MARCH  2013

Hi Everyone,


The first half of this month has been very quiet, as far as sightings from the house are concerned.  Garden birds are limited to Italian sparrows, all three finches, great and blue tits.  One robin was still here as at 15th.  Over the house, our first sightings of swallows during the second week, followed by a small flock of swifts.

By the end of the month only blackcaps can be added to the above, and they are only glimpses.


7th. This may be the last sighting of the pygmy cormorant that has wintered here.  Subsequent visits , up to 27th, have drawn blanks.


pygmy cormorant and ferruginous ducks


17th. The position, previously occupied by the pygmy cormorant, was today taken by a great white egret.  Ferruginous ducks (4) continue to be present, plus the single female pintail.


great white egret




First sightings of northern wheatear – just two.  Still very quiet in this area.


Belatedly, we find our first woodchat shrike of the year – a female, that was very obliging.

woodchat shrike




Some large fields have been ploughed in areas just behind the beaches.  Our daughter, Alison, was first to find a single golden plover here, and this is one of her photos.


golden plover



I wasn’t lucky with the golden plover, but pleased to find many wheatears, amongst which were two were Isabelline.  I have only seen this species couple of times before, so to get photos was particularly pleasing.  On the same visit I found two short-toed larks feeding on some rough ground.  They didn’t show up too well in the photo.


Isabelline wheatear



Better luck with short-toed larks today, as a flock of 7 or 8 picked their way across a ploughed field.

short-toed lark



On various dates this month, several small flocks of little-ringed plovers to be seen feeding on the beaches.  One Sandwich tern seen near Kavros, and a common sandpiper in the same spot.


Again, it was our daughter, Alison, that sighted a bird and managed a photo for us.  This time she found a flock of c.10 Kentish plovers spread out along a small river as it emptied into the sea.

Kentish plovers



I went looking for birds along the “Kentish plover “ stretch, and only found little ringed plover and yellow-legged gull, with a good image of the latter.


y-l gull




We had another drive to Kokkinos Pirgos to look at the lagoon and surrounding flooded areas.  Very little found – the flamingo was still present, and made a flight around the shallows, with a single black-winged stilt and two common snipe the only other birds of note.

greater flamingo



A drive to the south coast in the hope of finding more orchids was unproductive – it was very windy!  On the way back we found a single male cirl bunting (one of my favourite birds), and our first 2013 hoopoe (one of Margaret’s favourite birds!)


It’s always a red letter day to find a lammergeier on our travels.  This time it was as we descended towards Chora Sfakia from the Imbros Gorge.  We initially found the bird flying towards us, below our eye level.  As it passed, at eye level, its speed was almost too much for my camera, which I still had on full zoom – big mistake!  The bird made height and joined up with some griffons in low cloud, where it disappeared from view.  We stopped off at the same spot on our return – no lammergeier, but distant viewing of a pair of Bonellis’ eagles instead.  During the day we had our first sighting this year of a male lesser kestrel.  Identified with the blue patches on upper wing, it didn’t present itself for a photo.






We have had a very productive time searching for orchids during this month – somewhat making up for the lack of birds seen.  We have visited meadows off the Ombriagialos road, the Spili high meadows, Late Minoan Cemetery at Armeni, and an area we found recently beyond Spili.  Early spider orchid was found at Kalivaki.  The earliest sightings were on 3rd.  Margaret has been successful with orchid photos from her latest camera, and a mixture of hers and mine are below.  The last photos are of the wonderful tulips on the mound at Spili high meadows.

early spider orchid


Cretan bee orchid



monkey orchid

sawfly orchid


sombre orchid


woodcock orchid


giant orchid


bumblebee orchid


pink butterfly orchid


milky orchid


yellow bee orchid


milky orchid - dark form


monkey orchid - detail




tulip saxatilis


tulip saxatilis


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