is a shallow valley, mainly consisting of olive trees, but also a few burnt-out conifers from a widespread fire in 2003.  Views south towards the mountains are more limited, but we have had some very good raptor sightings from that direction in the past.

GEORGIOUPOLI VIEWPOINT

This refers to a viewing area just off the Georgioupoli to Vrisses road, at the end of the renown eucalyptus avenue running out of Georgioupoli.  The view takes in a spring-fed lake, where water is pumped into the Almyros River at irregular intervals.  The water level can vary greatly, but over the past two years has been relatively high, and not attracting the smaller wading species as in earlier years.  The Viewpoint also has views towards more mountainous areas inland.  Our first ever Crete sightings here included pallid harrier, hobby, spoonbill, black-tailed godwit, ruddy shelduck and olivaceous warbler. 

KALIVAKI MEADOWS

Kalivaki beach is a popular stretch of sand immediately west of the Almyros River in Georgioupoli.  Behind the beach is an area of pastoral land which is farmed by local residents.  In the winter, much of this area is flooded after heavy rainfall, quickly attracting many bird species.  The meadows are about 15 minutes walk from our house, and have become a favourite birdwatching area – except for high summer!  Our first ever Crete sightings here included Steppe buzzard, lesser grey shrike and slender-billed gull.

KAVROS MEADOWS

Kavros is a beach resort about 3 kms east of Georgioupoli.  Apart from the hotel complexes, there are extensive areas of farmland and meadows in the area, all of which are at sea level.  We often shop here, and over the years have found many species of birds that were “firsts” for us; these included white stork, cattle egret, greater spotted eagle, golden plover, short-toed lark and red-throated pipit.

NORTH COAST BEACHES (KALIVAKI TO PETRES)

This 7 km stretch of beach is still being explored by us.  There are one or two quiet spots which can be very productive during migration periods.  Between Kalivaki in the west and Petres in the east, we have had first ever Crete sightings of osprey, turnstone, Kentish plover and Mediterranean gull.

BEST SIGHTINGS FROM OUR TRAVELS AROUND CRETE

This title speaks for itself.  Our first love here is exploring this beautiful island with its dramatic landscapes, much of which have been included in our last four years of reports.  For the coming year we will only include particularly interesting sightings from our trips around the island and will expand this at times to include wild flowers, animals and scenery.

Unless something unusual is occurring, we won’t mention species that are common residents, or are our common summer and winter visitors.  Of course, some of these are common, but difficult to photograph, so might be included on that basis.  For example, the Cetti’s warbler is heard throughout the year with its explosive call, but to get a photo is a rare event!

June 2012

Along with July, June is usually the quietest month here for birdwatching.  A few late Spring migrants may be seen, especially where water is still present, and this has been the case at one particular field in Kavros this year.

FROM OUR HOUSE

8th.

Having missed most of the bee-eater migration during our UK visit in May, it was good to hear a small flock moving northwards over the house.  We guess a very small number, but they were too high up to count.

10th.

First house sighting this year of Eleanoras’ falcons – two pale phase birds mixing with a flock of house martins and alpine swifts – the falcons’ breakfast maybe?

15th.

An attractive bird with a lovely churring call, turtle doves often summer here, occasionally “posing” on overhead wires.

 

21st.

Every day this month, so far, we can see one male blackcap in a fire damaged conifer tree.  It sings its heart out for long periods.  This species seems to be more common in summer now, and we have heard several on recent trips.

30th.

So far this summer, we are only seeing 3 or 4 red-rumped swallows, compared to 15-20 in recent years.  They hunt late afternoon or early evening, but we are yet to see them settle on overhead wires.

GEORGIOUPOLI VIEWPOINT

The water level remains high, as the snowmelt continues.  It has been a “long winter” here with much rain and very little sun.  As at 30th, we could still see some small tracts of snow visible up in the mountains.

7th.

A single black-winged stilt was seen at distance.  During this first week, there have also been sightings of squacco heron, grey heron, night heron, little egret and a male little bittern – all single birds.

KALIVAKI MEADOWS

The will be no birding here until the second half of August.  Kalivaki Beach is a favourite beach for holidaymakers and locals alike, and so birds are not attracted to the meadows behind the beach at this time of year.  Later in August we will mix with them in our attempts to find lesser grey shrike!

KAVROS MEADOWS

A single field with flood water receding is keeping our interest here well into the summer.  So far this month, the female black-winged stilt, first seen at the Viewpoint, has arrived; little-ringed plovers have bred – ten birds at the last count on 10th.  Two pairs of little bitterns stayed until 9th.   Singles of redshank and wood sandpiper seen sporadically over the same period.  As at 11th, a maximum of six night herons seen here every day that we have looked.  Our daughter, Alison, and Grandson, Alex, are taking a keen interest in birds these days, and their sightings and photos are sometimes included with ours.

 

Night Heron

 

Black-winged Stilt

 

An odd couple!

 

21st.

The field has all but dried up now, but a single night heron is still present, along with the little-ringed plovers.

30th.

Nothing to be seen now.

NORTH COAST BEACHES

Birdwatching along the beaches is a “no-no” this time of year.  We made the mistake of an evening walk in August last year and inadvertantly roamed through a naturist beach – camera and binoculars in hand!!

More from the coast at a later date!

OUR TRAVELS

15th.

The Prassanos gorge is a “must” for June.  We have shown the best viewing areas to several friends and family recently, but today I had a longer visit on my own.  A couple of images below of the griffon vultures that provide awesome viewing – even for non-birdwatchers!

 

Griffon Vulture

 

Griffon Vulture

 

25th.

Another trip, which we don’t usually undertake in high summer, is to drive through the Imbros Gorge to Sfakia, and then on up to Anopoli and Aradena.  (We had our first ever lammergeier sighting at Aradena in 2004 with Roy and Raye.)  Today we only had woodchat shrike and spotted flycatcher to record.  These species occasionally spend summer here - the majority continuing northwards in the spring.  But the highlight today was seeing a pair of Bonellis’ eagles high above Imbros.  Though distant, it was worth recording with a couple of photos, as below.

 

Bonelli's Eagle

 

Bonelli's Eagle

 
During the above trip, at Anopoli, I managed my first photo of a grayling butterfly.  We have seen this species before, but they have been too restless to photograph.
 

hipparchia semele

 

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